The Transnationalization of Palestine: Jerusalem’s Defense of Palestinian Migrants in the Interwar Period
Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Palestinians in Foreign Countries
right of return
Palestinian Citizenship Order-in-Council
transnational solidarity

Following the promulgation of the 1925 Palestinian Citizenship Order-in-Council, British Mandate authorities regularly denied Palestinian citizenship to thousands of Palestinian migrants across the diaspora (mahjar) – mainly the Latin American mahjar, where the largest Palestinian communities resided. In response, Palestinians in Palestine formed the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Palestinians in Foreign Countries in 1927. A group of nationalists, including Musa Kazim al-Husayni, submitted petitions to the Government of Palestine and the League of Nations demanding justice for migrants barred from their rights to Palestinian citizenship – and thus, to their right to return to Palestine as Palestinians. Importantly, the editors of Filastin newspaper called on Palestinian leaders to reform and unite, doing away with divisive rivalries, in order to defend the rights of Palestinian migrants. In entry after entry, Filastin decried the state of the current Palestinian leadership, stressing the interconnectedness of Palestinian migrants’ struggle to secure their rights to Palestinian citizenship and the struggle to reform the faltering Palestinian nationalist movement.
These efforts of Palestinians in Palestine to protest British citizenship policy and to reform the Palestinian nationalist movement through solidarity with Palestinian migrants demonstrate that Palestinian political consciousness in the interwar period formed and developed transnationally. Through their activism, Palestinians in Palestine brought Palestinian migrants’ voices home, and contributed to the emergence and consolidation of a Palestinian diaspora, and to the amplification of Palestinian voices transnationally. The Palestinian struggle for a right of return began well before 1948.

Author biography: 

Nadim Bawalsa is a historian of modern Palestine, with a joint doctorate in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from New York University, and is currently the commissioning editor at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. He has written on the emergence of Palestinian diaspora communities across Latin America in the early twentieth century. His work has appeared in the Jerusalem Quarterly, the Journal of Palestine Studies, and NACLA Report on the Americas, among other publications. He is the author of Transnational Palestine: Migration and the Right of Return before 1948 (Stanford University Press, 2022).