Sunday, January 06, 2013

The First International Solidarity Member?

While working on a forthcoming project, the "Map of Underground Operations in Tel Aviv, 1907-1948", I came across this Hebrew-language news item from Davar, November 3, 1931:

It announces, via Reuters, the confirmed death by murder of a Danish journalist at the hands of a Bedouin in the territory of TransJordan.

Intrigued, I searched and discovered the details:

Knud Valdemar Gylding Holmboe (April 22, 1902 Horsens Denmark - October 13, 1931 Aqaba Jordan) was a Danish journalist and explorer who converted to Islam after travels in North Africa...Upon his conversion, Holmboe changed his name to Ali Ahmed...

Knud Holmboe was shocked to observe European violence against the indigenous populations of the North African colonies. Based on these travel experiences, he produced a book in 1931 entitled Desert Encounter which he condemned the colonial overseers...After completing his book, Knud Holmboe started on his hajj to the city of Mecca. In circumstances that were never fully explained, Knud Holmboe was murdered just south of Aqaba (in modern Jordan) on October 13, 1931. While it has been speculated that Italian intelligence ordered the murder, this claim has never been verified.
More details:

The Italians fearing Knud´s activities in Mecca (they assumed he would call for jihad against Italy) tried to do their utmost to stop Knud from reaching Mecca. A German freelance agent, Hans Joachim von Bassewitz, was “put on” Knud to make sure he could report everything back to the Italian consul. During his stay in Amman, Jordan, several mysterious attempts on Knud´s life alarmed Knud that someone was out to kill him. Never the less, Knud bought a camel and went on to travel to Aqaba, waiting for an entry permit into Ibn Saud´s newly established territory. 
On October 11, 1931 Knud left on his camel towards the Saudiarab
border. It is known that he settled for a night in the vicinity of the Haql oasis where he was approached by a local Bedouin tribe. This tribe had been known to work for Italian officers in the area at the same time.
The tribe lured Knud to travel on alone, and he was attacked on the road between al-Haql and Humayda. During the night he was captured, Knud managed to escape and swim away from the sea shore. When he was too tired to carry on swimming, he had to approach the shore. The Bedouins found him, almost naked, and they shot him and buried his corpse on the shore. He was 29-years old. 
A Jordanian border officer, Aref Sleem, managed to catch the leader of that very tribe and kept him in a local arrest in Aqaba for questioning during a few hours. The sheikh was released from prison on the orders of the English commander John Glubb. A few months later the tribe members who killed Knud Holmboe, were killed themselves when tribal soldiers loyal to Ibn Saud destroyed their camp.

Could he have been one of the first predecessors of the modern International Solidarity activists?


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