Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Arab-Israeli Conflict-Jewish-Transjordanian Relations 1921-1948

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Arab-Israeli Conflict-Jewish-Transjordanian Relations 1921-1948

Article excerpt

Jewish-Transjordanian Relations 19211948, by Yoav Gelber. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1997. x + 289 pages. Gloss. to p. 306. Bibl. to p. 313. Index to p. 320. $49.50 cloth; $25 paper.

Reviewed by John Creed

Bit by bit we are learning more about the relations between Jews and Arabs prior to the establishment of the Israeli state, and this work takes us further in that direction by focusing on JewishTransjordanian relations between 1921 and 1948. Although other works have touched on this relation, Yoav Gelber draws extensively on Jewish and British sources to take the reader on a detailed journey through the longstanding contacts between Jewish leaders and Amir `Abdallah (who became king in 1946), pointing out along the way the various phases through which this relationship evolved.

The decided strength of this work is its attention to detail. Gelber begins by discussing contacts between `Abdallah and Zionist leaders, like Chaim Weizman, in the 1920s, which focused on the possibility of Jewish economic penetration of Transjordan and the appeal this held given the impoverished conditions that prevailed at the time. In particular, Gelber's discussion of the controversies behind Jewish Agency attempts to purchase land from willing tribal leaders adds some interesting historical perspective to current tensions created by the Palestinian Authority's order in May 1997 to forbid Palestinian land sales to Israelis. Soon, however, Gelber notes that Jewish-Transjordanian contacts were swept up in the swirl of regional politics, with `Abdallah conducting his end to further his ambitions of governing Palestine and Syria while the Jews pursued relations in order to expand and defend their settlements and attempt to win a measure of acceptance for a Jewish national home in the region. Thus what emerges, from Gelber's perspective, is in essence a tenuous political alliance between the parties, one that ebbs and flows through 1948. Much of the basic material here has been covered in other works; but Gelber's narrative systematically chronicles the many contacts and voluminous written record that this relationship generated. Gelber documents the reactions of both Jews and Transjordanians, as well as the British and Palestinians who were, of course, also players in the dynamic. Gelber's efforts to present with clarity the material he has examined will surely be of value to other scholars working on this topic. …

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