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Rural Reactions to Zionist Activity in Palestine before and after the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 as Reflected in Petitions to Istanbul

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The central Ottoman archives in Istanbul provide a unique bottom-up perspective on the early Zionist–Arab encounters in Palestine at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the interactions between the rural population and the first Zionist colonists. This perspective is somewhat different from the customary outlook in the literature on early Arab reactions to Zionist activity which has primarily focused on the reactions of the educated urban elites in the aftermath of the Young Turk revolution of 1908. This study discusses five petitions sent by the rural population of Palestine, both villagers and Bedouins, against Jewish activity and its impact on them. The petitions by these understudied subaltern groups reveal the complexities of the encounters between the two populations prior to the development of the political struggle in Palestine, and add a new dimension to the more familiar viewpoint provided by Zionist and European sources. This article thus seeks to examine the extent to which the revolution, which is commonly considered a watershed for the start of the Jewish–Arab political struggle, is reflected in these petitions. It also inquires whether there was a change of tone in the petitions following the revolution and, if so, what can be learned from them regarding the nature of Jewish–Arab relationships at the time.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Middle Eastern History, University of Haifa, Israel

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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