The Road Not Taken: The Sephardi Vision of Jewish-Arab Co-Existence in Palestine

A close examination of one unique Jewish group that was active at the turn of the century, between the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Great Britain in the Middle East, a group that was preoccupied with Jewish-Arab relations and the Balfour Declaration, reveals an interesting complex picture. It appears that not all the Jews of the Old Yishuv supported the Declaration, and not all the Arabs denounced it and were opposed to the arrival of the Jews to Palestine. Among the inhabitants of the Old Yishuv, some Sephardi Jews in Jerusalem and Tiberias, for example, wanted to rectify Jewish-Arab relations and correct the severe damage the Balfour Declaration had inflicted on the Arab/Palestinian cause and consequently on peaceful Jewish-Arab co-existence. After all, it was argued, a prosperous and promising Jewish-Palestinian community was definitely in the Jewish interest. Indeed, some Arabs, if not the masses, looked favourably upon the Zionist project and hoped it would succeed.