Friday, August 14, 2009
How to end an Intifada
How the British Eliminated the Intifada of 1936-1939
One picture is worth a million words. Such is the photograph above. It
illustrates the method by which the British administration in Palestine
successfully eliminated the first Intifada [Arabic for uprising] during the
The photo shows a British armored railroad wagon behind a railcar on which two
Arab hostages are seated. In this way the British prevented the mining of the
railroad tracks by Arab terrorists. This type of railcar preceding the regular
trains turned the Arabs seated there (generally Mukhtars and notables from
villages along the railway route) into cannon fodder. Should they try to blow
up the trains, they would explode along with their own people and their
HOW THE PHOTO WAS FOUND
This photo was provided by Gadi Talmor, who found it among the effects of his
late father, Chaim Kahanov. His father had served in the Hebrew settlement
police together with a friend named Zecharia Oryon. While on one of their usual
patrols, guarding the fields, they noticed the railcar with the hostages and
Oryon took the photograph with a simple box camera. The photograph lay in a
drawer and when examining his father's effects it was found, scanned, and this
is the result.
600 JEWS KILLED
The first Intifada of the Arabs in the Land of Israel exacted a heavy price
from the Yishuv [name for pre-state Jewish population] – more than 600 killed
and 2,000 wounded in a Yishuv numbering only 400,000. Murderous gangs marauded
then as they do today: broke into settlements, murdered men, women, and
children, set crops on fire, and destroyed workshops. They also attacked
British installations – telephone lines, police stations, railway lines,
bridges, and petroleum pipelines. For a time they controlled the entire
mountain area of Judea and Samaria and the British did not dare to go there.
Finally, the British decided to apply harsh measures. Anyone caught carrying
arms was sentenced to death or a lengthy prison term. About 150 Arab rioters
were hanged. Collective punishment was employed in every village from which
shots were fired (they had no Kassam rockets then). Heavy fines were exacted,
the crops were set alight, and houses destroyed.
Several times the British struck back with cruel retaliatory measures. In
response to the murder of the regional governor's aide by an Arab from Jenin, a
convoy of military vehicles loaded with 24 tons of explosives headed there with
which they blew up a considerable portion of the town.
When the mining of railroad tracks increased, the British seated the village
family-heads living along the rail route in open railcars in front of the
train. In this way any explosion would harm the Arabs first. This method was
also used in vehicle convoys where the British obliged Arab taxis to precede
them and set off any mines.
6000 ARABS KILLED
During the Arab uprising some 2000 Arab homes were destroyed, - 6000 were
killed… another 6000 were arrested. Most of the rebel leaders were killed,
exiled, or fled the country. The economic damage sustained by the Arab
population was enormous – burnt fields, uprooted orchards, a cessation of trade
with the Jewish Yishuv, and severe unemployment.
Desyruction of Jaffa 1938
The biggest retaliation was carried out against the ancient neighborhoods in
Jaffa, which was a nest of vipers from the very start of the riots. On June 18,
1936, warning leaflets were distributed there. Later the residents were removed
from their homes, the area surrounded with barbed wire and engineering units
went in and blew the houses up.
A series of appeals in the courts by the Arabs against the destruction of the
houses were rejected, but the Chief Justice, [Sir Michael F. J.] McDonnell,
censured the destruction of Jaffa, and the Arabs exploited the condemnation in
The response of the High Commissioner, Sir Arthur Wauchope, to the Chief
Justice's declaration was harsh. "This declaration has been interpreted by the
Arabs as a direct encouragement in their struggle against the government" – he
reported to London. As a result the British judge was recalled.
Tr. Joseph Schachter
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