Rashida Tlaib’s critics have Palestinian history all wrong

At the turn of the 20th century, all three groups held great hopes that revolutionary change in the Ottoman Empire (which ruled over Palestine at the time) would lead to greater freedom and equality. They hoped to become what historian Michelle Campos calls “Ottoman Brothers.”

Inspired by growing nationalism in the region, Palestinian Arabs chafed at the centralizing policies of their Turkish rulers and started to demand greater independence in Palestine.

Ethno-nationalism in Russia and Eastern Europe took shape differently. With violence being waged against Jewish communities there, waves of Zionists (Jewish nationalists) emigrated from Russia to Palestine with aspirations of establishing a homeland of their own. But, as poignantly captured in the PBS documentary, “1913: Seeds of Conflict,” with their slogan of “Hebrew labor, Hebrew land,” they sought to establish sovereignty over Palestine, not live there as one group among many.

With the rise of competing aspirations for the same land, tensions were bound to arise. But the formalization of British colonial rule over Palestine in 1922 made matters much, much worse. The British recognized only Jewish national claims over Palestine, thereby putting Palestinian Arabs in what historian Rashid Khalidi calls “an iron cage.” If Palestinian Arabs recognized British rule over them, they were effectively giving up any hope of true independence. But if they rejected British rule, they would be seen as undeserving of self-rule.

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