Chapter 11 Urban Encounters: Imaging the City in Mandate Palestine

In: Imaging and Imagining Palestine
Nadi Abusaada
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In the first half of the twentieth century, Palestine witnessed significant transformations in its urban built environment. These changes, while originating in the late Ottoman era, intensified under the British Mandate with the introduction of new inter-urban infrastructures and regional and urban planning policies that controlled urban expansion and the construction of new urban and rural settlements.1 The new urban planning development procedures, however, were not merely a technical exercise – they supplemented British imperial aspirations and their endorsement of Jewish settlement in Palestine. In the interwar period, urban affairs turned into a primary field of political confrontation and contestation between the local Arab population, Zionist settlers and the British administration.

This period of urban change in Palestine paralleled the rise of photographic production as a principal method for documenting and representing the built environment. Until the late nineteenth century, the dominant depictions of Palestine’s urban and rural landscapes were the works of Orientalists and Biblical scholars interested in excavating and documenting sites of holy relevance for European audiences. By the start of the Mandate period, photography had already become a common practice by foreign groups and locals alike. Arabs, Zionists, the British administration, and other interest groups (e.g. foreign missionaries) all grew increasingly aware of the power of photographic representations of the urban built environment, albeit utilising this power to serve ideologically distinctive, even oppositional, visions and projects.2

This chapter examines the historical intersection between photographic practice and urban change in the colonial context of interwar Palestine. More specifically, it aims to trace the different ways in which photographs were utilised to represent the cities of Palestine, mainly from British and Arab perspectives.3 With this in mind, the following sections will shed light on a variety of photographic perspectives in representing Palestine’s urban built environment in the interwar era. To highlight the links between these different perspectives and the varying visions among and between British and Arab actors in Palestine, however, the chapter focuses not on the original photographs or photographers themselves, but on the deliberate reproduction of photographs and photographic collections by groups or individuals interested in expressing a particular vision, colonial or otherwise, of the urban built environment.

To this end, the following sections will shed light on three interrelated attitudes of photographic representation of Palestine’s urban fabrics in the interwar period. First, the city as a target for military operations, focusing on the advent of aerial photography in the Great War, its development in the Mandate period, and its relationship to British imperial visions in Palestine. Second, the utilisation of vues d’ensemble (‘holistic views’) of urban fabrics in the documentation and intervention in urban analysis and planning, through the use of both aerial photographic and ground panoramas of urban spaces. Countering these two attitudes, which were mainly a product of foreign and imperial activities, the third section addresses the rising interest among Palestine’s local Arab population in the photographic imaging of their cities as a reflection of their new societal ideals of progress, modernity and development, particularly in Arabic-language press. These three distinctive yet interrelated attitudes towards urban photography offer an understanding of photography not only as an end in itself, but as a means to an end, linked to colonial and native desires not only to represent but also reshape urban spaces.

The materials in which these three different approaches to representing the urban built environment appear have been collected from a wide range of sources. The archival sources include the Bavarian State Archives, the Australian War Museum, the National Library of Israel, and the Qatar Digital Library. In addition, a collection of original publications including books, reports and magazines from the 1920s–30s in English, Arabic and German are also consulted and examined. Hence, if the focus in this article is mostly on the immediate after-lives of photographs – that is, on the ways original photographs were re-produced in different formats within a few years of their production – then the stories of how these different reproductions ended up where they did adds additional layers and raise further questions regarding the complex and multifaceted nature of these photographs’ afterlives.

1 Aerial Imagery and Military Strategy

In 1915, following Ottoman-German advancement into the British-controlled Sinai Peninsula and their attempt to invade the Suez Canal, several battles were fought in southern Palestine. As the war commenced, and as German-Ottoman armies retreated, these battles shifted north until British armies gained full control of Palestine. The visually abundant nature of these battles was unlike anything the country had witnessed in its long history of foreign invasions. This was not only because of the nature of the Great War as an event covered by media outlets globally, but also in the then-new advancements in photography and aerial warfare technology – producing the first ever aerial photographs of landscapes. In the Great War, the ability to see cities from above became intractably tied to gaining military advantage over enemy troops. In their confrontations, both German and British armies used airplanes to drop bombs on enemy territory. They also utilised aeroplanes for aerial reconnaissance and the production of war maps.

By the time British troops reached northern Palestine, British-Australian and Bavarian squadrons had captured several thousand aerial photographs covering wide expanses of Palestine as well as Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan (Fig. 11.1). These photographs were used to detect the abilities of enemy troops and predict their movements, and both the British and the Germans devised military handbooks to assist in their analysis. Comparing British and German handbooks on the tactical use of photographs from the war, Benjamin Kedar points to the higher level of sophistication presented by the Germans. Kedar notes that whereas the British booklets only present a ‘series of rudimentarily interpreted photographs’, the German booklets include a ‘table of the various types of British tents, the purposes they serve, their surface in square meters, and the number of men they can accommodate’ in addition to methodically grouped photographs that provide clues to the size of the enemy in question.4

The culmination of these photographic advancements with the war effort produced an entirely new understanding not only of warfare strategies but also of landscapes. In the Bavarian and Australian aerial photographs alike, the urban landscape below was abstracted into a series of quantifiable features that marked the extent to which the territory depicted in the photograph poses a threat. On many of the aerial photographs that survive in the Bavarian State Archives and the Australian War Memorial, hand-drawn lines around targeted areas appear, marking the locations of enemy targets. These targets were often troop camps, located outside the towns, but in close proximity to them to ensure their connection to the main transport infrastructures and access to essential utilities (particularly water and health facilities). In most cases, the defeat of these suburban camps entailed the capture of the towns that they encircled. Overall, it can be said that although the cities’ surroundings were clear military targets for the Germans and the British during the war, their inner built fabrics remained, for the most part, relatively unharmed by the war effort.

While for the Germans, the Great War marked the end of their imperial interests and aerial navigations in the ‘East’, this was far from being the case for the British. After the war, the British devised new strategies of ‘air control’ over its new mandated territories, based on their desire to safeguard their imperial interests and contain attempts of rebellion. Among the earliest applications of this new scheme of ‘air control’ by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) was used in 1919 in Iraq in an effort to tame the Iraqi revolt against British colonial rule. In this new scheme, Priya Satia explains, ‘the RAF collapsed the mission of regenerating Babylonia into the more urgent task of patrolling the country from a network of bases and coordinating information from agents on the ground to bombard subversive villages and tribes’.5 Although airpower was also used elsewhere at the time, Satia shows that ‘it was in Iraq that the British would rigorously practice, if never perfect, the technology of bombardment as a permanent method of colonial administration and surveillance and there that they would fully theorise the value of airpower as an independent arm of the military’.6

In Palestine, the most systematic use of airpower by the British took place nearly two decades later, in the context of the Arab-led Great Revolt against the British administration. The revolt, which was mainly directed against the British administration, demanded Arab independence, an end to the British endorsement of a ‘Jewish National Home’ in Palestine, and to cease its facilitation of Zionist immigration and land settlement. As Jacob Norris illustrates, the revolt initially manifested as an elitist and urban-led campaign of civil disobedience and later developed into a far more violent and peasant-led resistance movement.7 While the eventual decline of the revolt in 1939 has often been attributed to internal weaknesses and divisions among the Arab population, Norris aptly shows that British counterinsurgency played a considerable role in the revolt’s demise.8 Nonetheless, unlike in 1919 Iraq, British counterinsurgency activity in 1936 Palestine took place in the context of an established civil administration and policy and, as a result, had to balance between its civil and military forces. Hence, while it departed from the ‘air control’ schemes developed in Iraq, it still utilised what the British termed a strategy of ‘combined action’ based on full cooperation between ground and air forces to overcome the restrictions of British civil policy, particularly on the ‘employment of land forces on offensive duties’.9

Figure 11.1
Figure 11.1

Map of Bavarian aerial photographs in Palestine during the Great War, 1916–18. Map by author

Data sources: Bavarian State Archives, Google earth

In 1938, the British published a report titled ‘Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936’ which, as its title suggests, was based on their various operations during the period of the revolt. The sections in the report include a short history of the rebellion, conditions affecting operations, commanders and staffs, intelligence, intercommunications, administration, transport, weapons and equipment, the employment of the various arms, the employment of aircraft, defensive action, protection of communications and offensive action. The report also includes several photographs of the different military operations, assessments, and documentation of the different vehicles and equipment used in the duration of the revolt.10 But the most striking among these are the series of aerial photographs of the Palestinian port city of Jaffa, in which one of the most destructive operations during the revolt was carried out: the demolition of a significant proportion of the Old City.

Between 30th May and 30th June 1936, the British undertook a series of operations that radically altered the future of the revolt and of the city of Jaffa. They realised the significance of conducting these operations in Jaffa, as one of the most principal centres for Arab economic and political urban life in Palestine. For them, however, it was Jaffa’s Old City in particular that posed the most serious threat to their ability to maintain control over the city and tame Arab rebellious activity, despite the fact that by the 1930s it was merely a quarter within the much larger municipal area of Jaffa. ‘The Old City of Jaffa’, the 1938 British report states, ‘had long been a hotbed of lawlessness and revolt, and such had usually set the example for rebellious activities all over the country’.11 The concentration of British counterinsurgency on the Old City, and its distinction from the so-called New City, was not incidental. It was based on a culmination of British negative assumptions and attitudes regarding both the Old City’s population, constituting one of the poorest quarters of the city, and its urban layout and built fabric.

The 1938 report explicitly links the targeting of the Old City to the socioeconomic status of its inhabitants, which it describes as ‘the toughest of all Arab elements, consisting mostly of boatmen of Greek descent who earned their living handling lighters in the Port of Jaffa, a difficult and dangerous occupation’.12 It was this population in particular that suffered from the increased rivalry between Jaffa and its nearby new Jewish settlement of Tel Aviv. After the start of the British Mandate, Tel Aviv benefited immensely from the relaxed British policies towards Jewish immigration and development – all at the expense of Jaffa. In the early 1930s, schemes were made public for the construction of a new port in Tel Aviv, just north of Jaffa’s historic Arab port.13 Hence, while the report describes the Old City’s inhabitants’ ‘natural dislike for authority,’ it also admits the role of the ‘shadow of a harbourage scheme for Tel Aviv, which appeared likely to strike directly at the livelihood of the Jaffa boatmen’ in instigating their rebellion against the British administration.14

The targeting of the Old City was influenced not only by British attitudes towards the Old City’s inhabitants but also towards its architecture. Unlike the broad avenues, detached buildings, open public squares and grid-like layout that characterised Jaffa’s modern neighbourhoods, or the New City, the Old City was ordered according to a considerably different spatial logic. As with many historic cities of the Eastern Mediterranean whose main fabrics were built before the nineteenth century, the Old City of Jaffa is more densely built, and its roads are not straight and often end in cul-de-sacs. For the British, the fabric of the Old City provided an ‘ample opportunity’15 for its inhabitants’ ability to conduct rebellion activities:

Built upon a low hill flanked on one side by the sea, it completely dominated the Port and such buildings as the police station and barracks and the District Commissioner’s offices, which lay in the New City. Moreover its houses formed a veritable rabbit warren through which dark and narrow streets turned and twisted into a maze in which the level of one street would often be the roof of the houses in the one below and where few passages were so wide that they could not be spanned by the reach of a man’s arms. It represented in fact an exceedingly complicated trench system with vertical slides some thirty to forty feet high, which could readily be converted into a regular citadel.16

While aspects of this description are specific to Jaffa’s urban fabric, particularly the proximity of the Old City to the port and its topographical advantage over British administrative buildings in the New City, the negative attitude towards the Old City’s ‘dark and narrow streets’ and ‘maze’-like layout are not uncommon to British discourses surrounding poor urban quarters in the 1930s, an era that witnessed an upsurge in ‘urban renewal’ projects and ‘slum clearances’ in England.17 In fact, before the start of the operation, British aeroplanes dropped down leaflets that described the demolitions as being ‘for the improvement of the Old City’18 echoing these new discourses. Needless to say, however, the nature and motivations of the operations at Jaffa, carried by a military force and intended to serve imperial aspirations, were markedly distinct from slum clearances in England that were carried on the basis of Housing and Town Planning acts, despite their similar outcomes.

The British divided their operations in Jaffa into four different phases: first, a retaliatory offensive attack against houses from which fire had been directed; second, the clearing of the approaches and cleaning up of the town at the edge of the Old City; third, the driving of a road through the Old City from East to West by means of demolition; and fourth, the driving of a similar road to run North and South in a crescent shape.19 Significantly, these operations relied heavily on a series of aerial photographs taken by a Royal Air Force Squadron. These photographs, included in the British report on the operation, were used to study the Old City of Jaffa from above – and to identify the exact areas where the demolition activities in the operation’s third and fourth phases were to take place (Fig. 11.2). Points labelled ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ were marked on the aerial photographs, and lines were drawn connecting them indicating the buildings to be demolished. Additional aerial photographs were taken following the operation, showing the newly-opened arteries or, as the British called them, ‘good wide roads’ that aggressively ran through the heart of the Old City.20 It was this operation, the British write in their report, that ‘mark[ed] the end of organised resistance in the towns’ during the period of the revolt, before the main rebel activities were transferred to the hills and the countryside.21

Figure 11.2
Figure 11.2

‘Jaffa Old City – The dotted line A-B marks the approximate line of the first Demolitions’

Source: ‘Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine,’ 1936, 1938 IOR/L/MIL/17/16/16, British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers

Looking at the 1936 aerial photographs of Jaffa against British aerial photographs from the Great War reveals the shifting official British attitude towards the cities of Palestine, from one that deliberately avoided urban destruction to the taking of drastic measures against an urban population and their city. Aerial photography, a practice that paralleled the developments in warfare technologies during the Great War, has enabled a different view of cities that changed the relationship between photography and the city. Seeing the city from above, while not sufficient for targeting cities, has played a considerable role in enabling such targeting where the necessary power for it became available. Hovering over territories and capturing them from above enabled the representation of places that are inaccessible at ground-level. Clearly, aerial power was not limited to photography (e.g. direct bombardment), and photography that enabled the targeting of cities was not limited to aerial photography (e.g. ground photographic surveillance). Nonetheless, it was the culmination of aerial power and photography that produced the most effective results in targeting urban spaces. With these representations, operations on the ground became more informed, and hence more prone to success – qualities that proved especially useful for the Germans and the British in the context of the Great War and the British taming of the Great Revolt in Palestine.

2 Holistic Views and Colonial Planning

The militaristic targeting of urban spaces during the Great War and in the interwar period presented what is arguably the most direct, and violently destructive, form of imperial and colonial confrontation with Palestine’s urban landscape in the interwar period. Nonetheless, it was not the only, or even most significant, shift in representations of and interventions in Palestine’s urban landscape that paralleled interwar photographic developments. In this period, photography, and especially views from above that provided a vue d’ensemble – a comprehensive picture of the landscape – proved to be an instrumental tool for the development of what Jeanne Haffner identifies as a new ‘science of social space’22 which, though critical for militaristic and warfare operations, was also crucial for the work of professionals interested in the scientific study and intervention in the urban landscape, including archaeologists, planners, engineers and architects. These ‘scientific’ approaches to photography and the urban landscape were particularly significant in the context of Palestine, whose urban landscape had been primarily approached by European Orientalists in the nineteenth century as the Biblical Holy Land.23

In Palestine, aerial photography proved instrumental not only for the emergence of new methods of urban representation, but also interpretation, that departed from typical Biblical frameworks. The first extensive publication to scientifically interpret the aerial photographs and the vue d’ensemble of Palestine’s urban landscape for non-militaristic purposes after the Great War was Gustaf Dalman’s 1925 book, Hundert deutsche Fliegerbilder aus Palästina.24 Dalman, a German Lutheran theologian and archaeologist, had a long experience working in Palestine before the war where he worked as the first director of the Jerusalem-based German Protestant Institute for the Study of Archaeology in the Holy Land (DIEAHL), founded in 1900.25 During his time in Palestine, Dalman led several excavations at archaeological sites around the country, took hundreds photographs and glass slides, and published numerous academic writings including the annual volumes of DIEAHL’s Palestine Yearbook.

In the book, Dalman explicitly expresses his criticism of mainstream productions and photobooks of Biblical sites in Palestine produced by other Orientalists. Crucially, Dalman celebrates the role of nineteenth century photographic imagery of Palestine including, for example, the work of the Beirut-based Bonfils photographic studio, in replacing the ‘fantasy images’ and ‘romantic depictions’ of Biblical sites and landscapes.26 For Dalman, these early photographs hold a ‘special value’ because they depict cities and their surroundings before they became ‘heavily disfigured by the effects of Europeanization’.27 Describing urban change in Nazareth, he writes, ‘today’s Nazareth is almost in the style of an Italian town, entirely unlike the image of Nazareth around 1870, which is in two large photographs before me, and so uncharacteristic that I found it difficult to recognise the details, though I visited Nazareth twice in 1899’.28

Despite his appreciation for these early photographs, Dalman does not shy away from expressing his reservations about the works of professional photographers in Palestine. He is critical of the tendency in photographic publications to exclude descriptions of what is being represented, the direction in which the photograph is taken or the exact time of recording the landscape.29 In addition, he also problematises the one-sidedness of their attitudes toward holy places and historical sites and the lack of reliable, unbiased, information about their general situation or the nature of the land with which their history is connected.30 ‘The professional photographers in Palestine,’ Dalman argues, ‘are too dependent on what geographically and historically uninformed tourists want to buy as souvenirs’, thereby producing piecemeal images of ‘antiquities’ without sufficiently addressing the history and geography of the represented landscape.31

Dalman compiles a series of one hundred aerial photographs of Palestine’s landscape, which to him presented an opportunity ‘not only to see landscapes from above but to understand them’.32 For each photograph, Dalman added a textual description of what is being represented, along with brief geographical and historical information on each specific site and its surroundings. These texts are not simply complementary, rather, they set the specific frame in which the spectator would gaze towards the photographs and interpret them. Dalman’s descriptions are mainly spatial: he outlined, for each photograph, geographical features (topography and land and water features), the main neighbourhoods shown, the main public buildings and architectural monuments (hospitals, cemeteries, holy places, etc.) and the main routes leading in and out of urban centres (Fig. 11.3). It situated the depicted area within its wider regional context, including both the cities and the routes to their hinterlands or nearby suburbs, including the German Colonies in Jerusalem and Haifa. The fact that his main emphasis was on the vue d’ensemble of the geography and topography of the urban landscape, rather than isolated historical notes on these monuments, distinguished his book from the typical Biblical frameworks in which Palestine and its landscape had been understood throughout the nineteenth century.

As Dalman was preparing his study of Palestine’s landscape in Germany, in Palestine, the British were devising new planning frameworks and policies for their intervention in urban built fabrics. The British concentrated their new planning policies on the city of Jerusalem, the religious and political capital of Mandate Palestine. In 1917, Colonel Ronald Storrs was appointed as the first military governor of Jerusalem. Storrs was heavily invested in the historical preservation of Jerusalem’s built fabric.33 Already in the first weeks of the military occupation, he announced a public notice intended to maintain the city’s status quo in terms of construction activity. This was clear in the public notice he announced in the first weeks of the occupation:

No Person shall demolish, erect, alter, or repair the structure of any building in the city of Jerusalem or its environs within a radius of 2,500 metres from the Damascus Gate (Bab al Amud) until he has obtained a written permit from the Military Governor.34

Figure 11.3
Figure 11.3

Example of two pages from Gustaf Dalman’s 1925 book, including descriptive texts for two aerial photographs of Jerusalem

Source: Gustaf Dalman, Hundert Deutsche Fliegerbilder Aus Palästina (Gutersloh: Bertelsmann, 1925), 12–13

The notice was only intended as a temporary measure until matters of town planning and building policies in Jerusalem were sorted. In 1918, Storrs established the Pro-Jerusalem Society (1918–1926) which was aimed at: ‘the preservation and advancement of the interests of Jerusalem, its district and inhabitants’ and avoiding potential conflict between the different ethnic groups in Jerusalem.35 Storrs also appointed Charles Ashbee, a British architect and planner, as the society’s Civic Advisor and Secretary. These two decisions, it would later turn out, were incredibly significant for the future development of the city and would have a lasting effect on its inhabitants in the decades that followed.

At the time of his appointment, Ashbee, a friend and disciple of William Morris, was already known for his skill and enthusiasm for the Arts and Crafts movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Britain, he was also a member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the National Trust. Though his stay in Jerusalem for a few years was short compared to the three decades of British rule over Palestine, his visions for the future of the city and its inhabitants, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, albeit accommodated for the context of Palestine, remain highly relevant for understanding the terms in which the British approached the city and its physical fabric in the years of military occupation and in the early stages of the civil administration.36

Crucially, Ashbee paid considerable attention to photographic materials and utilised them extensively in documenting, studying, and planning urban developments in the city of Jerusalem. This is evident in his Palestine notebook and two published reports he edited of the work of the Pro-Jerusalem Society, documenting their work in Jerusalem during the initial period of British military occupation (1918–20) and the first two years of the Mandate (1920–22).37 The two reports include long sections on urban planning activities written by Ashbee, in addition to a number of short essays written by other European practitioners and scholars of archaeology and architecture in Palestine. In the sections written by Ashbee, he included several sub-sections reporting on the works undertaken under his supervisions reflecting, for the most part, his assessment of these works and visions for the future of the city. These were accompanied by sketches he drew and photographs that were mostly captured by American Colony photographers.

A key aspect of Ashbee’s vision for Jerusalem is his clear distinction between the ‘Old City’ and the ‘New City’. Ashbee’s attitude towards the Old City, however, was not like the British attitude towards Jaffa in the 1930s. It rather stemmed, for the most part, from his architectural and archaeological interest in the city’s historic centre and his desire to preserve it from potential destruction: ‘the disaster of the Great War has forced upon all men and women the necessity of preserving all that is possible of the beauty and the purpose, in actual form, of the civilisations that have passed before.’ To him, however, this was not a ‘mere matter of archaeology or the protection of ancient buildings’. As an active member of the Arts and Crafts movement, he also believed in preserving urban ideals from the ‘blind mechanical order’ which, to him, threatened the destruction of everything associated with ‘beauty’, that is, the ‘landscape, the unities of streets and sites, the embodied vision of men that set the great whole together, [and] the sense of colour which in any Oriental city is still a living sense’.38

What is noteworthy about Ashbee’s work in Jerusalem is not only what he envisioned for the city, but also the tools he used to articulate his visions. Photography was arguably one of the most important tools for him. Unlike Dalman, Ashbee’s vue d’ensemble of Jerusalem’s relied not on aerial photographs, but ground panoramic photographs taken from elevated positions by his staff and by American Colony photographers. For Ashbee, these panoramas were an essential medium to establish a visual hierarchy of what ought to be seen and what was deemed a visual nuisance. Since Ashbee treated the Old City as a ‘unity in itself’ that had to be protected from the encroachments of the New City, many of his plans were concentrated on the contact zone between the Old and New quarters.39 In addition to his suggestions for the creation of a green buffer belt around the Old City’s historical walls, Ashbee paid considerable attention to the opening-up of the panoramic views towards the Old City when it is approached from the New City. Two of his photograph-sketch compositions published in the 1921 report of the Pro-Jerusalem Society illustrate the primacy of the visual relationship between the Old City and the New City in his urban visions.

The first composition depicts a view of Jerusalem approached from south-west, on the Jaffa road (Fig. 11.4). The panoramic photograph depicts the view in its present state, overlooking the citadel, the Ottoman clocktower, the Old City – all at a higher elevation than the valley from which the photograph is captured. Some buildings also appear outside of the Old City, blocking parts of the view of the historic walls. Next to the photograph, Ashbee includes a photo caption: ‘the Jaffa Gate reconstruction as at present, looking towards the city’, omitting the Ottoman clocktower, which Ashbee had been mobilising for its destruction. Below the photograph, he sketched his own vision of the panorama captioned: ‘as suggested when the unsightly obstruction that hides the walls are cleaned away’. In the sketch, the ‘obstructive’ buildings of the New City do not appear, and the citadel and the city’s historic walls appear enlarged and more visible.

The second composition similarly depicts the approaches to the Old City overlooking the road to Bethlehem, but in the opposite direction (Fig. 11.5). The photograph, captured from an elevated viewpoint outside the historical walls, shows Jaffa gate, the citadel, an informal Arab market, and Bethlehem in the distance. Ashbee notes: ‘the Jaffa gate reconstruction at present, looking towards Bethlehem’. Below, Ashbee adds his own diagram of the view of the road he had in mind. He explains: ‘the same, as suggested after the removal of the market to the other side of the road’ reflecting, not only the desire for their destruction, as the case with the first composition, but also their relocation into a more formal market arrangement. In the report, Ashbee even includes several architectural schemes for new formal markets both in the Old and New cities to replace such informal arrangements with formal market schemes with ‘definite boundaries’ to conceal them away from the approaches to the Old and New cities.40

In a sense, Ashbee’s vision for the city of Jerusalem, despite its more critical stance regarding architecture and its basis on rigourous study, did not radically depart from its representation by European visitors in the late nineteenth century as an ‘open-air biblical museum.’41 Like these visitors, who would often climb the Mount of Olives to admire the panoramic view over the ‘city of Jesus’, Ashbee’s plans and sketches for Jerusalem reflect more interest in distant views of the city than in the conditions of its local inhabitants. The two panoramic photographs captured from the perspective of an outsider entering the city attest to this. As with Dalman’s ‘scientific’ analysis of aerial photographs, this physical distance raises an important question regarding the manifestations of relations of power in representations of the urban landscape. Both Ashbee and Dalman dismiss the role or fate of the local inhabitants in their representations of the urban landscape. While in Dalman’s distant photographs the Arab population makes no appearance and their architectural contribution is not mentioned, in Ashbee’s compositions, they are either depicted as ghostly silhouette figures in the landscape, or as a population whose building activity poses an obstruction to romanticised and sanitised colonial visions of the Holy City.

Figure 11.4
Figure 11.4

Above: ‘The Jaffa Gate reconstruction as at present, looking towards the city.’ Below: ‘The same, as suggested when the unsightly obstruction that hides the walls are cleaned away’

Source: Charles Robert Ashbee, ed., Jerusalem, 1918–1920: Being the Records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council During the Period of the British Military Administration (London: J. Murray, for the Council of the Pro-Jerusalem Society, 1921)

3 The City in Print and Arab Self-Image

Photographs of urban spaces and landscapes, particularly distant aerial and panoramic views, proved instrumental for reifying imperial and colonial representations of the urban landscape and the carrying out of colonial urban counterinsurgency activities and planning projects. It would be false, however, to assume that photography and photographic representations of urban landscapes in interwar Palestine were a product of and served colonial interests alone. Palestine’s native Arab population, particularly urbanites, also utilised the power of photographic imagery in this period to articulate their own conceptions and visions for Arab nationhood, modernity and progress in the interwar period. These new national conceptions and visions were undoubtedly shaped by the native populations’ desire to respond to colonialism and colonial imagery. However, they were also the product of internal social and class shifts and ruptures among urban populations, particularly the rise of a new urban middle class of effendiyya with new forms of social and cultural values, systems of identification and forms of expression.42

Figure 11.5
Figure 11.5

Above: ‘The Jaffa gate reconstruction at present, looking towards Bethlehem.’ Below: ‘The same, as suggested after the removal of the market to the other side of the road’

Source: Charles Robert Ashbee, ed., Jerusalem, 1918–1920: Being the Records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council During the Period of the British Military Administration (London: J. Murray, for the Council of the Pro-Jerusalem Society, 1921)

Most works that address the rise of ‘vernacular’ photographic imagery in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Palestine focus on family portraits.43 This is not surprising given that, with only a few exceptions like the works of Khalīl Raʿad and Ḥannā Ṣāfiyya,44 Arab photographers in Palestine and the region were much less interested in the photography of cities and urban landscapes than they were in the production of studio portraits and the photography of weddings and social events.45 Nonetheless, in the 1930s and 40s, an era marked by an increased confrontation with the Zionists and the British, and a growing interest by the local Arab population in taking part in urban affairs and projects, the reproduction of photographic materials that depict urban events and built forms played an instrumental role in Arab expressions for their desire for the building of their national consciousness and institutions, and countering their depiction as ‘unprogressive’ and ‘backward’ in British and Zionist imagery of Palestine.46 Hence, from the 1930s onwards, numerous Arab publications surfaced that included photographs of urban events and spaces as a form of documentation and evidence of both colonial repression of urban populations and progressive Arab-led urban-based national activities and projects, targeted at audiences both within and beyond Palestine.

Among the Arab-led urban activities that received extensive coverage across Arab print media in Palestine were the organisation and inauguration of the 1933 and 1934 National Arab Exhibitions in Jerusalem. Held at a critical period between the 1929 Buraq Revolt and the 1936 Great Revolt, the two exhibitions ‘were intended to demonstrate that Arab countries were witnessing remarkable innovations in the industrial and agricultural sectors despite, and not because of, European colonisation’.47 The British administration, which had previously partnered with the Zionists on several exhibitions in Palestine and abroad, refused to endorse the exhibition and even placed several hurdles in the way of its execution.48 Hence, the exhibitions were entirely financed, organised and executed by Palestine’s new group of Arab urban middle class elites who were leading Palestine’s Arab national and economic Nahda (‘renaissance’).49

With the two exhibitions, the organisers intended to boost economic development, with political end goals, at both the national and urban levels. On the one hand, the exhibitions were executed with the aim of forging new economic bonds between the Arab countries that had been fragmented and disconnected in the Great War. At the same time, the organisers were aware of the specific threats taking place in Palestine, and the significance of organising an event of this sort in one of the country’s main urban centres. The relationship between the exhibitions and the city was a key issue since the former’s earliest articulations. While the initial intent was to host the exhibition in Jaffa, in close proximity to the Zionist Levant Fair in Tel Aviv, after several debates and conflicts, the final decision was made to host the exhibitions at the Palace Hotel in Jerusalem, a building owned and run by the Supreme Muslim Council (SMC) – the primary representative body for Palestine’s Arab population at the time.50 Taking place only a few years after the Buraq revolt, and in the context of the turbulences of 1933, hosting the Arab exhibition in Jerusalem was a clear statement regarding the Arab claim over the city and its public sphere.

A photograph of the opening of the second exhibition in 1934 from the private collection of Saʿid Ḥusaynī illustrates the urban nature of the event (Fig. 11.6). In the photograph, a large crowd of men appear to have gathered outside the Palace Hotel building, the venue where the two exhibitions were held, to celebrate the second exhibition’s inauguration. The building is decorated with flags and two banners that read ‘the second Arab exhibition’ and ‘loving the nation is an act of faith’. A vertical distance appears between the crowds outside the gate and the fewer individuals who occupied the building’s front balcony. Numerous Arabic newspaper articles covered details of the opening ceremony, which included a speech by ʿAjāj Nuwayhiḍ, a member of the exhibition’s board of directors, on the board’s behalf. In his speech, fully transcribed by the Jerusalemite al-ʿArab newspaper, Nuwayhid emphasised the ‘Arab-ness’ of the city and the event, thanked its supporters, welcomed its visitors from across the country, and explained the motivations behind the exhibition as ‘developing Arab capital, rejuvenating national projects, supporting Arab labourers by strengthening Arab factories, supporting artists and innovators to make use of their talents, and consolidating economic bonds between Arab sectors to achieve Arab economic independence’.51

Figure 11.6
Figure 11.6

‘A black-and-white photograph of a crowd gathered in front of al-Awqaf, Ma ʾman Allah St during the opening of the Second Arab Industrial Exhibition, in 1934, in Palace Hotel, in response to the Zionist Exhibition which had opened in Tel Aviv’

Source: Said al-Husseini Collection, Palestinian Museum Digital Archive. Image courtesy of the Palestinian Museum

The numerous Arabic newspaper articles that covered the opening of the first and second exhibitions included multiple photographs, predominantly focused on the Palace Hotel’s exterior and interior spaces. Built by the Supreme Muslim Council and registered as a Waqf property, the Palace Hotel was distinguished in its architectural style and location. It was designed by two well-known Turkish architects, Ahmet Kemaleddin and his disciple Mehmed Nihad, who had initially arrived in Jerusalem to lead the renovations in Haram al-Sharif.52 It was the largest and most grandiose Arab building in Palestine constructed in the era of the British Mandate. The hotel’s location on Mamilla Street in what Charles Ashbee has defined as the New City outside the historical walls of Jerusalem, in the vicinity of new Jewish neighbourhoods and colonial construction projects, was a clear statement about the Arab claim over the New City and participation in Jerusalem’s extra-muros modern developments and tourism industry. The building was also of regional significance. In 1931, the Islamic Congress bringing leaders from all over the Muslim world was held at the Palace Hotel. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the hotel figured extensively in the exhibitions’ photographic and textual representations, both in the Arabic press and in the official manuals prepared for the two exhibitions, and was described as an emblem for Arab national progress and cultural renaissance.53

The press coverage and photographic representations of the Arab exhibitions in the early 1930s were mainly directed towards an Arabic readership within Palestine. Nonetheless, this audience was not the only target that Arab urbanites wanted to reach in this period. The British support for the Zionist movement was a growing concern among Arab intellectuals and politicians, both those who resided in Palestine and abroad. By the 1930s and 40s, Palestinians had realised the extent of Zionist propaganda outside of Palestine. Its representations at multiple World Fairs around the world at that time was one of many indicators of the power of the Biblical image of Palestine that they had presented to the world, as a deserted land that required Zionist colonial settlement and modernisation. Hence, by the mid 1930s and early 40s, there was an increased desire by key Arab figures to counter the image of British Mandatory rule and Zionist settler colonialism as ‘civilised’ and ‘modern’ regimes not only in Palestine, but also abroad, particularly in Europe and the United States.

In October 1933, only three months after the inauguration of the first Arab exhibition in Jerusalem, major Arab demonstrations took place in Jerusalem and Jaffa, initiated by the Arab Executive Committee’s call for a national strike to protest British policy regarding Zionist settlement in Palestine. By November, the demonstrations escalated and spread to other principal urban centres including Haifa and Nablus and were met by extreme use of force by the British Police Force in Palestine. Like the Arab exhibitions, the events received considerable attention in local Arabic newspapers, detailing both protest activities and British acts of repression. Unlike the coverage for the two Arab exhibitions, however, reporting on the 1933 demonstrations was predominantly textual, and lacked photographic materials. Realising this gap, by the end of 1933, Theodore Sarrouf, an Arab nationalist and the founder of the Press and Publication Office in Jaffa, one of the first Arab advertising agencies of its kind in the country, began collecting photographs of the October-November demonstrations with the purpose of their publication.

On 12th January 1934, Sarrouf published a 43-page photographic album of the 1933 demonstrations.54 The album’s pages included tens of photographs of demonstrations (including women’s demonstrations), police repression, funerals, relief work and portraits of detainees and families of martyrs in the principal Arab cities of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and Nablus, separated by pages of private advertisement similar to those published in local newspapers. For each photograph, Sarrouf included a caption describing the event photographed and its date and location. Significantly, Sarrouf decided to write these captions in both Arabic and English. In a short preface titled ‘Explanation of the Publisher,’ he elucidates the motivation behind his collection:

While contributing news material to certain papers about the recent disturbances and demonstrations which resulted in considerable loss of life in most towns of Palestine, I realised how anxious the reading public was to get hold of as many pictures as possible so that it may possess a pictorial souvenir of these important events. Losing neither time nor opportunity, I set myself earnestly in collecting almost every picture taken by local and foreign photographers both professional and amateur of the demonstrations […] My sole aim in furnishing the English reading people with such a collection, is the hope that they will form to themselves a clear and correct impression of the demonstrations held by the suppressed Arabs as a cry for justice in Palestine, this unfortunate part of the Arab World.55

Hence, although Sarrouf describes the photographs as ‘pictorial souvenirs,’ he is aware of the importance of photography not only as a documentary tool of Arab dissatisfaction and British police repression, but also as a powerful universal language in which he is able to communicate the political injustices taking place in Palestine to a global audience. With this photographic collection, Sarrouf writes in the Arabic version of the preface, he intended to ‘provide Eastern and Western audiences with a living memory of what happened in this holy place at the height of the age of civilisation’.56

In the photographs Sarrouf included, an important aspect of the demonstrations in the major Arab cities is brought to light, namely the effort by Arab protestors in occupying the central public spaces in the cities, particularly those surrounded by buildings of British official institutions, and their obstruction from reaching their destinations by British police forces. In Jaffa, the main confrontations took place in the city’s main public square adjacent to the Mahmudiyyah Mosque, the Ottoman clocktower and the government headquarters. In one of the photographs Sarrouf includes, he shows that the police used barbed wires on the main intersections to block demonstrations from reaching the main square which he refers to as ‘Martyrs’ Square’ in reference to the Arab victims of police repression (Fig. 11.7). Sarrouf’s photographs depict similar confrontations between Arab demonstrators and British police in Jerusalem, including the police attack on the protestors at the New Gate, at the boundary of the Old and New cities, and against an Arab women’s demonstration (Fig. 11.8). Unlike the perceptions of Jaffa and Jerusalem in RAF aerial imagery and Ashbee’s panoramic photographs, the cities in these photographs appear not as distant and sanitised objects, but as animated sites of direct confrontation between natives and colonial forces.

Figure 11.7
Figure 11.7

A page including photographs in Jaffa from Theodore Sarrouf’s album. The captions read: ‘The mounted Police disperse the demonstrators at the martyr-ground square Jaffa’; and ‘Demonstrators in front of the entrance of the great Mosque of Jaffa, Policemen obstructing the way leading to the Governorate’

Source: Theodore Sarrouf, Photographs of the Demonstrations Which Took Place in Palestine 1933 ( Jaffa: Press and Publication Office, 1934)
Figure 11.8
Figure 11.8

A page including photographs in Jerusalem from Theodore Sarrouf’s album. The captions read: ‘Constables & Police Officers are attacking the demonstrators at the New Gate & striking them with their batons. Some are thrown as illustrated’; and ‘the mounted Police are rushing upon the demonstrating ladies’

Source: Theodore Sarrouf, Photographs of the Demonstrations Which Took Place in Palestine 1933 ( Jaffa: Press and Publication Office, 1934)

Until the mid 1940s, Arab efforts to counter British and Zionist colonial imagery of Palestine remained uninstitutionalised and were primarily based on individual efforts like Sarrouf’s. This gap was filled in 1944, when the Institute of Arab American Affairs (IAAA) was established in New York, aiming to represent ‘thousands of loyal American citizens of Arabic-speaking stock’ and ‘promote understanding and encourage friendly relations between the United States and the Arabic-speaking peoples’.57 The institute also had a clear anti-Zionist political stance towards the question of Palestine, which was articulated in a manifesto it published in 1945, and submitted to the delegates of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, opposing the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. That same year, Khalīl Totah, a renowned Palestinian educator, had been appointed as the institute’s executive director, replacing Phillip Hitti who had served an interim period while he was on temporary leave from Princeton University. ‘Though forced to disband in 1950 due to a lack of funds’, Denise Laszewski Jenison explains, ‘the institute was quite active during its tenure, publishing pamphlets and newsletters, sending members to give speeches and testify in various hearings about the Palestine question, and writing to politicians at all levels in an effort to draw attention of the Arab side of the story’.58

In 1946, the IAAA published a report on ‘Arab Progress in Palestine’.59 The report, authored by Totah, intended to offer an otherwise dismissed perspective on Palestine to the American public. It is divided into sections on economic progress, weaving and textiles, the building trade, cement, insurance, airways, motor transport, shipbuilding, cigarette factories, the Summer Resort Company, cinemas, salt, mother-of-pearl, olive wood, banking, the Arab National Bank, chambers of commerce, telephones and education. What these all have in common is that they are all led by Arab actors. Names of Arab corporations, organisations and individuals proliferate throughout the entire report, painting an impression of the nature of ‘Arab progress’ in Palestine. This impression, however, is not only textual but visual. The report includes six enlarged photographs depicting Arab economic, industrial and cultural advancements in Palestine. Of these, five are located in main urban centres and depict urban-based activities.

Two of the photographs depict features of progress in Jaffa. The first photograph is of al-Hamrā’ cinema and the second is of a machine shop. The report stresses the Arab identity of these two establishments. The caption of al-Hamrā’s photograph reads: ‘an Arab cinema in Jaffa designed by an Arab architect and built by an Arab company’.60 The caption of the workshop’s photograph similarly reads: ‘an Arab machine shop’.61 Two other photographs present urban street views of Palestine’s Arab cities (Fig. 11.9–10). The first photograph captioned ‘modern Arab houses in Jerusalem’ depicts Bauhaus-style private dwellings in one of Jerusalem’s Arab neighbourhoods – a rather unique image of Arab Jerusalem which is often represented through religious architecture or symbolism attached to the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The second photograph is captioned ‘municipal park at Gaza. Gaza is a purely Arab town’ – displaying a long promenade lined by palm trees, ordered green spaces, and fountains.62 Together, these images present Palestine as it had never been known to a Western, not to mention American, audience before. That is, not only as the ‘land of promise’ but as a ‘land of progress’ where ‘progress’ is not only defined by the actions of the British and the Zionists but also by the country’s native Arab population.63

Figure 11.9 and 11.10
Figure 11.9 and 11.10

Two pages from ‘Arab Progress in Palestine’ report by Khalil Totah

Source: Totah, “Arab Progress in Palestine,” 1946

4 Conclusion

In examining a range of photographic representations of the urban built environment in Mandate Palestine, it is evident that these representations varied considerably based not only on who produced them, but also how and for whom they were produced. Considering these factors brings to light a series of three photographic approaches to the photographic representation of the cities of Palestine: the city as target, the city as a vue d’ensemble and the city as self-image. With each of these approaches, a different attitude towards the cities and their inhabitants is expressed. The first, usually based on distant representations of the urban landscape, is mostly concerned with its domination. The second, meanwhile, sees the city through a romantic lens, and is equally concerned with the preservation of a certain idea of the city as with the destruction of this idea’s outcasts. The third, on the other hand, is an image of the modern city where its representation is equated with an entire social formation and cultural identity.

These different attitudes appeared, for the most part, not only in the photographs themselves and the intentions of the photographers but in the ways in which the photographs have been re-packaged to satisfy different, even oppositional, visions and representations of urban space and its inhabitants. For instance, Dalman’s reproduction of Bavarian aerial photographs with the intention of the scientific study of the history and geography of Palestine’s landscape departed significantly from the initial intentions of the Bavarian air squadrons who took these aerial photographs as part of their military reconnaissance against British troops. Other aspects regarding the specifics of reproduction, including the medium (e.g. magazine, newspaper, report, sketch book), their accompanying text (e.g. captions, essays, titles) and its language and audience also played an important role in serving the reproducers’ ideological urban visions. These aspects in particular distinguished in Arab photographic reproductions from their colonial counterparts. Whereas the latter were usually published in the form of private and inaccessible reports, with the exception of Dalman, the former were intentionally reproduced in Arabic and English public media to ensure their mass dissemination locally and globally.

The categorical separation of three above-mentioned representational approaches to urban space, however, must not lead to the assumption that these approaches were always mutually exclusive. In fact, there are many cases where the opposite is true, that is, where one of these approaches towards the city has directly or indirectly triggered, reinforced or enabled the other. For example, despite the differences in the motifs of Ashbee’s 1920s panoramas of the Old City of Jerusalem, in which he envisioned ‘improvement plans’ for the city, and the 1936 British aerial photographs of the Old City Jaffa before destroying large parts of it also in the name of ‘improvement plans’, and the different attitudes of each of these representations towards the city, their connection cannot be dismissed. That is, the colonial objectification and destruction of the native urban built environment. It can even be argued that it is the same distorted Orientalist representations of Arab cities, which Ashbee accepted and contributed to, which informed the British administration’s attitude towards the Old City of Jaffa as a disorderly ‘old labyrinth of alleys’64 that posed a threat to colonial domination. In a similar fashion, while the Arab photographic representations of the city as sites of Arab-led progress should not be reduced to reactions to colonial representations, it is beyond doubt that the two oppositional Arab national and colonial representational attitudes played key roles in each other’s formation.


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J. Fruchtman, “Statutory Planning as a Form of Social Control: The Evolution of Town Planning Law in Mandatory Palestine and Israel 1917–1980’s” (PhD diss., University of London, 1986),


See in this volume chapters by Karène Sanchez Summerer and Norig Neveu, Sary Zananiri, and Yazan Kopty.


While it is realised that the Zionists, too, had a vested interest in the photographic representation of the urban built environment and urban development in Palestine during this period, a thorough analysis of Zionist imaging of the cities is beyond the scope of this study. Nonetheless, given that many aspects of British and Arab representations of cities in Palestine were ultimately shaped or influenced by their interactions with the Zionist movement, some elements of such encounters are addressed.


Benjamin Z. Kedar, The Changing Land: Between the Jordan and the Sea: Aerial Photographs from 1917 to the Present (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1999), 28.


Priya Satia, Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 240.


Ibid., 240.


Jacob Norris, ‘Repression and Rebellion: Britain’s Response to the Arab Revolt in Palestine of 1936–39’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 36, no. 1 (2008): 25–45; Weldon Matthews, Confronting an Empire, Constructing a Nation: Arab Nationalists and Popular Politics in Mandate Palestine (London: I.B.Tauris, 2006).


Ibid., 27.


‘Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936’, 1938, IOR/L/MIL/17/16/16, British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers; For more on the British strategy of “combined action” in Palestine during the Great Revolt, see Nadi Abusaada, “Combined Action: Aerial Imagery and the Urban Landscape in Interwar Palestine,” Jerusalem Quarterly 81 (2020): 20–36.


For more on the report, see Abusaada, ‘Combined Action: Aerial Imagery and the Urban Landscape in Interwar Palestine, 1918–40’.


‘Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936,’ 156.


Ibid., 156.


Ibid.; for more on the historical relationship between the two cities of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, see Mark LeVine, Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880–1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Sharon Rotbard, White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa (London: Pluto Press, 2015).


‘Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936,’ 156.


Ibid., 157.


Ibid., 157.


Arthur Peter Becker, “Housing in England and Wales during the Business Depression of the 1930’s,” The Economic History Review 3, no. 3 (1951): 321–41.


‘Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936,’ 158.


‘Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936,’ 157–8.


Ibid., 159.


Ibid., 159.


Jeanne Haffner, The View from Above: The Science of Social Space (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013).


See in this volume chapters by Yazan Kopty, Sary Zananiri, and Karène Sanchez Summerer and Norig Neveu; Beshara Doumani, “Rediscovering Ottoman Palestine: Writing Palestinians into History,” Journal of Palestine Studies 21, no. 2 (1 January 1992): 5–28.


Archaeological efforts were a key element of Ottoman-German interest during the war. Under the instructions of the German archaeologist Theodor Wiegand (1864–1936), who served as a captain of the Ottoman-German militia artillery in the Asia Corps, Bavarian aeroplanes captured photographs of some of the main archaeological sites in the region. In 1918, based on a direct order from Djemal Pasha, Wiegand published Alte Denkmäler aus Syrien, Palästina und Westarabien, a bilingual Ottoman-Turkish and German book. The book included two sections: an introduction by Djemal Pasha in which he states some administrative measures he took to improve the preservation of historical monuments and to ‘protect them’ from the Allies, and a commentary essay by Wiegand, based on a series of one hundred illustrations (mainly photographs) of major archaeological sites and textual descriptions. See Theodor Wiegand and Ahmed Djemal Pascha, Alte Denkmäler aus Syrien, Palästina und Westarabien: 100 Tafeln mit beschreibendem Text (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1918).


“Foundation and First Aims (1900–1914),” German Protestant Institute of Archeology (blog), 20 July 2019,


Gustaf Dalman, Hundert Deutsche Fliegerbilder Aus Palästina (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1925), 3.


Ibid., 3.


Ibid., 3.


Ibid., 3.


Ibid., 3.


Ibid., 3.


Ibid., 4.


Sir Ronald Storrs, Orientations (London: I. Nicholson & Watson, 1939).


Charles Robert Ashbee, ed., Jerusalem, 1918–1920: Being the Records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council During the Period of the British Military Administration (London: J. Murray, for the Council of the Pro-Jerusalem Society, 1921), v.


Ibid., vii.


Wendy Pullan and Lefkos Kyriacou, “The Work of Charles Ashbee: Ideological Urban Visions with Everyday City Spaces,” Jerusalem Quarterly 39 (2009): 51–61.


Charles Robert Ashbee, A Palestine Notebook, 1918–1923 [1st ed.] (New York: Garden City, 1923); Ashbee, Jerusalem, 1918–1920; Charles Robert Ashbee, ed., Jerusalem, 1920–1922: Being the Records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council During the First Two Years of the Civil Administration (London: J. Murray, for the Council of the Pro-Jerusalem Society, 1924).


Ashbee, Jerusalem, 1918–1920, 4.


Ashbee, Jerusalem, 1920–1922, 1.


Ibid., 26.


Vincent Lemire, Jerusalem 1900: The Holy City in the Age of Possibilities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 55.


On the expressions of these socioeconomic shifts in the realm of portrait photography, see Stephen Sheehi, The Arab Imago: A Social History of Portrait Photography, 1860–1910 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), xxiv.


Issam Nassar, “Familial Snapshots: Representing Palestine in the Work of the First Local Photographers,” History & Memory 18, no. 2 (2006): 139–155.


See the chapters of Rona Sela and Issam Nassar in this volume.


Issam Nassar, “A Jerusalem Photographer: The Life and Work of Hanna Safieh,” Jerusalem Quarterly 7 (2000): 26.


Mark LeVine, “The Discourses of Development in Mandate Palestine,” Arab Studies Quarterly (1995): 95–124.


Nadi Abusaada, “Self-Portrait of a Nation: The Arab Exhibition in Mandate Jerusalem, 1931–1934,” Jerusalem Quarterly 77 (2019): 122.


There were many hurdles. Besides refusing some of the plans for the exhibition by the Town Planning Commission, the British administration also rejected the allocation of municipal funds for the exhibitions. Ibid., 128.


Ibid., 128.; Sherene Seikaly, Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015).


Abusaada, “Self-Portrait of a Nation: The Arab Exhibition in Mandate Jerusalem, 1931–1934,” 128–129.


al-’Arab, ‘khitab al-iftitah’, 14 April 1934.


Yıldırım Yavuz, “The Influence of Late Ottoman Architecture in the Arab Provinces: The Case of the Palace Hotel in Jerusalem,” Proceedings of the International Congress of Turkish Arts 1 (2003): 1–22.


On 15th July 1933, an article appeared in al-Arab that included a series of three photographs of the Palace Hotel at the time of the first exhibition, with the following accompanying captions: ‘the view of the Waqf Hotel, where the exhibition is held. The building is constructed in the glamorous Arab-style, consists of four stories, and it costed no less than 70,000 Palestinian pounds and rented annually for about 8,000 pounds’; ‘a view of the large lobby on the ground floor before the exhibition was held’; and ‘upon entering the building, the visitor is faced with a spectacular elevated dome, scraping the clouds, and this is its photograph.’ ‘al maʾrad al-ʾarabi al-awwal (‘the first Arab exhibition’)’, al-Arab, 15 July 1933: 21–30, 22, 26.


Theodore Sarrouf, Photographs of the Demonstrations Which Took Place in Palestine 1933 (Jaffa: Press and Publication Office, 1934).






‘Manifesto of the Institute of Arab American Affairs on Palestine’ (New York: Institute of Arab American Affairs, 1945).


Denise Laszewski Jenison, ‘“American Citizens of Arabic-Speaking Stock”: The Institute of Arab American Affairs and Questions of Identity in the Debate over Palestine,’ in New Horizons of Muslim Diaspora in North America and Europe, ed. Moha Ennaji (New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016), 36.


Khalil Totah, “Arab Progress in Palestine” (New York: Institute of Arab American Affairs, 1946).








On the shifting conception of Palestine from ‘land of promise’ a ‘land of progress’ in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Jacob Norris, Land of Progress: Palestine in the Age of Colonial Development, 1905–1948 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).


‘Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936,’ 159.

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Imaging and Imagining Palestine

Photography, Modernity and the Biblical Lens, 1918–1948

Series:  Open Jerusalem, Volume: 3


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