Guardian contributor blames 1929 Arab massacre of Jews on Zionist provocations

During my youth in Poland, I asked a group of Poles why they felt a need to beat up Jews, and they responded that the very presence of Jews was a “provocation. – Menachem Begin

In an otherwise unproblematic 2010 Guardian review (that we just came across) of a book by Martin Gilbert, titled ‘In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands’, there was the following remarkable claim:

The influx of Zionist pioneers into Palestine from 1897 onwards, and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, had a fateful impact on Jewish-Muslim coexistence. In such a bitter conflict we are all parti pris and even a scrupulous recorder like Gilbert is drawn into polemics and apologetics. For example, in detailing the shocking Arab riots of 1929 – in which 133 Jews were killed and 339 wounded – he might have mentioned that the violence was fueled in large part by the provocations of Zionist activists at the Wailing Wall (as with Ariel Sharon’s walkabout on the Temple Mount before the second intifada)

Leaving his specious claim about Sharon and the intifada aside, its first important to point out that the ‘1929 Riots’ refers to several massacres that year – one in Jerusalem that the author is referring to, one in Hebron and one in Safed.

Regarding the Jerusalem incidents, to blame “Zionist activists at the Wailing Wall’ for the Arab massacres is nothing but a propagandistic historical fabrication.

The following was written by Ricki Hollander, Senior Analyst at CAMERA, on the 1929 massacres:

In September 1928, a small group of Jews erected a “mechitza” (a divider to separate men and women during prayers) for Yom Kippur prayers at the Western Wall. The British forcibly dismantled the divider, but  Haj Amin al Husseini [the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem] used this incident as a pretext to incite Muslims. He accused the Jews of attempting to seize Muslim holy sites, including the al Aqsa Mosque.

A virulent propaganda campaign calling for jihad against the Jews resulted in the frequent beating and stoning of Jews worshipping at the Wall and culminated in widespread, murderous riots across Palestine in August 1929.

August 15, 1929 was Tisha B’Av, the day on which Jews commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple. Thousands of Jews marched to the Wall to protest British restrictions on Jewish prayer there, and to reaffirm their Jewish connection to the holy site. They displayed their nationalistic fervor by singing Hatikvah (later to become Israel’s national anthem). The following day, mobs of armed Arab worshippers inflamed by anti-Jewish sermons, fell upon Jewish worshippers at the Wall, destroying Jewish prayer books and notes placed between the stones of the wall. On August 17, a Jewish boy was killed by Arabs during ensuing riots in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bukharan.

According to the Davar newspaper of August 20, 1929, incitement against the Jews was rampant, especially in the Jerusalem and Hebron area. Rumors were spread that Jews had cursed Islam and intended to take over their holy places; Muslims were told that it was their duty to take revenge. “Defend the Holy Places” became the battle cry.

On August 23, more than 1000 Arabs launched attacks on Jews throughout Jerusalem. Forty-seven people were killed. This was followed by widespread attacks on Jews throughout Palestine. Again, the British forbade Jews to organize armed self-defense units and within several days, 133 Jews had been killed and 339 wounded. Arab attackers sustained high numbers of casualties (116), almost all of whom were killed by British police trying to quell the violence. Jewish leaders reported that Arab attacks showed evidence of organized warfare; Arab assaults on Jewish communities extended from as far south as Hebron to Haifa, Safed, Mahanaim and Pekiin in the north. A state of emergency was declared and martial law was imposed by the British.

Additionallythe Palestine Inquiry Commission appointed by the British Government to investigate the riots unequivocally declared that “the [violent] outbreak in Jerusalem on August 23rd was from the beginning an attack by Arabs on the Jews for which no excuse, in the form of earlier murders by Jews, has been established”.

In fact, beyond the predictable agitprop employed after the 1929 riots by the Palestine Communist Party, it’s difficult to find any source parroting the claim that ‘Zionist provocations’ caused the anti-Jewish violence.

Indeed, there appears to be no historical dispute regarding the fact that Arab mobs, fed by antisemitic incitement (including the propagation of conspiracy theories by Muslim religious leaders), engaged in brutal, unprovoked attacks on Jewish men, women and children over a series of weeks. 

However, some Jews reportedly sang Hatikvah at the Western Wall.

So, according to the Guardian contributor, it wasn’t antisemitic incitement and widespread anti-Jewish racism, but nationalistic Jewish songs which provoked the Arabs to kill them.  

Though we’re all too familiar with such perverse Guardian logic by which Jewish victims are in some way always to blame for the Palestinian violence perpetrated against them, the mere ubiquitousness of such moral inversions shouldn’t render them any less appalling.

(This post was revised to make it clear that the Guardian review in question was published in 2010.)

38 replies »

  1. Similarly, it has become almost commonplace to hear that pogroms against Jews in Arab countries were provoked by the creation of Israel.

    • And if relations between Jews and Muslims in those muslim-majority countries were so cordial as we are told then 1) how could the creation of one small Jewish state have been a problem in the first place (surely the nice muslims would have been glad to see their Jewish friends regain sovereignty) and 2) what did the Jews elsewhere have to do with Israel anyway?

  2. “the [1929] violence was fueled in large part by the provocations of Zionist activists at the Wailing Wall (as with Ariel Sharon’s walkabout on the Temple Mount before the second intifada)”

    So, unabashed, the reviewer blames provocations such as Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount seventy-one years later for the riots, since apparently he had nothing more relevant to cite.closer to the actual event. There must have been something, the Palestinians surely wouldn’t have attacked without provocation, he seems to be saying.

    Perhaps the Guardian style guide should remind its contributors that the term ‘Wailing Wall’ is considered to be in extremely bad taste and that a substitution of Western Wall is advised.

  3. The Western left’s racism of low expectations. Mass-murder by Arabs must be the result of some Jewish provocation like praying at the wrong place, travelling on the wrong road or having an independent state on land designated for Muslim rule by Allah.

    • “The Western left’s racism of low expectations.”
      Those low expectations apparently extend to themselves as well.

    • Mass-murder by Arabs must be the result of some Jewish provocation like praying at the wrong place

      The Guardian and all of the anarchist radical left have a serious problem with the continuing slaughter in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and are searching hysterically for some way to blame Jews for this killing. Otherwise, Arab slaughtering slightly different Arabs passes almost ‘unnoticed’ with it being impolite to ‘raise’ the situation in ‘those circles’.

      Please distinguish the anarchist radical left from the sane left which is not inherently hostile to the Zionist Jewish state. I refer you to the Euston manifesto.

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  5. Maybe somebody could correct me should I be wrong about this, but from my scanning of The Guardian the review of this book “In Ishmaels’ House” was published in 2010. Has it been since resurrected?

    • If we were playing cards, we’d be saying snap! The book is not recent and neither is the review.

  6. While I agree with the points raise in this article, the review of Gilbert’s book was written in 2010.

  7. There is always the made-up pretext to justify the crime and horror that follows. The Guardian well knows that the fabrications the Mufti was renowned for is given a voice through its reviewers on the pretext of providing “balance” for the reader to appreciate that there was a good reason for what happened to those who were literally slaughtered by the mob. It’s blatantly anti-semitic and this example is very much in line with what Adam has quoted Menachem Begin to have said about pogroms and why they happen.

    • Funny thing about the author of the review – he’s a rabbi and a writer himself. So I guess anti-Semitism is not the issue here, but more likely a mixture of jealousy (Gilbert is a superb historian) and typical left wing pandering to the Arab side of the conflict.

      • Rabbi Goldberg is a prime example of the “as a Jew” and the “as a Jew” is ready to engage in antisemitic discourse.

        • I wouldn’t put it quite that strongly. I think it’s more likely that he simply doesn’t understand how much comfort and support he gives to the anti-Semites by blaming Jews for their perecution at the hands of Arabs.

          • Precisely TrueToo, and you HAVE put it strongly yourself. In fact, i see no disagreement between us. Those few words in a review he wrote are most revealing about the man and his animus towards Israel as a country he holds, is born from sin. He seeks controversy and attention and uses his Jewish status to give his views greater authority. Such people only add pain and resolve nothing.

  8. It is correct the Arabs are blamed for the attrocities – as the British report clearly suggests.

    In our opinion the immediate causes of the outbreak were:-
    The long series of incidents connected with the Wailing Wall… These must be regarded as a whole, but the incident among them which in our view contributed most to the outbreak was the Jewish demonstration at the Wailing Wall on the 15th of August, 1929. Next in importance we put the activities of the Society for the Protection of the Moslem Holy Places and, in a lesser degree, of the Pro-Wailing Wall Committee.
    Excited and intemperate articles which appeared in some Arabic papers, in one Hebrew daily paper and in a Jewish weekly paper…
    Propaganda among the less-educated Arab people of a character calculated to incite them.
    The enlargement of the Jewish Agency.
    The inadequacy of the military forces and of the reliable police available.
    The belief…that the decisions of the Palestine Government could be influenced by political considerations.
    The Commission recommended that the Government reconsider its policies as to Jewish immigration and land sales to Jews. This led directly to the Hope Simpson Royal Commission in 1930.

  9. God, please strike down Rusbridger.

    Or like, maybe the Mossad could do it.

    Or maybe someone could buy the Guardian and fire him.

    • Bullshit. Neither is Rusbridger acting on his own nor do actions like this solve any problems concerning institutional antisemitism.

      • You are wrong. Imagine if the British government had approved Jabotinsky’s assassination plan to kill Hitler. Of course Rusbridger is not Hitler, but he is spreading poison through the veins of the west, and we’re the ones who are going to pay for it.

    • Neither God nor the Mossad would make this kind of extremely ineffective and stupid step. Hurting physically Rusbridger or any of his staff would be the same as give a slap to a pile of shit. Your fists will stink, will be dirty and the shit would remain the same as before.

      • I loathe CiF on its merits, but no, I have never and never will support the idea that someone should be killed or threatened with violence for being an ideological asshole. You fight the battle for truth in the sun, not in a dark alley.

        • You guys are wrong. One death can change the course of history. Rusbridger is imo not as bad as Goebbels but close.

          When French Jews around the turn of the century found themselves in a rising tide of hostility, they funded a syndicate to found, buy, and subsidize papers to prevent them from going antisemitic.

          There is a talk by Shlomo Epstein from the Sassoon center for the study of antisemitism at the Hebrew University where he discusses this problem of fighting the battle of the media.

        • I loathe CiF on its merits, but no, I have never and never will support the idea that someone should be killed or threatened with violence for being an ideological asshole. You fight the battle for truth in the sun, not in a dark alley.

          How very true. And one only has to look on CiF threads to see what a hornets nest The Guardian/CiF has stirred up among the rational left who are beginning to react to Guardian excesses.

          The biases and bigotry of The Guardian is easily exposed by declining the various strange hypothesis of Rusbridger and his cohorts, They hate of the USA. They are terribly disappointed with democracy which hasn’t provided the expected self loathing radical extreme delusional anarchist governments that they so long for. The ‘West’ is the target of most immigrants. Not Arab or Muslim countries.

          Multiculturalism is shown to be a rank failure as far as many UK Muslim are concerned. (Not all UK Muslims). Their inability to ever blame Palestinians/Arabs for anything negative relating to Israel is very clear.

          The umbilical cord connecting the BBC and The Guardian must be cut. It is an offence to democracy. The BBC must be closed and re-opened with all the self loathing radical extreme delusional anarchist left employees ‘let go’.

          The Guardian is losing money at a substantial rate. The Scott Trust has said that the financial future for the Guardian is assured for some 30 years at the present rate of losses. bAttempts must be made to increase the losses. Perhaps telling advertisers that any product advertised on the Guardian acquires ‘a stink’ that will be reflected on actual sales. Nothing like damaging income to return The Guardian to being a voice of the rational left and leaving the radicals to suffer in their own stink.

          • There’s a dilemma here, though. Every time anyone accesses a CIF thread to expose the mindless anti-Israel propaganda above and below the line, that’s one more hit to bolster the Guardian’s advertising revenue.

            • How true. However, some of the muck there cannot be left without a response.

              Have you noticed how the Guardian generally moderates out any attempt to connect Palestinians intransigence with Islamic imperatives never to surrender land once conquered by Muslims to the infidel. That includes Southern Spain and major parts of South Eastern Europe.

              Can you contact me at

  10. Nothing in the Guardian’s commentary here that was surprising or wasn’t disguting.
    After years of following the CiF’s reporting on all things Israel, whether they’re events that happened yesterday or decades ago or anytime in between, there are two basic facts by which all CiF coverage of Israel is steered:
    1. CiF does not want there to be Jewish self-rule in Israel. At all. In any aspect.
    2. Whether the end of that self-rule comes about from all Israeli Jews being murdered, forced into exile, or made to accept dhimmi status from an Arab Muslim majority, CiF doesn’t care–any of those end results are good with them.
    Regardless of the specific subject, if a person keeps these 2 info-bits in mind, 99% of CiF’s Middle East coverage will snap into focus.

    • For Guardianistas, Israel is an apartheid, ‘white’, nationalist colonial project, thrust on the supremely anti Western Arabs by an imperialistic Great Britain in its dying throes. They consider it impolite if Ayatollah Khomeini’s treatment of the Iranian left is mentioned and consider it as a ‘one off happening’. (None of the Iranian left survived inside Iran and those that fled were sought out and in some cases killed by Ayatollah Khomeini’s agents.

      Just part of the sickness that is radical delusional extreme leftism.