Husayni, Musa Kazim Al- (1853–1934)

views updated


Palestinian political figure. Musa Kazim al-Husayni was born in Jerusalem into one of Palestine's most prominent families; since the mid-nineteenth century the mayors and muftis of Jerusalem had usually been members of the Husayni family. Educated in Istanbul, he served the Ottomans in numerous administrative positions in several countries. He was a leading member of the Palestinian Muslim-Christian Association in 1918 and 1919 and in 1918 was appointed mayor of Jerusalem by the British, succeeding his late brother Husayn. He was removed from this office in April 1920 for protesting British support for the Zionist project and for publicly supporting the Arab government of Amir Faysal in Syria when the French were moving to impose their League of Nations Mandate there. He was elected president of the Arab Executive in December 1920, at its founding in Haifa. He became chairman in 1928. He followed a course of cautious, moderate, and largely deferential protest, in the style of Ottoman politics in which he and his colleagues on the committee had been schooled; nevertheless, the Arab Executive was the most important Palestinian nationalist organization of its time. In August 1921 he led a delegation to London to argue against the Balfour Declaration, for suspending Zionist immigration, and for establishing a democratic representative government. He later opposed, with more success, the British effort to impose a legislative council that would have had only limited authority and would have allocated the Palestinians only 43 percent of the seats. In 1928, as Zionist organizations were becoming stronger and Jewish immigration was increasing, the Arab Executive was expanded to encompass a greater range of Palestinian political opinion in an attempt to strengthen it. Its influence declined, however, after the Western Wall disturbances of 1929, in which many Jews and Palestinians were killed.

In 1930 he again led a delegation to London to argue against British policies. Once again they were refused, but two British commissions of inquiry did result in the Passfield White Paper, which recommended substantial changes, including suspension of Zionist land purchases. However, Zionist political influence in London and strength in Palestine were great enough to prevent these recommendations from being followed, and Palestinian politics—which through the 1920s had been evolving toward an openness to mass public opinion and the importance of popular action—became radicalized. Husayni and his colleagues on the Arab Executive found it difficult to adapt their strategy to this situation. Under pressure, the Arab Executive sponsored a demonstration in Haifa in October 1933, protesting British support for Zionism and led by Husayni. It was broken up by the police and Husayni was beaten. He never recovered and died the next year. The Arab Executive dissolved in 1934. Musa Kazim al-Husayni was the father of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni (1908–1948), a military leader and hero of the 1948 War.

SEE ALSO Arab Executive;Balfour Declaration;White Papers on Palestine.