16 JUNE

SIX THOUSAND GIVEN A FEW HOURS WARNING OF COMPULSORY DEMOLITION

[ 16 June 1936 ]

On this day in 1936, six thousand residents of Jaffa’s old city awoke to found leaflets, dropped by British aircraft, informing them that their homes would be blown up and that they had until 9 pm to vacate them permanently. The vast majority of the inhabitants were Arabs, although there were also some Jews living in the area.

The astonishing pretext was to improve “health and sanitation”, although the actual intention was to improve access for military vehicles and soldiers.  Some families were away and so couldn’t read the warning and returned to find that both their homes and all their possessions had disappeared.[1]  A few residents stayed until they were forcibly evicted. The British press predictably blamed “Arab strike leaders and agitators,” who had “intimidated” the families.[2]  Most residents, too afraid to risk staying,  searched desperately for donkeys or camels on to which they could load some of their possessions in the few hours they had to quit.

A few days later, on 23 June,  the Daily Herald carried a photograph of a large explosion on page 3, with the caption “Heart of Jaffa blown up. Centuries old houses covering 4,500 square yards… blown up by British troops as a sanitary measure. Picture by air.”  However, it was not considered a sufficiently worthy story to necessitate an article. [3] On 27 June, The Illustrated London News carried two photographs of detonations with a few words explaining that the British authorities had “recently decided to open and improve the Old City at Jaffa by demolishing certain congested and insanitary buildings and constructing two new roads through it,” although it then added that “the Old City has been described as a ‘stubborn centre of sniping and bomb throwing.’  However, the fate of the inhabitants of the condemned homes was not considered worthy of any comment in any British newspaper, many of which made no mention of the demolitions. [4]

FOOTNOTES

  1. Matthew Hughes, “The Benality of Brutality: British armed forces and the Repression of the Arab Revolt in Palestine, 1936-39,” Brunel University accessed online at https://bura.brunel.ac.uk/bitstream/2438/3202/3/Fulltext.pdf
  2. “Strikers Foment Trouble in Jaffa,” the Northern Daily Mail, 17 June 1936, p5
  3. “Heart of Jaffa Blown Up,” the Daily Herald, 23 June 1936, p3.
  4. “Jaffa Demolitions,” The Illustrated London News, 27 June 1936, p1170.

 

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