1920-1939 | Civilians slaughtered | Massacres | Palestine

Main square of Jaffa ‘strewn with the bodies’ of Arab protesters

Colonial police baton charge the crowd in Jaffa - Matson Collection - Library of Congress via Wikimedia.
Colonial police baton charge the crowd in Jaffa –
Matson Collection – Library of Congress via Wikimedia.

27 October 1933

On 27 October 1933, a large crowd of Arab protesters assembled in Jaffa’s central square. They were outraged at injustices committed by a British run administration, which refused to listen to the wishes of the Arab Palestinians who still numbered over three quarters of the country’s population. In particular, they were angry at the discriminatory British policy on immigration, which allowed an annual quota of Jews to settle, but with no allowance for Arabs, and at the resulting loss of Palestinian land to Jewish ownership.

The British High Commissioner Sir Arthur Wauchope, who Israeli historian Tom Segev describes as a ‘fatherly general’, had warned Arab nationalist leaders that political demonstrations would not be tolerated. The British military authorities ordered extra police reinforcements into the city, including a detachment of the Transjordan Frontier Patrol police as well as soldiers from the Royal Ulster Rifles equipped with armoured cars and machine guns.1 The Daily Herald noted that it ‘was an ominous sign when all the Arab shops in the city remained unopened this morning.  There were however no disorders until after midday prayer in the grand mosque.’ After that, the British daily reported that ‘the worshipers in the Grand Mosque were joined by thousands of Arabs in the streets and a determined attempt was made to form a procession and march through the streets.’ The paper explained that ‘the police made repeated baton charges but so serious did the situation become that they eventually opened fire,’ adding that ‘the police soon had the situation in hand, though not till the main square was strewn with the bodies of dead and wounded.’2 Twenty demonstrators had been killed and about one hundred injured.

The Dundee Courier described a similar story, recounting how ‘after midday large crowds flocked from the mosques determined to hold the forbidden procession at all costs.’ It reported how they had ‘endeavoured to force their way through the police cordon,’ adding that ‘after making several baton charges, the police were compelled to fire.’3 Among the seriously wounded was Musa Kazim Husseini, a leading Palestinian nationalist and former Mayor of Jerusalem. He died eleven years later in 1934, never having recovered from the injury he suffered at the demonstration.4

Cropped enlargement from the photo of the baton charge above.
Cropped enlargement from the photo of the baton charge above.


  1. ‘Eleven Killed in Jaffa Riots,’ The Western Morning News and Daily Gazette, 28 October 1933, p. 7 and Tom Segev, One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, Abacus, London, 2014, p. 342.
  2. ’21 Reported Dead in Jaffa,’ The Daily Herald, 28 October 1933, p. 11.
  3. ’21 Dead in Jaffa Riot,’ The Dundee Courier and Advertiser, 28 October 1933 p. 5.
  4. Brief biography of Musa Kazim Husseini available at https://www.paljourneys.org/en/timeline/overallchronology?biographies[]=9749&nid=9749

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