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Arab Higher Committee (AHC)


The Arab Higher Committee was created on 25 April 1936 in Mandatory Palestine by six leading Palestinian political parties to coordinate the general strike that had begun on 15 April. It was led by Hajj Amin al-Husayni, a member of a prominent Palestinian family, mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Supreme Muslim Council, and it became the chief Palestinian nationalist organization. Its goals were to boycott Jewish businesses, to end Zionist land purchases and Jewish immigration, and to replace British rule with an independent elected national legislature and government. The strike was staged in response to several events: the killing of the resistance leader Izz al-Din al-Qassam by the British; the discovery of clandestine arms shipments to Zionist groups; and a British proposal for a limited legislature in which the minority Zionist community would have been overrepresented. The strike led to an armed revolt, which was met with a military response by the Mandatory authorities. The committee called off the strike on 12 October 1936, and the British government agreed to investigate the causes of the disturbances.

In June 1937 the Peel Commission recommended partition of Palestine between the Arab and Zionist communities, which the AHC rejected. Disputes between the parties represented on the committee led to a partial breakup in July, and after further guerrilla attacks the British outlawed the AHC on 1 October. Four of its members were arrested and deported to the Seychelles Islands, and the rest, including al-Husayni, escaped to neighboring Arab countries, from which they encouraged and attempted to direct the rebellion, which lasted until the spring of 1939. After the White Paper of May 1939 recommended limiting Jewish immigration, the AHC was legalized again.

In November 1945 the committee, with al-Husayni as its head, was reestablished under the auspices of the Arab League and was recognized by Britain as representing the Arabs of Palestine. Factional disputes, however, made it politically ineffective, and it broke into two competing groups. At its meeting in June 1946 at Bludan, Syria, the Arab League dissolved these two groups and established a new AHC, under the leadership of al-Husayni, which it then recognized as the official representative organization of the Palestinians. King Abdullah I of Transjordan, however, who wished to annex much of Palestine to his kingdom and who was secretly cooperating with the Zionists, worked within the League to undermine it. The AHC rejected the partition plan adopted in United Nations Resolution 181 in 1947, and it also rejected the recommendations of the United Nations mediator, Count Bernadotte, in June 1948. In September 1948, with the 1948–1949 War all but lost, the AHC, with the approval of the League, founded the so-called All-Palestine Government in Gaza, which lasted little more than two weeks. It was the last attempt at serious activity by the committee. The AHC continued to exist in name only until the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

SEE ALSO Abdullah I ibn Hussein; All-Palestine Government; Husayni, Hajj Amin al-; League of Arab States; Resolution 181.

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