February 29, 2024

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If Palestinians were a nation, why did they accept Ottoman control?


I am looking at the beginning of Rashid Khalidi’s “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017.”

Khalidi exaggerates the influence of the tiny number of Arab nationalists, specifically Palestinian Arab nationalists, before 1917.  He doesn’t mention that the Arab nationalism that did exist was a result of Christian missionary influence and British attempts to subvert the Ottoman Empire – it was never a native Arab desire, and most Arabs were loyal Ottoman subjects.

When one sees a paragraph like this, it brings up some questions:

So rule by the British was “alien rule” but by the Ottoman Turks wasn’t. Why not? If Palestinians wanted independence so much, shouldn’t they have been equally upset at the Ottomans as they were the British? Wasn’t the Ottoman Empire every bit as colonialist as the British?

Questions like these are glossed over when people like Khalidi make up their history. He says the Palestinians were nationalists in one paragraph and in the next he says they were satisfied with foreign rule. The only way to reconcile these is to note that the entire point of the book is to blame Zionists for the Palestinian plight: noting that their nationalism was nonexistent before Zionism proves that it was in fact a reaction to Zionism and not organic. So Khalidi must exaggerate the nationalism before the Ottoman empire fell and also pretend that the only colonialism they suffered under was from the West.

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