Monday, April 11, 2016

  • Monday, April 11, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon
I noted last week that Peter Beinart insultingly described the deadly 1929 pogroms against Jews as a "mistake" by "Palestinian nationalists."

Here is an account from 1929 about the events that led to the murderous rampage that shows that both those assertions are false.

From "What happened in Palestine; the events of August, 1929, their background and their significance" by Maurice Samuel, 1929:

I run the risk of being called partisan when I assert that the Arabs of Palestine do not constitute a nationality; but it is simple truth to state that Arabo-Palestinian nationalism does not exist. Egypt with its thirteen million Arabs is perhaps beginning to sense that corporate impulse, that feeling of a common spiritual destiny, which we understand under the name of nationalism. But in Egypt the process began nearly a century ago with Mehemet Ali, and it is difficult to judge whether even there it has reached an authentic stage. The day when Arabo- Palestinianism, as a nationality, will emerge into existence, will be a happy one for Jews and Arabs : for then the attention of the Arab people will be drawn to questions in which an understanding is easiest. They will not be at the mercy of chance cur- rents of passion, and of the men who trade on them. The present trouble in Palestine illustrates this truth. For years a number of city Arabs tried to rouse a political resentment against the building of the Jewish homeland. They did not succeed because the Arabo-Palestinian nationalism which they banked on did not exist; and they banked on it falsely because if it existed — as it will some day — it would find strength in an alliance with the Jews. The superior success of the last riots was due to a switching of tactics. Unable to waken a political revolt, Arab agitators turned to religious possibilities.

The game came into the open a year ago, with the Jewish High Holidays — the New Year and the Day of Atonement ( Yom Kippur) . On the New Year the Jews brought into the Wailing Wall Place a portable linen screen, in a wooden frame, to divide off the male from the female worshipers. The division of the sexes during worship is one of the features of the orthodox services, but it was irregularly observed in the Wailing Wall Place, since there is no structure on the ground. A screen of this kind was used during the Turkish regime, and was used occasionally until six or seven years ago. For some time the practice had lapsed. On the two days of the New Year, 1928, it was revived. After the New Year services the screen was removed. It was not introduced again until the ten days between the New Year and the Day of Atonement had passed. On the eve of the Day of Atonement it was brought in again. It is not my business to judge of the value or the importance of the practice, since I have no feeling for it. But it does seem to me to have been an incident of the most trivial significance to anyone but a Jew. Yet the quick cunning of a few Arabs, and the curious behavior of at least one high British official created a "situation."

Mr. Keith-Roach, Governor of Jerusalem (his official title is: Deputy District Commissioner of Jerusalem), was visited by excited Arabs, who asserted that the Jews had launched an assault on Arab rights, and had upset the status quo of the Wailing Wall Place, by the introduction of a portable screen. They informed Mr. Keith-Roach that unless he would have it removed, a couple of hundred Arabs would go down and remove it. Mr. Keith-Roach, instead of advising the excited Arabs that he would not tolerate interference with Jewish worship on the most sacred day of the Jewish year, undertook to have the profanation officially committed. At the Neilah or closing service of the Day of Atonement he asked that the screen be removed. The beadle properly refused to do this until the Day of Atonement was over. Mr. Keith-Roach then sent an English police officer and some men to remove the screen by force.

The English police officer was neither intelligent nor reasonable, but one does not look for acumen and sensitiveness in police officers. He went down, broke into the midst of the worship, and removed the portable screen with much unnecessary violence.

I have been told who the ecstatic pietist was who suddenly decided that hitherto Jews had sinned at the Wailing Wall by not introducing a portable screen, but I have not bothered to record his name.

I repeat that when the Jews were told they should not have done it, they replied there and then that they would not do it again, but they would not brook the interference of police in the midst of their services. It seems to me that any administrator of intelligence and level-headedness would have calmed the Arabs by telling them that the matter would be rectified the next day: that the Jews would be specifically forbidden to put up screens again; that it was a stupid thing to ask for police interference on such a trifling matter; and that if they were going to make themselves obstreperous by their behavior, they would be promptly and firmly dealt with.

It is told on very high authority that a similar sort of threat was levelled once against Lord Plumer when he was High Commissioner of Palestine. The regimental colors of the Jewish troops who, as part of the British forces, had operated in Palestine during the war, were to be deposited with the appropriate ceremonies in the synagogue of the Hurva. Some Arabs called upon the High Commissioner, and advised him gravely that if the procession and demonstration were permitted, they, the Arabs, would not be responsible for the peace of Jerusalem. Lord Plumer's reply was: "No one asked you to be responsible for the peace of Jerusalem. As the High Commissioner I am responsible for it." And that ended the protest.

Mr, Keith-Roach dealt with the protest in the clumsy way I have recorded, and here the Wailing Wall "situation" was created. The whole of Palestinian as well as world Jewry, was shocked by the inept behavior of the Governor of Jerusalem. And suddenly the business of the building of a Jewish homeland seemed to center on this problem of whether or not Jews could introduce a portable screen into the Wailing Wall Place. The behavior of Mr. Keith-Roach dropped out of the picture. The gross misbehavior of the British police officer (he has since been transferred out of the country) also dropped out of the picture. And instead Arabs concentrated on raising a religious issue in the hope that they would fare better with it than with the political issue.

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