The British Mandate (1917-1948)

After the end of the first World War, the National Palestinian Movement, under the leadership of the Al Husseini family, adopted the flag of the Arab Revolt as their own, as well as the Arab National Anthem – the anthem of the Great Arab Revolt – as their own national anthem. At first, Palestinians welcomed the British, thinking that they would live up to their promises, take the Arab and Syrian people’s interests into account, and give the populations their freedom, independence, and economic prosperity in return for their alliance. However, when Palestinians realized how the reality of the situation contrasted with their expectations, they turned to opposition and peaceful protests, which eventually evolved into revolution and armed confrontation.

At that point, it had become clear that Britain was a leading supporter of the Zionist movement’s plan. Britain and its allies ruled Palestine and the area, and made Jerusalem the capital of Palestine through hypocritical, contradictory, and ever-changing policies. As there were times when Palestine developed socially and economically and times when the Palestinian society was being destroyed, British policies eventually led to the establishment of Israel. This resulted in the displacement of the Palestinian people and stealing their land, as well as dividing Jerusalem into two. Meanwhile, Arab militaries entered many parts of Palestine.

At that stage, the Al Husseini family tried to cope with these new and dangerous developments reflected in the failure of the Arab freedom project for unity and independence as well as British control over Palestine and the area. They made attempts to create room for understanding and mediation between the public and the officials but, in the end, those attempts were in vain; they soon realized the plotting being put into affect against their Hashemite allies, which aimed to destroy, divide, and conquer the Arab region and establish the Zionist state in Palestine.

The family’s younger generation began to lead the charge on local, Arab, and Islamic levels to fight against Western-Zionist schemes. Those figures included Haj Amin Al Husseini, who was appointed as the Grand Mufti after the death of his brother Kamel and who made a temporary truce with the British, as well as Jamal Al Husseini, Abdul-Qader Musa Al Husseini, and others.

Prince Abdullah Bin Al Hussien being escorted by Ismail Al Husseini
Prince Abdullah Bin Al-Hussein escorted by Ismail Al Husseini after his visit to the latter’s house. Following them are Haj Amin Al Husseini and Mousa Kathem Pasha.

At first, family members, particularly the youth, benefited from the educational and economic opportunities and important jobs vacancies the mandate provided. Later, however, during the other half of this period, they lost most of their wealth, assets, and positions due to their persistent opposition to the mandate and their establishment of the Palestinian National Movement. As a result, many of them were made martyrs, including Abdul-Qader during the Al-Qastal Battle, and others were detained and exiled.

It followed that the interests of the Al Husseini family conflicted with those of their Hashemite allies, and relations between the parties worsened, particularly with King Abdullah Bin Al Hussein.

During the first half of this stage, Ismail Beik continued to lead the family, which redeemed its general role as a political association and a mediator between the ruling class and the people. Ismail continued establishing and investing in new economic projects, and entrusted his son, Ibrahim, to help him in his business and in the running of the house, which was regularly receiving guests and visitors for economic or political purposes.

Apart from the many important Palestinian figures he hosted, one of Ismail’s guests was Chaim Weizmann, who tried to make Ismail believe that Zionists had arrived in goodwill. Another important occasion that took place in the house was the meeting to discuss the King-Crane Commission situation, and to make decisions regarding the independence and unity of Syria and the resettlement of European Jews in Palestine. In addition, royal sessions for the Hashemites were held upon their visits to Jerusalem in the house, which was also used as the mourning house of Sharif Hussein Bin Ali.

Ismail Al Husseini welcoming King Faisal of Iraq in The Orient House garden. The photo shows Ismail Beik (first to the right) and Haj Amin Al Husseini standing to the right of the King and Mousa Kathem Pasha Al Husseini.
عزاء الشريف الحسين بن على

However, the second half of this period witnessed the political retirement, decreased involvement in economics, and the death of Ismail. His son, Ibrahim, continued to run the house and later own it after dividing his father’s properties with his younger brother, Jawad, who chose to settle in another of Ismail’s houses located in the Shiekh Jarrah neighborhood. Ibrahim hosted the Emperor Haile Selassie and his family, as well as very important Arab and Muslim visitors like Prince Mansour Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.

Prince Mansour Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saoud arrives at the Jerusalem Train Station in 1944 and he receives his reception in the house of Ismail Al Husseini.