Israel Table of Contents
A street in the Old City of Jerusalem
Courtesy Les Vogel
Damascus Gate leading to the Old City of Jerusalem
Courtesy Les Vogel
Before the Second Aliyah, the indigenous Arab population of Palestine had worked for and generally cooperated with the small number of Jewish settlements. The increased Jewish presence and the different policies of the new settlers of the Second Aliyah aroused Arab hostility. The increasing tension between Jewish settler and Arab peasant did not, however, lead to the establishment of Arab nationalist organizations. In the Ottoman-controlled Arab lands the Arab masses were bound by family, tribal, and Islamic ties; the concepts of nationalism and nation-state were viewed as alien Western categories. Thus, an imbalance evolved between the highly organized and nationalistic settlers of the Second Aliyah and the indigenous Arab population, who lacked the organizational sophistication of the Zionists.
There were, however, small groups of Western-educated Arab intellectuals and military officers who formed nationalist organizations demanding greater local autonomy. The primary moving force behind this nascent Arab nationalist movement was the Committee of Union and Progress, a loose umbrella organization of officers and officials within the Ottoman Empire in opposition to the policies of Sultan Abdul Hamid. The removal of Sultan Abdul Hamid by the Committee of Union and Progress in 1908 was widely supported by both Arab nationalists and Zionists. The committee's program of constitutional reform and promised autonomy aroused hope of independence on the part of various nationalities throughout the Ottoman Empire.
After 1908, however, it quickly became clear to Zionists and Arabs alike that the nationalism of Abdul Hamid's successors was Turkish nationalism, bent on Turkification of the Ottoman domain rather than granting local autonomy. In response, Arab intellectuals in Beirut and Damascus formed clandestine political societies, such as the Ottoman Decentralization Party, based in Cairo; Al Ahd (The Covenant Society), formed primarily by army officers in 1914; and Al Fatat (The Young Arabs), formed by students in 1911. The Arab nationalism espoused by these groups lacked support, however, among the Arab masses.
Data as of December 1988