Arab historiography in Mandatory Palestine, 1920-1948
Foster, Zachary Jacob.
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2011.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. This is a study of the historical works produced by the Arabs of Palestine during the period of British Mandatory rule. First I trace the perception of late Ottoman rule in Palestine, suggesting that, at first, the vicious war years left a profoundly bitter impression of Ottoman rule for most writers. In the 1920s, the Ottomans were, for the most part, deemed tyrannical and backward usurpers who failed to bring civilization to the Arabs. As the war years faded in the mid-late 1930s and 1940s, we find a much more positive portrayal of late Ottoman rule over Palestine. Second, I trace attitudes towards British rule. It may be surprising, for many scholars bent on demonizing the colonial powers, that the British were, at first, embraced with white flags and flying colors. For many Arabs in Palestine, they continued to be considered liberators rather than colonizers for the first few years after their arrival in Palestine--notwithstanding their support for Zionism and their broader colonial ambitions in the Near East. By the mid-late 1920s and 1930s, to be sure, this attitude had all but vanished and a strong anti-British feeling came to dominate Arab historiography in Palestine until the very end of the Mandate. Third, I trace loyalties and identities during the Mandate period. I argue that, in the 1920s, local loyalties to cities and towns were the most significant identity markers, followed by Arab and religious loyalties, both of which were also very important. In the 1920s, a territorial identification with Bilad al-Sham or Suriyya rivaled if not trumped a territorial identification with Filastin. Even in the 1920s, though, it would be a mistake to consider either of these broader territorial identifications loyalties insofar as they did not trigger a sense of self-sacrifice nor did they carry with them much emotive power. Not until the late 1920s and early 1930s did Palestine triumph over broader territorial identifications such as Syria and not until the mid-late 1930s and 1940s did this territorial identification with Palestine emerge as a key source of loyalty for many of the region's inhabitants. All the while, the historical works suggest the growing importance of an Arab identity and the declining importance of religious loyalties.
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