CHAPTER TWO

THE ARAB MOVEMENT AND THE PALESTINIAN RESISTANCE

Letters of support were sent by Palestinians to the major participants in the conference, emphasizing the call for Arab support to Palestinians as a way of putting an end to the Zionist danger. Out of 387 letters, 139 came from Palestine. Despite this fact, the conferees ignored the call for encountering Zionism and its dangers, which could explain the Palestinian Arabs' reservations and criticism concerning the Paris conference.
In an editorial in Al-Karmel newspaper, the writer questions:

"Should we allow the Zionists to revive their nationalism at the expense of our nationalism? Have we agreed upon selling them our land piece by piece until they expel us from our land in groups and on an individual basis?"

In another call by Al-Karmel to every person interested in the fate of the country, the newspaper harshly criticized the attitude of both the Arab conferees and the Party of Decentralized Ottoman Administration. This call by Al-Karmel stated that the Arab leaders were not expected to favor the Jewish interest:

"You must have occupied yourself with pointing out to the Ottoman officials that the expropriation of land by Zionist agencies and societies would weaken the Arab nationalism and consequently trouble the Ottoman League. Observing this awkward situation and not doing anything to change it could imply that your ties with your Arab and Ottoman brothers in Palestine do not exist. It could also be an indication of a lack of awareness on your part of the fact that losing Palestine would diminish any hope for economic prosperity in the Arab World."

On 25 July 1913, Al-Karmel published a criticism of the leaders of the party of the decentralized Ottoman administration. At the time of the Arab Congress in particular, those leaders endeavored to discuss with the Zionists the prospect of a joint effort against the Ottomans. Al-Karmel gave up hope in regard to those champions of reform among the Arab leaders and those of the decentralized Ottoman administration:

"We hoped that they would rid us of Zionist threats and dangers. We comprised a group of people who had hoped the best for their leaders. This team possessed tremendous power; not to ignore that Palestine, their country, was part of the Ottoman Empire."

Under the title "Alummi Khiyamak Ya Israel," Issa Al-Issa wrote in Filistin that the Arab Congress in Paris proved, beyond any doubt, its bankruptcy. None among the participants could be questioned by parliament except the Lebanese delegation, because this delegation was chosen by an elected body to represent the people in the Congress. And no one could tell what this delegation would face, since the results of the Congress were contrary to all expectations. The situation of the Arab ummah, Al-Issa added, spoke clearly in objection to those decisions adopted by the Congress in a similar manner to the Jewish tribes who spoke about Rahvaam, the son of King Solomon: "We have no luck with the son of David, so pack your tents."

The harsh criticism of both Nassar and Al-Issa and their disappointment could be understood in terms of their assessment of the existing relationship between Palestine and the Arab ummah. Their high expectation of the Arab Congress in Paris and of the Arab national leaders could have caused this disappointment. A regular observer would have been shocked too, especially when he tried to assess Arab nationalist Palestine and its cause in relation to the Arab World. In other words, it is astonishing to find Arab leaders ignoring the Palestinian issue in a conference, when they supposedly placed the Palestinian cause at the core of the Arab problem.

Najib Azuri, for instance, pointed out that there existed two groups of the same nature, which were at the same time contradictory. On one side was the awakening of the Arab ummah. On the other was the Jewish effort to rebuild an old Israeli political entity. In the long run, the fate of those two movements was to exist in a constant struggle with each other until one would come to defeat the other. And the fate of the whole world as it was known to them was bound to the results of the struggle between the peoples of two different doctrines.

Khalil As-Sakakini, an Arab nationalist and Palestinian Christian, also pointed to the dangers of Zionism in regard to the Arab World in his diary on 23 February 1914. He stated that his hatred of Zionism had not evolved from a hatred of the Israeli people and their prosperity, but rather from his opposition to the doctrine itself and the Zionist attempts to built a nation at the expense of others. By conquering Palestine, Zionism had conquered the heart of the Arab World, since Palestine is the linking point between the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and Africa. The Jewish occupation of Palestine would end the Arab contact, especially between the African and Asian Arabs.

Arabs in general, and educated Arabs in particular, were aware of the Zionist danger before the Paris Conference. Mustafa Afandi, a teacher of mathematics at a Jerusalem middle school, displayed a heightened awareness concerning Zionist threats and colonial dangers. In an article he wrote, he stated that Russia, which represented great oppression and torture, presented itself as a supporter of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire whenever the Ottoman Government implemented its laws. The Russian Ambassador in the Empire always attempted to present himself as a champion of Jewish rights, whether the Jews were the aggressors or the victims. Mustafa Afandi added that the Russians were interested in pushing the Jews out of their own country and into the Holy Land. Thereby, they could instigate trouble and disturbances for the Ottomans. The Russians then could use this situation to interfere in Ottoman domestic affairs.

The British, according to Mustafa Afandi, wanted to see a Greater Syria that was separated from Egypt, clearly regarding unity as a source of strength. This separation could only be achieved through the occupation of the Syrian country by a foreign nation. The British, he continued, decided to support the Jews and to help them establish a political entity in Palestine, where the British could preserve their interests and existence in Egypt.

Based on the attitude of major figures in the Arab region, one could grasp the scope of the awkwardness attached to the attitude that was adopted by the Arab nationalists in Paris in 1913. This obviously made the attitude of the leaders of the Decentralization Party more strange and surprising. However, digging deep into the ideology and intellectual platform of the party of decentralization of the Ottoman administration explains the apparent paradox in their attitude.

In 1913, the head of the branches of the party on decentralization of Ottoman administration in Syria wrote to the head courtier of the party in Cairo. He stated that he and his colleagues had decided to admit to the party membership only those who adhered to Islam. On 25 August 1913, Rafiq Al-Azm, the Secretary of the party replied, emphasizing that he spoke for himself and indicating that Christians were brothers of the Muslims in terms of nationality, language and interest. He made it clear that he cared little for those whose minds and hearts had been blinded by God and who believed that Muslim-Christian brotherhood was a sort of infidelity or a means to hand the region to foreign domination. According to him, those people were either ignorant or hypocrites. Although he did not go so far as to accuse them of treason, he made it clear, instead, that these people considered themselves reformers but did not see clearly the interests of their nation, and that their ignorance and stagnant attitude would lead to the loss of the country. He continued to say that his party was comprised of both Muslims and non-Muslims (Christians and Israelis). By using the word 'motherland,' he asked for admission to the ranks and membership of the party Christians, Muslims and Jews; those who are known for honesty, trustworthiness and good manners. In addition to that, he called for the relationship between Christians, Jews, and Muslims to be strengthened.

Based on this ideological platform, Dr. Nasim Maltuh, a Jew from Jaffa joined the party in 1913. Mohammed Ash-Shanti, one of the active members of the Decentralization Party in Palestine, wrote to the party in Cairo, informing it that he had recruited a number of Jews as members in his party.

The letter sent by Rafiq Al-Azm, the Chairman of Hizb Al-Lamarkaziyyah, to Mahmoud Al-Humusani in Beirut dated 20 June 1914 explained the ideology of the party and the attitude adopted toward the Zionists and the Jews. In this letter, he indicated that when Hizb Al-Lamarkaziyyah was formed as an affiliate body within the Arab nationalist movement, the Zionists had taken the initiative and sent one of their leaders to discern the state of affairs. This leader, who had been sent earlier to Cairo, subsequently took charge of the meeting and negotiating with the leaders of the party in Paris on issues relating to the status of the Jews in Palestine. In response, Al-Azm and his colleagues informed him that

"we are a group whose doctrine is democracy. For us, all people in Syria are equal in terms of their rights and duties. If the Jews were to become genuine citizens of the motherland, they would consequently be similar to other fellow citizens in this land, especially when the Zionist immigration to the country is halted. None of them is allowed then without becoming a true Ottoman citizen. They are supposed to teach Arabic in their schools. They are also supposed to allow children in general in this country to obtain an education in these schools."

It is not surprising then to find harsh criticism of the call for the decentralization of the Ottoman administration in Filistin on 19 April 1913 under the title "Hal Tasluh Al-Lamarkaziyyah fi Filistin." The editor-in-chief expressed his real surprise at the call of the people of Beirut for a reformation through decentralizing the Ottoman administration in various provinces of the Empire. He did not necessarily question their intention, but rather criticized the means of reform. For him, the decentralization did not meet the demands of each and every province in the Empire: for example the success of its application in Beirut, the city of science and trade, would not necessarily be the same as in other parts of the region. He used the example of Palestine, seemingly to criticize the leaders of the Decentralization Party. Palestine, according to his argument, was an agrarian society, the wealth and source of income of its inhabitants being based mainly on land, the greatest portion of which was owned by a small number of wealthy and influential families and local leaders. The peasants, meanwhile, constituted the largest portion of the population. Regardless of the types of relationships in production existing in Palestine, the country, he emphasized, had become subject to Zionist interests, and over 100,000 different forms of adherence and loyalty existed. He posed a rhetorical question: Who would guarantee, upon the implementation of decentralization in Palestine, that the Zionist leaders would not ask their followers in Palestine to acquire Ottoman citizenship? Were they to do this, the Zionists would be able to use their wealth and influence to obtain the power of the majority, going on to become members in the municipalities, the administrations, the general council of the Mutasarrifyah. Palestine would then become in reality a purely Jewish country.

The assessment by the Palestinians of decentralization in the Ottoman Empire is essentially connected with their generally held views concerning Palestinian citizenship and nationality. Palestinian citizens are primarily composed of Muslims and Christians. According to Rawhi Al-Khalidi, both Muslims and Christians are deeply rooted in Palestine; their history goes back to ancient times and the waves of Semitic immigration from the Arabian Peninsula.

In the period 1909-1914, the Palestinians were forced to argue and pres ent their evaluation and assessment of various matters. The assessment took into account the Palestinians' needs and the intention to raise the efficacy of their resistance to Zionist immigration and settlement. Importantly enough, this period witnessed a number of developments that could explain the Palestinians' interest in accelerating resistance and their self-reliance in the struggle to liberate Palestine from Zionist hegemony. These developments were as follows:
Firstly, if the Ottoman Parliament were reinstalled, they could use their advantage there in order to put an end to Zionist immigration and settlement in Palestine.

Secondly, the Unionists returned to power. Later, Hizb Al-Itilaf Wal-Hurriyyah (the Party on Coalition and Freedom) assumed leadership and formed the government, which shook the Palestinians' reliance on the Ottomans in their resistance to Zionism. These two groups opened negotiations with the Zionist agencies, hoping, among other things, to obtain Zionist financial support in a bid to remedy the Empire's economic and financial ills. In return, they were ready to accept a gradual termination of the Ottoman laws that had been enacted earlier in order to put on hold on Zionist immigration to Palestine.

Thirdly, the vagueness and ambiguity characterizing the ideology of Arab nationalism made the movement unreliable in the struggle with Zionism. The Arab Congress in Paris in 1913 was clearly a case in point.

The Ottoman Parliament (Majlis Al-Mab'uthan), which was installed upon the restoration of the Constitution of 1908, was utilized by the Palestinians as a means to resist the Zionist immigration. In this majlis, Rawhi Al-Khalidi - who was keen to point to the Zionist dangers and ambitions - Said Al-Husseini and Hafiz As-Sa'ad were representatives of the Jerusalem metropolitan area. Ash-Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khammash represented Nablus, while As'ad Ash-Shuqeiri represented Akka. By writing articles for newspapers and giving speeches in the Ottoman Parliament, Al-Khalidi endeavored to present the Palestinian issue and the expedition against Zionism.

Rawhi Al-Khalidi, prior to 1908, was for a long time the dean of the Ottoman diplomatic circle in Bordeaux, France. He was also once elected, after 1908, as vice-chairman of the Ottoman Parliament. He fully understood the objectives and ends of Zionism, and together with Said Al-Husseini and Ragheb An-Nashashibi, called upon the Ottoman parliamentarians to legislate against Zionist immigration to Palestine and the expropriation of land. The Fall of 1912 witnessed a heated parliamentary session during which the Arab representatives complained that the Zionists had expropriated a large area of agricultural land in Marj Ibn Amir.

Al-Karmel was the first Palestinian newspaper to shed light on the danger that the Zionists posed to Palestine and the Arab region. The editor-in-chief of this newspaper, which was first issued in Haifa in 1909, launched a severe attack on Zionism. He also published a book entitled As-Sahyuniyyi, Tarikaha, Wa Garadaha, Wa Ahamiyyataha, in which he dug deeply into the history of Zionism. He also revealed the basis on which Zionism was structured and pointed to the deceptive means that the Zionists used to achieve their goals. In addition, he accused the Ottoman Empire of failing to live up to its responsibilities toward Palestine and the Palestinians, emphasizing that the Ottomans had not been active in preventing the Zionist drift into Palestine.

Filistin, meanwhile, which was issued in Jaffa in 1911, supported Al-Karmel in its endeavor to unveil the Zionist scheme and plans. Its owner and editor-in-chief, Issa Al-Issa, issued several articles that were a translation of a work by Menahem Ostshken, a historian who specialized in Zionism, entitled The Zionist Political Program. Al-Issa should be credited for raising, with this translation, people's awareness concerning the dangers posed by the Zionists.

Najib Nassar called for holding a Palestinian Congress as a means to counter the 11th World Zionist Congress and to resist the Zionist invasion of Palestine. The Palestinian leaders of Nablus received this call with enthusiasm and consequently held a Non-Zionist Congress in August 1913. The conferees called upon the Ottomans to put an end to selling the land by an open auction, saying that they should have sold this land to the farmers who cultivated it, allowing them to finance the cost of the land through easy payments. The petition that included these demands was signed by Abdul Fattah Tuqan, Kamil Hashim, Ibrahim Abdul Hadi, Hasan Hammad and Nimr An-Nabulsi.

Al-Karmel could also be credited with the call for organizing the national effort to counter Zionism. This role must have contributed to the formation of the Jam'iyyat Mukafahat As-Sahyuniyyah (Zionism Resistance Society), which had headquarters in Nablus and branches in various Palestinian cities. The Society encouraged the use of mass demonstration as a means to protest against the selling of land by the government in an open auction. It also expressed its opposition by sending telegraphs to Constantinople, in which it conveyed suggestions that the government should give land to the cultivators who, according the Society, would be able to discharge themselves from their financial obligations to the government through easy payments.

The Society situated its headquarters and carried out its activities in Nablus, because Nablus at that time did not house influential Jews and Zionist figures, meaning it did not face any counter-resistance. Some sources suggest that by 31 August 1913, the Society began to gather strength and accomplish victories. This date also marked the starting point of its serious activities against Zionism.

Al-Karmel, Filistin, and Al-Munadi newspapers in Palestine in addition to Al-Muqtabas in Damascus and Al-Mufid in Beirut continued their work to unveil the Zionist methods employed in Palestine. They also criticized and resisted the call of some Arab leaders for reaching a mutual understanding with the Zionists which appeared in both Al-Ahram and Al-Muqatam newspapers.

The Palestinians' strong stand on the issue of Arab independence from the Turks was equal to their vehement opposition to the Zionist plans in Palestine. They therefore diligently defended Arab ambitions and interests regarding independence and the formation of a united Arab state.

The representatives of Palestine in Majlis Al-Mab'uthan played an effective role in forming the 'Arab Representatives Bloc' in March 1911. This bloc, together with the Albanians, Armenians and some Turkish representatives formed Hizb Al-Hurriyah Wal-I'Tilaf (The Freedom and Coalition Party), which was known for its adoption of the idea of offering administrative independence to various nationalities in the Empire. It primarily exported the idea of implementing decentralization of the Ottoman administration in the Empire. Among the Palestinian members of this party were Rawhi Al-Khalidi and Said Al-Husseini.

In the light of this and other developments mentioned, one may understand the Palestinian support of the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution and the reinstitution of the parliament on the anniversary of the constitutional revolution of 1908. The correspondent of Filistin in Nablus wrote,

"On a day like this memorable day, the Ottoman ummah regained its constitution, which was curtailed for almost one third of a century. During this period, it faced so many complex obstacles, which deterred its reformation and prevented its progress. In those days, the country was targeted by those who had interests. God then provided it with free men (unionists). They themselves rushed to sacrifice the motherland."

The Palestinian enthusiasm for the constitution and the parliament could be understood in terms of two major themes. Firstly, the constitution and the liberal atmosphere along with the parliament could provide the Palestinians with the channels needed to influence Ottoman policy, meaning it might be possible to effectively resist the Zionist drift into Palestine.

Secondly, the Palestinian activists seemed to find the parliament a reliable tool for accomplishing Arab independence from the Turks. In other words, instead of using violent means and struggle with the Turks to achieve independence, they appeared to opt for peaceful means.