Palestinians of African Descent:

A couple of years ago, I blogged about a group of Palestinian Arabs I encountered in the Galilee who were obviously of African descent. I've stumbled across an academic article (original source unclear) published since then that discusses the history of some of the Palestinians whose recent ancestors were from Africa:

Most contemporary members of the African community came to Jerusalem as pilgrims and workers under the British Mandate of Palestine (1917-1948). They came mostly from Senegal, Chad, Nigeria and Sudan. They regard themselves as Palestinian and played an active role in the Intifada. Some of the Africans arrived as part of the Egyptian led 'Salvation Army' which aimed to liberate the Palestinian areas held by Jews in 1948. After the defeat of that army and its retreat to Egypt many Africans returned to their original countries, while others preferred to stay in Palestine.

NoahDavidSimon (mail) (www):
Most African Palestinians were mercenaries that the Arab League put together from their five nations to kill the Jews. here is an example of a captured Jewish soldier sitting between two members of the Arab legion, was taken in Jerusalem in June 1948 (please note this was taken in Jerusalem and that there were many Jews predominantly living in Jerusalem). The African could be from Sudan (deeply south from Egypt) or escaped slaves from Saudi Arabia. Political balancing of the grass roots on the part of the Arab League. you can see more of these photos here
8.22.2009 12:07am
NoahDavidSimon (mail) (www):
sorry here is the link of the photo from above
8.22.2009 12:08am
It's not hard to see "black" humor in this and imagine what use Mel Brooks might make of it. (I'm thinking of Blazing Saddles and Brooks playing the Indian chief who pronounces the scared black family on their wagon "shvartzes," letting them pass unharmed, saying, "They darker than us.")
8.22.2009 12:32am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
This is genuinely interesting. I personally see "peoples" as including such immigrants, though I am sure a lot of folks would like to see it as evidence that there is no Palestinian "people."
8.22.2009 1:53am
Wow, einhverfr. That's the best thread hijacking I've seen in a while.
8.22.2009 2:50am
One arguably tangential post is the best thread hijack you've seen in years? Well now it's three posts, but who's fault is that :P
8.22.2009 2:58am
Pro Natura (mail):
I personally see "peoples" as including such immigrants,
einverhehr has solved the Mideast's problems: Israel is entirely inhabited by just another element of the Palestinian people.
8.22.2009 8:50am
Before Israel's reestablishment in 1948, the word "Palestinians" was used to refer to the Jews there.
8.22.2009 9:06am
Steven Zoraster (mail):
John Roy Carlon's 1951 book, "Cairo to Damascus", in which he reported on the first Arab-Israel War from the Arab side, includes a picture of a black (Sudanese?) "Holly Warrior carrying an 'immunity scroll' - his guarantee against death by 'lead and sell' in battle." Apparently there were many Sudanese in Cairo at that time doing low level jobs; possibly easy recruits to the Holly War.
8.22.2009 10:05am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

I am not entirely sure. It seems that at its core this is a post about group identity. Sudanese enter the Occupied Territories and adopt a Palestinian identity. Personally I don't see anything wrong with this and it is a natural process which has affected all peoples in all places.

Similarly, Jews immigrate to Israel and adopt an Israeli identity (as opposed to, say, a Russian Jewish identity). Again, nothing wrong with this per se. While more work IMO needs to be done helping Arab citizens of Israel adopt an Israeli identity (something which affects Druze, Beduin, and those in the little triangle to different extents and in different ways), this doesn't negate the overall point that immigration leads to assimilation.

Now... since I have been accused of hijacking this thread, I might as well make good on that :-)

I think there is a good deal that one can see in the lack of identity that, say, the Israeli Druze have for Israel (which is more, than, say the Beduin have) as a parallel for race relations in the US. One interesting element we have here is how assimilation among some groups here is seen as "selling out" to an oppressive power. At some point, however, these patterns have become self-sustaining in the absence of new prejudice (consider the different attitudes towards assimilation from, say, Ghanean immigrants vs African Americans descended from slaves).

Thus I think both sides of this analysis have race-relation parallels here in the US.
8.22.2009 2:35pm
Jonathan Rubinstein (mail) (www):
Unlike Egyptians, Arabs I have encountered in the
Levant do not seem to share the race prejudice which is quite evident in Egypt. In Jordan I have occasionally seen wholly African pigmented Arabs (fairly rare) as well as very dark but distinctly Arab -- all men of course, since viewing women is almost as rare as hail. As southern Iraq, the delta, had a vast slave culture working rice plantations from the 9th to the 11th centuries approx. until a revolt led to its dissolution and the end of the first African slave diaspora, there is quite a good deal of African genetic material in the Near East genepool. As well, most of what came to be known as Palestine was essentially a penal colony -- in the coastal strip under the Ottomans whose destruction of the forests in the Judean Hills turned the lowlands into malarial swamps. One reason they were happy to let the Zionists move in. Presumably the Galilee was more hospitable; its people, including Jews who have been in Safed continuously since its foundation, were never known as Palestinians until the Jews took that name after 1918. Gaza was populated mainly by Egyptian peasants who evaded the Turkish prohibition on entry, Roumanian gypsy slaves of Maronite priests in Sinai, and latterly Turkish=Muslim peasants transferred from the Balkans after the Treaty of Berlin handed Ottoman holdings in what came to be known as Croatia to the Habsburgs in 1878. So much for the bullshit about Arabs being Canaanites!
8.22.2009 2:38pm
Does your wife agree with you, einhverfr?
8.22.2009 3:18pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Does your wife agree with you, einhverfr?

I dunno. My wife has chosen not to pursue American citizenship, but regarding customs taught to our kids, she seems supportive of general assimilation.
8.22.2009 4:17pm
Oh, come on, you must know something of your wife's feelings about assimilation and immigration and ethnic differences. (he's married to an Indonesian Chinese American woman, which is sort of like being married to a 1910 European Jewish woman who came to the US after a major pogrom and official restrictions on Chinese political power
8.23.2009 1:28am
Larry Fafarman (mail):
So what is wrong with having black African Palestinians? There are an estimated 70-80,000 black Ethiopian Jews living in Israel. Thousands of them were airlifted to Israel. Also, there is a rumor that king Solomon was black.
8.23.2009 11:49am
Mikhail Koulikov (mail):
Best I can tell, the original citation for this paper would have been:

Beckerleg, S. (1998). Hidden History, Secret Present: The Origins and Status of African Palestinians. A Report Prepared for The Nuffield Foundation. London, UK: London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine.

An updated article on the same topic is:

Beckerleg, S. (2003). The hidden past and untold present of African-Palestinians. Tinabantu: Journal of African National Affairs, 1(2).
8.23.2009 10:36pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

the leftist, anti-Israel choir

is this article for the rightist, pro-Israel choir? Don't sing in it, so just wondering if I should disregard it immediately without consideration for the facts.
8.24.2009 3:50am
sk (mail):
"I blogged about a group of Palestinian Arabs I encountered in the Galilee who were obviously of African descent."

You mean they were black? Egyptian Arabs are of African descent. Libyans are of African descent. Charlize Theron and Albert Camus were of African descent.

Every once in a great while, political correctness is actually amusing...

8.24.2009 9:15am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

My wife doesn't want to be "American" at the moment. She has declined to pursue citizenship in large part for that reason. The big issue for her is actually different ideas on how elderly should be cared for (for what it's worth, I agree with her ideas there). She feels that the children should have the parents move in with them at some point after the parents retire and finds our system of assisted care retirement homes strange, and gloomy.

However, at the same time, there is a desire to fit in and to find a new identity here, I think. This is a gradual process, not something which happened overnight. Also with her there are big status conflicts (good to be thought of as an American, but there are duties to her mother which don't go away and aren't compatible with that image).

However, I have also met a number of immigrants (including by grandfather btw) who tried to assimilate very quickly after getting here.

So it is somewhat complex for her. However, I think she cares less about passing on her family's traditions to the kids than she does about her interactions with her mother (her father passed away a few years ago).
8.24.2009 11:35am
Jonathan Rubinstein (mail) (www):
They are not black Ethiopian Jews...There is nothing wrong obviously being black but Ethiopian is what they are -- that is not a reference to their nationality but to their stock. These people are not Bantu.
8.24.2009 11:45pm

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