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“Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948” by Shepherd Naomi Report


Shepherd Naomi in her book “Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948” extensively explored from the start of the British occupation in 1917 up to the enactment of the Palestinian Citizenship Order in Council in 1925, (the people of Palestine was in transition (Shepherd, 2000).

As the Palestinian Mandate (adopted in 1922) and the Treaty of Lausanne (imposed in 1924) acknowledged a separate nationality for Palestine’s residents on the international level, Palestinians people was without complete inland regulation then. These eight years brought about the first transitional phase in the history of Palestinian nationality (Shepherd, 2000).

Separation from Ottoman Empire

Succeeding its separation from the Ottoman Empire, Palestine saw itself bordered by newly emerged nations. On its separation from Ottoman Empire, the region of Palestine and its populace became distinct from its bordering countries. This division had actually started between Palestine and the newly-created Arab ‘states’: Trans-Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon (Shepherd, 2000).

Almost immediately after that, Palestine’s borders attained lasting acknowledgment through mutual accords held with the legislature of neighboring states (Shepherd, 2000).

Besides, as a result of the international lawful underlying structure set up by the Treaty of Lausanne, all the four newly-created Arab ‘states’ and their diverse populations created a separate nationality of their own by inland legislation (Shepherd, 2000). The nationalities of each of these countries have since then turn out to be well-established.

Transitional stage

According to Shepherd Naomi, “nationalities in the bordering countries of Palestine were obviously distinct from Palestinian nationality soon after the fall of The Ottoman Empire. Palestinian people were addressed as aliens in these countries, while citizens of these bordering countries were also regarded as aliens in Palestine.

Palestine Development stage

From the viewpoint of international law, Palestinian people experienced three developmental phases during this transitional era. The first started with the British military control in 1917 and up to the favorable reception of the Mandate of Palestine in 1922.

The second phase extended from the last date until the endorsement of the Treaty of Lausanne on 6th August 1924. The final, and the briefest, phase was from the endorsement of the abovementioned agreement till the imposing of the Nationality Order in 1925.

Palestine under British occupation

In this period, Palestine was initially put under military dictatorship and after that under a civil government. From 1917 up to the acceptance of the Palestine term of office in 1922 by the administrative bodies, the international status which was distinct by law of the country was undecided. Therefore, the nationality of Palestine’s natives, close to those in other ex-Ottoman territories in unison, was to a certain extent anomalous.

The British occupation did not change the international status of Palestine as invaded Turkish territory. In the meantime, the European power assembled abroad (Italy), to talk about a resolution with Turkey and to decide on the outlook of Iraq together with Palestine and Syria.

On 25th April 1920, the Allied determined that Turkey would not be handed over the Ottoman territories that speak Arabic (Shepherd, 2000). In its place, the authority over Syria (together with Lebanon) was given to France and the administration of Palestine and Iraq (as well as Trans-Jordan) was given to Britain.

Soon after the conference held in Europe, an independent control over Palestine was announced by Britain in 1920. It also formed a civil government to reinstate the military administration which had dominated the country since December 1917 (Shepherd, 2000).

As the independently announced mandate had no result, Palestine remained at Ottoman territory. British as well received this international legal emplacement (Shepherd, 2000).

The current consequence of that Law was part of the universal use of the Ottoman laws in Palestine. Despite the military laws executed by military courts, civil courts control “all civil matters as said by the Ottoman law” (Shepherd, 2000).

The Palestinian Citizenship Order of 1925, in its primary article, regarded the people of Palestine as Ottoman citizens and gave them Palestinian citizenship (Shepherd, 2000). Therefore, the people of Palestine were then, in virtue of public and international decree, Ottoman citizens. In reality, Ottoman nationality had become ineffectual.

The legitimacy of Ottoman nationality in Palestine might be equated to the current outcome of that nationality in Palestine’s bordering countries. Also, the legality of Ottoman people in Palestine then can be explained by the universal international law rule that subjugation does not give any designation to the governing rule above the invaded territory.

This is also similar to the global charitable law; article 43 of both The Hague set of laws with regard to the rules and practices of land conflicts and The Hague policy about the decrees and traditions of territory rivalry, require the inhabitant to obey “the laws in effect in the country”.

Palestinian nationality

While the residents of Palestine were regarded as Ottoman citizens in accordance with enforced law, in actual fact, there being considered Palestinians took time.

According to Shepherd “as an Occupying Power, Britain became in charge of the international relations of Palestine and for defending its people in a foreign country” (Shepherd, 2000). Britain, with respect to its intrinsic nature, found itself compelled to take positive actions to control the residents’ nationality (Shepherd, 2000).

Lastly, the Palestine ruling party, which was the administrative body formed by Britain to govern the country, took the subsequent actions: it issued temporary citizen permits to Ottoman people in Palestine; issued Palestinian passes and travel papers; broadened political security to those people living and going overseas; and made a clear difference between inhabitants and aliens about the admission into Palestine, residence and political privileges.

The terms ‘Palestinian’ or ‘Palestinian citizen’ were repeatedly used.

The Palestinian Mandate

During the establishment of the Mandates system and the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne, as a very much comparable state of affairs in the pre-mandate era in Palestine, the people of these [mandated] territories were supposedly still Ottoman subjects. This was clearly an abnormal state of affairs that could not be easily differentiated in law.

This stage started on 24 July 1922 with the implementation of the Palestine Mandate by the Council of the League of Nations (Shepherd, 2000). It changed when Britain formally approved the Treaty of Lausanne on 6 August 1924. Two main points are remarkable here.

Firstly, although the Mandate of Palestine had been announced by Britain in 1920, it only lawfully took effect on 29 September 1923, alongside the Mandate for Syria. Secondly, in spite of that the Palestine Mandate, as well as its nationality article, was pertinent until 1948. Ultimately, the developments of Palestinian nationality during this transitional stage lasted for a bit over two years.


Shepherd, N. 2000. (Ploughing Sand) British Rule in Palestine 1917-1948. Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

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U., Marisol. "“Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948” by Shepherd Naomi." IvyPanda, 19 June 2019,

1. Marisol U. "“Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948” by Shepherd Naomi." IvyPanda (blog), June 19, 2019.


U., Marisol. "“Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948” by Shepherd Naomi." IvyPanda (blog), June 19, 2019.


U., Marisol. 2019. "“Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948” by Shepherd Naomi." IvyPanda (blog), June 19, 2019.


U., M. (2019) '“Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948” by Shepherd Naomi'. IvyPanda, 19 June.

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