In 1929, Arab clerics and politicians provoked riots across Palestine by accusing Jews of plotting to take control of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque. This month marks the 90th anniversary of those riots — but they are not a bygone. Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders incite violence today using similar falsehoods and ideology.
The 1929 riots destroyed the Jewish community in Hebron. They persuaded Labor Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion that socialist fraternity among Jewish and Arab workers and peasants would not ensure peace. They impelled Palestine’s Jews to bolster the Haganah, their underground self-defense group. And they vindicated Zionist warnings against relying on foreigners for security.
To investigate the riots, the British government, which controlled Palestine at the time, appointed an inquiry board known as the Shaw Commission.
The commission noted that Arab objections to Zionism were ideological, comprehensive, intense, and inflexible. In its report, it nonetheless devoted thousands of words to minute details of specific Arab grievances. It plumbed complaints that Jews, on one occasion, brought a chair to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and, on another, set up a screen there to divide male and female worshipers.
All this brings to mind the story of a man who thoroughly detests his wife but makes his case for divorce on the grounds that she doesn’t put the cap back on the toothpaste tube. Obviously, what he gripes about is not what accounts for his detestation. Confusion on this score was characteristic of Middle East policy officials in 1929, and it still is.
(Note: The rest of this Op-Ed, authored by Douglas J. Feith, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and CAMERA Senior Research Analyst Sean Durns, can be read at National Review)