Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine

Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine

Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine

Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine

Excerpt

This book is about a small territory in an arid corner of the Mediterranean in the first decades of the twentieth century. It is also about one of the major questions that face the world today. It is a book about the role of law in defining the self and the collective, in balancing tradition and modernity, Western and non-Western norms. Every non-Western culture confronts this problem, which also constitutes one of the main issues in the momentous conflict between Islam and the West that is now unfolding before our eyes. In this battle, law plays an important role. It serves as a banner under which combatants fight, a weapon for overcoming enemies, a middle ground for meeting them. Law also defines the nature of the participants in the conflict.

The role of law in the definition of identity is the topic of this book. There are few places better suited to the study of this topic than Palestine between 1917 and 1948, when the country was ruled by the British under a League of Nations mandate. This is not only because since 1917 the question of Palestine has been a major source of tension between East and West but also because of the unique nature of the country and its inhabitants. Encounters between Western and non-Western populations and norms occurred in many places, including most colonial territories. In mandate Palestine, however, such encounters and the associated problems of law and identity were more acute and therefore more interesting than in most other colonies. In addition to British rulers and Arab inhabitants, Palestine had a large Jewish population that was simultaneously foreign and native. The unique tripartite division of the country created questions and interactions seldom found elsewhere.

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