Fair Competition?: The Arab Fair in Mid-1930s Palestine
Mandatory Palestine
Arab Fair
Levant Fair
British Mandate
trade fairs
chambers of commerce

This article explores the Arab Fair that took place in Jerusalem in 1933 and in 1934 from the economic and political perspectives. It foregrounds the reasons and results of the absence of a continuously held international trade fair by Arabs in Palestine within the schema of Mandatory Palestine in particular and of the post-Ottoman Balkans and Middle East in general. Although it was successful in bringing businesspeople from various parts of the Arab World together, the lack of official support, broad participation, international recognition, and promotional efforts abroad, as well as strong Zionist propaganda campaigns against it, adversely affected the progress of the Arab Fair, and it did not take place after 1934. Unlike most other post-Ottoman states where collaboration between business groups and political elites gave rise to international fairs in the interwar period, Palestinian Arabs could not enjoy any official endorsement from the British to organize and sustain such a business gathering. In contrast with the Arab Fair, the Levant Fair in Tel Aviv in the same period grew in size and popularity and evolved into an international spectacle thanks to the contribution of Zionist leaders, enterprises, business associations, and journalists in and outside Palestine and the considerable support of the British and other colonial governments.

Author biography: 

Semih Gökatalay is a PhD candidate in history at the University of California, San Diego. He thanks JQ’s anonymous reviewers, Falestin Naïli, Alex Winder, Gözde Emen-Gökatalay, and the deeply missed Trisha Tschopp for their helpful criticism, and his advisor Professor Michael Provence for sharing his knowledge and insights on Arab nationalism over the years. An early draft of this article was presented at the CaliMENA 2021 Workshop and thanks go to its organizer, Zeead Yaghi, and other participants

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