Emergence of Local Palestinian Identity, Failure to defend their Rights since Late 19th Century

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Emergence of Local Palestinian Identity, Failure to defend their Rights since Late 19th Century

The emergence of local Palestinian identity has been an elusive issue. Many people believe it started after the establishment of Israel as a state, which resulted in the exodus of many Palestinians from the occupied territories. However, Palestinian identity started in the late 19th century, which Khalidi believes developed out of obstacles that the people faced (3). Some of the factors influencing the national identity of Palestine were the British colonization, Palestine scholars and Arab press in the late 19th century (Khalidi 34). Therefore, it was not just a response to Zionism, as many people would think. However, Zionism contributed to the inability of Palestinians to defend their rights.

During the Ottoman era, the press, religious institutions and the state played crucial roles. Between 1876 and 1908, Zionists began purchasing land from the Palestinians. The land issues were brought about by the 1858 Ottoman Land Code that required Palestinians to register their land. However, majority of the peasants who were illiterate ignored the code since they considered verbal agreements enough. Other reasons of ignoring the code were resistance against the colonial government and evasion of taxes. The impact was devastating because registration did not require marking of boundaries. This allowed Individuals to register communal land because registration only occurred when the owner sought it. Because unregistered land was not recorded, the merchants succeeded in registering vast tracts of land.

The land code allowed private ownership of land, which it favored more than state-owned land. The code was a result of pressure from European economic systems. Therefore, the rich were able to register big parts of the territory (Caplan 45). Zionists, conversely, sought to expand their territories in order to establish a state. Although majority of Jews were in Europe, they traveled back in pursuit of this movement. They bought land in large amounts and made plantations in which they employed both Arabs and fellow Jews. As time went by, many Palestinians found themselves without land and places to live because they had no proof of land ownership, which resulted from ignoring the Ottoman Land Code of 1858. This further contributed to the emergence of Palestine national identity.

The Palestine peasant found it hard to fight for their rights considering the Jews had rightfully purchased land from the few rich Arabs who registered it. Resistance resulted from the Palestine Arabs who sought to regain their lost land. However, the Palestinian elites were not able to fight for the rights of the people because of the intervention, which came in the form of British control of Palestine. Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 expressed the interests of British, French and Russia in creating Arab states within the Middle East. This increased the nationalism identity in the people. The Balfour Declaration in 1917 that followed the Sykes-Picot Agreement saw the British favor creation of a Jewish settlement in the Palestine territory. This further gave the Jews power against the Palestinians (Caplan 45). Consequently, this made it hard for Palestinians to fight for their rights considering the territory was under British rule, making it harder to fight for their lands. This saw the eviction of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their original land in 1948 after the establishment of the state of Israel.

After 1948, the two groups result to a full-scale civil war that continues even today under different levels. In 1964, Palestinians formed the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose goal was to use armed struggle to liberate its people. It sought to return to its original land before 1948, which was now occupied by Israel. It aimed at removing the Zionist movement from the original British mandate territory. During the later 20th century, Palestinians formed allies with other Arab countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, where majority of the refugees lived. In 1993, an agreement between Israeli government and PLO was reached, known as the Oslo Accord. Its aim was to establish peace between the two sides, where Israel was required to pull out of Palestine and form a government and a territory. Today, it has not yet achieved this goal (Khalidi 34).

 

Works Cited

Caplan Neil. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Contested Histories. New York, N.Y: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. Print.

Khalidi Rashid. Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. New York, N.Y: Columbia University Press, 2013. Print.

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