Urban Factionalism in Late Ottoman Gaza, c. 1875-1914: Local Politics and Spatial Divisions

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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  • 1 University of Haifa
  • | 2 University of Tübingen

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Abstract

During the late Ottoman period the city of Gaza was caught up in internal political strife. The city’s elite families tended to operate within rival factions while trying to draw Istanbul into its internal conflicts. In this context, they formed complex relationships with the elite of Jerusalem that dominated Palestine’s politics, as well as with peasants and Bedouins in Gaza’s hinterland. The article presents the first systematic account of factional strife in Gaza during the period. In addition, it examines what caused the internal divisions in Gaza to be so severe and considers whether factionalism also played out in the urban space. It is argued that (1) the severity of this factionalism derived from the rising stakes resulting from imperial politics and economic benefits, and (2) factionalism and urban development interacted with each other, leading to a particular type of ‘spatialized factionalism’. We suggest that this perspective can lead to a better understanding of both urban politics and urban development in other towns and cities in the Ottoman Empire’s Arab provinces.

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