Intoxicating Zion
A Social History of Hashish in Mandatory Palestine and Israel
Haggai Ram



Moshe’s hands began to scrabble under the table. His friend leaned across to hide him from view. A long and swollen joint emerged between his fingers. He lit it, and with the same match lit a regular cigarette. He lowered his tiny stature to the point that he was almost entirely under the table. His lips clung to the hollow space of his clenched fist. He inhaled from the joint, to the point he could no longer hold it in. He then handed it to his friend [Meir], remaining bent and still. He tried with all his might to stop the smoke [from coming out of his mouth], until his eyes bulged and his ntheeck swelled. Soon, he coughed, and the smoke spewed out of his mouth.

THIS PASSAGE ABOUT HASHISH (the drug made from cannabis resin), and others of its kind, appear in Shimon Ballas’s (1930–2019) first Hebrew novel, Ha-Ma‘abarah (The Transit Camp).1 Published in 1964, thirteen years after Ballas immigrated to Israel from Iraq, the novel is now “considered a classic, a kind of a Guide to the Perplexed for generations of readers, teachers and students alike.”2 It tells the story of the residents of a fictional yet realistic Oriya transit camp in 1950s Israel, most of whom are immigrants from Iraq. The plot revolves around the residents’ repeated futile endeavors to take control of their destiny by organizing and appointing a committee to articulate their grievances with the camp’s authorities.

Ballas’s fiction was informed at least in part by the history of harsh and discriminatory treatment meted out to residents of transit camps in the 1950s and 1960s by veteran Ashkenazim and the Jewish state in general.3 Even so, it should by no means be interpreted solely as a monograph of weeping and lamentation.4 Reflecting on the novel many years later, Ballas observed, “I did not write a grieving folkloristic exposition about discrimination. . . . The plot was designed to describe the reality of an uprooted community fighting to obtain its rights and confronting the government.”5 Indeed, the novel is quite subversive in its very nature, running against the grain of the prevailing Zionist (Ashkenazi) ideology of the time. Its subversive character stems in no small part from the fact that Ballas invariably identified himself as an Arab Jewish writer—a writer who never lost his sense of belonging to Arab culture even after being absorbed into Israeli society. This positioning, in turn, presented an enormous challenge to the hegemonic classes in Israel.6 It is as though Ballas was telling his readers (to borrow from Batya Shimoni): “I am an Arab; I come from Arab culture, I speak Arabic, and I don’t mean to apologize for it. . . . I am a proud Arab Jew.”7

Indeed, Ha-Ma‘abarah is replete with subversive gestures, by means of which Ballas celebrates, presumably to the chagrin of his anticipated audience, an entire repertoire of Arab culture and politics: its tastes, smells, and customs.8 But even so, as the excerpt cited at the beginning of this chapter suggests, in the novel Ballas’s perspective converges to a striking extent with that of his middle-class Ashkenazi readership with regard to one crucial habit: the matter of hashish smoking, commonly associated in 1960s Israel with a putative Arab or Mizrahi “backwardness.” As we will see in this book, Jews in interwar Palestine kept away from hashish—the main illicit psychoactive substance circulating in the Levant at the time, and the region’s most popular recreational drug—because they viewed it as a stereotypical marker of Oriental backwardness and barbarism. After 1948, as the migrant Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent (or Mizrahim) were pushed to the margins of society, and themselves became associated with hashish smoking, the state authorities feared that the habit would lead to the Levantinization of Israeli society and viewed it as an indication of pre-modern, primitive ways of life.

Judging from the pages of Ha-Ma‘abarah, it would seem that Ballas internalized these perceptions of hashish smoking and was reluctant to present alternative perspectives on the habit. Hence, he describes Moshe and Meir, two hashish-smoking characters in the Oriya transit camp, in miserable and pitiable terms: unreliable, unable to exercise self-control. In one instance Meir, after “drawing from a joint [glulit], . . . continued on his wobbly way, his head dizzy and his feet barely bearing him, as though they were trapped in iron chains.” In another episode, the two men, after sharing a hashish cigarette, “laughed and fell into each other’s arms. Moshe tripped and he stumbled, but his laughter did not stop.”9 Throughout the book, hashish smoking is portrayed as something so socially inferior and unwholesome that Moshe and Meir must indulge in their habit surreptitiously (not to avoid law enforcement authorities, as one might assume, as the police tended to stay clear of the transit camps). The novel’s closing scene finds Yosef Shabbi, the main protagonist, sitting in the transit camp’s coffeehouse, sunk into despair. He has been forced to acknowledge that all his efforts to improve the transit camp and its miserable conditions have failed. In the process, the coffeehouse is overwhelmed with the “stench” of hashish. The novel’s despairing last sentence reads thus: “The sharp pungent smell [of hashish] entered Yosef’s nose, a heavy smell. He closed his eyes and listened to the clamor.”10

For all the novel’s antiestablishment stance, then, it is worth pondering the fact that an engaged Arab Jewish writer of Ballas’s stature would nevertheless portray hashish and hashish smoking in terms similar to those used by the very establishment he railed against.11 One reason, by no means the least, is that Ballas’s stance demonstrates the extent to which the displaced, racialized, and class-laden perceptions of the drug, the stuff of Oriental backwardness, had become entrenched in the imagination of Jewish Israeli society of the time. Writers and intellectuals in the Arab world also conceptualized hashish in negative terms of race and class, in much the same way as their recently departed European colonizers had done. This may go some way to explaining Ballas’s antihashish attitudes. But then again, hashish has a very long history in the Arab world, as well as in the Ottoman and Persian Empires, dating back at least to the Middle Ages. Consequently, it has been the subject of debate and disputation for many centuries. In Palestine-Israel, on the other hand, hashish was a relatively new phenomenon, only emerging as an issue to be reckoned with in the interwar period between the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and World War II. And even then, hashish consumption—as opposed to hashish trafficking, which was much more extensive and troublesome for the pre- and post-1948 authorities—never reached “epidemic” levels as it did in, say, India and Egypt, both in many respects “cannabis-oriented culture[s].”12


This book’s main objective is to return to the zero point of Palestine’s hashish “problem,” the interwar period; to follow the histories of the commodity chains and consumption of the drug and of antihashish regulation; and to chart its social life up to and through the first two decades of the existence of the State of Israel. This book traces the beginning of the hashish “problem” in Palestine to the 1920s, a period corresponding with the establishment of global anticannabis regimes and the creation of the mandate system in the Levant.

On the one hand, the era of the mandates in the Levant does not reveal a significant break from earlier times, as it was “indebted to the transformations that had taken place in the region beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century.”13 As a matter of fact, the illicit hashish trade that was introduced in the region in the course of the interwar years, and which persisted well after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, owes much to the survival of late Ottoman-based social and economic networks. On the other hand, the creation of the mandatory system can and should be viewed as a landmark event in the region. Not only did it mark the end of an Ottoman political, social, and religious order that had shaped patterns of public behavior for four centuries; it also introduced in the region a new political system of nation-states, a system that has lasted to this very day.14

Indeed, during and after World War I the entente powers—Russia, Britain, and France—began to stake claims to the “Middle Eastern spoils” that until that time had been Ottoman possessions. Britain and France were the powers with the most vital interests in the Levant. France based its claim on its role as protector of Lebanon’s Maronite Christian population, as well as on its economic interests in the region, such as investments in railroads and silk production. For the most part, Britain’s interests in the region lay in its “long-standing obsession” with the protection of the sea routes to India, especially the Suez Canal, and in ensuring investment and trade in the region.15 In addition, due to wartime exigencies Britain contradictorily agreed (under the agreement with Sharif Husayn of Mecca and the French government) to establish an Arab state in the region, but at the same time, by virtue of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, also to “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”16 These contradictions were never resolved, and should go a long way toward explaining the enduring regional conflicts in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular. Meanwhile, the League of Nations was created in 1920. Invested with the mission of preventing future wars and providing humanitarian and social aid on a global scale, the League consolidated these powers’ regional interests, realizing them through the creation of the mandate states system.

Franco-British dominance received the acquiescence of the League of Nations, whose founding Covenant, drawn up in 1919, recognized the need for mandatory powers to watch over the peoples of the Middle East “until such time as they are able to stand alone,” ready for independent statehood. At the Conference of San Remo, held in 1920, the Allied powers confirmed this new status quo. The entirety of the Mashriq—as present-day Lebanon, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Iraq and Jordan are commonly known in Arabic—was now under British or French mandatory rule.17

In the final analysis, France received the mandate for the territory that now includes Syria and Lebanon, while Britain got the mandates for and largely invented the political units of Palestine, Transjordan, and Iraq. The mandate system was in many ways reminiscent of nineteenth-century imperialism, “repackaged to give the appearance of self-determination.”18

The destination of most hashish supplies crossing the Levant via Palestine was Egypt, also an important actor in this book. Egypt had been under British occupation since 1882. While it was not a mandate state, the British had no intention of relinquishing it, considering it a vital asset for the defense of British imperial interests. As Sir George Ambrose Lloyd, Egypt’s high commissioner in the years 1925 to 1929, stated to the House of Commons in 1929, “The only place from which the Suez Canal can be economically and adequately defended is from Cairo.”19 In fact, one reason why the British assumed the mandate over Palestine to begin with, though the administrative unit of Palestine had not formally existed since the twelfth century, was that they counted on the Jewish settlers to help them preserve the security of the nearby Suez Canal.20

More will be said about the mandate system and British Egypt throughout this book. What is crucial to state here is that dividing the Levant, or Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria), into separate mandatory states created new boundaries and borders, which frequently cut across existing commercial, social, cultural, and political networks. “This meant new borders to cross (legally or not) and new regulation and immigration policies on different sides of these borders by different national and colonial governments.”21 These circumstances coincided with the establishment of unprecedented global and local controls over opiates immediately before and during the interwar years, and over cannabis in the 1925 League of Nations International Opium Convention (which resulted from the 1924–25 League of Nations Opium Conference). These two events—the creation of the Levant mandate states and the criminalization of cannabis—enmeshed Palestine for the first time in large-scale and illicit flows of hashish across its territory, with “commerce [becoming] smuggling and the newly defined crime of narcotics peddling [becoming] tainted . . . as an arch-evil crime.”22 As though to add insult to injury, these events also created or at least exacerbated the habit of recreational hashish smoking in Palestine.

The demand for hashish in the region survived the transition from the interwar British colonial era to Jewish statehood. There is much to be learned from the changing patterns of trade, consumption, and regulation during this transition alongside the changing “social life” of the drug, and to assess their meanings. This book follows the transition from Mandatory Palestine to the State of Israel from the perspective of hashish: an illicit commodity smuggled across borders; a substance that was traded, consumed, regulated, and endlessly debated; and a screen upon which people projected their desires and fears. The book’s endpoint is the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and its aftermath, which dramatically transformed the patterns of illicit hashish flows and illicit consumption in Israel and in the Levant writ large.

This study can be situated in what Paul Gootenberg has called “the new drug history.”23 As Gootenberg explains, academic interest in criminalized drugs until the 1990s was largely limited to the biomedical and legal-criminological fields. When historians began to evince interest in the subject, they naturally mobilized the tools of their profession. They delved into previously untapped archives, analyzing a wide variety of sources using cross-disciplinary cultural and sociological methods. The goal was to understand and contextualize the modern origins of drugs with rich and complex social, cultural, economic, and political histories. In the process, these historians have opened up an immense and fascinating field of study, including new understandings of the political and cultural contexts within which substances became “drugs”; the underworlds of users and traffickers; the complex roles played by race, gender, and class in the construction of “addiction”; and the place of colonialism and nation-building projects in dispersing drug use and enforcing drug restrictions. Historical research of these topics has offered exciting observations about societies across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa, demonstrating the links between the usage, trade, regulation, and cultural perceptions of criminalized drugs and broader political, social, and economic histories.

In line with this trend, there has been of late a barrage of monographs, articles, and dissertations on drugs (especially opiates and cannabis/hashish, but also coffee and tobacco) in different Middle Eastern and North African contexts and temporalities.24 Yet to date no historical study of the manner in which these issues came into play in Palestine-Israel has been undertaken. Although we know quite a lot about the history of criminalized drugs, particularly cannabis and opium, in other parts of the British Empire and most notably India and Egypt, we know very little about this history in Mandatory Palestine.25 Similarly, very little academic attention has been paid thus far to the links between hashish use, hashish trafficking, and regulation in the State of Israel.26 This book is the first study to fully explore the history of hashish as a criminalized drug in Palestine-Israel, and it presents a window through which one can explore broader political, economic, social, and cultural change.


Although my study prioritizes the territorial space of Mandatory Palestine and the State of Israel, it seeks to explore the structured integration between this space and the Levant region as a whole, and sometimes Europe and North America as well, in issues relating to the flow, consumption, control, and social life of the drug. Thus, in this and in other respects, this book is a transnational study. It endorses the view that, “by assuming national perspectives, historians have often underemphasized connections that transcend state borders, settling for explanations that can be drawn from events, people and processes within particular territories.”27 This compartmentalization of history means that the parallels, entanglements, and connections that contributed to shaping the modern world cannot come into view.28 Consequently, while this study does not seek to abandon national history altogether, it seeks to expand and thus “transnationalize” it.

This history thus adds to a vibrant body of historical scholarship exploring the links, flows, and circulation of pilgrims, laborers, credit, capital, commodities, and knowledge between disparate territories, as well as the “people, ideas, products, processes and patterns that operate over, across, through, beyond, above, under, or in between polities and societies.”29 More precisely, it explores the ways in which the Palestine-Israel of this era was situated in the region and the wider world, and how the region and the world reached deep into it, penetrating and shaping it in matters concerning the commodity chains, consumption, and understandings of hashish itself. This transnational approach also reflects a growing scholarly awareness that criminalized drugs and the practices, ideas, and persons associated with them are a part of larger connected realms of cross-border politics, economics, and culture that cannot be studied adequately if we privilege the state as the exclusive category of analysis.30

My transnational approach has been inspired by Cyrus Schayegh’s compelling proposition, in his 2017 book The Middle East and the Making of the Modern World, that the region of Bilad al-Sham (also known as the Levant, or “Greater Syria,” roughly coextensive with present-day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel-Palestine) was intertwined through diverse sociospatial ties from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.31 As Schayegh explains,

In Bilad al-Sham, 1918 . . . was not a sharp break from the late Ottoman world. Rather, the entire 1920s were an Ottoman twilight. Here three factors were at play. First, the protracted process of integration shaping Bilad al-Sham from the mid-19th century was powerful enough to not simply vanish in 1918. . . . Second, the relative strength of the decades-long process of regional integration stood in contrast to the relative weakness of two new sets of actors. One set—and this is my second factor—was nationalist movements and elites, which were quite weak in the 1920s. Third, the other set of actors was the French and British imperial administrations which, running the Mandates on a shoestring, had neither the means nor the will to totally undo the late-Ottoman regional reality. They even recognized that reality . . . and thus strengthened the region’s integration in some ways. What irony given their division of Bilad-al Sham!32

In the 1930s too, as Schayegh maintains, the mandate-governed Bilad al-Sham countries “matured in a shared regional framework rather than simply along separate tracks.”33 Surely, Zionists of the “New Yishuv”—the organized Jewish community of Palestine, pre-1948—envisioned their nation-state project in separation from their Arab neighbors. Still, they “echoed region-wide patterns, and the Yishuv was an integral part of region-wide structures. . . . They could not, indeed did not want to, isolate themselves from Bilad al-Sham. They were a universe away from comparing their home to ‘a villa in the jungle’ as Israeli general-turned-politician Ehud Barak did in 1996.”34 Indeed, Palestine’s initial and persisting entanglement in the webs of hashish smuggling and consumption cannot be completely understood unless we assess it within the framework of the sociospatial intertwinements of the Levant region during the interwar period.

Schayegh goes on to suggest that the consolidation of territorial (watani) identities in the Levant, beginning in the 1940s, signaled a decline in the region’s spatial intertwinements; and that the independence of the region’s mandate polities—Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel—during the latter half of the 1940s delivered a coup de grâce to any lingering possibilities of integration.35 Still, as this book will demonstrate, the State of Israel remained utterly dependent—at least in terms of hashish commodity chains and hashish consumption—on regional-border-crossing networks and individuals. It was also dependent on the dynamics of supply and demand elsewhere in the Levant, the commerce which had survived the transition from British interwar colonialism to independence. In sum, by focusing on one specific commodity, hashish, and tracing its transportation, sale, consumption, regulation, and place in discourse in Palestine-Israel, I will be able to identify connections between people and places in the Levant that might have remained marginal had we embarked on a more traditional study, defined by national borders.

The imperative of interrogating Palestine-Israel’s “methodological territorialism” also stems from the reversal of the course of the “psychoactive revolution,” which led to stimulants becoming pervasive across human societies around the world, via transoceanic commerce and empire building between the seventeenth and the long nineteenth centuries.36 The establishment of unprecedented global controls over opiates before and during the interwar period, and over cannabis at the 1925 Opium Convention, meant that neither Palestine-Israel nor any other country could be left to its own devices in matters concerning criminalized drugs.37

Until the mid-1980s, historical research into the League of Nations was dominated by political or diplomatic analyses, focusing almost exclusively on the rise and fall of the institution—“from the hopes that accompanied its foundation to its failure to prevent Japan’s takeover of Manchuria, Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia and eventually the Second World War.”38 Yet improved access to archival material in Geneva and other parts of the world, coupled with present-day concerns about international collaboration and human welfare, have redirected scholarly attention from the institution’s dismal political failures to its more successful and lasting endeavors in addressing and alleviating social problems and worldwide criminal activities, such as the trafficking in humans and drugs.39 A few studies have demonstrated the reverberations of the League’s actions and decisions regarding drugs in specific Middle Eastern contexts.40 I build on these studies in order to consider the repercussions of the League’s antidrug outreach initiatives in Palestine and the Levant.

There is no doubt that the international legal structures prohibiting and regulating drugs during the interwar period were relatively successful. Likewise, there is no doubt that at the same time they drove the drug trade into the black market.41 Hence, the interwar period should be viewed as a milestone not only in the history of drug regulation-cum-prohibition, but also in the history of international crime and criminality—of which drug trafficking and drug use were an integral part.42 In his classic book Nations and Nationalism since 1780, Eric Hobsbawm makes a point about “the utter impracticability [in Europe] of the Wilsonian principle to make state frontiers coincide with the frontiers of nationality and language.” Given the distribution of peoples, Hobsbawm argues, “most of the new states built on the ruins of the old empires, were quite as multinational as the old ‘prisons of nations’ they replaced.”43 What ensued was a world of newly demarcated sovereign nation-states, threatened by the specter of the mass movement of “alien”—that is, ethnic, linguistic, and religious—minorities across borders. Joining these were the circulation of goods (some of them illicit) and the rise of new communication and transport technologies—products of the long nineteenth century—which made such movements easier and faster.44 The result was the moral panic about “international crime.” Border-crossing drug traffickers, exploiting advances in transportation and communication to move and conceal their illicit commodities, were especially singled out as new types of international criminals.45 Thus, the hashish traffickers who operated in Palestine and the Levant in general were but a local manifestation of the growing audacity and sophistication of criminal activity that was surging on a global scale.46 That circumstance also informs the transnational approach of this book.

Debates about hashish before and after the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 and the kinds of knowledge that were read into this drug in both polities also direct this book toward a transnational and transcultural approach. On this issue I follow Arjun Appadurai, who argues that, as the temporal and spatial distance between producers and consumers of commodities increases, knowledge about those commodities tends to become partial, contradictory, and differentiated:

As the institutional and spatial journeys of commodities grow more complex, and the alienation of producers, traders, and consumers from one another increases, culturally formed mythologies about commodity flow are likely to emerge. . . . [Such mythologies] acquire especially intense, new, and striking qualities when the spatial, cognitive, or institutional distances between production, distribution, and consumption are great. . . . The institutionalized divorce . . . between persons involved in various aspects of the flow of commodities generates specialized mythologies.47

The knowledge about cannabis—mainly technical, but also medical, social, and aesthetic—that was received and negotiated in interwar Palestine and in Israel was the kind of knowledge that accompanied complex, long-distance, intercultural flows of commodities as suggested by Appadurai. This knowledge, colonial in the main, traveled to Palestine and then to Israel from India and Egypt, where the British had contended with cannabis-oriented peoples long before arriving to Palestine; but the knowledge emerged mainly from the League of Nations in Geneva, whose role was fundamental to shaping displaced, mythical ideas about cannabis around the world and, as will be seen, in Palestine-Israel as well.48


1. Shimon Ballas, The Transit Camp, in Hebrew (Tel Aviv: ‘Am ‘Oved, 1964), 159–60. Ballas first wrote the novel in Arabic, later rewriting it in Hebrew to appeal to local audiences. Almog Bahar and Yuval Evri, “That Was the Arabic Revenge on Me,” Ha-Aretz, October 8, 2019. The novel was republished in 2003 as part of a collection of Shimon Ballas’s literary works; see Shimon Ballas, Tel Aviv East: Trilogy, in Hebrew (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2003), 8–160. References to the novel are all taken from the latter edition.

2. Yehouda Shenhav-Shahrabani, “Shimon Ballas Was the Spiritual Father of the Mizrahi Left,” Ha-Aretz, October 6, 2019.

3. See Batya Shimoni, “From Babylon to the Ma‘abarah: Iraqi Jewish Women in the Mass Immigration of the 1950s” (in Hebrew), Sugiyot Hevratiyot be-Israel 14 (2012), 9–33. One of the novel’s protagonists, Eliyahu Eini, vividly expresses the sense of emasculation experienced by transit camp residents, complaining to a transit camp fellow: “This is . . . our fate, our dignity has been trampled. The people . . . have forgotten everything: heritage, family name, status, everything. The morals are not the same morals of our ancestors. The wife is not the same wife, the son is not the same son, the father is not a father. . . . What is there to be added? Everything has been turned on its head.” Ballas, Transit Camp, 43–44.

4. Though it is that too, as the same protagonist, Eliyahu Eini, laments: “It seems to me that since the Babylonian exile, the Jews of Mesopotamia have not experienced a Holocaust like the Holocaust that has befallen them these days. All that ancient and enlightened Judaism has been crushed, and scattered over the barren and muddy lands called transit camps (ma‘abarot)”; ibid., 43.

5. Cited in Hannan Hever and Yehouda Shenhav, “Shimon Ballas: Colonialism and Mizrahiyut in Israel” (in Hebrew), Te’oria u-Vikoret 20 (2002): 299, 297.

6. Hannan Hever, Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon: Nation Building and Minority Discourse (New York: New York University Press, 2002), 168.

7. Batya Shimoni, On the Threshold of Redemption: The Story of the Ma‘abarah, First and Second Generation, in Hebrew (Or Yehuda, Israel: Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, 2008), 229.

8. For instance, in the novel Ballas makes a few direct and indirect references to the ruins of the Arab village atop which the Oriya transit camp was built; see, e.g., Ballas, Transit Camp, 134, 155. Hence, as Hebrew literature scholar Hannan Hever explains in Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon, 170: “Instead of a [Zionist-inspired] narrative logic that layers new on old through the erasure of the old, Ballas constructs a space that fuses all the different layers together.” On Ballas’s subversive gestures in The Transit Camp, see also Lital Levy, “Reorienting Hebrew Literary History: The View from the East,” Prooftexts 29 (2009): 127–72; Ibrahim Taha, “Duality and Acceptance: The Image of the Outsider in the Literary Work of Shimon Ballas,” Hebrew Studies 38 (1997): 63–87; and Dror Mishani, “Why the Mizrahim Should Return to ‘The Transit Camp’” (in Hebrew), Mi-Ta‘am 3 (2005): 91–98.

9. Ballas, Transit Camp, 112, 123.

10. Ibid., 160. Despair and hashish also suffuse Ballas’s 1965 short story “Half Asleep” (BeNim-veLo-Nim), which depicts the relationship between a prostitute and her client, both Mizrahim and hashish “addicts” in a southern neighborhood of Tel Aviv; see Shimon Balls, In Front of the Wall: Stories, in Hebrew (Ramat Gan, Israel: Massada Press, 1969), 90–94.

11. As Shimoni correctly observes in On the Threshold of Redemption, 230–31, the “ma‘abara literature,” mainly written by veteran (mostly Ashkenazi) Israeli writers of Ballas’s generation, is rich with descriptions of transit camp cafés “as centers of idleness, gambling, drunkenness, drugs and pimping. In the vast majority of them, these cafés are the cultural and social margins of the transit camps and serve as breeding grounds for violence and crime.”

12. David Courtwright, Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 40.

13. James Gelvin, “Was There a Mandates Period? Some Concluding Thoughts,” in The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle East Mandates, ed. Cyrus Schayegh and Andrew Arsan (New York: Routledge, 2015), 420.

14. William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East, 6th edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2016), 169; James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 182.

15. Ibid., 186–87.

16. Ibid.; Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914–1920, Kindle edition (London: Penguin, 2015), ch. 12.

17. Cyrus Schayegh and Andrew Arsan, introduction to The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle East Mandates, ed. Cyrus Schayegh and Andrew Arsan (New York: Routledge, 2015), 1.

18. Cleveland and Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East, 164. Which is why Schayegh and Arsan ask, in the introduction to The Routledge Handbook (14), whether the mandates were “the surest signs of the mutability of imperialism, its ability to shape-shift and transform itself, the better to perpetuate itself in changing circumstances.”

19. Cited in Cleveland and Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East, 194.

20. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 188.

21. Liat Kozma, Global Women, Colonial Ports: Prostitution in the Interwar Middle East (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2017), 14–15.

22. Paul Gootenberg, “Talking about the Flow: Drugs, Borders, and the Discourse of Drug Control,” Cultural Critique 71 (2009): 22.

23. Paul Gootenberg, Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 3; Paul Gootenberg and Isaac Campos, “Toward a New Drug History of Latin America: A Research Frontier at the Center of Debates,” Hispanic and American Historical Review 95 (2015): 1–35.

24. The following bibliography is by no means exhaustive. Maziyar Ghiabi, Drugs Politics: Managing Disorder in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019); James Tharin Bradford, Poppies, Politics, and Power: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019); Johan Mathew, “Smoke on the Water: Cannabis Smuggling, Corruption and the Janus-Faced Colonial State,” History Workshop Journal 86 (2018): 67–89; Philip Robins, Middle East Drugs Bazaar: Production, Prevention and Consumption (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016); Ryan Gingeras, Heroin, Organized Crime, and the Making of Modern Turkey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy and Kenza Afsahi, “Hashish Revival in Morocco,” International Journal of Drug Policy 25 (2014): 416–23; Liat Kozma, “White Drugs in Interwar Egypt: Decadent Pleasures, Emaciated Fellahin, and the Campaign against Drugs,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 33 (2013): 89–101; Maziyar Ghiabi, Masoomeh Maarefand, Hamed Bahari, and Zohreh Alavi, “Islam and Cannabis: Legalization and Religious Debate in Iran,” International Journal of Drug Policy 56 (2018): 121–27; Maziyar Ghiabi, “Drugs and Revolution in Iran: Islamic Devotion, Revolutionary Zeal and Republican Means,” Iranian Studies 48 (2015): 139–63; Liat Kozma, “Cannabis Prohibition in Egypt, 1880–1939: From Local Ban to League of Nations Diplomacy,” Middle Eastern Studies 47 (2011): 443–60; Jonathan Marshall, The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War, and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012); Ram Baruch Regavim, “The Most Sovereign Masters: The History of Opium in Modern Iran, 1850–1955” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2012); Cyrus Schayegh, “The Many Worlds of ‘Abud Yasin; or, What Narcotics Trafficking in the Interwar Middle East Can Tell Us about Territorialization,” American Historical Review 116 (2011): 273–306; Rudi Matthee, The Pursuit of Pleasure: Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian History, 1500–1900 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005). See also Robert S. G. Fletcher, British Imperialism and “the Tribal Question”: Desert Administration and Nomadic Societies in the Middle East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 133–82.

25. On India, see, e.g., Ashley Wright, “Not Just a ‘Place for the Smoking of Opium’: The Indian Opium Den and Imperial Anxieties in the 1890s,” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 18 (2017): doi:10.1353/cch.2017.0021; Nile Green, “Breaking the Begging Bowl: Morals, Drugs, and Madness in the Fate of the Muslim Faqīr,” South Asian History and Culture 5 (2014): 226–45; James H. Mills, Cannabis Britannica: Empire, Trade, and Prohibition, 1800–1928 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); James H. Mills, Madness, Cannabis and Colonialism: The “Native Only” Lunatic Asylums of British India, 1857–1900 (New York: Palgrave, 2000). On Egypt, see, e.g., Mathew, “Smoke on the Water”; James H. Mills, Cannabis Nation: Control and Consumption in Britain, 1928–2008 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 35–61; Kozma, “Cannabis Prohibition”; Kozma, “White Drugs”; James H. Mills, “Colonial Africa and the International Politics of Cannabis: Egypt, South Africa and the Origins of Global Control,” in Drugs and Empires: Essays on Modern Imperialism and Intoxication, c. 1500–c. 1930, ed. James H. Mills and Patricia Barton (London: Palgrave, 2007), 165–84.

26. An interesting, albeit rather brief, exception to this gap is Robins, Middle East Drugs Bazaar, 99–118.

27. Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Vintage, 2015), xxi.

28. Kozma, Global Women, Colonial Ports, 5–6.

29. Pierre-Yves Saunier and Akira Iriye, “The Professor and the Madman,” in The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History from the Mid-19th Century to the Present Day, ed. Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Saunier (New York: Palgrave, 2009), xviii.

30. Itty Abraham and Willem van Schendel, “Introduction: The Making of Illicitness,” in Illicit Flows and Criminal Things: States: Borders, and the Other Side of Globalization, ed. Willem van Schendel and Itty Abraham (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 1–37.

31. Cyrus Schayegh, The Middle East and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).

32. Ibid., 138–39.

33. Ibid., 206.

34. Ibid., 152. On this issue, see also Schayegh and Arsan, introduction, 15; Abigail Jacobson and Moshe Naor, Oriental Neighbors: Middle Eastern Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2016); Abigail Jacobson, “Sephardim, Ashkenazim and the ‘Arab Question’ in Pre–First World War Palestine: A Reading of Three Zionist Newspapers,” Middle Eastern Studies 39 (2003): 105–30.

35. Schayegh, The Middle East, 271–313.

36. Courtwright, Forces of Habit, 1–5.

37. The establishment of a system of international regulation, intended to curtail the legal global economy of drugs and confine it to “legitimate” (read: medical) usage, originated in the Shanghai Opium Commission of 1909, the Hague Convention of 1912, the post–World War I peace settlement, the 1925 Geneva Convention, and the 1931 League of Nations Convention on the Limitation of Manufactured Drugs. On these and other pre- and interwar international regulation agreements, see William B. McAllister, Drug Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century (London: Routledge, 2000), 9–102. For a short review of the establishment of this system, see Virginia Berridge, “Illicit Drugs and Internationalism: The Forgotten Dimension,” Medical History 45 (2001): 282–88.

38. Magaly Rodríguez García, Davide Rodogno, and Liat Kozma, introduction to The League of Nations’ Work on Social Issues: Visions, Endeavours and Experiments, ed. idem. (Geneva: United Nations Publications, 2016), 15.

39. See, e.g., ibid.; Kozma, Global Women, Colonial Ports; Stephen Legg, “‘The Life of Individuals as Well as of Nations’: International Law and the League of Nations’ Anti-Trafficking Governmentalities,” Leiden Journal of International Law 25 (2012): 647–64; Susan Pedersen, “Back to the League of Nations: Review Essay,” American Historical Review 112 (2007): 1091–1117.

40. See, e.g., Kozma, “White Drugs in Interwar Egypt,” 89–101; Liat Kozma, “Cannabis Prohibition”; Philippe Bourmaud, “Turf Wars at the League of Nations: International Anti-Cannabis Policies and Oversight in Syria and Lebanon, 1919–1939,” in The League of Nations’ Work on Social Issues, 75–76; Mills, Cannabis Britannica; and Mills, Cannabis Nation.

41. Kathryn Meyer and Terry Parssinen, introduction to Webs of Smoke: Smugglers, Warlords, Spies, and the History of the International Drug Trade, Kindle edition (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002); Alan Block, “European Drug Traffic and Traffickers between the Wars: The Policy of Suppression and its Consequences,” Journal of Social History 23 (1989): 315.

42. Paul Knepper, “Dreams and Nightmares: Drug Trafficking and the History of International Crime,” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Crime and Criminal Justice, ed. Paul Knepper and Anja Johansen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 208–12; Paul Knepper, International Crime in the 20th Century: The League of Nations Era, 1919–1939 (London: Palgrave, 2011).

43. Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Program, Myth, Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 132–33.

44. Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 910–11.

45. Block, “European Drug Traffic and Traffickers”; Knepper, “Dreams and Nightmares.”

46. I discuss this issue briefly in Haggai Ram, “On Sleuth Literature, Border-Crossings, and Crime in Mandatory Palestine” (in Hebrew), Jama‘a 21 (2015): 119–31.

47. Arjun Appadurai, “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 48.

48. Mills, Cannabis Nation, 61–62; Liat Kozma, “The League of Nations and the Debate over Cannabis Prohibition,” History Compass 9 (2011): 61–70.