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Cover of Transnational Palestine by Nadim Bawalsa
Transnational Palestine
Migration and the Right of Return before 1948
Nadim Bawalsa


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July 2022
296 pages.
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503629110
Paperback ISBN: 9781503632264
Ebook ISBN: 9781503632271

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Winner of the 2023 Palestine Book Awards in the Academic Category, sponsored by the Middle East Monitor (MEMO).

Winner of the 2023 Nikki Keddie Book Award, sponsored by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA).

Tens of thousands of Palestinians migrated to the Americas in the final decades of the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth. By 1936, an estimated 40,000 Palestinians lived outside geographic Palestine. Transnational Palestine is the first book to explore the history of Palestinian immigration to Latin America, the struggles Palestinian migrants faced to secure Palestinian citizenship in the interwar period, and the ways in which these challenges contributed to the formation of a Palestinian diaspora and to the emergence of Palestinian national consciousness.

Nadim Bawalsa considers the migrants' strategies for economic success in the diaspora, for preserving their heritage, and for resisting British mandate legislation, including citizenship rejections meted out to thousands of Palestinian migrants. They did this in newspapers, social and cultural clubs and associations, political organizations and committees, and in hundreds of petitions and pleas delivered to local and international governing bodies demanding justice for Palestinian migrants barred from Palestinian citizenship. As this book shows, Palestinian political consciousness developed as a thoroughly transnational process in the first half of the twentieth century—and the first articulation of a Palestinian right of return emerged well before 1948.

About the author

Nadim Bawalsa is a historian of modern Palestine. He holds a PhD in History and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies from New York University.

"A significant contribution to the history of Palestinian transnational activism. Anchoring his story in the lives of Palestinians in Latin America, Nadim Bawalsa amplifies the diasporic dimension of the 'right of return.' A must read for scholar-activists of the modern Middle East, inter-war politics, and national liberation struggles."

—Sarah M.A. Gualtieri, author of Arab Routes: Pathways to Syrian California

"Transnational Palestine is an extensive and original investigation into the lives of early Palestinian migrants in Latin America. Nadim Bawalsa has an uncanny ability to evoke from submerged archival sources and diaspora presses the adventures and tribulations of those pioneering travelers."

—Salim Tamari, author of The Great War and the Remaking of Palestine

"Bawalsa succeeds in widening the reader's temporal and geographical horizons when thinking about the right of return, and in doing so, he helps us to better understand the Palestinians history of dispossession."

—Marc Martorell Junyent, Mondoweiss

"Transnational Palestine tells of the painful struggle of loyal sons and daughters of Palestine against Britain's theft of their national identity, decades before 1948, the first group of marooned, stateless, Palestinian exiles. It's a story of British perfidy and Palestinian persistence, which Bawalsa says no previous book has told. Moreover, he shows how the dogged and sophisticated resistance campaign of these Palestinians contributed to their nation's political organization and identity formation during the British Mandate period."

—Steve France, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Nadim Bawalsa's Transnational Palestine is a significant contribution to the history of Mandate Palestine, and illuminates the role of British citizenship laws in the dispossession of Palestinians. By exposing the ways Palestinians living abroad (referred to as the mahjar) were denied citizenship by the British Empire during their mandate over Palestine, Bawalsa effectively reframes the fight for right of return of Palestinians both historically and geographically, and reveals its emergence as a response to British imperial governance Transnational Palestine underscores citizenship as a tool in settler colonial projects where relationship to land does not guarantee rights within it or to it."

—Randa Tawil, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"Through a treasure trove of documents, including applications, appeals, protests and personal correspondence, Bawalsa reveals the relentless struggle of overseas Palestinians, who were torn between their new-found prosperity and peace in the Americas, and their roots in a homeland on the cusp of slipping away."

—Omar Ahmed, Middle East Monitor