The Road to al-Nakbah
In the mid nineteenth century, the traditional subsistence, semifeudal, and tribute-paying economy of Palestine was eroding under a regime of clan-based local notables subject to Ottoman suzerainty. The old order gave way to a new order of commercial agriculture, a monetized economy, and the beginnings of an indigenous market linked by trade to the region and to Europe under a more centralized Ottoman control. Social change accompanied this new political-economic order: increased population, urbanization and westward (to the coast) migration, the domination of urban over rural notables, the rise of Palestinian Christian and Muslim merchants, and the beginnings of new forms of social organization and consciousness. In the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century before World War I, however, this new order was itself restructured and reoriented toward dependent peripheral market capitalism as a result of both European intervention and the active participation of native landed and comprador classes. This transformation was similar to that of the surrounding Arab region except in one major respect: the arrival in the country of European colonial settlers and immigrants, principally Jewish, which eventually led to the dispossession of Palestine’s native people.