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The al-Husseini clan consisted of wealthy landowners in southern Palestine, centered around the district of Jerusalem.
Thirteen members of the clan had been Mayors of Jerusalem between 18.
Following the Franco-Syrian War and the collapse of Arab Hashemite rule in Damascus, his early position on pan-Arabism shifted to a form of local nationalism for Palestinian Arabs and he moved back to Jerusalem.
From as early as 1920 he actively opposed Zionism, and was implicated as a leader of the 1920 Nebi Musa riots.
After receiving an education in Islamic, Ottoman, and Catholic schools, he went on to serve in the Ottoman army in World War I.
At war's end he stationed himself in Damascus as a supporter of the Arab Kingdom of Syria.
In addition to his support to pan-Arabist policies of King Faisal I, al-Husseini tried to destabilize the British rule in Palestine, which was declared to be part of the Arab Kingdom, even though no authority was exercised in reality.
During the annual Nabi Musa procession in Jerusalem in April 1920, violent rioting broke out in protest at the implementation of the Balfour Declaration which supported the establishment in Palestine of a homeland for the Jewish people.
As a Sherifian officer, al-Husseini recruited men to serve in Faisal bin Al Hussein bin Ali El-Hashemi's army during the Arab Revolt, a task he undertook while employed as a recruiter by the British military administration in Jerusalem and Damascus.At the end of the war he came under French protection, and then sought refuge in Cairo to avoid prosecution for war crimes.In the lead-up to the 1948 Palestine war, Husseini opposed both the 1947 UN Partition Plan and King Abdullah's designs to annex the Arab part of British Mandatory Palestine to Jordan, and, failing to gain command of the 'Arab rescue army' (jaysh al-inqadh al-'arabi) formed under the aegis of the Arab League, formed his own militia, al-jihad al-muqaddas.Prior to World War I, he studied at the School of Administration in Constantinople, the most secular of Ottoman institutions.With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, al-Husseini received a commission in the Ottoman Army as an artillery officer and was assigned to the Forty-Seventh Brigade stationed in and around the city of Izmir.