Offering an insightful account of a period often neglected by historians, Salim Tamari’s book The Great War and the Remaking of Palestine provides a window into the lost world of late-Ottoman Palestine and the intricate web of political and social relations it enabled.
Despite the old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, in the case of The Great War and the Remaking of Palestine, readers can gauge a great deal from the image which has been used. The cover sports a now famous photograph of Britain’s General (later Field Marshal) Edmund Allenby entering Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate, as British forces captured the city in 1917 during the latter stages of the First World War. Towering above the scene is a colossal clock tower, erected atop the ancient gate as an homage to Ottoman modernity and progress in 1908. An American flag flies from a nearby building. The star and crescent, adopted by the Ottoman Empire as its flag in the mid-nineteenth century, can be seen reimagined in decorative tiling. Men wear tarbushes, and women carry parasols as they watch among the crowd.
This is Jerusalem, and indeed Palestine, in the midst of great change. It was a time of plurality, of diverse Ottoman identity, or Osmenlilik, and of social development. It was also a time of rivalries, revolutions and counter-revolutions. It is this moment in time that Salim Tamari sets out to explore. The Ottoman period has been neglected and derided by historians of all shades, and shunned by Palestinian scholars seeking to emphasise the distinct Palestinian-ness of their history; by Turkish scholars keen to distance themselves from the imperial forerunner of the modern Turkish state; and by Europeans clinging to the notion that, were it not for their intervention, the Levant would have remained a backwater devoid of modernity and civilisation.
This book has been shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2018, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine book awards site