Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

History Lesson for today The origins of the collapse of Palestinian society

 


What caused the collapse of Palestinian society? In addition to serious cleavages dating to Ottoman times that existed in local Arab society, it was the absence of an alternative Arab infrastructure after the British pulled out of Mandate Palestine. Because Palestinian Arab society had been so dependent on British civil administration and social services, Britain’s departure left Arab civil servants jobless. As a result, most social services and civil administration ceased to function in the Arab sector, disrupting the flow of essential commodities such as food and fuel, which added to their hardships and uncertainties.

In contrast, Jewish society in Palestine, or the Yishuv as it was called in Hebrew, had established its own civil society over the span of three decades under the Mandate. The Yishuv created its own representative political bodies and social and economic institutions, including health and welfare services, a public transport network, and a thriving, sophisticated marketing system for manufactured goods and food—in short, a state-in-the-making. It was best described by the 1934 British report to the League of Nations:

“During the last two or three generations the Jews have recreated in Palestine a community, now numbering 80,000, of whom about one-fourth are farmers or workers upon the land. This community has its own political organs, an elected assembly for the direction of its domestic concerns, elected councils in the towns, and an organization for the control of its schools. It has its elected Chief Rabbinate and Rabbinical Council for the direction of its religious affairs. Its business is conducted in Hebrew as a vernacular language, and a Hebrew press serves its needs. It has its distinctive intellectual life and displays considerable economic activity. This community, then, with its town and country population, its political, religious and social organizations, its own language, its own customs, its own life, has in fact ‘national’ characteristics.”

During that same period, the Arabs of Palestine, however, had invested all of their energies into fighting any form of Jewish polity-in-the-making. Although the British encouraged creation of an Arab Agency parallel to the Jewish Agency that had orchestrated and financed development of the Jewish sector, a similar Arab organization failed to develop. So it was no surprise that when the British departed, the Palestinian Arabs remained unorganized and ill-prepared not only for statehood (which they rejected in any case), but also for sustained conflict with their Jewish adversaries. In the end, the war caused horrific casualties for the Jews and left thousands of Palestinian Arabs without their homes.

 

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