Arabs and Jews in Ottoman Palestine: Two Worlds Collide

Arabs and Jews in Ottoman Palestine: Two Worlds Collide

Arabs and Jews in Ottoman Palestine: Two Worlds Collide

Arabs and Jews in Ottoman Palestine: Two Worlds Collide


When did the Arab-Israeli conflict begin? Some discussions focus on the 1967 war, some go back to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and others look to the beginning of the British Mandate in 1922. Alan Dowty, however, traces the earliest roots of the conflict to the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, arguing that this historical approach highlights constant clashes between religious and ethnic groups in Palestine. He demonstrates that existing Arab residents viewed new Jewish settlers as European and shares evidence of overwhelming hostility to foreigners from European lands. He shows that Jewish settlers had tremendous incentive to minimize all obstacles to settlement, including the inconvenient hostility of the existing population. Dowty's thorough research reveals how events that occurred over 125 years ago shaped the implacable conflict that dominates the Middle East today.


This book has had an unusually long period of gestation. As a result, it overlaps two periods as a visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Much of the basic research was done, therefore, in the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford and in the Oxford Centre’s own Kressel Archive. I am grateful to the Oxford Centre for providing me with an excellent environment in which to undertake this project—and at the same time I am also relieved that there is, at long last, something to show for it.

The Azrieli Institute for Israel Studies, at Concordia University, also provided me with a visiting fellowship at a key time in the book’s development. My thanks to the institute and to its director, Csaba Nikolenyi.

In addition, much of the primary material came from the Central Zionist Archives, in Jerusalem, and from archival holdings in the National Library on the Hebrew University campus, during periods of residence in Jerusalem.

My intention with this book was to work from the ground up, tracking the development of Arab-Jewish conflict in Ottoman Palestine in large part through memoirs, letters, diaries, and other primary sources of contemporaries. This does, however, raise an issue of an inherent imbalance. Such sources are abundant on the Jewish side; in fact, a huge number of them are available in published formats. There are far fewer equivalent Arab sources for this period, especially before the rise of Arab nationalism in the years shortly before World War I. There are other kinds of Arab (and Turkish) sources that have been fully utilized by Palestinian and other scholars— newspapers have been thoroughly surveyed by Rashid Khalidi; diplomatic and governmental documents by Neville Mandel and Alexander Schölch; court records by Yuval Ben-Bassat. I have drawn extensively from these studies and others, but still there remains less direct Arab testimony about the localized clashes that form a good part of the story. the Jewish testimonies do include some serious attempts to describe and understand their . . .

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