Musa al-Alami

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Musa al-Alami (1897-1984) was assistant attorney general of Mandatory Palestine. Both his father Fidi al-'Alami and his grandfather Musa al-Alami were mayors of Jerusalem.

Alami was born in the Musrara district of Jerusalem into a prominent family. His father was Mayor of Jerusalem Faidi al-Alami, his sister was married to Jamal al-Hussayni and he was the uncle of Serene Husseini Shahid.

He was first taught at the school of the American Colony and at the French Ecole des Freres in Jaffa. During World War I Alami worked at the censorship office in Damascus. Alami retained a positive view of the Ottoman empire; recalling that the Arabs regarded the Turks as partners rather than oppressors, and above all: Palestine was largely ruled by Palestinian officials. Alami claimed that "a greater degree of freedom and self-government existed in Palestine than in many Turkish provinces".

Later he studied law at Cambridge University and was admitted to the Inner Temple and graduated with honors degree.

Upon his return to Jerusalem, Musa Alami worked for the legal department of the government of the British Mandate of Palestine and eventually became the private secretary of the High Commissioner General Arthur Grenfell Wauchope. In 1934, Alami participated in talks with the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett. When Ben-Gurion suggested that the Zionists could provide significant help developing the region, Alami replied that he would prefer waiting one hundred years and leaving the land backward, as long as the Palestinians could do the job themselves.

Alami was ousted from his government position as legal adviser by the British authorities and went into exile in Beirut, and later in Baghdad. He played an important role in St. James Conference, negotiations with the British government in London in 1938-1939. He was the major contributor to the White Paper of 1939.

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Alami lost most of his property in Jerusalem and the Galilee and went to live near Jericho, where he acquired a concession of 5,000 acres of desert from the Jordanian government. In 1952 he started working with the Arab Development Society (ADS) to help Jericho's refugees. After he discovered water he founded a large farm and school for refugee children. Alami raised funds for building villages for the refugees and founded an agricultural farm whose produce was exported. The farm was destroyed in the course of the Arab riots in Jericho in 1958 against the British but with help from the World Bank and the Ford Foundation, Alami managed to rebuild it.

According to David Gilmour, who interviewed Alami in February 1979 in Jericho:

Both the farm and the school were highly successful until the Israeli invasion in 1967, when two-thirds of the land was laid waste and twenty-six of the twenty-seven wells destroyed. The Israeli army systematically smashed the irrigation system, the buildings and the well-boring machinery. Most of the land quickly reverted to desert. Perhaps some of the destruction was unavoidable in wartime but what seems utterly callous and outrageous is the way Israeli authorities have behaved since 1967. A chunk of land was predictably wired off for "security reasons" and turned into a military camp. It is now deserted, [.....] the Israelis refused to allow him to buy the necessary equipment either to restore the damaged wells or to drill new ones. So he made some manual repairs to four of the least damaged wells and with these he was able to salvage a fraction of the land and keep the farm and the school functioning. .....[The Israelis] are now telling him that he has too much water -though he has less than a fifth of what he used to have- and have warned him that they will be fixing a limit on his consumption and will be taking away the surplus for their own "projects" (i.e. their expanding settlements near Jericho). .....[Alami] laughs at President Carter´s obsession with human rights because he knows they will never be observed in Palestine. "Liberty and justice are meaningless words for my people and my country. We have never known either." He waves towards his farm, a philanthropist's dream that was once brilliantly successful. "I gain no pleasure from this place now," he says, "I stay here out of duty. I know the Zionists have been wanting to get rid of us for years. They want me to go and have told me so. They want to build a kibbutz here. But I have a duty to keep going, a duty to my people."

Musa Alami died in 1984, and his funeral took place in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israel Defence Force checkpoint/crossing on the eastern exit of Jericho (through which Palestinians traveling to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge pass through) is named Musa Alami (after the adjacent farm). The site is still commonly known as "the Musa Alami farm".

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Serene Husseini Shahid   • Feidi al-’Alami   • Musa al-Alami_(mayor_of_Jerusalem)   • Committee_set_up_to_consider_certain_correspondence_between_Sir_Henry_McMahon__and_The_Sharif_of_Mecca   • Arab Development Society

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