The Arab Strike that led to Arab Revolt, Begins, 1936
Updated: Sep 13
On This Day in Jewish History: April 19, 1936
On April 19, 1936, Arab workers launched a strike in response to growing Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine and British colonial rule of the land. After the creation of the Arab Higher Committee 6 days later, the strike expanded to include tax resistance and a boycott of Jewish products.
The 6-month strike had three demands:
End Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine
End land sales to Jewish buyers
Establish an Arab national government
By the time the strike and revolt ended in 1939, 400 Jews, 5,000 Arabs, and 250 British had died in the conflict.
The Tulkarm shooting took place 4 days prior to the start of the strike. A group of Arabs, believed to be followers of the militant Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, built a roadblock between Nablus and Tulkarm, stopping 20 cars to rob them of money and arms in order to carry out the work of the "Holy Martyrs". In the process, 2 Jews were murdered and 1 was injured.
The next day, in retaliation, 2 members of the Jewish militant underground, the Irgun, murdered 2 of the Arabs from the prior day’s attack. On April 19, conflict continued with the Jaffa riots and saw the deaths of 14 Jews and 2 Arabs. These events served as a catalyst for the Arab strike.
Initially the British attempted to suppress the strike and revolt through military action but succumbed to some of the Arabs’ demands by 1939. Why was this? First, the strike and boycott were accompanied by violent attacks against the British and the Jews. One British record from 1936 reports “12 acts of sabotage on the railway… (two) trains were wrecked, one of the derailments near Lydda on the 26th June causing four deaths and considerable damage to the line and rolling stock.” Second, there was the impending war with Germany. The British relied on Arab oil at the time and didn’t want any disruption to oil access in a time of war. Though there was no oil in Mandatory Palestine, surrounding Arab neighbors aligned themselves with and supported the strike and revolt.
There were 4 long term impacts of the Arab strike and revolt:
The persistence of the Arab cause led the British to consider a partition of the land between the Arabs and Jews, contradicting their previous policy laid out in the Balfour Declaration.The strike ultimately resulted in the 1939 White Paper. This Paper severely limited Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine, allowing only 75,000 Jews to immigrate in the following 5 years. This was especially harmful as 1939 - 1944 brought World War 2 and the Shoa, restricting Jews from attempting to escape Nazi Germany. Due to the boycott of Jewish businesses, the Jewish economy was forced to become insular and self-reliant, while the Arab economy was destroyed by the 6-month strike. This led to greater separation and resentment between the Jews and Arabs. The strike marked the formation of a distinct Palestinian national identity.
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Front Page 1 – No Title, Wireless to The New York Times" 18 April 1936