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Toward 1948

Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 2 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel explores some of the main political, social, and cultural trends among Jews and Palestinians in the decades before 1948, and which led to the war. The panel aims to illuminate the local and the global: it explores events on the ground (Confino, Jacobson), while placing 1948 in global perspective of partitions and of Communism (Dubnov, Jacobson). What were the links between the global and the local, if at all? Overall, we attempt to capture two intertwined stories. One is about contingency: what were the contingent circumstances that led to the 1948 war? The other is about continuity: what were the long-term practices among Jews and Palestinians that let to 1948. Our hope is to identify some new directions in understanding the war the decades that led to it

Abigail Jacobson’s paper focuses on the National Liberation League, a Palestinian Arab communist movement which operated in Palestine between the years 1943-1948, and its significance within three contexts in which it operated: the local Palestinian national context; the regional context of communist activity in the Middle East, and the external-internationalist context of the Soviet Union. Arie Dubnov takes us to the global level. It relocates the War of 1948 in a transnational context of twentieth century partition politics, and rethinks it as a War of Partition. The pre-1948 history of partition politics shows that it has emerged as one piece of an imperially sponsored restructuring of the global order along ethno-national lines. And yet, in 1947-48, partition turned into a quick and dirty “exit strategy” of an empire in retreat, opposite from the original intentions. Read from that angle, a story of partition and the road to 1948 turns about to be a story of unintended consequence. Alon Confino explores in his paper the imagination of Jews and Palestinians in the 1940s with respect to the future of the Land of Israel and Palestine. Reading written sources from the period—diaries, letters, newspapers, articles, and speeches—he asks how did Jews and Palestinians imagined the political future of the land, the relations with the other national group, and the development of their society?

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