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Mountain against the Sea

Mountain against the Sea: Essays on Palestinian Society and Culture

Salim Tamari
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp131
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  • Book Info
    Mountain against the Sea
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking book on modern Palestinian culture goes beyond the usual focal point of the 1948 war to address the earlier, formative years. Drawing on previously unavailable biographies of Palestinians (including Palestinian Jews), Salim Tamari offers eleven vignettes of Palestine's cultural life in the momentous first half of the twentieth century. He brings to light the memoirs, diaries, letters, and other writings of six Jerusalem intellectuals whose lives spanned (and defined) the period of 1918-1948: a musician, a teacher, a former aristocrat, a doctor, a Bolshevik revolutionary, and a Jewish novelist. These essays present an integrated cultural history that illuminates a watershed in the modern social history of the Arab East, the formulation of the Arab Enlightenment.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94242-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Palestine’s Conflictual Modernity
    (pp. 1-21)

    The chapters in this volume address two main themes. The first part of the book provides an interpretation of social changes common to contemporary societies of the eastern Mediterranean. These changes include the emergence of a cultural divide between mercantile coastal communities and mountain-dwelling smallholder peasants. This divide became more tangible precisely when the two regional economies became more capitalized and more integrated with European and Mediterranean trade networks, thus enhancing the cultures’ difference. The book also addresses the relationship between village communities and the urban centers that have dominated them in the recent past through absentee landlordism; the ethnography...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Mountain against the Sea? Cultural Wars of the Eastern Mediterranean
    (pp. 22-35)

    The distinction between coastal culture and the culture of the peasant highlands has been a recurrent theme in studies of the dynamics of modernity in Mediterranean society. During the civil war in Lebanon, the late Albert Hourani suggested that this dichotomy is a key to understanding the metamorphosis of the communal conflict between the Maronite strongholds of Mount Lebanon (home to independent and autonomous Druze and Maronite peasantries) and the coastal cities of Beirut and Tripoli (strongholds of the Sunni and Orthodox mercantile bourgeoisie).¹ The populist politics of the smallholders, articulated in the peasant rebellions of Tanious Shahin in Kisrawan...

  7. CHAPTER 3 From Emma Bovary to Hasan al-Banna: Small Towns and Social Control
    (pp. 36-55)

    Small towns invariably evoke an aura of cultural mediocrity and social control. The two attributes go together. When Flaubert publishedMadame Bovaryin 1857, Rouen—the site of Bovary’s escapades—was a major regional center of about 100,000, at the time twice the size of Strasbourg and three times the size of Grenoble (but one-tenth the size of Paris).¹ But even in a city that large, conditions were not quite ideal for an amorous liaison, and Bovary’s second lover—the legal clerk Léon Dupuis—had to hire a cabbie to consummate his relationship with Bovary.²

    Emma Bovary was escaping to...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Bourgeois Nostalgia and the Abandoned City
    (pp. 56-70)

    Testimonies commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Nakba in the spring of 1998 confounded both narrators and listeners. The former were perplexed about why they had kept silent for what seemed like an eternity before relating their untold stories. The listeners (most of them belonging to the younger, third generation) were also confounded by the silence of their elders. Was it because their catastrophe was an expression of divine retribution? Or was it because their elders demonstrated a collective inability to face a superior enemy?

    In addition to the testimonies, which constituted a collective biography of the war generation, commemorative...

  9. CHAPTER 5 A Musician’s Lot: The Jawhariyyeh Memoirs as a Key to Jerusalem’s Early Modernity
    (pp. 71-92)

    Conventional narratives about the modernity of Jerusalem regard the city in the late nineteenth century as a provincial capital city in the Ottoman hinterland whose social fabric was basically communitarian and confessional. Ethnicity and sectarian identities were identical, as confessional consciousness was defined in ethnic-religious terms, and the boundaries of these identities were physically delineated by habitat in the confines of the Old City quarters.¹ The quartered city corresponded, in these narratives, to the ethno-confessional divisions of the four communities: Muslim, Christian, Armenian, and Jewish. In these quarters social nodes were more or less exclusive, physically defined, and reinforced by...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Lepers, Lunatics, and Saints: The Nativist Ethnography of Tawfiq Canaan and His Circle
    (pp. 93-112)

    The separation of Arab and Jewish lepers in the Talbieh Leprosarium during the war of 1948 marked a defining moment in the annals of Jerusalem and the Arab-Israeli conflict. In its absurdity, the event encapsulated the depths to which the process of ethnic exclusion and demonization had sunk after decades of conflict between Jews and Arabs, settlers and natives. It also signaled the turning point at which the intellectual debate and popular sentiment about the future of the country and its nationhood began to crystallize around two separate and exclusive narratives of origin.

    In the early 1940s Tawfiq Canaan, a...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Sultana and Khalil: The Origins of Romantic Love in Palestine
    (pp. 113-132)

    The recent release of Khalil Sakakini’s diaries by his family is cause for celebration. Close to 3,400 pages of handwritten memoirs constitute the author’s intimate record of his life from the moment he boarded the ship in Jaffa to head toward his American exile (October 1907) until his second exile in Cairo, after he was displaced from his Katamon home in West Jerusalem in the war of 1948.¹ Sakakini’s diaries, a daily record of his thoughts and presumably not intended for publication, are the only such memoirs of a major modern Palestinian intellectual, and possibly any Arab writer, known to...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Last Feudal Lord
    (pp. 133-149)

    The memoirs of Omar es-Saleh, grandson of the last lord of Deir Ghassaneh, Sheikh Saleh Abdul Jaber al-Barghouti (1819–81),¹ and son of Sheikh Mahmoud es-Saleh (d. 1919), provide us with a unique window into the final days of the feudal lords of central Palestine in the middle of the nineteenth century, as Ottoman regulations began to lead to the privatization of landownership. Deir Ghassaneh was the throne village of Bani Zeid, north of Jerusalem. Itsmultazims(tax farmers), who had immense power over the region’s peasantry, ruled over the estates of twenty villages, which separated the northern part of...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Ishaq Shami and the Predicament of the Arab Jew in Palestine
    (pp. 150-166)

    In his retrospective personal memoirs of the 1930s and’ 40s,Tẚir ‘ala Sindiyanah: Muthakkarat(Bird on an oak tree), the Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi discusses two groups of Jewish companions he encountered during his student days during the French Mandate in Lebanon. The first group consisted primarily of Arabic-speaking Jews from Syria and Iraq, several of whom took a prominent place in Arab nationalist and antiimperialist intellectual circles in the 1930s and ’40s; the second he identifies as Yiddish-speaking Jews from Palestine, who exhibited marked Zionist sympathies.¹ While the first group blended seamlessly into Arab social circles (many of them...

  14. CHAPTER 10 The Enigmatic Bolshevik from the Holy City
    (pp. 167-175)

    Najati Sidqi (1905–79) is almost forgotten in the annals of the Palestinian national movement. Even in the ranks of the left there are few who remember him. At one point, though, Sidqi was a leading figure in Palestinian and Arab communism. A leader of the trade union movement, he represented the Palestinian Communist Party (PCP) in the Comintern, was one of the few Arab socialists to join the antifascist struggle in Spain, and contributed significantly to the political and cultural journalism of the left in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. Now, thanks to Hanna Abu Hanna’s meticulous editing of Sidqi’s...

  15. CHAPTER 11 The Vagabond Café and Jerusalem’s Prince of Idleness
    (pp. 176-190)

    The return of Khalil Sakakini from his American sojourn in the autumn of 1908 was an occasion for contemplating the creation of a new kind of cultural space: the literary café, a public meeting place to accommodate the formation of his circle of literati, the Party of the Vagabonds (Hizb as Sa‘aleek). For him and many like-minded intellectuals of the period, the time was ripe. The new Ottoman constitution had just been declared, and calls for decentralization, Arab autonomy, and freedom of the press and assembly were spreading throughout Syria and Palestine. Sakakini was penniless and heavily in debt. To...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 191-214)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-222)
  18. Index
    (pp. 223-237)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 238-238)