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IMES Lecture Series: Foreign Volunteers in the 1948 War: A Comparative Examination


Institute For Middle East Studies

In the early stages of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the clearest manifestations of transnational involvement were Arab Liberation Army forces and the Muslim Brotherhood units that joined the fight on the Palestinian Arab side. As the conflict broadened, the most dominant transnational participants were the predominantly Jewish volunteers who travelled to the Middle East from Europe, North America, South Africa and elsewhere to fight for the fledgling Jewish state. This talk will highlight the common characteristics Israeli volunteers shared with foreign volunteers in other conflicts such as the Polish- Soviet War (1920), the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Second World War. It will also illustrate in which respects transnational participation in the conflict in Palestine differs from other historical cases.


  • Nir Arielli is an Associate Professor of International History at the University of Leeds. He is the author of Fascist Italy and the Middle East, 1933-40 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), and most recently, of From Byron to bin Laden: A History of Foreign War Volunteers (Harvard University Press, 2018).