1936 – Arab General Strike & Revolt

On April 21 1936, Arab workers and local committees organized a strike of all Arabs engaged in labour, transport and shopkeeping in Palestine. This was a spontaneous popular resistance.

Religious leaders, influential families and political leaders became involved to help with co-ordination, leading to the formation on 25 April 1936 of the Arab Higher Committee, the central political organ of Palestinian Arabs in Mandatory Palestine. This urban elite gave the movement an organized shape and was focused mainly on strikes and other forms of political protest, in order to secure a political result

The demands of the Committee included: (1) the prohibition of Jewish immigration; (2) the prohibition of the transfer of Arab land to Jews; (3) the establishment of a National Government responsible to a representative council. On 15 May 1936, the Committee endorsed a larger general strike, calling for an end to Jewish immigration and a general non-payment of taxes.

The British responded by imposing heavy fines on villages and cities. The city-port of Jaffa was especially singled out. Under the guise of urban renewal the British ordered the demolition of hundreds of homes in the city and more than a thousand in neighboring villages. The British also authorized the building of a port in neighboring Tel Aviv to compete with the strike-bound Port of Jaffa.

By October 1936, this strike had been defeated by the British civil administration using a combination of political concessions, international diplomacy (involving the rulers of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan and Yemen), heavy fines, demolition of Arab homes, and the threat of martial law.

The 1937 Arab Revolt

In late 1937, Arab peasants led a revolt against the British, in response to the British crackdowns on their villages during the 1936 Arab General Strike. The British Army and Colonial Palestinian Police (also British) responded with brutality, ending with 5,000 Palestinian Arabs dead, another 20,000 wounded. As many as 10% of the Palestinian Arab male population between the ages of 20 and 60 were killed or imprisoned, which would have a very detrimental effect on the ability of Palestinians to defend themselves in the 1948 Nakba.