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Jilda, ‘dillinger of the Desert,’ Erred Fatally: Hestayed Caught

July 18, 1934
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The shepherds and the farmers of Palestine breathe again.

Abu Jilda, the “Dillinger of the Desert,” has been brought to book by British justice and will pay with his life for terrorizing the countryisde with a series of robberies and slayings that might well make the American Public Enemy No. 1 hang his red head in acknowledgement of his inferiority.

However, the hanging will be done by Jilda and not by Dillinger—at least not yet by Dillinger. For Jilda, while he may be able to boast more killings than even the most pessimistic accounts of “Red’s” private purgings total, made three fatal errors from which he is not expected to recover. He got caught. He stayed caught. He was convicted. And if the British reputation for tenacity when it comes to hanging onto a convicted felon until Justice is finished with him is a criterion, the Arab brigand, together with El Armeet his companion in crime, will very shortly have expiated his crimes.


The crime that led to Jilda’s capture, trial and speedy conviction—the trial consumed exactly two days—was the killing of Constable Hussein Assali on May 22, 1933. In killing the constable, the brigand who has been hailed by Arab newspapers and public as the “King of Bandits,” resorted to a bit of showmanship that was strikingly lacking in good judgment. He murdered the policeman before witnesses who later did not fear to identify him and to relate the story of his crime, alleged to be but one of about twenty-three murders he and his desert desperadoes had committed.

Like so many of the notorious American gangsters who have built up reputations for unusual daring, the two Arabs presented deflated, pitiful figures by contrast when they were huddled in the arms of the law.

In the Nablus District courtroom the two brigands, who had been glorified by the Arab press into swashbuckling, dashing and dauntless Robin Hoods who were helping the poor get their rightful share of the land’s wealth, were two timid, nervous men who seemed rather worried at what fate held in store for them.

How these two, wrapped in their black abayahs and tugging nervously at their kafias could ever have put fear of their depredations into the hearts of Palestine’s population to such an extent that mothers used their names to cow chilidren into obedience, is almost beyond conception.

One of the interesting features of the trial was the rather surprising absence of public interest in it. Only a small crowd of the brigand’s former hero-worshippers— there as if my mere accident— were on hand to witness the proceedings and to see the desperadoes led off in chains after their conviction. Despite the fact, also, that the Arab press had played up the Arabian Dillinger’s depredations, only one correspondent. From the Arab press was present. From the American viewpoint, indeed, the trial was distinctly a “dud”; to the Palestinian eye, however, it was a complete success.

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