Legislating Exclusion: Palestinian Migrants and Interwar Citizenship
This article explores the British Mandate’s legal framework for regulating citizenship and nationality in Palestine following the post–World War I fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire. It argues that the 1925 Palestinian Citizenship Order-in-Council prioritized the settlement and naturalization of Jews in Palestine, while simultaneously disenfranchising Palestinians who had migrated abroad. Ultimately, the citizenship legislation reflected British imperial interests as it fulfilled the promises made in the Balfour Declaration to establish in Palestine a homeland for the Jewish people, while it attempted to ensure the economic viability of a modern Palestine as a British mandated territory. Excluded from Palestinian citizenship by the arbitrary application of the Order-in-Council, the majority of Palestinian migrants during the 1920s and 30s never secured a legal means to return to Palestine, thus marking the beginning of the Palestinian diaspora.