How a century of exile forged Palestinian national consciousness
My book,Transnational Palestine: Migration and the Right of Return Before 1948, examines the migration of Palestinians to Latin America beginning in the late 19th century, and the role of transnational political activism in shaping a Palestinian diaspora community, jaaliya, during the interwar period.
In doing so, it offers the first transnational history of the development of Palestinian national consciousness in the first half of the 20th century.
Drawing on Arabic, English, French and Spanish sources from archives and personal collections in Palestine, England, Mexico and Chile, the book expands Palestinian historiography to embrace transnational historical analysis through migration and diaspora studies.
Transnational Palestine examines how, in the interwar years, British mandate authorities in London and Jerusalem used the 1925 Palestinian Citizenship Order-in-Council - enforced throughout the entirety of the British mandate for the regulation of Palestinian nationality and citizenship - to exclude thousands of Palestinian migrants from citizenship in order to prioritise the in-migration and naturalisation as Palestinian of Jewish immigrants.
On the one hand, Transnational Palestine explores in detail the ramifications of the ordinance for Palestinian migrants, who numbered roughly 40,000 by 1936, who had an incontestable right to Palestinian nationality since the Treaty of Lausanne came into force in August 1924, and who thus became stateless nationals carrying obsolete Ottoman travel documents affording them no consular representation or protection.
On the other, it examines Arabic and Spanish petitions and periodicals from Arabic-speaking migrant communities across Latin America to show how the exclusionary ordinance informed the emergence of new networks of communication and solidarity among Palestinian and other Arabic-speaking migrants in the diaspora and in Palestine.
From Santiago, Buenos Aires, Lima and Sao Paulo, to Mexico City to Monterrey, Paris and Jerusalem, Palestinian migrants, their allies in the Americas and their counterparts in Palestine discussed strategies for resisting oppressive British - and French - mandate governance, including citizenship rejections meted out to thousands of Palestinian migrants.
They did this in newspapers, social clubs and associations, political organisations and committees, and in hundreds of petitions delivered to local and international governing bodies, including the League of Nations.
Apart from a handful of works exploring Palestinian global circulations before 1948, Palestinians remain largely absent from transnational historical analysis.
That is, the historical study of the Palestinian people has largely been confined to geographic Palestine, the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, overlooking remarkable narratives that span the globe from the Peruvian and Chilean Andes to ports in the Philippines.