Arab Higher Committee (Palestine)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

ARAB HIGHER COMMITTEE (PALESTINE)

Umbrella organization formed in 1936 to represent the Palestinian Arabs.

The Arab Higher Committee (AHC) was formed on 25 April 1936 to present Palestinian demands to the British government during the general strike launched by local committees five days earlier. Chaired by Supreme Muslim Council President Hajj Amin al-Husayni, the AHC included the heads of six political partiesPalestine Arab, National Defense, Istiqlal (independence), Reform, National Bloc, and the Youth Congressand two Christians. The AHC resolved to strike until the British stopped Jewish immigration. It also called for banning land sales to Jews and establishing a national government responsible to an elected assembly. The AHC did not control the local committees or militias, but it moderated their calls to stop paying taxes and to include Arab government officials in the strike. As Britain poured in troops and the strike caused increasing economic hardship, the AHC arranged for Arab rulers to ask the Palestinians to end the strike. The AHC endorsed that appeal on 10 October 1936.

Although not formally recognized by the British, the AHC presented the Palestinian position to the Peel Commission early in 1937. After the AHC rejected that commission's report in July 1937 and a British official was killed in September, the British banned the local committees and the AHC, deported five leaders to the Seychelles, and banned four others from returning to Palestine. Amin al-Husayni and his cousin Jamal al-Husayni fled abroad; they coordinated the subsequent revolt from exile.

Despite the ban, the British let the AHC participate in the London Conference in 1939, freeing the politicians held in the Seychelles but banning Amin al-Husayni. The AHC rejected the subsequent White Paper, fearing that its promise of independence was illusory, but tried to persuade Britain to improve its terms.

The AHC was moribund during World War II. In November 1945 and May 1946 the Arab League reorganized the AHC, giving disproportionate representation to the Husaynis. The AHC testified before the United Nations in spring 1947 but boycotted the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, 1947 (UNSCOP) mission and was quoted in the New York Times as rejecting its partition plan as "impracticable and unjust" (9 Sept. 1947). After the United Nations endorsed partition, the AHC failed to design a Palestinian government or an effective military strategy. It tried to form an All-Palestine Government in Gaza in September 1948, but subsequently lost its leadership role. Amin alHusayni remained the nominal head, living in exile.

see also all-palestine government; london (roundtable) conference (1939).

Bibliography

Government of Palestine. A Survey of Palestine, Vol. 2. Jerusalem Government Printer (1946). Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1991.

Hurewitz, J. C. The Struggle for Palestine (1950). New York: Schocken Books, 1976.

Lesch, Ann M. Arab Politics in Palestine, 19171939: The Frustration of a Nationalist Movement. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979.

Mattar, Philip. Mufti of Jerusalm: Al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni and the Palestinian National Movement, rev. edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Porath, Yehoshua. The Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion, Vol. 2, 19291939. Totowa, NJ; London: Frank Cass, 1977.

Ann M. Lesch