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The British in Jenin

Gordon Corera investigates the events of summer 1938 in Jenin.

The town was seen by the occupying forces as a centre for Arab ‘terror’. An assassination meant something had to be done, a ‘reprisal’ in the words of once official. And sending in the soldiers to blow up people’s houses seemed the best way of rooting out the problem. The town is Jenin but the soldiers and officials are British and the year was 1938.

From 1936, Arab resentment, born of frustrated hopes for independence coupled with the growing influx of Jewish immigrants, began to spill over into civil disobedience and low-level violence against the British mandate authorities. By the summer of 1938, this had turned into ‘an intensified campaign of murder, intimidation and sabotage’ which caused the British administration ‘grave concern’, according to the British Report to the League of Nations, which catalogues a spate of attacks by Arabs on Jews, by Jews on Arabs, by Arabs on Arabs and by Arabs on the British government.

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