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Late Ottoman History of Palestine

Panel VII-7, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
The field of Palestinian studies has largely focused on the political and economic history of Palestine, particularly in the aftermath of the Nakba. Similarly, within the realm of cultural studies, a large portion of the attention has been directed toward literature and music. As Beshara Doumani points out, the symbolic and religious significance of Palestine as well as the century-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict “has resulted in … thousands of books and articles [that] have focused high-powered beams on particular periods, subjects, and themes deemed worthy of study.” Furthermore, it resulted in “entire centuries, whole social groups, and a wide range of fundamental issues remain obscure.” (Doumani, 1995) This panel aims to shed light on these obscure aspects of Palestinian history, specifically focusing on the time period prior to the arrival of British colonialism in the early 20th century. By examining the history of Palestine through various perspectives and methodologies, the panel aims to demonstrate the importance of studying Palestinian history beyond the teleology of colonialism and dispossession. The panel will raise questions regarding the intellectual, cultural, and social history of the Palestinian people during the 18th and 19th centuries. By delving into these aspects of history, the panel hopes to paint a more comprehensive picture of the Palestinian experience, beyond the narrow focus that often emphasizes colonialism and conflict. The panel will probe the late Ottoman history of Palestine, the development of Palestinian society and culture, and its interaction with the Arab/Islamic context. The panel aims to demonstrate the significance of studying the rich and diverse history of the Palestinian people and, in doing so, provide a more nuanced understanding of the Palestinian experience and its place in the larger Middle Eastern historical narrative.
  • This study connects the dots between the 19th century history of Palestine and modern Arab/Islamic thought by delving into the intellectual history of Palestine during the pivotal 19th century era of Islamic reformism. Despite a wealth of research on modern Arab and Islamic thought in Egypt (e.g., Adams 1933; Gibb 1947; Hourani 1962) and to a lesser extent in other regions such as Syria, Lebanon, and North Africa (e.g., Commins 1990; Sahar 2010), the intellectual history of pre-mandate Palestine has been under-explored. Previous studies on pre-mandate Palestine have primarily focused on its social and cultural history (e.g., Doumani 1995; Tucker 2000). The purpose of this paper is to examine the intellectual history of the renowned al-Khalidi family of Jerusalem. By analyzing five prominent family members, including Ali, Muhammad Ali, Yasin, Yusuf Dia, and Ruhi al-Khalidi, the paper showcases the changes in the family's intellectual and social standing during a time of transformation and modernization. The results indicate that the advent of "intellectual" and "politician" as new categories came at the expense of the traditional roles of qāḍī (judge) and faqīh (jurist). The first two figures, Ali (d. 1816) and Muhammad Ali (d. 1864), embody the intellectual and social conditions of the traditional Ottoman era. They held the prestigious and influential post of deputy qāḍī of Jerusalem, and their social status was derived from their adherence to the traditional system of jurisprudence and the school of law (fiqh). Yasin (d. 1901) and Yusuf Dia (d. 1906), however, signal a shift in the significance of these traditional social roles, which coincided with the political reform of the Ottoman Empire. Yasin first became a qāḍī after completing his traditional education and then was appointed as mayor. Yusuf Dia, Yasin's younger brother, continued this trajectory of change by obtaining modern education in a Protestant school and later serving as the mayor of Jerusalem and a member of the Chamber of Deputies. The final figure, Ruhi al-Khalidi (d. 1913), represents the final stage of the transformation, having received a modern education and being fluent in multiple languages. He held several political posts, including a member of parliament and consul of the Ottoman Empire in Bordeaux, France. Through the examination of these five figures, this paper sheds light on the previously overlooked intellectual history of Palestine in the 19th century
  • Mr. Carter Barnett
    In 1891, British medical missionaries from the Church Missionary Society established what they proudly announced as the first modern hospital in Gaza. They promised that their small, 10-bed hospital, called dār ʿabd al-nūr, would replace existing remedies with innovative medical treatments. This paper complicates their claim, and the rise of Western biomedicine in Palestine more broadly, by examining how patients sought medical care in 19th-century Gaza. Reading against the grain of the missionary records reveals a more competitive medical economy in which Palestinian patients received care from a diversity of healers before consulting the missionary hospital as a last resort. Furthermore, the medical treatments offered at the hospital resembled existing practices more than the missionary discourse suggested. In many cases, the medical treatments of Hippocratic-Galenic and Prophetic medicine, interwoven into the Palestinian social fabric, mirrored the prescriptions and treatments found at the hospital. This continuity betrays the role patients played in negotiating the terms of care that shaped the medical landscape in Gaza. A patient-centric approach complements a growing body of scholarship concerned with the social history of Palestine prior to British colonialism. Bringing Palestinian patients to the foreground, however, does not mean ignoring networks that linked Palestinian medicine to global developments. Rather than dismissing the role of British physicians in the medical history of Gaza, this paper untangles the patients' voice from their source material. By placing British missionaries, Palestinian healers and Gazan patients in conversation, this paper challenges the teleology of Western biomedicine in Palestine and highlights the diversity of the 19th-century Palestinian medical economy.
  • Mr. Zachary Foster
    Palestine is an idea in people’s minds, not a geological or topographical or physical reality in the natural world. This paper examines what the people of Palestine thought about this idea of Palestine from 1600-1850. For many decades, the conventional wisdom was that Palestine was forgotten sometime after the Crusader conquest until its late 19th century revival. This paper challenges the conventional wisdom on the issue through an in-depth examination of court records, travelogs, legal opinions, biographical dictionaries and chronicles. My argument is that, first, since Palestine was a political unit during Byzantine and early Islamic periods, and since Christian and Islamic literature got canonized, the idea of Palestine was infused in 17th, 18th and 19th century works in history, biography, hagiography, Hadith and Bible studies, travel and merits literature, and even jurisprudence produced by the people of Palestine. In other words, Muslim and Christian scholars in Palestine continued to cite the earlier sources of their cannon throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and so Palestine continued to be remembered despite its political retreat. And, second, my argument is that the people from Ramla and its surroundings called the region, “Palestine,” to describe their current place of residence, including folks like The scholar Abu al-‘Awn Muhammad al-Ghazzi al-Shafi‘i al- Faruqi (d.1504), Khayr al-Din al-Ramli (d. 1671), Najm al-Din (fl. 1718) and Yusuf Jahshan (c. 1760s). That’s because the city of Ramla was the political capital of the District of Palestine in the early Islamic period and its economic hub for hundreds of years thereafter. It lay at the crossroads of the key trading routes within the District of Palestine as well as the route connecting Damascus to Cairo, and so the idea of Palestine persisted in Ramla. Palestine was part of the geographical lexicon for learned Christian and Muslims Arabs of Palestine throughout the period of study, and it held special importance for the people of Ramla.