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The Birth of Arab Nationalism

Between 1517 and 1918, Palestine did not exist as an independent country. It was part of the Ottoman Empire and was ruled from Istanbul. Although the population of the Ottoman Empire shared a common religion (Islam), there were also important elements of diversity among the population. Two of the most significant differences among the Ottoman population were ethnicity and language.

In the middle of the 19th century, a revival of Arabic literature helped shape an Arab identity that was distinct from the Turkish part of the Ottoman Empire. At the same time, the Turkish population was also developing their own sense of nationality. The result was a growing tension between Arabs and Turks within the Ottoman Empire and called for the Arab parts of the empire to be given more autonomy.

The Arab population in Palestine was reacting to efforts to create a Jewish state in the lands claimed and occupied by Arabs. As early as 1840 Viscount Palmerston, who later became British prime minister, advised the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire that Jewish immigration into Palestine should be encouraged so that their wealth would contribute to the region and to keep Arab influences in check.

The British continued to have an interest in Palestine as it was in competition with other European countries in building its own empire.

By the time the Ottoman Empire became embroiled in the First World War (1914-1918), a strong movement developed for the independence of the Arab countries. This was also encouraged to some extent by Great Britain, which wished to promote division among the peoples of the Ottoman Empire.

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