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  • Palestine and the Gulf States: The Presence at the Table
  • J.E. Peterson (bio)
Palestine and the Gulf States: The Presence at the Table, by Rosemarie Said Zahlan. New York and London, UK: Routledge, 2009. vii + 111 pages. Notes to p. 121. Bibl. to p. 123. Index to p. 128. $95.

This is the last work by one of the best-known and most-respected historians of the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Although Rosemarie completed the writing before her death, final preparation and editing was left to her husband and colleague, Tony Zahlan. Fittingly, the subject of this slim volume combines two of the most cherished intellectual passions of the author's life —as encapsulated in the title, Palestine and the Gulf States.

Rosemarie's career in Gulf studies began with her seminal 1970 article on the 1938 reform movement in Dubai.1 The year 1938 in the Gulf was the equivalent in some respects to 1848 in Europe. Inchoate efforts to press rulers for the right to initiate representative political councils took place in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Dubai. Rosemarie's article was the first serious attempt to analyze the situation in the last shaykhdom.

Her mark on Gulf studies was emphatically and indelibly stamped a few years later with her country study on the modern formative history of the United Arab Emirates (UAE, born in 1971 by the union of the seven Trucial States).2 This was followed a year later by a similarly constructed study of Qatar.3 Based predominantly on British records, as well as local sources and the few published materials available, these were among the first scholarly treatments of the UAE and indisputably the first on Qatar. [End Page 672]

The essence of her knowledge and understanding of the region was later distilled into her succinct analysis, The Making of the Modern Gulf States,4 which provided many students with a keenly insightful and nuanced introduction to the region. With her reputation firmly established, she continued to produce a steady stream of articles and contributions to edited works, even well into the advanced stages of her illness.

There is a tendency to separate the Gulf from the rest of the Middle East. Consider the Western media's propensity to refer to the Levant and Arab-Israeli matters as the "Middle East" —or even worse, the "Mid-east" (personally, when I hear "Mideast," I immediately think of Ohio) with the Gulf regarded as something entirely separate. Rosemarie's last contribution firmly states and chronicles the unchallengeable connection between these two key subregions of the Arab world.5 She lays the blame for their separation on a deliberate US State Department policy adopted after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Rosemarie asserts that the linkages between Palestine and the Gulf (i.e., the central thesis of the book) are neither new nor superficial. Indeed, she cites the concern of 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia when he raised the matter of Jewish emigration to Palestine in the 1930s, noting that he "rarely minced words or feelings when it came to Palestine; he made his reactions known to all who visited him" (p. 18). She also points out the impact of the 1936-1939 strikes in Palestine on the 1938 Kuwait reform movement. Partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel in 1948 produced the first doubts about American policy in the region. The Anglo-Franco-Israeli collusion to invade Egypt in 1956 provoked demonstrations and strikes in the Gulf. The 1967 war sowed the seeds of oil boycotts —which of course achieved fruition as a result of the 1973 war. Ever since, the Gulf states have been torn between their close ties with and reliance on the United States and their identification with and concern for their Palestinian brethren.

The above examples are only a few reasons for the strong and unbreakable linkage between Palestine and the Gulf. Blood runs deep and there was never any doubt about the fraternity, even well before the added impact of Arab nationalism. Gulf merchants and workers were present in Egypt and the Levant from the 19th century and before, while Palestinians...


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