The southern Palestine Bedouin tribes and British Mandate relations, 1917-48: Resistance to colonialism

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Abstract

It is usually claimed that the Naqab Bedouin were passive and silent and that they posed no threat, agency, or resistance to the British Mandate-a simplistic and poorly supported characterization of a more complex and nuanced relationship. The author maintains that the Bedouins' violent and political resistance to British governance peaked during the Great Revolt (1936-39) and that they played an important administrative role in managing Palestine's southern district, since without their influence in securing the borders of the colonial state and their substantial organizational role in Beersheba, the Mandate could have not survived in a region dominated by a powerful Bedouin tribal society. Findings from British and Israeli archives and from in-depth interviews conducted between 2007 and 2010 in the Naqab (southern Israel) with key individuals from the Beersheba Bedouin community, and in the United Kingdom with British Mandate officials, suggest that between 1917 and 1948 the Bedouin resisted the British authorities through various forms and mechanisms. Bedouin agency and resistance during this era are shown to have been much more substantial than previously understood. By resisting the colonial state, the Bedouin played a significant role in southern Palestine, despite strong attempts by the colonial state to control and influence them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-335
Number of pages31
JournalArab World Geographer
Volume14
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Bedouin tribes
  • Beersheba
  • Land ownership
  • Naqab
  • Resistance
  • Tribal courts

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