When the British Mandate In Palestine Was About To Expire, Both Arabs And Jews Began An Arms Race.


Haj Amin was a thorn in the side of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration. He was a sleek, charismatic man, soft spoken and known to engender confidence and authority. Once the British wished to mundify Palestine of him and his influence. Yet when he returned from a short prison term exiled to trans Jordan for his role in inciting a riot, he came back when a new Mufti had to be appointed for the Jerusalem area. The region’s political secretary, E.T. Richmond, a rabid anti Zionist, appointed Haj Amin to the post. It was a calculated move and one charged with danger. For the first few years, Haj Amin was actually quiet and brought to bear a new kind of responsibility. For a while it looked like a wise choice. But Haj Amin cemented his gains with a mafia like network of informants and he tied up every single appointment to funnel through his own purview and his own acquiescence. His influenced skeined through Palestine so completely that you could not drive a cab without Haj Amin’s approval. Authorities praised him fulsomely. But this quiet peace didn’t last long. Haj Amin found an excuse to begin violence against Jews living near the Arab section of Jerusalem.




Palestinian Jews



Orthodox Jews praying at the Wailing Wall put up a mechitza, or ritual room divider that separates women from the men. Local devout Muslims took umbrage and a riot built up steam fairly quickly. Haj Amin Huseini provoked this violence by attaching a deeply important interpretation of a tiny gesture. The Jews weren’t just trying to pray properly, they were trying to impose their own religious liturgy to take the entire Dome of the Rock. For angry Arabs, what would otherwise have been a pettifog became flame that licked the skies all through the day and night.About a year later, after Haj Amin delivered a fiery jeremiad, a crowd of Arabs wound their way up Princess Mary Avenue, up Zvi Sinai, and had their own Kristalnacht.



Haj Amin Huseini would help give birth to some of the worst violence between Jew and Arab especially when the United Nations voted to recognize Israel. Whatever peace existed in the years under British rule was forever gone. Slowly, the arms race began between Arab and Jew and it would burn into a war soon enough.



Abdul Aziz Kerine, a pilot flying for Swisswair landed a plane in Syria on a mission to arm his people. He was a small part in a complex network connecting a world quite literally filled with weapons when the largest war ever fought ended.  The post World War Two globe was filled with stockpiles of armament. There were hundreds of thousands of small arms and billions of rounds of ammunition. The Syrian was purchasing firearms for the upcoming donnybrook with Israel. Belgian gun dealers offered 52,000 submachine guns for $52 a piece, Swiss 81mm mortars and hand grenades.



David Ben Gurion and Ehud Avriel were simultaneously arming Israelis. Avriel had placed an order in Paris fro a thousand sten guns,  ten thousand rifles, a million rounds of ammunition and 1500 heavy machine guns. So yes, there was an unseen hand in the violence that erupted in 1948 Palestine: That was the ever present arms dealer. It’s not like the Hagganah did not already have arms chaches, they did. In fact the Hagganah had a respectable collection of assorted weapons that included 3000 rifles, about 22 machines guns, 10,000 hand grenades and a million cartridges. Haim Slavine, a Zionist in Palestine initiated a run on thousands of machining tools out of the US set to be scrapped because the war had just ended. Slavine disguised his motives by buying the tools, and shipping them to his New York warehouse. There he dismantled them and crated and shipped them as 75,000 loose pieces of scrap metal, not weapons manufacturing. So British customs completely missed the machines. They went to an entrepot where they were meticulously reassembled. By the time the British left, the Jews in Palestine were making and repairing an armamentarium with these new machine tools.


Female Haganah Member
Female Haganah Member


The Jewish population of Palestine withstood the dead and wounded from Arab uprising in the twenties and thirties and had a unique answer for it. They formed their own armed wing call the Haganah, the “aunt.” There they secretly prepared for war in their own backyard. They learned to strip and rebuild guns, hide them, use then repair them. The Haganah trained to jump from moving cabs, speak a little Arabic and survive in a desert. The Haganah was a great microcosm of the community it purported to defend. They were collaborative, yet they admired the individual. They inculcated spontaneously outlandish creativity. Each young Jew in Palestine, boy and girl had to learn something alongside their brachot or prayers. They needed to learn to use weapons and had a plan if things went south.


However the middle class or bourgeoisie of the Arabs were not interested in soldiery. That was for a different calss of Arab, usually poor or working class. It did occur to some bourgeoisie Arabs that they had no weapons or formal firearms training. At all. In the Beqaa Valley, three Arab brothers, the Deebs, organized weapons procurement and armed militias, mostly funded by wealthy Arabs and paid to the thuggish dark bands of the Mufti. The problems inherent in their systems that clannish nature of it. The Arabs before 1948, as long as they had been in this part of the world, they never truly coalesced into a single unified voice the way the Jews did. The Jews would be 10,000 active soldier and 40,000 reservists. The Arabs had maybe 7,500 organized militia and most of them were loyal to clan first. The difference between the two opposing forces would be telling.


Haganah, Jewish Paramilitary Group


Source: Oh Jerusalem by Larry Collins and Dominique La Pierre



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