Palestine Between the Wars

During the interwar period, Arabs and Jews struggled to define the nature of Palestine.

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Accordingly, the collapse of Feisal's regime in the summer of 1920 and the transfer of nationalist headquarters from Damascus to Jerusa­lem played a critical role in the development of an authentic Palestine Arab nationalism. It did not escape the Arab leadership, especially those who formerly had devoted their energies to the Hashemite cause in Syria, that the Zionists, as a minority settlement, were surely more vulnerable to concerted resistance than were the French or British.

 In December 1920, therefore, the Moslem‑Christian Associations spon­sored a convention in Haifa, a gathering that subsequently transformed itself into a Palestine Arab Congress. Here at last the demand was expressly submitted that Britain institute a national‑--that is, Arab-‑government in Palestine. The Congress afterward proceeded to elect an Arab Executive, a body that from 1921 on implacably opposed the British mandate and the Jewish National Home.

While the Executive's hostility to Zionism was rooted at least partly in suspicion of Jewish free labor and collective agriculture­, and the ideas these innovations might plant in the minds of the fellahin, it reflected more basically a fear of the political consequences of Jewish immigration. Centuries of exile in Europe clearly had westernized Jews and enabled them to far exceed the Arab community in their intel­lectual and technological accomplishments. The Arab leaders were genu­inely alarmed by the influx of these "overbearing and truculent" newcomers, and warned that the European Jews, with apparently limitless energy and financial backing, would someday engulf the whole of Palestine.

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Howard Sachar

Howard M. Sachar is the author of numerous books, including A History of Israel, A History of the Jews in America, Farewell Espana, Israel and Europe, and A History of Jews in the Modern World. He is also the editor of the 39-volume The Rise of Israel: A Documentary History. He serves as Professor of Modern History at George Washington University.