If the Palestinian Arabs were constant in their antipathy toward Zionism, this did not usually take the form of hostility to Jewish immigration. Yapp points out that "From 1923 to 1926, a period when many Jews entered Palestine, the country was quiet. In 1929, at a time when Jewish immigration was at an all time low, the most serious riots until that time occurred." Often, the immediate cause of hostility to the arriving Jews was the disappropriation of fellaheen, while a more generalised hostility to Zionism had developed among Palestinians, and particularly in the Arab press. The opposition to Zionism was not delimited by class, but different layers of Palestinian society responded to it differently.That Lenin must have got some good books for Christmas.
Rashid Khalidi, in his efforts to demonstrate that there was a coherent Palestinian identity long before the Zionists’ comprehensive victory in 1948, discloses that most of those who sold their land to the Zionists prior to 1948 were non-Palestinian absentee landlords for whom it was no more than a mere economic transaction. However, David Hirst points out that a large number of Palestinian political leaders did sell their land to the Zionists and were met with no more than verbal abuse – often hypocritical abuse at that, since many of those who waxed indignant about it had indulged in the practise themselves.
Further, as Khalidi acknowledges, there was a clear class dimension involved in the land sales, which intersected with the national dimension: the fellaheen were least inclined to sell their land to the Zionists, while large landowners were most inclined to do so. Class was also an important dimension in the relationship between Arab and Jewish workers: if the Arab antipathy to Zionism and the anti-Arab practises of the Histradut (Zionist trade union) weren’t enough to prevent solidarity where it might otherwise have taken place, the generally privileged position of migrant Jews in the economy made it even more improbable. And if it is true, as Khalidi suggests, that most of those who sold their land to Zionists were non-Palestinian, it is also true that many of those who joined in Palestinian uprisings, especially in 1936, were non-Palestinians. The inspiration for the uprising derived, to some extent, from similar disturbances in Egypt and Syria, and there was considerable popular pressure on the semi-autonomous governments of those countries to support the Palestinian struggle.
Palestinian nationalism was both contiguous with and often surpassed by Arab nationalism. Nevertheless, the refusal of large numbers of the domestic elite to sell their land to Zionists was an important element binding the emerging political leadership with the masses of peasant workers. And it adverted to the increasingly widespread recognition that Palestine would be a separate national state, formalised at the Third Arab Congress at Haifa in 1920. If it was the fellaheen who initiated and drove the anti-British and anti-Zionist insurgency, the notable families and elites that made up the more conservative Arab leadership were if nothing else obliged by pressure to remonstrate with the British rulers in militant language.
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