This article compares the evacuations of the two port cities of Gaza and Jaffa in southern and central Palestine, respectively, by their civilian population on the orders of Cemal Pasha, the Ottoman commander of the Syrian front, during the spring of 1917. While these evacuations are usually regarded as mutually exclusive events, they were in fact part of the same process. We claim that the general evacuation order for two of the main coastal cities of Palestine was driven by the exigency of war and military considerations, rather than by political motivations such as the desire to destroy Zionism or take revenge against the Arab population. This view does not negate the exceptionality of each case but rather aims to better contextualize them within the larger framework of civilian affairs in the region and the Empire at large during WWI. For this purpose we analyse a 17-page enciphered Ottoman telegram that sheds new light on the rationale and the execution of the evacuation of populations in Palestine and compare it to other controversial events in Greater Syria during the war.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Earth-Surface Processes