'Go Save Jerusalem'!

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Thu 11 August / Aug 2016. 06:03 PM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

No more than a handful are those whom have come to be revered by their own enemies and rivals, particularly in times of war. But Jordanian officer Abdullah Tell was of those who received much admiration from Israel’s great leaders, like David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, in memoirs on the 1948 war and their documentation of that phase.

More so, an Israeli historian, Ronin Isaac, dedicated a whole book on the life of Abdullah Tal, translated to Arabic by Salah Tell, Abdullah’s son, in 2016. The book speaks on Abdullah Tal’s life and the exceptionally rapid promotions he received for his efficient role in the Arab Army, under the British command, with whom Tell did not agree.  

The historical value of the book is comprised in the Author’s mentioning of the Arab Jordanian Army’s role in retaining Jerusalem and the West Bank in 48; especially Jerusalem, and the scale of effort placed by Tell there, when he was appointed military governor over the ancient city, and his participation in the covert Jordan-Israeli negotiations afterwards, followed by his escape to Egypt and his flip against King Abdullah I, and what was raised about his role in, and trial over, the assassination of His late Majesty in the Aqsa Mosque, as well as his return to Jordan in 1965 and his appointment in the Upper House of Senates until his death in August 13th, 1973; coinciding Saturday, tomorrow, in the 34th anniversary for his death.

The book talks about 2 main battles in which Tell successfully pounded the Israelis and secured victories. The first, in 1948, when he succeeded in sieging the “Kfar Atsion” (Gush Etzion) settlements on the Hebron-Jerusalem highway, downing 233 Israelis, executing 127, and capturing 320 of them.

Typically, the disparity in this regard lies in the fact that the Kfar Atsion battle is paid no attention what so ever in our Arab history, while it received much particular interest from Israeli leaders and historians there, reflected upon as an extremely painful military failure. Ben-Gurion, in his memoirs, and other historians like Avi Shlaim, all talk about Tell’s instrumental role in this battle.

The second is the 1948 battle for Jerusalem, which almost fell under Israeli control before the Arab Army intervened. The irregular Arab militias, particularly the Salvation Army, were unable to stand up to the Israelis and suspend their progress into the neighbourhoods of the Arab City. So, Abdullah Tell stepped in, by direct command of King Abdullah I, sensing Glubb Pasha’s hesitation; the Prince said “Go Save Jerusalem”!

Indeed, Tell, in command of the 6th Arab Army regiment, was able to restore control over the old city, sieging the Jewish quarter, and forcing them to sign a surrender treaty, holding 290 of them in captivity, hence, protecting the Old City from falling in the 1948 war.

Meanwhile, Tell’s colleague and friend, Habis Majali, was advancing with his regiment in Latrunm to prevent Israeli advancements there. And according to Ronin Isaac, Tell and Majali were the only leaders who repelled Haganah attacks in the 1948; as well as assaults by other groups, among the totality of participating Arab forces.

The book is vitally crucial in the discourse of shedding light on the disparities between Prince Abdullah and the remainder of Arab governments who backed Hajj Amin Husseini, as well as on other disparities regarding Jordan’s role in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The book also thoroughly explores the historic, Arab and international, background on the assassination of the Prince, in addition to the dynamics that dominated the transition of governance through King Talal to King Hussein afterwards.