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Understanding the Palestinian Movement

An HIR Series, in four parts

Historical and Investigative Research - 02 June 2006
by Francisco Gil-White

1  |  2  |  3  |  4




Did the Zionist Jews take something

away from the Arabs in British Mandate




  Arabs oppress Arabs in British Mandate ‘Palestine’

 The “Palestinian Arab national movement” -- a terrorist racket run by the Arab feudal lords

 The Zionist Jews were much nicer to the Arab poor than the Arab ruling elite



It is a widespread belief that the Zionist Jews came to ‘Palestine’ to dispossess and oppress the Arabs who lived there. The truth, however, is that the Jews came to buy land from anyone who wanted to sell, and that the Arabs in ‘Palestine’ have only ever been oppressed by other Arabs.

I shall make my case by quoting extensively from an anti-Zionist historian: Nathan Weinstock. Why? Because if the data collected by an anti-Zionist (despite his loud protestations) shows the Zionist Jews to be innocent, then the case against the Zionist Jews falls on its face.

First, let us get a picture for how the Arabs oppressed the Arabs in British Mandate ‘Palestine.’

Arabs oppress Arabs in British Mandate ‘Palestine’


According to Nathan Weinstock in Zionism: False Messiah, what he calls “the Palestinian Arab national movement” before WWII was not in fact a popular movement: “the leadership,” Weinstock explains, “was in the hands of the big landowners of the a’yan stratum (urban notables).”[1] To see what these landowners were like, consider that elsewhere in his book (p.59) Weinstock explains that the a’yan stratum is synonymous with the effendis. What were they like?

“At the summit of the social pyramid, which was characterized by a rigid, traditional structure, was the effendi group, that special phenomenon of the Middle East, the ‘city notable, an absentee landlord whose main function is to provide credit and who does not interest himself at all in farming.’ They belonged to the handful of leading families who derived their incomes from the estates cultivated by the fellahin and from usury. Not that they turned their noses up at property speculation. The indifference they showed for the lot of the peasantry, their economic activities (investments) and their parasitic role therefore made them akin, to a certain degree, to the comprador bourgeoisie of the colonial countries.”[2]

Above Weinstock compares the effendis to “the comprador bourgeoisie.” Weinstock is a Marxist and this is part of his jargon: “In Marxist terms, comprador bourgeoisie exist in developing countries and act in their own economic interests, often sacrificing national interests and the interests of their country’s proletariat in order to do so.”[3] A comprador bourgeois, in other words, is a pitiless exploiter of the poor. So, according to Weinstock, “the Palestinian Arab national movement” was led by people who were specialists in the oppression of the common Arab folk.

We may wonder, however, whether “comprador bourgeoisie” is really the proper term for a social scientist to use when making reference to the Arab ruling class in British Mandate ‘Palestine.’ The term used for European absentee landlords who were not much interested in the productivity of agriculture but lived off the land worked by serfs who didn’t own their parcels, and who were in a perpetual state of debt-slavery due to the usury of the same landlords, is feudal lords. I see no reason to apply a different term when the exact same structure is repeated in the Middle East. So, where Weinstock refers to this arrangement as “quasi-feudal,” I would take the “quasi” out.[4]

Weinstock explains that the Arab poor, who were referred to as fellahin, “formed the mass of the population (nearly 70 per cent), living in the country’s 850 Arab villages,” and Weinstock remarks on “the fierce exploitation which they suffered at the hands of the landowners and usurers.”[5] Says Weinstock:

“The fellahin, attached to the land, were mercilessly exploited by the big landowners, and burdened with levies and taxes. In the village, the peasant was at the mercy of the sheikh, the governor, the farmer-general to whom the taxes were farmed out, and the merchants and usurers who vied with each other for the prize of crushing him. Traditionally the villager had only one means of escaping this misery: nomadism, the peasant’s last resort.”[6]

Elsewhere he remarks:

“In 1936...the average debt run up by an Arab peasant family -- £25-30 a year -- was equivalent to or in excess of its annual income. In these conditions there was hardly any hope of escaping recurrent indebtedness. ...Interest rates, usually 30 per cent, sometimes went as high as 50 per cent. In such conditions, and taking into account the parasitic mentality of the landowners who considered their lands above all as a speculative investment, Arab farming remained refractory to technical progress.”[7]

In other words, the peasant Arabs, the fellahin, were abused serfs.

The main point is this: since “the landed aristocracy had practically undivided control over political life,”[8] we should expect that what Weinstock calls “the Palestinian Arab national movement” was a cynical ploy by the Arab feudal landlords to increase the value they were getting from oppressing the common Arab folk. And, indeed, this is precisely what Weinstock documents.

The “Palestinian Arab national movement” -- a terrorist racket run by the Arab feudal lords

How did the big Arab landowners react to Zionist immigration? Weinstock explains:

“When the question of the acquisition of land by the Zionist organizations in Palestine is broached, it is usually not stated that these land transactions are to be explained by the big Arab landowners’ eagerness to sell their property. Furthermore, these purchases led to an extremely lucrative wave of property speculation: the price of a dunam near Rishon-le-Zion, originally 8 shillings, had gone up to £P10-£P25 by 1931. The Zionists certainly paid dearly for their Holy Land. The high prices sales, which brought a fortune to the usurious, parasitic effendi class, proved disastrous for the fellahin who were expelled from the estates they had worked on.”[9]

So the Arab peasants who had been “mercilessly exploited by the big landowners” were now simply cast out as the Arab landowners rushed to make a killing by selling the land to the Zionist Jews, who would pay top dollar for it. But Weinstock explains that these same landowners were the leaders of the supposed “Palestinian Arab national movement.” Doesn’t this mean that there was really no such movement?

Why then would Weinstock insist on the existence of this supposed movement? Because Weinstock is a committed anti-Zionist, and no matter what the facts, he will spin them with an anti-Zionist interpretation. Thus, he asserts that,

“Massive dispossession of the fellahin was the essence of the Palestinian problem, both as a national and a social issue. Certain authors try and skirt round this direct consequence of the Zionist enterprise...”[10]

According to Weinstock, then, “certain authors try and skirt round” the supposed fact that the problems of the Arabs in this part of the world are supposedly the fault of the Jews. Here Weinstock is denying what he himself has documented: that the essence of the ‘Palestinian’ problem was the exploitation and oppression of the Arab fellahin by the Arab effendis. The Zionist Jews simply came to buy land -- they did not create the conditions of extreme exploitation and oppression that the Arab feudal lords perpetuated in British Mandate ‘Palestine.’ Who could the Zionist Jews buy land from? Most of the fellahin did not have title to any land, so the Zionists bought land from those who had title: the effendis. There was absolutely nothing that the Zionist Jews could do about this particular state of affairs, and so when Weinstock blames the Zionist Jews for the conditions of the fellahin he plumbs the depths of absurdity. But this is the only strategy open to an anti-Zionist, because the Zionist Jews, unlike the Europeans who conquered the Americas, did not come to steal and exterminate, but to offer good money in order to purchase legally from those who had title.

What is most amazing is that even Weinstock concedes that many “fellahin [were] displaced following purchases made by non-Jews, say, for example, an Arab middleman or moneylender who then sold the property acquired to a Zionist purchasing body,” and many other displaced Arab poor had been “peasants who were not share-croppers ...[but] smallholders,” which is to say peasants with actual title to their tiny plots of land, whose plots were also bought by Arab middlemen and resold to the Zionists.[11] This is quite significant because, according to Weinstock himself, the large Arab landowners were charging with ‘treason’ any smallholders who tried to make a decent buck selling their land to the Zionists. In order to prevent such sales, the large Arab landowners directed terrorist attacks against the smallholders; this allowed the feudal lords to buy the plots of smallholders for a song and resell them at very high prices to the Zionists. Weinstock explains:

“...whilst in public these [Arab] leaders stepped up their incendiary attacks on Zionism, denouncing any transfer of ancestral soil to the Jews as a betrayal, they secretly enriched themselves by means of the very operations which they so furiously attacked. The fanatical braggadocio was designed for the gallery. It made it possible to win the support of the masses. It also, no doubt, served other less avowable goals. Under nationalist pressure, the small Arab landowners no longer dared to sell their land openly to the Jews. During the 1936-39 Revolt Husseini’s guerillas actually executed ‘traitors,’ but ‘at the same time a close relative of the Mufti was doing a brisk trade in precisely such allegedly criminal deals, but with a notable difference, for this person used to force sales from Arab small-holders at niggardly prices and then resell to the Jews at the usual exorbitant rates...’ In other words, hyper-nationalist propaganda became a lucrative industry, indeed even an American-style racket, for the Arab gentry.”[12]

It is hardly any fun arguing against Weinstock when he makes my arguments for me.

The references to “Husseini” and “the Mufti” above are to the same person: Hajj Amin al Husseini, a scion of one of the biggest feudal landed families in British Mandate Palestine, whom the British made Mufti of Jerusalem in 1920 after he demonstrated that he could organize massive terrorist riots against the Jews.[12a] We shall take a closer look at him in Part 4. What matters here is that Hajj Amin al Husseini was the supreme leader of what Weinstock calls the “Palestinian Arab national movement.” So clearly there was no such movement. What existed in ‘Palestine,’ by Weinstock’s own admission, was a racist movement against all Jews, Zionist or not, fomented by the feudal Arab landowners who didn’t want the Arab poor getting any ideas from the Jews, who were mostly socialists. In order to prevent this, any Arabs who tried to be friendly with the Zionist Jews risked execution. Hajj Amin even executed his own cousin for sympathizing with the Zionists, as Weinstock himself explains.[13]

The other contributing factor to the problems of the Arab poor was that the land which was not being hogged by the Arab effendi class was being hogged by the British Empire. This is made evident when Weinstock explains that “popular discontent reached such a pitch that the British authorities had to offer to put Crown lands at the disposal of the evicted share-croppers.”[14]

The Zionist Jews were much nicer to the Arab poor than the Arab ruling elite

It was in fact the Zionist Jews who showed the most compassion for ordinary Arabs, even though the Arab leadership was mobilizing these ordinary Arabs in terrorist attacks against the Jews. As historian Anita Shapira documents,

“The defensive ethos [of the Zionist Jews] was distinguished by two parallel approaches to the Arabs. One related to the Arabs as individuals, while the other viewed them as a people. The existence of those two approaches helped fashion a distinction between relating to the Arab as a human being and, contrastingly, seeing him as a member of a people vying for control of Palestine. While in the first domain, Jews were obliged to adhere to the acceptable canon of [Jewish] ethical tenets in interpersonal behavior, in the second sphere, the constraints of national interest served to release persons from compliance with those rules. Thus it was argued that one should act to promote the rights of the Arab worker and better his lot and avoid placing him at any disadvantage. Yet at one and the same time, it was permissible to demand of the Arab that he renounce his exclusive claim to Palestine. It was prohibited to expel the fellahin; but it was perfectly alright to purchase land from the effendis, even if that involved eviction of fellahin from the soil.”[15]

As is common for Jewish historians, Anita Shapira -- considered a Zionist -- sounds critical of the Zionist movement. What is her criticism? Namely, that the Zionist Jews did not save the fellahin from the big Arab landowners!

This is typical: it is hard for Jews to conclude that they have been sufficiently ethical precisely because Judaism is an ethical civilization. Shapira herself points out that there are “three sins” that “rather than commit, a Jew preferred to be killed” -- these are “‘idol worship’...along with bloodshed and incest.”[16] That’s interesting: rather than shed blood, it is orthodox for a Jew to allow himself to die (contrast this with Muslims, for whom it is orthodox to slaughter the recalcitrant infidel[17]). One dramatic example of this aspect of Jewish ideology was given in the Middle Ages, when more than 1000 Jews were trapped in a bishop’s palace in the city of Mainz by a mob of ‘Crusaders,’ and, as they awaited the carnage that was to come, these Jews decided to commit suicide rather than take enemy lives in self-defense.[18] This same ideology is what made Jewish self-defense in British Mandate ‘Palestine’ very difficult, because even after repeated Arab terrorist attacks the Jews living there found it hard to take arms to protect themselves, and so it was a long time until they did. Anita Shapira’s book is an attempt to understand this psychology of the Jews that delayed an effective self defense -- at the cost of many Jewish lives -- for a good long time.

The peculiarities of Jewish ideology thus explain the stark difference between the Zionist Jews and the Arab effendi class. The Zionist Jews “argued that one should act to promote the rights of the Arab worker and better his lot,” whereas the Arab effendi class couldn’t run out of ways to oppress the Arab fellahin and executed them if they tried to get rich -- as the big landowners were getting rich -- by selling land to the Zionist Jews. Moreover, to Jewish ethics, “It was prohibited to expel the fellahin” whereas the Arab landowners were evicting them. Even though many Zionists held that Jewish land should only be worked by Jewish labor, many others disagreed, and in those plots where the Arab landowners did not evict the fellahin, as Shapira herself admits, “Arab workers stayed on to work in the Jewish-owned fields.”[19]

So Shapira’s implied judgment against the Zionist movement is entirely unfair: the Zionist Jews were not God. They were not responsible for, nor could they easily solve, the problems in Arab society that the Arab ruling class had created for the Arab poor. And her gesture of deference to the Arabs in her repeated implication that there was an Arab nationalist movement contradicts the facts: there was a racist anti-Jewish movement built on the traditional anti-Jewish racism rampant all over the Muslim world ever since the Muslim expansion began (see Part 1). This was a fire whose flames were fanned by the Arab ruling class in British Mandate ‘Palestine,’ which got rich directing terrorism towards both ordinary Arabs and Jews.

But though the Zionist Jews were not God, the overall assessment must still be that they were on balance a blessing to the fellahin. Nathan Weinstock himself explains why:

“...the repercussions on the Arab economy of the inflow of capital into Palestine and the country’s economic expansion were felt in the long run. Agriculture advanced considerably during this period, when there were the beginnings of an evolution towards intensive farming. Arab orchards, which covered an area of 332,000 dunams in 1921, spread over 832,000 dunams in 1942. Cattle-breeding and poultry-rearing made rapid headway; there was an increase of the order of 60 per cent in 13 years. The orange-groves developed at great speed: 22,000 dunams of citrus fruit in 1922, 144,000 dunams in 1937. Vegetable production increased almost tenfold between 1920 and 1938. On the whole, however -- and it was here that the immobilisme and the backwardness of the social structures really told -- Arab agriculture continued to suffer from a shortage of capital.

On the other hand, in a period of economic boom and massive immigration, the scarcity of man-power and the intense tempo of construction favoured the taking on of Arab workers. Moreover, a growing number of Palestinian Arabs found jobs in the public services: 18,000 in 1930, more than 30,000 in 1945. One should add to this those employed by concessionary companies, concerns in which the majority of capital was Jewish but which were bound under their statutory provisions to take on a certain proportion of Arab workers.

An Arab industry likewise made its appearance...”[20]

So, many of the displaced Arab fellahin found jobs elsewhere in the booming economy that the Zionist Jews created. If that were not so, there would not have been a massive immigration of Arabs into British Mandate ‘Palestine,’ as documented in Part 2 of this series. These new jobs that the displaced fellahin were getting were outside the feudal economy that had oppressed them.


In conclusion, one cannot argue that the Arabs in British Mandate ‘Palestine’ were dispossessed by the immigrant Jews. The Arab poor had already been dispossessed by the brutally exploitative and oppressive ruling Arab effendi class, who took zero interest in the welfare of commoners just as the European medieval feudal lords also did. By contrast, it is not difficult to argue that the Arab fellahin benefited, on the whole, from Zionist immigration, and one can find the argument even in the work of an anti-Zionist historian such as Nathan Weinstock, who nevertheless would like to argue that the Zionist Jews were doing harm.


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It is true that many Arabs lost their land and/or homes during the war of 1948 (Israel’s War of Independence). But this, once again, was not the fault of the Zionist Jews, as will be shown in Part 4 of this series.

The next piece in this series is:

“How did the 'Palestinian movement' emerge? The British sponsored it. Then the German Nazis, and the US”; Historical and Investigative Research; 13 June 2006; by Francisco Gil-White


Footnotes and Further Reading

[1] Weinstock, N. 1979. Zionism: False Messiah. London: Ink Links Ltd. (p.156)

[2] Zionism: False Messiah (p.156)

[3] Comprador bourgeoisie | From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Zionism: False Messiah (p.157)

[5] Zionism: False Messiah (p.157)

[6] Zionism: False Messiah (p.52)

[7] Zionism: False Messiah (pp.157, 159)

[8] Zionism: False Messiah (p.157)

[9] Zionism: False Messiah (p.161)

[10] Zionism: False Messiah (pp.161-62)

[11] Zionism: False Messiah (p.162)

[12] Zionism: False Messiah (pp.163-64)

[12a] You will find the most complete documentation here:

“HOW DID THE ‘PALESTINIAN MOVEMENT’ EMERGE? The British sponsored it. Then the German Nazis, and the US.”; Historical and Investigative Research; 13 June 2006; by Francisco Gil-White.

Some of this material was originally published here:

“Anti-Semitism, Misinformation, And The Whitewashing Of The Palestinian Leadership”; Israel National News; May 26, '03 / 24 Iyar 5763; by Francisco J. Gil-White

[13] “Fawzi El-Husseini, a cousin of the Mufti’s, who sympathized with Zionism...became the spokesman of a small section of the urban bourgeoisie anxious to collaborate with the Zionists. This option cost him his life: he was assassinated in November 1941.” -- Zionism: False Messiah (p.190)

[14] Zionism: False Messiah (p.162)

[15] Shapira, A. 1992. Land and power: The Zionist resort to force 1881-1948. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. (pp.356-57)

[16] Land and power (p.64)

[17] In order to understand better this aspect of Muslim ideology, and to see its Qur’anic justification, you may consult the following two pieces:

1) This is an analysis of prominent Muslim thinker Alija Izetbegovic, whom the Western media lionized as a supposed ‘moderate’:

Who was Alija Izetbegovic: Moderate Democrat or Radical Islamist?; from “WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN BOSNIA?: Were the Serbs the criminal aggressors, as the official story claims, or were they the victims?”; Historical and Investigative Research, 19 August 2005; by Francisco Gil-White

2) Historian Bat Ye’or, and expert on Islam, explains the meaning of ‘jihad’ -- a central concept in Muslim ideology.

Bat Ye'or (2002) Jews and Christians under Islam: Dhimmitude and Marcionism. Published in French as Juifs et chrétiens sous l’islam, Dhimmitude et marcionisme [Commentaire, N°97, Printemps 2002]

French original:

[18] “The crusaders were unleashed, storming through the city [of Mainz], looking for ‘the circumcised.’ The Jews who had eluded crusaders, or bribed them during the early phase of the Rhineland incursion, had been succeeded, especially in Speyer and Worms, by Jews who were murdered in cold blood. By the time of Mainz, crusader ferocity was at its peak, fueled by a cross-inspired righteousness… More than one thousand men, women, and children huddled in the courtyard of the archbishop’s palace [this man appears genuinely to have tried to save their lives]. They knew very well what had happened elsewhere in the preceding weeks, how bribes and flight had failed, finally, to protect even children. In Mainz, Jews had time to reflect on what was coming, and they knew that the only possible escape was through apostasy. Some few took that way out, but to most conversion to Christianity was more unthinkable than ever…

Solomon bar Simson wrote:

The hand of the Lord rested heavily on His people, and all the Gentiles assembled against the Jews in the courtyard to exterminate them… When the people of the Sacred Covenant saw that the Heavenly decree had been issued and that the enemy had defeated them and were entering the courtyard, they all cried out together—old and young, maidens and children, menservants and maids—to their Father in Heaven… ‘There is no questioning the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He and blessed be His Name, Who has given us His Torah and has commanded us to allow ourselves to be killed and slain in witness to the Oneness of His Holy Name…’

Then in a great voice they all cried out as one: ‘We need tarry no longer, for the enemy is already upon us. Let us hasten and offer ourselves as a sacrifice before God. Anyone possessing a knife should examine it to see that it is not defective, and let him then proceed to slaughter us in sanctification of the Unique and Eternal One, then slaying himself—either cutting his throat or thrusting the knife into his stomach.’”

SOURCE: Carroll, J. 2001. Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. (pp.261-262)

[19] Shapira, A. 1992. Land and power: The Zionist resort to force 1881-1948. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. (p.65)

[20] Zionism: False Messiah (p.160)

  Part 1 - Palestinian Arab racism against Jews in the first half of the 20th c.

  Part 2 - Who are the Palestinian Arabs?

  Part 3 -  Did the Zionist Jews take something away from the Arabs in British Mandate 'Palestine'?

 Part 4 -  How did the 'Palestinian movement' emerge?


Note to the reader:

Nathan Weinstock, whom we encounter repeatedly in this series, claims to have made an 'about face' and to have seen the error of his earlier ways. HIR has published an article that demonstrates how Nathan Weinstock has merely found a new, more clever way to attack the Jewish people.

Read this article






















































































































































































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