A searching contribution to the history of the troubles in Palestine by Wall Street Journal reporter and former Middle East correspondent Marcus.
Many Western historians locate the birth of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the British Mandate, which governed Palestine from 1920 to 1948. Marcus pushes the date back to 1913, when the Zionist movement had established itself in Palestine and begun to enlist European settlers, mostly from Russia. One recruiting device, a film by Russian Zionist Noah Sokolovsky of the Jewish enterprise, conveyed “a pulsing nationalism that did not need words or sound to vividly express itself.” Arab leaders, naturally, were wary of such expressions of nationalism, and as the Zionist presence grew and with it Arab resentment, the previously broadly agreed upon “notion of a country made up of various peoples united by a common identity seemed to be receding.” To the credit of both, the Zionist and Arab leadership made efforts at détente, or perhaps even entente, during an international conference devoted to dismantling the Ottoman Empire. However, the growing numbers of Jews in the Arab land spawned violence and terrorist actions; the infamous “Rehovot incident” sharply divided the two camps, and with that came an end to the idea that a multiethnic secular state might emerge once the Ottomans left. Leaders such as the German-born attorney Arthur Ruppin foresaw that the problem would only grow, and he encouraged the development of the kibbutz system and Jewish settlements that were located close to one another for easier defense, quickening the pace of land acquisition and with it Jewish immigration. Interestingly, Marcus notes, the Turkish government recently released some 14,000 pages of documents related to land sales in and around Jerusalem. “It wasn’t clear yet what the archive would reveal,” she writes, “but the shadow cast by 1913 seemed to loom ever larger over the city’s future.”
A thoughtful, well-written addition to the literature on a bitterly debated subject.