Palestinian Studies

2019 Workshop

Lauren Banko

Lecturer in Middle East History, Yale University

“As Bad and Precarious as a Death Sentence”: Deportation, the Loss of Homes, and the Loss of Livelihoods during the Palestine Mandate"

Starting from the understanding that homes are material structures of belonging, emotional and physical investment, and manifestations of livelihoods, the proposed paper considers the importance of the home during the Palestine Mandate for non-Palestinian citizens. In particular, it focuses first on the condition of those Arabic-speaking migrants and long-term residents in Palestine who faced deportation or exclusion from the territory of the Mandate at the behest of the British colonial authorities. It will then offer an analysis of the ways these migrants invoked their “home”—both in its physical and emotional meanings—in their testimonies and pleas to the mandatory authorities to be allowed to remain in Palestine. These non-Palestinian-born migrants and residents often perceived themselves to be as Palestinian as their indigenous neighbors and friends, and thus their petitions against deportation reflected the significance of their rootedness in their homes, storefronts, villages, and towns. Migrants stressed the significance of the capital invested into these homes and shops in order to convince the authorities of their claims to being Palestinian and to plead their cases to remain in Palestine. The material and emotional sense of “home” is further underscored by the fact that most of the individuals and families under study were working-class laborers or rural-to-urban migrants. Some were women whose narratives emphasized rags-to-riches stories of their poverty upon entry to Palestine and their subsequent profitable investments in houses and homes by the time they received deportation orders.

The lives and livelihoods of these non-Zionist migrants, including those who had resided in Palestine for decades, came under increasing threat and ruin from the late 1930s as the police’s Criminal Investigation Department and the Department of Immigration felt justified to deport or exclude men and women and their families for minor infractions or once these individuals were found without identification papers or proof of residence. This paper demonstrates that thousands of Arabs—albeit not born in Palestine or descended from Palestinians—felt the impact of settler-colonialism, immigration policies, and evictions in immediate and pressing ways for close to two decades before 1948. In ways different than those of indigenous Palestinian Arabs, the men and women separated by deportation from their families in Palestine pushed back against these processes by claiming their sense of identity through their material homes within the physical space of the Mandate.

The paper is based on research in the Mandate-era files of the National Archives of the United Kingdom, the Israel State Archives, and the Central Zionist Archives, as well as some newspaper archives. It uses petitions, letters, court cases, police and immigration department documents, and records of personal testimonies related to individuals deported from Palestine or who faced deportation, including those who arrived to Palestine through a variety of ways and means.

Lauren Banko is a lecturer in Middle East History at Yale University. Prior to joining Yale, she held the postdoctoral research fellowship in Palestine/Israel Studies at the University of Manchester between 2015 and 2018. She received her PhD in Near and Middle East History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in 2014. Her research focuses specifically on late Ottoman and Mandate Palestine. Lauren’s first book, The Invention of Palestinian Citizenship, 1918–1947, was published with Edinburgh University Press in 2016. Her current project is a history of the borderlands and frontiers of the Mandate and the related mobility and documentary identity controls introduced by the British and French during the interwar period. It considers the ways in which the region’s inhabitants subverted and coopted these new controls in order to maintain certain connections, ideologies, and migratory pathways. It delves into an analysis of how movement by certain individuals and groups was able—or, alternatively, unable—to subvert the documentary identity and mobility control regimes created by the British in Palestine and nationalist identity formation. Using documentary archives, the research questions the ways that interwar global and imperial understandings of identity and travel documents, such as visas and passports, impacted post-Ottoman Palestine and Palestinian citizens and what this meant for the wider Middle East and North Africa.