All the same we take our chances
Laughed at by time
Tricked by circumstances
Plus ca change
Plus c'est la meme chose
The more that things change
The more they stay the same
Maybe history wouldn't have to repeat itself if we listened once in awhile.
The year is 1911; the place is Libya, Syria, Palestine; the man is Muhammed Iz-al-Din al-Qassam. But the story is just one of type: it has been repeated regularly both before and since, in all regions of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, by many others.
I will add: there is one other difference. All of the violence fostered in 1911 was local – local to the region, local to Palestine. Today, the blowback is not regionally restricted; we read of events almost daily, mostly throughout Europe but also the United States. London and Manchester are merely the recent examples.
Otherwise, there is nothing new under today’s sun. If you find something different while reading this story, please raise your hand.
In 1911, Italy invaded Libya and al-Qassam declared a jihad, a holy war, against the infidel Catholics defiling a Muslim nation.
At the time, al-Qassam was imam of a local mosque in Haifa. He began collecting funds for the Libyan resistance; he wrote a victory anthem; he recruited dozens of volunteers who set out for Libya. All reasonable actions to take if one was fending off an invasion of homeland, as was the case.
Yet, the Ottoman authorities turned his volunteers back – not allowing them to continue to Libya.
After World War One, the entire region was “in the grip of lawlessness…and everyone was fighting everyone else….” Also after World War One, Britain had the Mandate from the League of Nations regarding Palestine; Britain also had the complications of competing promises made to the local Arabs and to the Zionist Jews. It was a recipe for conflict.
Somewhere around this time, al-Qassam was appointed to an official position within the Supreme Muslim Council; using this position he would go from village to village, encouraging people to organize terrorist cells against the British and the Jews.
Fathers were proud of their “martyred” sons, those who joined to fight against the British and the Jews. Neighbors would visit the home of a dead son, offering, not condolences, but congratulations, to the parents. The parents would joyously accept such sentiments.
In addition to human targets, these cells went after symbolic targets: trees planted by the Jews; railroad tracks laid by the British.
The popular and near spontaneous outbreaks of violence, fostered by al-Qassam, were expressions of social unrest, national rage, and the dark mood of a generation that had matured under British rule.
In November, 1935, al-Qassam hid in the hills, along with several men; it was felt at the time that if Jewish immigration continued, Palestine’s future was “very black.” Yes, rather. Especially for Palestinian Arabs.
In the meantime, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia; Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany, opening the benefit of more international pressure supportive of bringing even more European Jews to Palestine. The conflict – both in Palestine and throughout the region – was certain to escalate.
When al-Qassam died, thousands attended his funeral; it turned into a mass demonstration of national unity. In death, his work had only begun.
What the Jewish community called “the events” and the Arab community referred to as their “rebellion” began on April 19, 1936, in Jaffa, when nine Jews were murdered and four wounded.
The Arabs launched a war for their homeland.
Now the conflict between the two peoples became a threat to the security of every individual, every day of the week and every hour of the day; life was a routine of total horror.
Bombs, bullets, burned fields – every night before sleep and after morning after awakening. Countless thousands killed – including unknown thousands in inter-Arab violence. Throwing a grenade into a passenger train full of Jews was considered heroes’ work.
The Arabs went on strike; Arab leaders were murdered by Arabs, accused of collaborating with the British; family feuds were brought to a head – charges taken to the British by one Arab brother against another brother.
Many Arabs lost their lives at the hands of other Arabs.
And many Arabs lost their lives at the hands of the British and the Jews; many Jews lost their lives at the hands of the Arabs.
And, in the meantime, more Jews were coming. The British were seemingly impotent to offer any meaningful solutions. British officials in Palestine were sympathetic to the Arabs; those in London felt otherwise.
If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.
This “unexpected” hasn’t gone on for over one hundred years because political leaders are stupid, “incapable…of learning from experience.” When something like this is sustained – when the same “mistakes” occur repeatedly – one might consider other reasons.
I will revisit my view for the reasons behind this ongoing history in the coming days.