Arab Christians in British Mandate Palestine: Communalism and Nationalism, 1917-1948

Arab Christians in British Mandate Palestine: Communalism and Nationalism, 1917-1948

Arab Christians in British Mandate Palestine: Communalism and Nationalism, 1917-1948

Arab Christians in British Mandate Palestine: Communalism and Nationalism, 1917-1948

Synopsis

Shows how Arab Christians struggled to balance religious and nationalist identities in Palestine between 1917 and 1948. Noah Haiduc-Dale focuses on the relationship between Arab Christians and the nationalist movement in Palestine as the British Mandate unfolded throughout the first half of the 20th century. Evidence of individual behaviours and beliefs, as well as those of Christian organizations (both religious and social in nature), challenges the prevailing assumption that Arab Christians were prone to communalism. Instead, they were as likely as their Muslim compatriots to support nationalism. When social pressure led Christians to identify along communal lines, they did so in conjunction with a stronger dedication to nationalism.

Excerpt

I am not Christian, nor Buddhist, nor Muslim, nor Jewish. I am not Arab, or
English, or French, or German, or Russian, or Turkish, but I am one of the
human race.

Khalil al-Sakakini, 26 March 1915

If I enjoy any position in this land, if the people love me and respect me, it is
because they think that I am nearer to Islam than to Christianity, because I am
wealthy in the Arabic language, because they fancy that I am a conservative
and will not depart from Oriental customs under any circumstances.

Khalil al-Sakakini, 12 December 1932

My first exposure to the Palestinian–Israeli conflict came in high school when I travelled with a group of American teenagers for a month-long stay with Elias Jabbour, founder of the House of Hope in Shefaʿamr, an Arab–Israeli village near Haifa. Jabbour, a Melkite Christian, framed his approach to the conflict through his religious beliefs, describing himself as ‘a Christian, Palestinian, Arab, Israeli’. Two years later, while living and studying the conflict in Jerusalem as a college student, I was confused when the programme director insisted that the conflict was not about religion at all, but about land, economics and politics. This academic argument did not match up with the explanation I had been given while living in Shefaʿamr. How could religion not be integral to the conflict, when those who were living in it insisted it was essential?

The academic explanation has a lot to offer, since a religious explanation often hides more than it illuminates. In its simplest formulation, the Palestinian–Israeli conflict is a conflict between two groups of people, Palestinians and Israelis, who claim nationhood and collective ownership over the same piece of land. Many commentators, as well as many Palestinians and Israelis themselves, couch this nationalistic conflict in religious terms, as a clash between Jews and Muslims. But like all people, individual Israelis and Palestinians fall along a broad spectrum between secular and religious. Both sides utilise nationalist reasoning in their . . .

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