British Colonial Policy “Divide and Rule”: Fanning Arab Rivalry in Palestine


  • Ayse Tekdal Fildis Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations, Namik Kemal University
  • Ensar Nisanci Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations, Namik Kemal University



British colonialism, factionalism, arab rivalry, palestine, notable families


The 2nd November 2017 is the centenary of the Balfour Declaration which is Britain’s public acknowledgement and support of the Zionist movement and the commitment to a Jewish National Home. The Declaration is identified by the Palestinian narrative as the source of their tragedy whilst the British side its motive was the consideration of who would be most useful to the British interest under the given circumstances. The main characteristics of the Palestinian politics and society after the Balfour Declaration and during the Mandate period was the pervasiveness of factionalism. These divisions were based on family, kinship, and clan. As for their politics, they were mainly shaped by the notable families who helped to intensify this fragmentation in the Palestinian society. The notable families pervaded local politics during the Ottoman period and continued to do so in the early part of the British administration. The mandate administration, although denied the effective Palestinian self-government, it toughened the notability stratification by giving it recognition and legitimacy in social and religious affairs. The British administration refused to accept or recognize the Palestinian Arabs as a national entity, because of the lack of a central authority, Palestinians did not have the social resources to organize and unite themselves. Although the British did not recognize the Palestinians as a national entity they accepted its notables as the leaders and representatives of the Palestinians. The British policy of alliance with the notables helped those notable families achieve decisive pre-eminence in the Palestinian politics. The notability was at the forefront of the nationalist sentiment. They suppressed the existence of independent nationalist parties and groups. The same traditional elite helped intensify fragmentation in the society, especially as the external challenges became more severe. They became an impediment to the wider national integration. Following the historical background of the area until the establishment of the Mandate, this paper will focus on the analysis of the British policies feeding the inter-Arab rivalries and animosity between the notable families and conclude with the study of the valuation of the Palestinian Arab leadership until 1936-1939 Arab revolt.


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How to Cite

Fildis, A. T., & Nisanci, E. (2019). British Colonial Policy “Divide and Rule”: Fanning Arab Rivalry in Palestine. UMRAN - International Journal of Islamic and Civilizational Studies, 6(1), 15–30.