Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine

Assaf Likhovski.

Published June 2006. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press or Amazon. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3017-8.

One of the major questions facing the world today is the role of law in shaping identity and in balancing tradition with modernity. In an arid corner of the Mediterranean region in the first decades of the twentieth century, Mandate Palestine was confronting these very issues. Assaf Likhovski examines the legal history of Palestine, showing how law and identity interacted in a complex colonial society in which British rulers and Jewish and Arab subjects lived together.

Law in Mandate Palestine was not merely an instrument of power or a method of solving individual disputes, says Likhovski. It was also a way of answering the question, “Who are we?” British officials, Jewish lawyers, and Arab scholars all turned to the law in their search for their identities, and all used it to create and disseminate a hybrid culture in which Western and non-Western norms existed simultaneously. Uncovering a rich arsenal of legal distinctions, notions, and doctrines used by lawyers to mediate between different identities, Likhovski provides a comprehensive account of the relationship between law and identity. His analysis suggests a new approach to both the legal history of Mandate Palestine and colonial societies in general.


“Interesting and complex. . . . Well written, engaging, and intelligently argued.”
– International Journal of Middle East Studies

“Worth reading for its unique discussion of some of the important underexplored issues with which the country’s British and Jewish elite grappled during this formative period.”
– Journal of Palestine Studies

“A prodigious and important work of scholarship by an extremely erudite and gifted young scholar.”
– Israel Studies Forum

“Convincing. . . . [Likhovski] writes on a complex subject in an engaging style, and he brings a wealth of information and understanding to this subject.”
– Journal of British Studies

“Specialized [and] innovative. . . . A welcome, discursively stimulating contribution on the Mandate period.”
– History

“This is a fascinating, engaging, accessible and evocative book, which takes the study of Mandate Palestine into a new direction.”
– The Modern Law Review

2006 Yonathan Shapiro Best Book Award, Association for Israel Studies
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