Map to illustrate the Agreements of 1916 in regard to Asia Minor, etc., London, 1918: Map Areas referred to in the Agreements between Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy. Photo: Archive Editions 1999 via Flickr
Map to illustrate the Agreements of 1916 in regard to Asia Minor, etc., London, 1918: Map Areas referred to in the Agreements between Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy. Photo: Archive Editions 1999 via Flickr

Developments in Palestine between 1905 and 1948 can be analysed with reference to increasing tensions between two different colonial pacts emerging in the same territory. One was between Britain and the Palestinians, the other was between Britain and the Zionist movement.

The pacts that Britain established with the indigenous Palestinians, on the one hand, and the emerging Zionist Organization, on the other, were strongly imbalanced in favour of the Zionists. This imbalance was not only expressed in practical day-to-day imperial policies, but also in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine which incorporated the 1917 British Balfour Declaration. The Declaration is (in)famous for its recognition of the right of the Jewish people to establish a “national home” in Palestine, without at the same time clarifying the implication this would have for the right of the Palestinian people to national self-determination. (At the time the Jewish community in Palestine (Yishuv) comprised about 10 % of the population). Thus, the World Zionist Organization was authorised by the imperial government to develop self-governing institutions within the Yishuv that laid the foundations for what became the State of Israel (1948) and, indeed, its enduring conflict with the Palestinians.

In this seminar, the dual process of state formation in the Levant is compared with other processes of state formation in the region at the same time, in particular with settler colonialism in Algeria and with the kinds of colonial pacts that evolved in other states formed in the former Ottoman Arab area (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq).

In addition, comparisons of Palestine with South Africa and Ireland are also of interest, since all these conflicts posed major challenges for British foreign policies in the relevant period. Furthermore, the formation of the Yishuv institutions influenced the full formation of the independent state of Israel after 1948. Ultimately, the present stage of the conflict between Israel and Palestine can be understood with the help of this conceptual framework.

The presentation draws on the following research publication: Lars Mjøset, Nils Butenschøn, Kristian Berg Harpviken and Roel Meijer, A Conceptual Map for Comparison of State Formation and Nation Building in the Middle East 1870-1918, pp. 71-158 in Mjøset, Butenschøn & Harpviken (eds), A Comparative Historical and Typological Approach to the Middle Eastern State System: Taking Stein Rokkan’s Ambitions Beyond Europe. Vol. 36 of Comparative Social Research, Leeds: Emerald 2024.

Program

Welcome and introduction

  • Fredrik Engelstad, Professor Emeritus, University of Oslo and Institute for Social Research

  • Lars Mjøset, Professor Emeritus, University of Oslo

Comments

Panel discussion

The panel discussion will be moderated by Kristian Berg Harpviken, Research Professor, PRIO

This event is co-hosted by the PRIO Middle East Centre and Institute for Social Research.