Middle East Yabber

This is a small random collection of documents, essays and links, specialising in things that are hard to find elsewhere. Although you may disagree with the opinions expressed, or the document selection, this page is not a place for debate on current events. The target audience of the page includes anyone with an interest in the history of the Middle East, and I hope you find this material interesting.

Only Brendan McKay is responsible for the contents of this page, except where a different author is indicated. His university is not in any way responsible.

"Yabber" is an Australian aboriginal word meaning "talk" or "chatter".

Azzam Pasha and the Momentous Massacre

Everyone who reads books on the Israeli-Arab conflict has heard of the famous threat supposedly made by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, as Arab armies rolled into Palestine on May 15, 1948, the first day of Israeli independence:

This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.

Not only the lowest propagandists but some of the finest academic historians used this quotation in their work. To me it always smelled suspicious, but the sources given were too hard to check: a press conference or a radio broadcast.

Now, with the help of a friend on Wikipedia, and another in Cairo, we have tracked down the real story. Hundreds of books and thousands of web pages got it wrong. Read more.

Detailed maps of Palestine

We have a small collection of detailed maps of Palestine, starting with the Jacotin map of 1799 and ending with detailed topographic maps of 1942–1958. Read more.

The Palin report

In April 1920, riots in Jerusalem cost the lives of 5 Jews and 4 Arabs. A court of inquiry headed by Major General Palin wrote an 82-page report, then marked it "secret" and filed it away. The report is well known to historians, but apparently never published. Until now.

Palestine Census reports

We make the reports of the two censuses of Palestine available on the internet for the first time. We also provide extracts from the 1961 Census of Jordan, also apparently for the first time. Read more.

The Bride is Beautiful

There is a story that in the early days of Zionism a visitor to Palestine reported back to Europe that "the bride is beautiful but is married to another man". A recent article could only manage to trace the story back to 1996. We do much better.

Evliya Çelebi's travels in Palestine (1648–1650)

The Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi visited Palestine in 1648–1650 and left a valuable record of what he saw. We bring the first internet publication of the English translation made by Stephan Hanna Stephan, which has been out of copyright since 2019. Read more.