• Colonial contingencies: the political marginalisation of the municipality of Jerusalem under the British Mandate

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Colonial contingencies: the political marginalisation of the municipality of Jerusalem under the British Mandate

Lecture by Falestin Naili (Ifpo Amman/LARHRA Lyon)

The online seminar is free and open to the public upon registration. For registration, please send an email to HISDEMAB@gmail.com

During the transition from the end of the Ottoman period to the instauration of the British Mandate rule in Palestine, the sphere of urban governance in Jerusalem underwent a major transformation. Ottoman civic institutions such as the municipal council were slowly stripped off their power in favor of confessional representatives and British “experts”. Under British military rule, many powers originally vested in the municipality, such as town planning, were transferred to the Pro-Jerusalem Society, a non-governmental organization established by Governor Robert Storrs. Once the mandate was officially established, these powers were given to the Town Planning Commission. The municipality thus lost much of the influence and importance it used to have during the late Ottoman period.

Whereas the composition of the Ottoman municipal council had been determined by the condition of Ottoman citizenship, population statistics and the censitary suffrage system, during the Mandate period, confessional identity became a structuring element of this level of governance. In fact, the mayor had to be Muslim, one deputy mayor Jewish and the other Christian. Municipal elections were the only ones more or less successfully organized by the British mandate authorities in Palestine, since the attempt of holding legislative elections failed due to massive Arab boycott. So in the absence of political representation on the level of the country, municipal councils were the only government-sanctioned space for representation. The Municipal Corporations Ordinance of 1934 was supposed to revise the legal basis on which the municipal council had continued to function after the end of Ottoman rule. The elaboration of the bill, hotly debated both in London and in Palestinian cities, was lengthy and difficult. The analysis of its drafts, as well as the comments and petitions received, shed light on the conditions under which Arab political representation and organization occurred during this period.

Falestin Naili is a historian associated with the Institut français du Proche-Orient (Ifpo) in Amman and the Laboratoire de Recherches Historiques Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA) in Lyon. She specializes in the social history of the late Ottoman and Mandate Palestine and Jordan and has focused much of her recent research on local governance and politics, particularly in Jerusalem. Through her interest in collective memory and oral history she often reaches present-time issues, including the politics of heritage and folklore. She was a core team member of the ERC project Opening Jerusalem’s Archives before joining Ifpo Amman as a researcher and head of office between 2017 and 2020.

Her Ph.D. thesis (“La mémoire et l’oubli à Artâs : un élément de l’histoire rurale de la Palestine, 1848-1948“), defended in Aix-en-Provence in 2007, deals with the history of the village of Artas south of Bethlehem in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century and with the collective memory of this period among villagers and descendants of Europeans who settled in the village. It will be published in 2022 under the title  La Palestine entre Patrimoine et Providence : régimes d’historicité et mémoire au village d’Artâs au XIX et XX siècles. In her other publications, Falestin Naïli has dealt with urban governance in Jerusalem, millenarist settlement and missionary projects in Palestine, forced migration in the contemporary Middle East, early ethnographies of Palestine, and collective memory and heritage issues in these contexts.

This event is part of the lecture series:

Lecture series in the academic year 2020/21

The Historicity of Democracy Seminar

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