This article seeks to underscore the need for a broader historical framework for understanding belonging in Mandate Palestine in order to incorporate non-settler migrants. Using the notion of “home” and situating physical houses and structures of home, I investigate the stories of certain migrants who came to Palestine not as part of the settler-colonial, Zionist movement but nonetheless with the hope to settle and reside there alongside and within Arab societies and communities. These individuals, from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and situations, positioned themselves as “indigenous” in order to maintain their homes and residences in the territory. I interrogate the physical realities and emotional sentiments of “home” as Palestine transitioned from an imperial to a national space. As part of this transition, many of these migrants came to be classified by the British authorities as illegally resident in Palestine. Unable to claim any legal status of indigeneity and not entirely able to integrate themselves as settlers, both more prosperous migrants and more marginalized migrants made articulated intimate pleas and legitimizations of belonging. Ultimately, the histories here lead to the question of how historians of the Mandate can know who is “at home” in Palestine during the decades before the Nakba and who gets to make that determination.
Migrants, Residents, and the Cost of Illegal Home-Making in Mandate Palestine