Thursday, December 26, 2019

Khair Aldeen Abu Al-Jabeen: Editor of Al-Difa' Sports Column and a Sports Activist


Issam Khalidi

  Khair Addeen Abu al-Jabeen was born in Jaffa in 1924, he went to al-Rishidiyyah School in Jerusalem, and graduated from the Teachers College in Jerusalem. He taught at Kuliyyat al-Thaqafa in Jaffa, then in Hassan Arafa School in there.  Al-Jabeen was a member of the Islamic Sports Club of Jaffa. He took part in founding al-Nadi al-Thaqafi al-Arabi (Arab Cultural Club) which included Jamil al-Huseini, Ibrahim Sakijha, Ahmad Arafat and Husein Nijem. They founded the magazine Ansar al-Thaqafa that was distributed in Jaffa. In 1944, he became a member of the paramilitary organization Najada which was established by the members of the Islamic Sports Club in Jaffa (established in 1926).

     After the re-establishment of the Arab Palestinian Sports Federation PSF in September 1944 (founded in April 1931 and was suspended in late 1930s) he became secretary of its Jaffa regional sports committee. His experience in journalism has led him to become the editor of the sports column of the Al-Difa’  (established in 1934) in 1944 in addition to his work as a teacher at the Hassan Arafa Primary School until 1946. In 1946 he worked at the Department of Press Censorship until the end of the mandate.

   In November 1948, he left for Kuwait where he spent ten years as a teacher of mathematic in the Qabaliya, Mubarakiyya and Shuwaikh Secondary School. He worked in the Ministry of Electricity for six years. He was one of the founders of the educational sector in Kuwait. Abu al-Jabeen was also one of the founders of the Kuwaiti Sports Federation in 1952, and a persistent activist in the Kuwaiti sports movement. After the founding of the PLO he became its first director in Kuwait in 1964. Later, he became member of the Palestine National Council.

    Abu al-Jabeen wrote his memoirs in his book (The Story of My Life in Palestine and Kuwait) published by Dar Al-Shorouk - Amman in 2002, in which he gave a brief overview of his life in Palestine until 1948 and later in Kuwait. His book is an important reference and source on history of Palestinian sports.

    As a reaction to the Zionist domination on the sports arena and the marginalization of the Arabs from the Palestine Football Association PFA (established in 1928 and affiliated with FIFA in 1929 and became dominated by the Zionists), some Arab young men established the Arab Palestine Sports Federation APSF in 1931. It stopped functioning at the end of 1930s. In September 1944 it was re-established and continued functioning until the end of 1947. Its re-establishment was a turning pointing in Palestinian sports. Sport witnessed a remarkable development in all aspects. Sports columns in Filastin and al-Difa’ played an important role in promoting sports growth.

  At that time there was strong connections and coordination between these two sports columns and Arab social-athletic clubs in Palestine as well as Palestine Sports Federation.  Abu al-Jabeen was twenty years old when he took over the sports column in Al-Difa’ in 1944. He made a quantitative and qualitative development to sports news in this newspaper. Al-Difa’ thoroughly reported on sports activities daily on various sports issues and events, and on the Federation’s resolutions, its activities, and its district committees and subcommittees. It also reported on meetings with sports teams from neighboring Arab countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

This newspaper, like other Palestinian newspapers at that time, published on inter-school meetings, annual sports day which had been held at the end of the school year, and on Palestinian Scouts in the Zawiyat al-Difa’ al-Riyadiayya ­Al-Difa’ Sports Column.[1]

   Abu al-Jabeen consistently sought to promote sports activity among the population. At the same time, he expressed the role of sports in the national solidarity between Palestine and the Arab countries:

   The country has many youth clubs today, including athletic clubs. Some of these clubs have made culture and social work their biggest concern. Clubs in all their aspects were successful and deserve appreciation, praise and encouragement. We want to hear about a journey organized to Syria and Lebanon that will have several athletic sports and scientific objectives. These trips could widen general culture of our youth, and could be very effective in strengthening the common bonds of brotherhood of the Arab youth.[2]

  There was no activity that brought people together in Palestine as sports did. In order to strengthen the bonds of harmony and friendship between clubs and associations in Palestine, Abu Al-Jabeen asked clubs throughout Al-Difa' to provide him with a comprehensive profile about their emergence and activities. This step was a good initiative by Al-Difa’ to collect data that could improve the performance of these clubs and help in promoting sports.

    Abu al- Jabeen was one of the proponents with other sports writers in Palestine to hold a meeting in October 1947 to discuss the formation of a union for sports columnists and journalists, which would include representatives of the Palestine daily newspapers, radio stations and the Palestinian Sports Federation.

   As mentioned above, there was a tight connection between Al-Difa’ and the APSF. Abu al-Jabeen also reported the APSF’s efforts to join the International Federation of Football FIFA. It is known that Palestine was represented in FIFA by the Zionist-dominated Palestine Football Association PFA. It is also known that the Palestinian Federation was in constant conflict with the latter, so this attempt was a challenge to prove the existence of the Palestinian people who made the majority of the population and their national identity.

   In July 1946, Abdel Rahman Al-Habab, secretary of the Palestinian Sports Federation, traveled to Cairo and met with the Secretary of the Arab League and with Haidar Pasha, President of the Egyptian Football Federation who showed big concern about the issue of the registration of the Arab Palestinian Federation in the International Federation and regretted the inability of sending the Palestinian delegate to attend the International Sports Conference in Luxembourg.[3]

   Al-Difa’ commented about the participation of Palestine in the Olympic Games of 1948, "We learned that the Secretary-General of the Government of Palestine has received an official invitation to participate in the upcoming London Olympics next year [1948]. His Excellency sent this invitation to the Palestine Olympic Committee” (which was dominated by the Zionists), asking: "Who are the members of this committee? Do the Arabs take part in it, or only the Jews? Who will represent Palestine in these international games?  Arabs have the right to participate because they make up the majority of the population?”. [4] It is known that the Palestinian Olympic Committee was founded by the Zionists in 1933 and entered the membership of the International Olympic Committee in 1934.[5]

    In order to preserve the national solidarity between Palestine and Syria, Palestinian athletes and clubs donated money supporting their Syrian brothers. Abu Al-Jebeen in al-Difa’  published this news: 

    In response to the request of the Central Committee, some clubs in Jaffa sent their donations to the victims of Syria and Lebanon [when the French obstructed the Syrian Parliament with an iron fist].[6]

    Abu Al-Jabeen expressed his interest in sports figures who exerted efforts to raise the level of sports in the face of Zionist  domination and superiority in sports. In July 1947, he wrote: 

 Readers recall that Mr. Atallah Qiddees, the director of the YMCA's sports department in Jerusalem and one of the well-known APSF’s leaders, recently left for the United States [for training]. His visit is a great service for Arab Palestine.  The Americans will know that the Arabs of Palestine appreciate sports; that they have a reasonable level of sports which the Americans were ignorant of.[7]

 Abu al-Jabeen as a member of the Jaffa Sports Federation Committee, this committee became one of the most active committees in the federation. The Federation divided the areas in Palestine into six regions (Jaffa, Jerusalem, Haifa, Nablus, Gaza and Galilee). Jaffa was not only a cultural center, but also one of the most developed cities in Palestine in the field of sports, Thanks to these clubs: Islamic Sports Club, the Orthodox Youth Club, the Olympic Institute, the Andhony Club, the staff and others.

  At the end, the name of Khair al-Din Abu al-Jibeen has been recorded in the history of the Palestinian sports movement with other activists such as Abdul Rahman al-Habab, Yusuf Nafa’, Ibrahim Nuseibeh, Isbiro Iqdis, Dr. Haqqi Mazin, Husein Husni and others who made big contribution to the development of sports. Abu al-Jebeen and his colleagues had established a foundation for contemporary Palestinian sport movement. Had the Palestinian people not been inflicted by the 1948 Nakba, the period 1944 – 1948 could have constituted a stronger foundation for current Palestinian sports.


[1] Al-Difa’ July 31 1945.
[2] Al-Difa’ 24 January 1947
[3] Al-Difa’ 25 July 1946
[4] Al-Difa’ 28 May 1947
[5] Issam Khalidi, Palestine and Olympics,
[6] Al-Difa’ 8 July 1945.
[7] Al-Difa’ 16 July 1947.

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