It is well known that many of the military tactics Israel uses to control the Palestinians, and especially its fascination with collective punishment, date back to the British Mandate, and specifically to the suppression of the Palestinian insurgency known as the Great Revolt (1936–39). This article examines a critical facet of that story, namely how everyday life, and its social and economic foundations, became a battleground during the revolt. As rebel partisans and sympathizers strove to reclaim Palestine from the colonial state and to build an autonomous public arena and indigenous self-governing institutions, the government fought back not only through punitive military raids, but through tactics that struck at the interests of the general public, eroding its liberties, violating and militarizing urban and rural space, and coercively altering its patterns of life and social practice. It converted schools and hotels into military bases, seized crops and livestock, and invaded, assaulted, and demolished homes, villages, and urban quarters. Villages were temporarily incarcerated and the movement of goods and persons was restricted and rendered dependent on compliance with state surveillance. No less than its other legacies, this article contends that the 1930s counterinsurgency established a critical precedent for Israel’s subsequent approach to the Palestinians, one premised on the systematic disruption and degradation of everyday life as a means of curbing resistance and controlling the population.
Keywords: Great Revolt; British Mandate; occupation; counterinsurgency; daily life; collective punishment; Palestinian nationalism; Palestinian national movement; anticolonialism.