1920-1939 | Executions | Palestine

First ever BBC Arabic News – Arab executed for possessing a rifle

British troops in the Old City of Jerusalem – 1938 –
National Photo Collection of Israel/Wikimedia

3 January 1938

At 6 pm on 3 January 1938, BBC Radio broadcast its first fifteen minute news bulletin in Arabic.  The chimes of Big Ben and ‘This is London’ were broadcast across the Middle East. Then several short news items followed, one of which informed listeners that an Arab from Palestine, where the British had imposed military rule, had been sentenced to death by a military court and executed ‘after being arrested in possession of a rifle and ammunition.’1

The British administration in Palestine not only refused to consider Arab rebels captured during the anti-British insurgency as prisoners of war, but they also imposed death sentences on any civilian found in possession of a gun, which among inhabitants who had routinely carried rifles for centuries was regarded as particularly harsh. Some of the men arrested at road check points or during village searches may have been unaware that they had committed any offence and the only evidence required to execute someone was a soldier’s testimony that he had ‘found’ a gun or even a single round of ammunition in any dwelling that had been searched.2


  1. ‘Britain’s First Broadcast in Arabic,’ The Yorkshire Post, 4 January 1938, p. 10.
  2. Matthew Hughes, ‘From Law and Order to Pacification: Britain’s Suppression of the Arab Revolt in Palestine, 1936-39,’  The Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 39, No 2 ( Winter 2010 ), p. 15 accessed online at url https://www.palestine-studies.org/sites/default/files/jps-articles/From%20Law%20and%20Order%20to%20Pacification-%20Britain%27s%20Suppression%20of%20the%20Arab%20Revolt%20in%20Palestine,.pdf

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