Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Did These British Forces Look So Bewildered?


Library of Congress caption: "Haifa, result of terrorist acts and
government measures. H.M.S. British marines and police in
control of Haifa streets during a case of incendiary." The soldiers
in white uniforms are Royal Marines, probably off of the H.M.S.
 Repulse which arrived in Haifa that month. (July 1938)
Last week we posted a "future feature" photo showing these British troops looking in every direction except up.  Where were they? What were they doing? Who were they?

Yesterday's feature on the Arab Revolt provides the answer.  They were patrolling the streets of Haifa.

Between 1936 and 1939 the Arab revolt struck at British, Jewish and even Arab targets across Palestine.  In cities with mixed populations -- Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, for instance -- there were constant terrorist and retaliation attacks. 

In July 1938, the British published the Peel Commission Report, a government study examining the causes of the outbreak of violence in 1938.  The commission recommended partition of Palestine. The Arabs rejected the plan; the Jews' reaction was mixed.  But the level of violence in Palestine shot up.
H.M.S. Repulse in Haifa Bay with Mt.
Carmel in the background. The Repulse
mission included interdiction of gun-
runners. The ship was sunk during World
War II by Japanese aircraft in the Pacific.

A large Irgun bomb struck Haifa's Arab market in early July. Retaliation attacks and rioting were increasing. This picture of the British troops looking every which way shows the aftermath of an Arab "incendiary" attack in a Jewish Quarter in Haifa in July 1938.  Platoons of British marines were assigned policing duties in Haifa and areas of the Galilee.

The British brought in reinforcements and by 1939 crushed the Arab insurrection, often with very harsh measures.  But the Arabs won a more fateful victory. 

The British were cowered into promulgating the infamous 1939 "White Paper" which restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine -- precisely when the Nazi extermination machine began to roll.

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