Bedouin Settlement in Late Ottoman and British Mandatory Palestine: Influence on the Cultural and Environmental Landscape, 1870-1948

Dr. Seth J. Frantzman and Ruth Kark

Abstract: During the late Ottoman and British Mandatory periods the cultural and environmental landscape of Palestine changed dramatically. This was reflected in both urban development and rural settlement patterns. In the last decades of Ottoman rule much of the newly settled rural low country of Palestine, including the coastal plain and Jordan valley, was strongly influenced by Bedouin tribes, who were living in various states of mobile pastoralism. By the end of the British Mandate the majority of the Bedouin, with the exception of those living in the Negev in Southern Palestine, had become sedentary in one form or another. The Bedouin actively built about 60 new villages and dispersed settlements, comprising several thousand houses. The Mandate authorities estimated the population of these Bedouin villages to be 27,500 in 1945. Our paper examines who the inhabitants of these Bedouin villages were, tracing them from their nomadic and pastoral origins in the late Ottoman period to their final sedentarization under the British Mandate. We examine how Mandatory land policies and Jewish land purchases created legal and demographic pressures for sedentarization. In shedding light on these intertwined topics we illustrate the increasingly limited role the Bedouin played in the rural landscape due to constraints placed upon them and show how, as a result, their settlement was part of a change in the environment in the period.

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