"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, November 2, 2015

Arab Christians in Mandatory Palestine

As I've argued here and elsewhere, many people still today greet the concept of Arab Christians with slack-jawed disbelief: aren't all Arabs Muslims? Or if there ever were Arab Christians, surely they were all wiped out after the seventh century? The answer to both questions is of course No. But that having been said, our knowledge of Arab Christians remains woefully underdeveloped. To the recent collection The Orthodox Church in the Arab World, 700 - 1700: An Anthology of Sources (whose editors I interviewed here) we can now add a new book by Noah Haiduc-Dale, Arab Christians in British Mandate Palestine: Communalism and Nationalism, 1917-1948 (Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 232pp.

About this book we are told:
Recent conflict in the Middle East has caused some observers to ask if Muslims and Christians can ever coexist. History suggests that relations between those two groups are not predetermined, but are the product of particular social and political circumstances. This book examines Muslim-Christian relations during an earlier period of political and social upheaval, and explores the process of establishing new forms of national and religious identification. Palestine's Arab Christian minority actively engaged with the Palestinian nationalist movement throughout the period of British rule (1917-1948). Relations between Muslim and Christian Arabs were sometimes strained, yet in Palestine, as in other parts of the world, communalism became a specific response to political circumstances. While Arab Christians first adopted an Arab nationalist identity, a series of outside pressures - including British policies, the rise of a religious conflict between Jews and Muslims, and an increase in Islamic identification among some Arabs - led Christians to adhere to more politicized religious groupings by the 1940s. Yet despite that shift Christians remained fully nationalist, insisting that they could be both Arab and Christian.

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