The double death of "the Palestinians" - Part 2

We need to understand the Palestinians' initial refusal to acknowledge that they were henceforth Palestinians. Yesterday they were the mighty Arab nation fighting to drive the Jews from a part of that Arab nation’s vast land; today they are nothing but Palestinians, an Arab people without land.

The double death of "the Palestinians" - Part 2
Abolition of the Caliphate, 3 March 1924. When this date is celebrated, it will signal that Muslims are finally free.

Part 1, Part 3

The defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, in which it was an aggressor, naturally brought the victors to claim the territories they conquered in a defensive war. While the war brought a loss for Muslims, it was a gain both for what remained of the Arab tribes first conquered by the Turks in the sixteenth century, as well as for the proto-nations that accreted around the growing cosmopolitan Arab urban middle classes. The "Arab nation" of pan-Arabist fantasies presumed a Muslim Arab nation and had as a model of governance only the arbitrary rule of the Muslim Arab tribal despot aspiring to sovereignty over a tribal super-confederation, hence the dreams of vain Arab leaders at the time and for decades thereafter to be crowned "Leader of the Muslims" or "Leader of the Arabs", rather than settle for a more lowly President of a mere nation state.

Unfortunately for Muslims, the Jews returned to their homeland just as the Arabs emerged into a world organised into nation-states, geopolitics having, in the intervening four centuries of Ottoman occupation, eclipsed the tribal confederations the Turks had originally subjugated and ruled. It is important to appreciate that the defeat of the Ottoman Empire is not the same as the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate, even had they occurred as the same event, which they did not. Similarly, the defeat of the Ottoman Empire is not the same as the dissolution of the Empire, even had these occurred simultaneously, which they did not.[1] Taken together in their interrelationships, these events offer a useful analogy for understanding the complex creation of "the Palestinians," and the lasting effect that complexity would have on the Palestinian identity and psyche, long before their relationship to Israel arrises.

Defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the Great War brought the British Empire, one of the victorious Allied Powers, to claim its share of the territories of the vanquished aggressors, the Central Powers. Cosmopolitan middle class buds had sprouted in the main Arab urban centres under Western influence all over the Ottoman empire since the early nineteenth century. Outside the cities, these harsh lands offered a meagre existence steeped in superstition and backwardness, essentially unchanged from the way the Turks had found them.

The insertion into such a milieu of an industrious people possessed of capital would have an electrifying effect, no pun intended. It was quite clear that a subject territory, such as was to become Mandatory Palestine, could be relatively rapidly guided to prosperous independent statehood. Its ports, urban centres and readily-available labour were in close proximity. Booming Mandatory Palestine was a magnet for Arabs from all over the former Ottoman Middle East. The territory had become a regional power house even before it became independent as Israel.