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Rashid Haj Ibrahim

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: Syria
  • Gender: Male
  • Born in: 1889
  • Age: 127
  • Curriculum vitae :


Rashid al-Haj Ibrahim (1889–1953) was a Palestinian Arab banker and a leader of the Independence Party of Palestine (al-Istiqlal). He was one of the most influential Arab leaders of Haifa in the first half of the 20th-century and played a leading role in both the 1936–39 Arab revolt and the 1948 Battle of Haifa.
Al-Haj Ibrahim was born in Haifa in 1889 (though some sources say he was born in 1891) while Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire to a middle-class mercantile family, al-Haj Ibrahim. The al-Haj Ibrahim clan immigrated to Palestine from western North Africa and had a military past. They gained a reputation in trade and commerce and held considerable influence in Haifa. Rashid was mostly self-educated, but he enrolled in Haifa's government-run secondary school and the Alliance Israelite School. He learned the Turkish language in addition to Arabic and initially worked in a public debt department, heading the city's trade office in 1913.
Al-Haj Ibrahim would later occupy a post as an official on the Haifa zone of the Hejaz Railway. He gradually became the head of his entire clan and gained considerable influence in the city; a common phrase that evolved in the area was "One cannot talk of Haifa without mentioning Rashid's name." After World War I, when the British wrested control of Palestine from the Ottomans and established the British Mandate in 1922, al-Haj Ibrahim worked both in commerce and journalism in Haifa. He led the city's Islamic Society, a charitable religious organization, in 1927, and the local Young Men's Muslim Association (YMMA). In order to compete with Jewish labor groups, by August 1928, al-Haj Ibrahim was charged with registering Arab laborers and tradesmen to work for employers in government-run building projects, particularly the port expansion scheme in Haifa.

He joined the Istiqlal (Independence) Party—which promoted Arab nationalism and had counterparts in Syria and Iraq—along with Izzat Darwaza and Awni Abd al-Hadi when it was founded in 1932. The party held a congress in Acre in 1932 which al-Haj Ibrahim presided over. He was designated the leader of the party's branch in Haifa. In late 1932, he resigned from his position in the Haifa Islamic Society. According to the Filastin newspaper, he did so in protest of the sacking of Sheikh Kamil al-Qassab as the society's director of schools. It was also speculated al-Haj Ibrahim quit because of the society's dominance by al-Husayni who was reportedly aiming to undermine the al-Istiqlal party because of its rising popularity. However, he remained intensely involved in Haifa's YMMA whose leadership was interwined with that of the Islamic Society.[ Under his leadership, Haifa became an al-Istiqlal stronghold. In line with the party's policy to expand the Arabic public sphere, al-Haj Ibrahim became one of many investors to form an Arabic film company that would open cinemas in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, and Amman in 1934.
Starting in the late 1920s, al-Haj Ibrahim became the closest political associate of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, a religious leader from Syria who led paramilitary activities against the British military and Jewish settlers in Palestine. Because al-Qassam was frequently detained by the British authorities, al-Haj Ibrahim appealed to him several times to moderate his position; he would frequently persuade the British authorities not to arrest al-Qassam. In 1935, al-Qassam was killed by British forces in an assault near Jenin, an action that would provoke the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine in which al-Haj Ibrahim was a chief activist.
Due to his role in the uprising, he was exiled to the Seychelles in 1936. Following a conference in London in 1939, al-Haj Ibrahim was among the Palestinian notables invited by Muhammad Mahmoud Pasha, the Prime Minister of Egypt, to discuss and modify the British White Paper—which called for a united Palestine led by both Palestinian Arabs and Jews in proportion to their population ratio. Al-Haj Ibrahim returned to Palestine in February 1940. In order to further their political influence, the Istiqlalists with al-Haj Ibrahim as their leader, negotiated with Abdullah I of Jordan to gain the support of his partisans in Palestine as a counterweight to al-Husayni's supporters.

Al-Haj Ibrahim moved to Amman, Jordan after fleeing Haifa upon its capture by Jewish forces. He wrote memoirs of his experience in Palestine from 1947 to the early 1950s. They mostly outlined the responsibility of the Palestinian leadership regarding the circumstances of the city's fall, and exposing its performance and political discourse during the British Mandate period. Al-Haj Ibrahim died in Amman in 1953, and was buried in Damascus, Syria. Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi edited and published his memoirs, titled Defending Haifa and the Problem of Palestine: The Memoirs of Rashid al-Haj Ibrahim, 1891-1953, in the Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut, in 2006.


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