As reported by telegram on April 18, the first factor contributing to the occurrence of the disturbances was the recrudescence of political high-way robbery by bands of Arabs. Although Sheikh Izz-ed-Din [al Qassam] had been captured and executed by the police, his spirit was reinvoked to inspire the Arabs to begin again their annoying practices on the highways. There was, however, a difference in the modus operandi of these bands as compared with those which operated under Sheikh Izz-ed-Din. The latter worked merely to annoy the Government, whereas the former operate on what can only be described as anti-Jewish lines. On one occasion busses were stopped on the Tulkarm—Nablus Road and all the passengers were forced to alight. The only three Jews in the busses were then segregated from their fellow pas-sengers and placed in the cab of a truck at the head of the stopped column of cars. The door of the cab was closed and the Jews were fired upon at point-blank range. Of the three, one was killed out-right, one died later of wounds, and the third was severely wounded. This incident was followed the next night by a revenge killing of two Arabs by Jews in a small hut on the Petah Tikva,—Ranaana Road. It is reported by the police in this respect that at 10 p.m. on April 16 a car stopped before the hut and one of its occupants knocked on the door. In response to the knock the door was opened and two persons believed by the police to be Jews entered and, finding two Arabs within, shot them both dead on sight. One was shot six times with a Browning automatic and the other five with a Parabellum. The car with its occupants then disappeared.
When these facts became known the following morning tension between Arabs and Jews reached a crucial point. The situation was rendered acute later in the morning when the Jew who had been murdered by the “terrorists” two days before was buried as a martyr in the cemetery on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. The cortege following the body worked itself into a frenzy of righteous indignation and became disorderly. The efforts of the Jewish police of Tel Aviv to restore order and control the course of the procession were unavailing.
A clash ensued and the Jewish police were routed. Reserves of British police were immediately called and likewise were attacked. By this time the excitement had spread to the occupants of nearby houses who joined the fray by throwing flower pots, cement building blocks and even iron bedsteads upon the heads of the police below. At one moment it seemed as though the British police would likewise be routed and troops were ordered to stand by from the encampment at Sarafand. Fortunately, however, order was at length restored, but not until after the police had been forced to fire into the crowd and many casualties had occurred both among the police and the rioters. The authorities were particularly apprehensive during the course of these disturbances because at Ramleh, no more than ten miles away, crowds of excited Arabs were celebrating the local feast of Nebi Saleh, and had word of the riots in Tel Aviv reached them a most serious situation would almost certainly have developed.
The following day, Saturday, passed without incident, but in an atmosphere of extreme tension. The police and the military authorities prepared for serious trouble.
On Sunday their fears were justified. A large crowd of Arabs gathered in the morning before the offices of the District Commissioner in Jaffa to protest against the murder of the two Arabs killed on the 16th, and as they were milling about in the square and working themselves into a condition of frenzy two Jews appeared and were immediately set upon. The crowd of Arabs then went berserk and pursued every Jew they saw. Fortunately, not many were at hand. The crowd then turned its attention to the main Jaffa—Jerusalem highway, stopping all cars and inspecting them for Jewish passengers. Many cars were wrecked and many casualties took place, among them an official of the Public Works Department, the son of the honorary Swedish Consul, the son of a well-known British contractor and a member of the Royal Air Force. When order was finally restored at 3:30 in the afternoon total casualties amounted to
7 Jews killed ;
2 Arabs killed;
15 Arabs wounded;
39 Jews wounded.
Monday morning dawned on a Palestine prepared for disturbances of the most serious sort. All shops were closed and traffic was at a minimum on the roads. At about 9 a. m. the police received word of fresh outbreaks in Jaffa and, as a result traffic ceased on the Jerusalem—Jaffa road and was convoyed on the Jerusalem—Nazareth road. The disturbances remained localized in the no-man’s-land between Jaffa and Tel Aviv, where a platoon of the Cameron Highlanders had been stationed the day before, but a few minor incidents of stoning automobiles occurred in the Northern District near Jenin. To combat this development the Air Officer Commanding despatched detachments of armored cars to Nablus, Tulkarm and Jenin and likewise ordered detachments of troops to support the police at Tulkarm in case of a clash between the Arabs of that district and the Jews of the neighboring colonies. Casualties in Jaffa on April 20 were as follows : 5 Jews killed and 26 wounded; 2 Arabs killed and 32 wounded; on that day also 2 Jews died of injuries received on the previous day. Outside of the fracas in Jaffa the only important items to note on April 20 are two incidents which occurred on the Jerusalem–Nazareth road: a convoy of cars carrying visiting French officers back to Syria was stoned near Jenin and windshields and windows were broken ; the French Consul General abandoned his car near Nablus because of a demonstration then in progress and returned to Jerusalem by train. Also on that day Consuls Lynch and Scott journeyed to Tel Aviv and back to Jerusalem after learning that no American individuals or property had been involved in the disturbances, and Consul Brent returned from Haifa—all without incident.
On April 21 the situation was reported as being “easier”. Nineteen persons were wounded, 14 Arabs and 5 Jews, in “isolated assaults”; a Jewish lumber yard and other buildings were fired in Jaffa; traffic was resumed under convoy on the Jerusalem–Jaffa road ; a crowd of Arabs bent on invading an outlying quarter of Tel Aviv were repulsed by the police; a general strike, which in effect has been only partial, was begun by Arab shopkeepers and still continues on April 25. This strike, which is supposed to have been inspired by that of the Damascene merchants some weeks ago and which is scheduled to last “until Arab demands are met”, is a most half-hearted affair unsupported by the Nashashibi element. (As far as can be determined the Arab “demands” are the traditional ones : cessation of Jewish immigration and termination of land sales to Jews.)
Foreign Relations of the United States is a great resource, but before World War II they are only available as non-searchable PDFs. I converted the one here to text using an online OCR program.