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Title: A British "Foreign Legion'? The British police in mandate Palestine
Authors: Hughes, M
Keywords: Foreign Legion;Palestine;Police;Torture;Death squads;Colonial state;Collective punishment;Racism;Memory;Israel;Dirty war
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Citation: Middle Eastern Studies, 49(5): 696 - 711, (2013)
Abstract: The men of the British section of the Palestine police have romantically imagined their time as officers in Mandate Palestine, a land infused with historical and biblical significance. Many compared their service to that of the famed military force, the French Foreign Legion. This study sets the nostalgia of memory against the reality of service in Palestine, one that involved considerable brutality against local people. This essay details the empirical evidence of violence, including torture and a ‘dirty war’, mining archival sources, contextualizing primary source material within wider notions of British ideas of collective punishment within the empire. The Palestine police failed in its job of policing, necessitating the deployment of the army to Palestine, and with this collapse in police control the force became more violent. Ironically, the reality of life in the Palestine police was similar to that in the French Foreign Legion: a shock force there to maintain imperial control. The article argues that policing methods from the Mandate period continued after the Palestine force was disbanded in 1948, both within Israel and in other parts of the British Empire where demobilized Palestine police officers went to serve. It pushes the current paradigm on policing, extending the literature that details reforms and institutional change in the Palestine police to include the impact on local people.
Description: This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Middle Eastern Studies, 49(5), 696 - 711, 2013, copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:
ISSN: 0026-3206
Appears in Collections:Dept of Politics, History and Law Research Papers

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