Inside the Ancient Wall

A Study of Kassim Al-Rimawi’s Texts on Holy Jihad
25 January, 2021

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has published Bilal Muhammad Shalash’s Inside the Ancient Wall: Qassem al-Rimawi’sTexts from the Jaysh al-Jihād al-Muqaddas, a critical examination of two unpublished manuscripts by one of the most prominent leaders of the “Holy War Army” (Jaysh al-Jihād al-Muqaddas), Qassem Muhammad al-Rimawi (1918-1982). These are al-Rimawi’s 1949 report to the head of the Arab Higher Committee Hajj Mohammed Amin al-Husayni on the army of al-Jihād al-Muqaddas, and the manuscript he drafted in the early 1950s on its leader, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni. Shalash’s work presents the transformation in al-Rimawi’s discourse stemming from his activity shifting from work in the ranks of the Jaysh al-Jihād to political action, as well as in the wake of the everchanging events, alliances and socio-political and social struggles that swept the region for over a quarter of a century.

A Concise Biography of al-Rimawi

The book’s preface provides a dual narrative of Qassem al-Rimawi’s biography, based on texts authored by al-Rimawi: as combatant and as Palestinian/Jordanian politician. It thus revisits the tense interplay of evidencing with suppressing in the struggle over historical narratives of the saga of the “Holy War Army,” and other narratives that take up conflicting aspects of al-Rimawi's political and combatant trajectories.

The first chapter, “al-Rimawi’s March in Brief” is an account of the aftermath of the death of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, the leadership succession to al-Husayni and the Jaysh al-Jihād’s leadership’s situation in Jerusalem during the battles of Bab al-Wad, its position following the entrance of the Arab armies and their notable inability to provide succor to the Arab Higher Committee, or establish a form of military rule, overt or covert, that could serve to liberate the country. al-Rimawi then recounts each of the Jaysh al-Jihād’s position taken towards the Iraqi army, the attempt to thwart Transjordan's political efforts in the war, and the occupation of the Jaysh al-Jihād al-Muqaddas’ central command in Birzeit.

Excerpts from the Biography of the Jaysh al-Jihād al-Muqaddas

The second chapter, “Texts from the Biography of the Jaysh al-Jihād al-Muqaddas,” presents al-Rimawi’s manuscript’s record of details of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni’s activity during the first and second stages of the Great Palestinian Revolt of 1936-1939 (Thawrat Filastin al-Kubra), as well as excerpts from other texts summarising al-Rimawi's perceptions of both preceding and contemporaneous military and political realities undergirding the launch and establishment of the new organization, the Jaysh al-Jihād / or Holy War Army, upon his arrival in Egypt in February 1946.

Shalash’s narrative here discusses the internal state of the country at the time – a Palestine devoid of weaponry – and the roots of the “holy jihad” with Egypt as the launch pad, preparations for the war, and then the November - December 1947 war against Palestine’s partition. It then proceeds to take up the Arab Military Committee and Fawzi al-Qawaqji along with Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni in the field of jihad (late December 1947 - April 8, 1948), the adoption of Birzeit as a headquarters for the General Command, al-Husayni as martyr, the Bab al-Wad battles of (7-15 May 1948) ), and finally Commander Hassan Salameh and the regrouping of ranks following his death.

Looted Fragments and Photos

The third chapter, “Fragments, and Plundered Photos” is a narrative of the Zionist occupation of the rest of Palestine during the 1947-1949 war, the deportation of Mahmoud Labib (Commander of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Volunteers in Palestine), and photos of the plundered northern Palestinian town of Biddya through the portfolio of Khalil Rassas and his photos of al-Jihād al-Muqaddas. Here, al-Rimawi presents the story of the most prominent set of photos, evidently pertaining to a single group taken by Palestinian photographer by Khalil Rassas (also written: Chalil Rissas) for al-Musawwar magazine, some of which had been previously published in 1948. In addition to the importance of al-Rimawi’s chronicling of the history of this collection of photographs, his account gives the lie to the account given by a Zionist plaintiff who claimed to have taken these photos himself, during his pretended activity with the Arab forces.

This false testimony, when compared against the complete set of photos today available in multiple archives and multiple copies, suggests strongly that the Zionist narrative of activities limited to straightforward looting may need to be re-examined – along with their intelligence activities against the Arab forces in general, and the activity of Arabist or Arab infiltrators within Arab ranks, in particular.

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