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Before Zionism: The shared life of Jews and Palestinians

Before the advent of Zionism and Arab nationalism, Jews and Palestinians lived in peace in the holy land. Menachem Klein’s new book maps out an oft-forgotten history of Israel/Palestine, and offers some guidance on how we may go back to that time.

By Noam Rotem

Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, toward the end of the Ottoman Empire's control over Palestine.

Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, toward the end of the Ottoman Empire’s control over Palestine.

Menachem Klein’s book, Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron, is a depressing one. Originally released in English, the book — which is being published in Hebrew  — paints a picture of a shared life between Palestinians and Jews at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, bringing us face to face with daily life, commerce, education, celebrations, and sadness. It shows that us this kind existence, despite everything we were taught by the Israeli education system, is possible. And then Klein goes on and destroys this delicate balance, burning everything left of it today.

As the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine at the time, began losing its power toward the end of the 19th century, a new, local identity began developing out of the lived experiences of Jews and Arabs. This identity, which took precedence over religion, was shared by Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, both the Zionist movement and the Palestinian national movement began trying to take control of that identity and define the people of the land as either Jewish Zionists or Palestinian Arabs. There were those who called for unity, such as Jerusalem Mayor Raghib al-Nashashibi, who wanted not to speak of Arabs and Jews, but of Palestinians. Klein debunks the myth according to which the residents of the country before the advent Zionism or the Arab national movement lacked all identity. Instead, he describes a lively and vivacious community with its own traditions and customs, bringing testimonies from Jews, Muslims and foreigners as proof.

Both Zionism and Arab nationalism came to Palestine from outside the country. The two movements developed in the diaspora but both saw the territory between the river and the sea as part of their war for control; they drew borders in a place that had been borderless at the expense of those who lived here. Palestinian residents distinguished between “Arab Jews” — a common identity of Jews who were either born here or in other Arab countries — and Jewish immigrants from Europe who arrived to redefine the land. Klein quotes several journal entries penned by Palestinians at the beginning of the 20th century, according to which non-Ashkenazi Jews were seen as awlad al-balad (“sons of the land”) and yahud awlad al-arab (“Jewish Arabs”).

‘The Bolsheviks from Moscow’

The idealistic reality described by Klein seems almost like a dream today. He quotes the memoirs of Ya’akov Elazar from Jerusalem, who remembers how “the Muslim women cooperated respectfully with the customs of the Jewish religion…the Muslim neighbors allowed the Jewish women to pump water necessary before the Sabbath.” Klein also describes how some Muslims even joined their Jewish neighbors in reciting religious prayers. He describes the cheder (a traditional elementary school where the basics of Judaism and the Hebrew language were taught) run by Hacham Gershon in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Arab parents brought their children so that they would learn how to behave properly. Klein also writes that sexual relations and marriages between Jews and Arabs were not unheard of, even if they were not considered legitimate.

The European foreigners who came here were the ones to form a wedged between the partners to this quasi-utopia. Yeshayahu Peres, who put together the historical-geographical encyclopedia of the Land of Israel, complained that when the Ashkenazi Jews immigrated they brought with them their customs, clothing, and lifestyle, and did not adapt to the cultures of Palestine: “They speak Yiddish and maintain the Jewish street accent of their home countries. They are different from their Sephardic brothers not only in language and appearance but also in their worldview.” Or take Palestinian activist Ghada Karmi, who says: “We knew they were different from ‘our Jews,’ I am talking about the Arab Jews. We saw them as foreigners who came from Europe more than as Jews.”

Yohanan Ben Zakai's Sephardic Synagogue, Jerusalem, 1893.

Yohanan Ben Zakai’s Sephardic Synagogue, Jerusalem, 1893.

Klein writes that the Zionist establishment invented and nurtured the idealistic image of the Jews as Hebrew-speaking tzabars — as opposed to the Arab Jew. The myth of the tzabar was formed by a culture of immigrants who wanted to see themselves as natives. Maps were redrawn and Arab names of places were ignored or changed to Hebrew names. This was done not only to transform the immigrants into natives, but also to inherit the place of those who were here before. When Yosef Shlush, one of the founders of Tel Aviv, complained that he was attacked by Arabs, the heads of Jaffa’s Arab clans responded: “Who is at fault for all these incidents if not the Bolsheviks you brought from Moscow?”

The first part of the book, which describes life before the Nakba and the 1967 War, is full of historical anecdotes on how Zionism was viewed by the Palestinian leadership. Salim al-Husseini, the mayor of Jerusalem at the end of the 19th century, is quoted: “This is not a political movement as much as it is a settler movement, and I am sure that not a single intelligent, wise Zionist does not imagine the idea of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine.” Najib Azuri, a Maronite Christian from Lebanon who served in the Ottoman administration in Jerusalem and was one of the harbingers of Arab nationalism, said this in 1905: “Both these movements will be resigned to continually struggle until one wins out, the fate of the entire world rests on the results of this struggle between two nations who represent two opposing principles.”

Jamil al-Husseini said in 1914 that Zionism must be fought since its success may bring about the dispossession of Palestinians from their land, while Musa Kazim Pasha al-Husayni, who briefly served as Jerusalem’s mayor and became a famous Palestinian leader, said that, “the Arabs or their leaders do not hate the Jews as Jews. On the contrary, they want Jews present in the framework of an Arab federation… but the Arabs do not agree in any way that a minority of residents say that… they are the lords of the land… we believe that the Jews need to enjoy the rights they deserve relative to their numbers.”

It is not that the first part of the book is bereft of violence, riots, murder, and clashes between groups — but there is some kind of balance. One group kills, the other responds, then they reconcile and go back to living together. Until the next time.

Beyond history

IDF soldiers expel the residents of Imwas from their village during the 1967 Six Day War. (photo: www.palestineremembered.com)

IDF soldiers expel the residents of Imwas from their village during the 1967 Six Day War. (photo: www.palestineremembered.com)

The second half of the book describes what happened after the Nakba, and it is far more pessimistic. Klein claims that 1948 and 1967 were not two separate wars, but rather two rounds of the same war, basing his theory on a convincing comparison and many testimonies from both Jews and Palestinians. He writes about the expulsion of Palestinian from their homes, which were then re-populated by Jews — both in ’48 and ’67.

He describes the stories of refugees who returned to visit their homes and properties that were taken in 1947, and the meetings with the new residents who weren’t always happy to see the refugees. Supreme Court Justice Zvi Berenson, who lived in a Palestinian home, refused to show the house to its former owners, claiming that he had invested much money in renovations. A different refugee who arrived at her old home ran into a Jewish immigrant from Poland who argued that the Poles took her old home, in an attempt to justify the fact that she has done the same thing to the Palestinian standing before her.

Even the personal relationships between Jews and Muslims were disrupted by the wars, such as the one between Ishak Musa al-Husseini and his childhood friend Yaacov Yehoshua. Both studied together and remained friends until they were separated by the 1948 war. After ’67, Yehoshua became a top Israeli clerk, while al-Husseini, whose family lived in the West Bank, came to his Jewish friend to ask for help in retrieving his family’s property. Yehoshua decided not to help him, writing in is journal: “It turns out that you have yet to come to terms with the new Jew — the same one you scorned in the past has now become a brave soldier, a tank crewman, a pilot.”

The old church in Kfer Bir'im. (photo: Activestills.org)

The old church in Kafr Bir’im. The Palestinian villagers were expelled from their homes two years after the founding of the State of Israel. (photo: Activestills.org)

Klein moves along the years, looking at various failed co-existence initiatives, at the activities of settler organization Elad, until the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in 2014 and consequences it had on the residents of the West Bank.

This is where Klein goes from being a historian to being a journalist. “History” is traditionally thought of as something that happened over 30 years ago. Klein takes a dangerous step and tries to connect history to current events. I am of the opinion that the two ought to be separated, while the thorough understanding of the beginning of the last century is replaced by a clouded look at recent events. This creates a feeling in which the reader becomes immersed in the current worldview of the author.

Lives in Common is not a history book, for better or for worse. It is full of lost anecdotes, moving journal entries and memories by the author himself from his childhood in Jerusalem. Klein, a professor of political science at Bar Ilan University, walks the line between being a historian and a writer with a clear, formulated worldview that he has no intention of hiding. He is able to open a door to a time that was purposefully forgotten by the Israeli education system, and show a different reality that existed before the rise of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism.

Despite the wars and passage of time, Klein is able to show that, just maybe, there is hope for a shared life in this land — after all, that reality already existed. He proposes that the two nations, which have been fighting over the same piece of land for the past 100 years, may just be able to go back to living together.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog o139.org, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is also a blogger.

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    1. Gustav

      Yea but the author forgot to mention this article written about the Jews of Jerusalem by Karl Marx in 1854…


      “the sedentary population of Jerusalem numbers about 15,500 souls, of whom 4,000 are Mussulmans and 8,000 Jews. The Mussulmans, forming about a fourth part of the whole, and consisting of Turks, Arabs and Moors, are, of course, the masters in every respect, as they are in no way affected with the weakness of their Government at Constantinople. Nothing equals the misery and the sufferings of the Jews at Jerusalem, inhabiting the most filthy quarter of the town, called hareth-el-yahoud, the quarter of dirt, between the Zion and the Moriah, where their synagogues are situated – the constant objects of Mussulman oppression and intolerance”

      Myths anyone?

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        I logged into the Jewish Review of Books ( http://jewishreviewofbooks.com ) and the article by Shlomo Avineri goes on to say:

        (Marx continues):He points out that the Jews of Jerusalem are not natives, but hail from different and distant countries, “and are only attracted to Jerusalem by the desire of inhabiting the Valley of Jehoshaphat and to die on the very place where the redemption is to be expected.”

        The rest of the article by Avineri is quite interesting but you have to log in. But do think there will come a time when you step out of your time machine? It’s 2016.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        And actually the link you provided contains the same quote from Marx – you just forgot to mention it:

        The Jews, however, are not natives, but from different and distant countries, and are only attracted to Jerusalem by the desire of inhabiting the Valley of Jehosaphat, and to die in the very places where the redemptor is to be expected.

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          And your point is? That it is kosher to oppress non natives? If so, can the Europeans oppress Muslim immigrants to Europe? Or is that different because they are not Jews?

          Remember, in 1854 modern Zionism did not yet exist.

          Are you saying there were no native Jews in Palestine in 1854? Or way before that even? Because if you are saying that, then you are wrong!

          Reply to Comment
          • Bruce Gould

            No, it is not kosher to oppress non-natives, nor is it kosher to conduct home demolitions, steal the water and resources of Palestinians or put several million of them in an open air prison.

            There were periods in history when Jews and Palestinians got along reasonably well, as the article demonstrates. But in 1854 Jerusalem was filled with religious nuts who were having a hard time fitting in. I have never denied that Jews have a historical connection to the land of Israel, I just deny that their rights are exclusive.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Religious nuts? Do you know that they were nuts? Were you there? Just because one practices one’s religion, they ain’t necessarily nuts. Unless you claim that all honest to goodness practicing Muslims are nuts?

            What is it with you? You reject Zionism, we know that. But I didn’t know that you reject Judaism itself.

            Anyway, the reference that I gave you demonstrates that contrary to the book mentioned in this article, even before Zionism, Palestine was not the utopia that the book claims. It certainly wasn’t the cozy picture that it tries to create. Of course it wasn’t black and white. It was the same as everywhere else for Jews. Sometimes they were treated like human beings and sometimes they were not. The point is that we were dependent on the good will and whim of others. That is why we need the Jewish state. That is why we need Zionism.

            And stop pretending that Zionism is the one that claims exclusivity. We always recognize that the land of our ancestors have a people who have become natives. We tried the peaceful way to accommodate them, we agreed to the two state solution. The Arabs were the ones to reject the two state solution. You know very well that they did. In 1947, they openly rejected it and today most of them still do even as the PLO speaks out of both sides of their mouths. Of course, Hamas still openly rejects the two state solution.

            Reply to Comment
          • Afiq

            The Europeans should oppress the muslims and sent them back to Syria. But first, stop funding money to rebel groups and stop creating failed states. European as well as the US had cause millions of deaths in the middle east, now its time for them to pay the price. Jews came here, after they were rejected from the Europeans. These Jews does not want to fit in with the local Palestinian cultures and treat the country as their own. Whenever a muslim go to Europe and refused to assimilate, that muslim will be branded terrorist, conservative, stupid, radicals, you name it. However, the same so called Jewish refugees from Europe refused to do the same thing when they came to Palestine. Muslim don’t take over the possession of the local people properties in Europe nor did they ever demand(Violently), for Europe to become a Muslim country living under muslim rule. Jews from Europe came to this country and start confiscating peoples properties and start demanding violently to set the country as a Jewish state. So MR Gustav. For you to even consider making a comparison between Europe and Syrian refugees to the Jewish Exodus of the land of Palestine is a such a weak lame excuse. What if I come to your house today and demanding you to get out of your house because your land used to be my religion original land. Would you vacate your property?

            Reply to Comment
      • David

        Blame their Ottoman rulers at the time, not Palestine’s native Arab inhabitants.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Carmen

      This is just a portion of the entire commentary.

      Commentary from Middle East Policy Council

      The Original “No”: Why the Arabs Rejected Zionism, and Why It Matters

      Natasha Gill

      Dr. Gill is a research associate at Barnard College and a former professor of conflict studies at The New School University. She is the founder and director of TRACK4, which runs negotiation simulations for diplomats, mediators, journalists, policy makers, students and community leaders.
      June 19, 2013

      A viable peace process does not require either party to embrace or even recognize the legitimacy of the other’s narrative. It requires that both have an informed and non-reductionist understanding of what this narrative consists of, come to terms with the fact that it cannot be wished away, and recognize that elements of it will make their way to the negotiating table and have to be addressed.

      What confusion would ensue all the world over if this principle on which the Jews base their “legitimate” claim were carried out in other parts of the world! What migrations of nations must follow! The Spaniards in Spain would have to make room for the Arabs and Moors who conquered and ruled their country for over 700 years…

      — Palestine Arab Delegation, Observations on the High Commissioner’s Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine during the period 1st July 1920 – 30th June 1921

      The Palestinian Arabs said No to the idea that in the 20th century a people who last lived in Palestine in large numbers over 2000 years ago could claim, on the basis of a religious text, rights to the land where the current inhabitants had been living for a millennium and a half.

      They did not base their rejection on a denial of Jewish historical and religious ties to the Holy Land. Rather, they said No to the idea that highly secularized Jews arriving from Europe, who seemed to abjure religious life, manners and practices, could use the Bible to support a political project of a Jewish state in an already populated and settled land.

      Nor did they deny the suffering of the Jews, or the pogroms and persecution they were experiencing in Western and Eastern Europe at the time. On the contrary, many of the most vocal critics of Zionism were extremely aware of Jewish suffering, as they were unsettled by the impact it was having on the British support for the project of the Jewish National Home. What they said no to was the idea that the Jews’ humanitarian plight granted them special political and national rights in Palestine, and that those Jewish rights should trump Arab rights. The Arabs said No to the idea that they should pay the price for longstanding Christian persecution of the Jews, and they expressed deep resentment at the hypocrisy of the Europeans, who were promoting a home for the Jews in Palestine as they closed their own doors to the victims of Christian/European anti-Semitism.

      There is nothing shocking or strange about Arabs considering Zionist Jews coming from Europe an “alien implant” in Palestine, and resenting that.2 The logic of most national and proto-national movements — with Zionism hardly an exception — is that outsiders are a threat, and the definition of both “outsiders” and “threat” are influenced by the shifting needs and interests of each movement in its defining moments. In response to Zionism, the Arabs pointed out that the laws of territorial possession were accepted worldwide: had they not been, the Arabs could reconquer and reclaim Spain, a country they reigned over for longer and more recently than the Jews did Palestine. In the view of the Palestinian Arabs, regardless of whether Jews were genuinely attached to or had a history in Palestine, the appeal to the Bible was not strong enough to overturn the rules of a modern, secular world order.

      The Arabs and Palestinians still today are taken to task for not having shown enough compassion for Jewish suffering and welcomed them to take refuge in Palestine. But while many Jews can make an intuitive connection between the predicament they faced between the turn of the century and the 1940s and their need for a state, there is no reason that for other parties compassion for Jewish suffering would naturally translate this into an acceptance of Zionism, either then or now. This is especially so in the case of the Arabs in the early years of the conflict, who knew that Zionism would negatively affect their lives in the future.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        The Arabs could and still can reject us but there are consequences to that. We don’t have to say, ohhhh noooo, the Arabs reject us so we need to skulk off elsewhere.

        The fact is that in the mid 1800s, there were about 250,000 people in all of Palestine. Only a portion of the land was cultivated. The country wasn’t ruled by Arabs and the then rulers were happy to see immigrants coming in who had an interest in redeeming lands because they felt historical ties to the land. Yes, historical, not necessarily biblical. Plenty of archaelogical and historical accounts exist to verify the connection of the Jewish people to the land that the Roman colonizers renamed as Palestine.

        Natasha Gill seems to have overlooked the above pertinent facts. She also seems to have overlooked the facts that many if not most countries are populated by people who got there either through conquest or mass immigration. Therefore there is nothing illegitimate about the progressive return of Jews to our ancestral homeland whether we were religious or secular. Heck, many of the Arabs got here through conquest or immigration as well.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jan

          Yes many people have come to different places but in the 20th century how many of these people demanded that the land be theirs while they dispossessed the people already on the land leaving them stateless? That wasn’t supposed to happen after World War 2.

          Reply to Comment
        • Eric

          by 1898 the Population of Palestine was 400,000 90% of witch was Palestinian Arab Christian/Muslim 10% Jewish the land was Flowing with milk and honey in the form of olive tree and citrus groves centuries before the Zionist invasion. Can we stop recycling discredited Zionist myths about Palestine? They no place in 21st century discourse

          Reply to Comment
        • Carmen

          The problem is to deal with the here and now and as long as the conversation is steered back to who was here first, there won’t be any progression. Zionism is the elephant in the room and has to be seen for what it is, a nationalist movement that has chosen to claim a land that wasn’t empty at all. And the intention of ben gurion was to re-settle (sound familiar) as many of the indigenous people as possible, but the bloodshed it entailed made even him uncomfortable. So what’s left to do? Dr. Gill can tell you again: “A viable peace process does not require either party to embrace or even recognize the legitimacy of the other’s narrative. It requires that both have an informed and non-reductionist understanding of what this narrative consists of, come to terms with the fact that it cannot be wished away, and recognize that elements of it will make their way to the negotiating table and have to be addressed.”

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            The fact is that in the mid 1800s, there were about 250,000 people in all of Palestine. Only a portion of the land was cultivated. The country wasn’t ruled by Arabs and the then rulers were happy to see immigrants coming in who had an interest in redeeming lands because they felt historical ties to the land. Yes, historical, not necessarily biblical. Plenty of archaelogical and historical accounts exist to verify the connection of the Jewish people to the land that the Roman colonizers renamed as Palestine.

            Natasha Gill seems to have overlooked the above pertinent facts. She also seems to have overlooked the facts that many if not most countries are populated by people who got there either through conquest or mass immigration. Therefore there is nothing illegitimate about the progressive return of Jews to our ancestral homeland whether we were religious or secular. Heck, many of the Arabs got here through conquest or immigration as well.

            As for Natasha’s suggestion to ignore the other’s narrative, no we won’t allow the rise of a hostile nation bent on our destruction on our very door step. So no we can’t ignore their narrative which involves their plan for our destruction.

            Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            I don’t see where Dr. Gill suggests “ignoring” each other’s narrative anywhere, but not to “require” legitimacy of each other’s narratives. These are two very different issues. Surely at this point in time we can move forward, respecting each other but not to require one party to legitimize the other.

            The zionist propaganda insists there are ‘no such people’ as Palestinians. Maybe if Netanyahoo and all of israel stop denying the existence of this very real population, real conversation can take place. If the majority of israeli Jews feel that Palestinians are beasts, that extrajudicial executions are just fine and that there is no problem with separate laws or hospital beds for Palestinians, the future looks very bleak.

            Reply to Comment
          • ish yehudi

            the exact parallel to Jewish deconstruction of Palestinian-hood, is the Palesitnian peoples resistance to seeing Jews as how we self-define ourselves- as a nation. This is one of the core elements before peace- because as long as Israel is viewed as a colonial/ foreign entity and Judaism held as a wonderful religion, Israel has no reason to be accepted. This “non-reductionist understanding” of the others narrative is indeed key to ending the conflict. When Jews/Israelis can acknowledge that yes- the land from the river to the sea is Palestine, and the Palestinians can say, these are the Jewish people for whom this land is their national home- we will have a foundation for peace. Until then…
            In Gills description of the Arab rejection of Zionism she writes:
            “Rather, they said No to the idea that highly secularized Jews arriving from Europe, who seemed to abjure religious life, manners and practices, could use the Bible to support a political project of a Jewish state in an already populated and settled land.” Jews- religious and secular- identified with our connection to the land as a people- the family then tribe then nation that came from Abraham and Sarah. Judaism is just our religion- some of us practice, some not- but this deeply underlies the Palestinian sense that Israel will not last…

            Reply to Comment
    3. Carmen

      “According to Ottoman statistics studied by Justin McCarthy, the population of Palestine in the early 19th century was 350,000, in 1860 it was 411,000 and in 1900 about 600,000 of which 94% were Arabs. In 1914 Palestine had a population of 657,000 Muslim Arabs, 81,000 Christian Arabs, and 59,000 Jews.”

      Demographic history of Palestine – Wikipedia, the free …

      Reply to Comment
      • David


        Also: In 1882, Jews privately owned a mere 0.09% of Palestine; by 1900, 0.8%; by 1930, due to the League of Nations British Mandate (instituted in 1922), which facilitated mass Jewish immigration, Jews owned 4.5% of the land; and by Nov. 29, 1947, when the recommendatory only UNGA Partition Plan (Res. 181) was adopted, Jews privately owned only between 6 and 7% of the land. Outrageously, Resolution 181 recommended Jews receive 56% of Palestine as their state.

        Regarding land ownership in West and East Jerusalem in 1947:
        The total land area of West Jerusalem (the New City) in 1947 was 19,331 dunams (about 4,833 acres) of which 40 per cent was owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians, 26.12 per cent by Jews and 13.86 per cent by others, including Christian communities. Government and municipal land made up 2.90 per cent and roads and railways 17.12 per cent. East Jerusalem (the Old City) consisted of 800 dunams (about 240 acres) of which five dunams (just over one acre) were Jewish owned and the remaining 795 dunams were owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          DAVID:”Jews privately owned only between 6 and 7% of the land”

          Yea, and this means that Arabs owned 93% – 94% of the land, right?

          Wrong!!!! The vast majority of the land was crown land, not privately owned. But Arab propagandists would have you believe that even the Negev desert which represents about 50% of the total land of Israel was privately owned Arab land.

          Ok Alex, your turn. Let’s hear a bit more of your hateful venom you impotent little mother fucker.

          Reply to Comment
          • David

            Land ownership by Sub-district in all of mandated Palestine, 1947:
            Acre: 87% Palestinian owned, 3% Jewish owned, 10% state owned; Safed: 68% Palestinian owned, 18% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Haifa: 42% Palestinian owned, 35% Jewish owned, 23% state owned; Nazareth: 52% Palestinian owned, 28% Jewish owned, 20% state owned; Tiberias: 51% Palestinian owned, 38% Jewish owned, 11% state owned; Jenin: 84% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 16% state owned; Beisan: 44% Palestinian owned, 34% Jewish owned, 22% state owned; Tulkarm: 78% Palestinian owned; 17% Jewish owned, 5% state owned; Nablus: 87% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 13% state owned; Jaffa: 47% Palestinian owned, 39% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Ramleh: 77% Palestinian owned, 14% Jewish owned, 9% state owned; Ramallah: 99% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, less than 1% state owned; Jerusalem (West and East): 84% Palestinian owned, 2% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Gaza: 75% Palestinian owned, 4% Jewish owned, 21% state owned; Hebron: 96% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 4% state owned; Bersheeba (Negev): 15% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 85% state owned. (Village Statistics, Jerusalem: Palestine Government, 1945)

            Arab Palestinians comprised 69% of the population and privately owned (‘mulk khaas’) 48% of the land area of mandated Palestine. Jews, primarily immigrants, made up 31% of the population and privately owned between six and seven per cent of the land. About 45% of Palestine’s land area was state owned (i.e., by its citizens – only 30% of Jewish immigrants had taken out citizenship) and it was comprised of Communal Property (‘mashaa’), Endowment Property, (‘waqf’), and Government Property, (‘miri’.)

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            The statistics regarding Hevron are meanngless because all of the Jews were driven out of Hevron by 1936, largely motivated by the massacre of the Jews there in 1929.
            Regarding the other places, the declaration of the Arab world of a genocidal Jihad against the Jewish yishuv in the wake of the 1947 UN Partition resolution , ultimately leading to the defeat of the Arab side explains why land distribution figures by ethnicity are different today than they were in 1945.

            Reply to Comment
          • David

            You provide no evidence whatsoever to prove your assertion that the evacuation of Jews from Hebron by the British in 1936 when the Palestinian Great Rebellion began bore any relationship to the percentage of Hebron’s land owned by Jews in 1945.

            Regarding Hebron:

            In 1925, Vladimir Jabotinsky, a Zionist zealot from Poland, founded the fascistic Betar or Brown Shirts along with the Revisionist Party (origin of today’s Likud) which advocated “revision” of the British Mandate to include forcible Jewish colonization of then Transjordan in addition to Palestine. Such Jewish extremism, along with the racist rants of Rabbi Kook and threats against the Dome of the Rock by Revisionist demonstrators led to the terrible and bloody riots of 1929, resulting in the deaths of 133 Jews in Hebron and elsewhere.

            Although never referred to by Israel and its supporters, hundreds of Hebron’s Jews were taken in and protected by Muslims. Tragically, 64 of Hebron’s Jews died, but 650 were saved. Throughout the country 133 Jews were killed and 339 wounded while Palestinians suffered 116 dead and 232 wounded (mostly at the hands of the British.)

            Vincent Sheean, an eminent American journalist who arrived in Palestine as a pro-Zionist just days before the riots erupted, was shocked at what he saw: As he later wrote: “I was bitterly indignant with the Zionists for having, as I believed, brought on the disaster…. [W]hy couldn’t the Zionists leave it [Palestine] alone, it would never hold enough Jews to make even a beginning towards the solution of the Jewish problem; it would always be a prey to such ghastly horrors as those I saw everyday and every night….” (Vincent Sheean, Personal History, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. 1935)

            Bitterly ironic is the fact that most Jews living in Hebron in 1929 were anti-Zionist. They were the descendants of the Sephardim who had founded the city’s Jewish Quarter near the tomb of the Patriarchs in the 1500’s after Jews were expelled from Spain and then welcomed and given sanctuary in the Arab world. Their numbers increased somewhat during the early 1900’s with the arrival of Hasidim from Poland who came to study. Many Muslims who were driven out of Spain by the Christians also moved to Hebron. Prior to Zionism, Jews and Muslims lived together harmoniously in Hebron for 400 years with the Jews always forming a small minority. There were very few if any Christians in the city.

            The friendship that existed between Muslims and Jews in Hebron was attested to by Israeli journalist Chaim Hanegbi, whose great grandfather was the city’s last Rabbi: “My grandfather lived very peacefully with his Arab neighbours…. His family joined the grape harvest every year, and the [Muslim] neighbours cooked kosher food so the Jews could share the feasts with them.” (Canada’s Globe and Mail, February 18, 1997)

            It should also be noted that in the spirit of reconciliation, Hebron’s mayor has stated publicly that he and his fellow Muslims would welcome the descendants of the city’s Jews if they chose to return and replace the Zionist fanatics who are presently there.

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    4. i_like_ike52

      Ah yes, yet another attempt to define for us Jews what we really are and that supposedly is that we are NOT a people, just an amorphous mass adhering , more or less, to some sort of particular religious doctrine. Just as, before 1933 there were no “Jews” in Germany, there were only “Germans of the Mosaic religion”, Klein wants us to think that what we call today the “Edot haMizrach” were really “Arabs of the Mosaic faith” or possibly “Palestinian nationalists of the Mosaic religion” who supposedly feels more of a connection with the Palestinian Muslim than he does with the Ashkenazi Jew.
      If things were so good in the Arab Middle East, why did over 90% of the Jews in those countries leave them? I know the answer…they were supposedly “brainwashed” by those nefarious Zionists into not believing what their own experience which you are claiming that “the Jews had it very good in the Arab countries” but somehow thinking that there was pervasive antisemitism/Judeophobia there. Of course, the implication is that these Edot HaMizrach Jews are really “unintelligent” which then supposedly leaves them open to that Zionist “brainwashing”. If the Jews fled these countries, in reality, it is NOT because of “Brainwashing” but because of experience. I have numerous Edot HaMizrach relatives and friends and NOT ONE of them considers himself an “Arab” not do those who remember the “old country” believe that the Arab Muslims there considered the Jews “fellow Arabs”.

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    5. Ben

      An interesting account that subverts the stock hasbara line that “they have always just hated us and they attacked us simply because we were not Arabs and it had nothing to do with our aggressions.” This narrative of forcible colonization by Zionist zealots versus the relations between native anti-Zionist Jews and native Arabs needs more exploration. This article by Rotem and these posts by David and others are an interesting start.

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    6. Asha

      This whole episode reminds one of all the post-colonial partitions whether on the indian sub continent or in the middle east. All these conflicts simmer on.
      Hopefully the parties in question will realize that they have to come to a common and humane solution- no foreign powers are going to make this happen. They have a common land and an uncommon destiny to share- better to live and share in peace rather than constant escalating tensions.

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      More than 2000 algerians were displaced and settled in many villages in golan in 1860 .And they are still there .

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