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||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (May 2012)|
The Arab Higher Committee (Arabic: اللجنة العليا العربية) was the central political organ of the Arab community of Mandate Palestine. It was established on 25 April 1936, on the initiative of Hajj Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and comprised the leaders of Palestinian Arab clans under the mufti's chairmanship.
The Higher Arab Committee was formed after the start of the 1936-39 Arab revolt. On 15 May, the Committee called for nonpayment of taxes, a general strike of Arab workers and businesses, and an end to Jewish immigration. The committee was banned by the Mandate administration in September 1937.
A committee of the same name was reconstituted by the Arab League in 1945, but went to abayence after it proved ineffective during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was banned by Jordan in 1948, and sidestepped by Egypt and the Arab League with the formation of the All-Palestine Government in 1948.
Initially, the Committee consisted of:
On 15 May 1936, the Committee called for nonpayment of taxes, for a general strike of Arab workers and businesses, and demanded an end to Jewish immigration. The strike was called off in October 1936 and the violence abated for about a year while the Peel Commission deliberated and eventually recommended partition of Palestine. With the rejection of this proposal, the revolt resumed during the autumn of 1937.
On 26 September 1937, the Acting British District Commissioner of Galilee, Lewis Yelland Andrews, was assassinated in Nazareth. The next day Britain outlawed the Arab Higher Committee, and began to arrest its members. Amin al-Husayni managed to escape arrest, but was removed from the presidency of the Supreme Muslim Council.
Amin al-Husayni managed to escape arrest and went into exile. For all practical purposes, the Committee ceased to exist. Al-Husayni spent the war years in occupied Europe, actively collaborating with the Nazi leadership. Membership of the outlaw Committee had dwindled to just Jamal al-Husayni (Amin al-Husayni's brother, as acting chairperson), Husayn al-Khalidi (secretary), Ahmed Hilmi Pasha and Emile al-Ghury. Jamal al-Husayni was interned in Southern Rhodesia during the war.
After the end of the war, Amin al-Husayni managed to find his way to Egypt and stayed there until 1959, when he moved to Lebanon. On 22 March 1945, the Arab League was formed. In November 1945, it reconstituted the Arab Higher Committee comprising twelve members as the supreme executive body of Palestinian Arabs in the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine. The committee was dominated by the Palestine Arab Party and was immediately recognised by Arab League countries. The Mandate government recognised the new Committee two months later. In February 1946, Jamal al-Husayni returned to Palestine and immediately set about reorganising and enlarging the Committee, becoming its acting president. The Istiqlal Party and other nationalist groups objected to these moves, and formed a rival Arab Higher Front.
As of April 1946, the members of the reconstituted Committee were:
In May 1946, the Arab League ordered the dissolution of the AHC and AHR and formed a five-member Arab Higher Executive, under Amin al-Husayni's chairmanship, and based in Cairo. The new AHE consisted of:
In January 1947, it was renamed as "Arab Higher Committee", with Amin al-Husayni as its chairman and Jamal al-Husayni as vice-chairman, and expanded to include the four remaining core members plus Hasan Abu Sa'ud, Izhak Darwish al-Husayni, Izzat Darwaza, Rafiq al-Tamimi and Mu'in al-Madi. This restructuring of the AHC to include additional supporters of Amin al-Husayni was seen as a bid to increase his political power.
Anwar Nusseibeh, a Palestinian nationalist who believed that the best way to advance Palestinian interest was to operate within whichever regime was in power, criticized the Arab Higher Committee's performance during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War as being unaware and ineffective at best and ambivalent at worst to the needs of the Palestinian Arab population. In a personal note, Nusseibeh wrote, "Obviously they thought of the Palestine adventure in terms of an easy walkover for the Arabs, and the only point that seemed to worry them was credit for the expected victory. ... [They] were determined that the Palestine Arabs should at all costs be excluded."
The Committee became politically irrelevant after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and banned from the Jordanian occupied West Bank. Instead, the Arab League - led by Egypt - decided to set up the All-Palestine Government in Gaza on 8 September 1948 under the nominal leadership of al-Husayni.