Posts Tagged ‘diaspora’

5. External Responses to Ottoman Internal Changes

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

One of the most significant changes in Ottoman internal policy which impacted on foreign interests generally and sectarian concerns in particular (both Christian and Jewish), related to the acquisition of land in Eretz Yisrael- Palestine.

As explained earlier the sale of land to Christians and Jews under 1858 Ottoman land reformation legislation was generated not by a new liberalism per se. On the contrary, the internal economic exigencies associated with the costs of the Ottoman centralisation of its public administration and discharging its foreign indebtedness made the Porte more vulnerable to foreign influence, brought to bear by respective foreign consuls.

a.   Christian Land Acquisitions.

Events in Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century and first two decades of the twentieth brought a degree of Christian interest in developing their holy sites. The objective of these acquisitions was to gain and maintain control over distinctive and separate Christian holy places in Palestine and to establish religious institutions.

For the Christians, these purchases were motivated by missionary, humanitarian, philanthropic, social and political objectives. Other, private, individual investors were also encouraged by the Ottoman government to acquire and develop land, especially if they surrendered their European citizenship and assumed that of the Ottomans.

France gave its support to the Roman Catholic acquisition in Nazareth (and to the Maronite Christians), Russia supported the Eastern Church in Jerusalem and Germany supported the Templar settlements in Jerusalem and Haifa. Britain extended its protection to the Anglicans and also to the Jews.

According to Professor Kark, the churches and the missions were the most active land purchasers among the Christians in the second half of the nineteenth century. Prominent among them were the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Roman Catholics, Armenians, Anglicans, German Evangelist Community and smaller churches, including Ethiopians, Copts, and Greek Catholics. In the aggregate, the Christian Churches acquired both directly and indirectly through Ottoman nominees extensive urban property interests in and around Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Haifa, Beit Jalla, Acre and large rural holdings in areas that were sparsely populated, such as the Coastal Plain, Jezreel Valley, Galilee, Beit Shaan, and Jordan Valley. This activity provided a purchasable (fluid) inventory of relatively empty and inexpensive lands. (Kark p. 362).

Kark also makes particular reference to The Temple Society founded in Germany during the mid-nineteenth century, whose members believed in the importance of settling in Palestine. It established centres in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem, as well as a number of small villages. On the eve of World War I, the Society’s population in the cities amounted to some 1,400 persons, in addition to 624 persons in the villages (Kark p.365)

Initiatives by private investors in land development were also forthcoming from European entrepreneurs, amongst whom were Emil Bergheim, a banker who established a  farm near Tel Gezer managed on European principles and equipped with modern machinery, Swiss-born Johannes Frutinger – both of whom were German subjects, and British-born Lawrence Oliphant.

In addition to establishing their own religious institutions, a number of influential Christians writers, notably Alexander Keith of the Church of Scotland, writing in 1843, English social reformer, Lord Shaftsbury, in his 1853 correspondence with Foreign Minister, Lord Palmerston, and William Eugene Blackstone, an American Christian, writing in 1881 on his return to the United States after a visit to the area, saw for themselves the extent of human habitation in Palestine or, more accurately, the relative absence of it, and advocated the restoration of a Jewish population to Palestine as an essential part of their respective belief systems.

b.   Religious Jewish Land Acquisition

i.  Expansion of Existing Urban Settlement.

Religiously motivated Jewish migration from Europe (and also from Yemen) in anticipation of the coming of the messianic millennium succeeded in encouraging only a very limited Jewish migration to Palestine.

The faith of religious Jews in Palestine was sorely tested by political-sectarian violence and by natural and human disasters.

Politically, between 1831-1841, Muslim authorities and the local Arab population encouraged Arab fellahin to rebel against the rule of Egyptian Muhammed Ali’s son, Ibrahim Pasha, during his occupation of  Palestine. In the process, they rampaged against the Jews of Safed and other towns, looting their property; destroying their homes; desecrating their synagogues and study-houses; raping, beating and, in many cases, killing Jews.

In 1837 an earthquake killed more than two thousand Jews in the Galilee; the Messiah failed to appear in 1840, contrary to the predictions of the Kabalists; and plagues raged throughout the region.

Despite these setbacks, Jewish religiously motivated urban migration continued to grow but at a low rate. It must be borne in mind that the religious Jewish urban communities were not self-sustaining. Their male population did not engage in agriculture, manufacturing or commerce, but were, in the main, committed to the performance of religious precepts, the study of Jewish religious texts and the philosophic evolution of religious thought (including Kabbalah). It was the Jewish woman who, in addition to caring for their husbands and households, engaged in ‘trade’ and marketing. The communities relied upon the distribution (‘halukah’) of financial donations sent voluntarily by Jewish communities in the diaspora or collected by Jewish emissaries sent from Palestine for that purpose.

(see Andrew G. Bostom, Under Turkish Rule, FrontPage magazine July 27, 2007 (Part I) http://frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=68314118-6D77-4E06-B4D5-282AF4285BC9  and Part II August  3, 2007 http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=3CA6CAE4-04C9-4AC6-BA1C-08B047719A1A

In 1855, English missionary W.H. Bartlett records in his book, ‘Jerusalem Revisited,’ that the Jewish community in Jerusalem numbered over 11,000. James Finn, the second British consul in Jerusalem, confirms this fact in his book Stirring Times, published in 1878.  Other writers, notably, Mary Elisa, Andrew Bonar and W.F. Lynch, confirm in their respective books and reports during the 1840-1860’s an increased Jewish immigration and active Jewish communities and institutions in Haifa, Nablus and Jaffa, respectively. (see Behat)

Notwithstanding the danger to life and limb from Bedouin raids, pillage and general banditry in the region, Jewish residents of the Old City of Jerusalem were compelled, by reasons of overcrowding and insanitary conditions prevailing there, to seek the aid of Sir Moses Montefiore in establishing Jewish urban settlement outside the walls of the City.

Montefiore had already received a firman from the Sultan allowing for the reconstruction of a synagogue in the Old City. In the process he took the opportunity of purchasing a tract of land to the west of the city as the site for almshouses, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, for Jerusalem’s Jewish population overflow. In 1859, however, implementation of the project was suspended under orders of the local Ottoman authorities, who were no longer willing to classify it as a business or trade or even to consider it as philanthropy (which would have been permissible). It took a year of considerable effort to persuade Fuad Pasha, the Ottoman Foreign Minister, to grant Sir Moses an ‘exceptional permission’ to proceed with the construction of housing (which without the special permission would have been prohibited) for twenty families. The project was completed and dedicated in 1861. (Friedman, 1977, p. 36)

The continuing growth of the Jewish urban population in Eretz Yisrael put pressure on the community to create a second urban settlement outside Jerusalem’s walls. In 1880, Mea Shearim was established by a building society comprising 100 shareholders, who pooled their resources to acquire a tract of land a little farther away from Mishkenot Sha’ananim. Constructed by both Jewish and non-Jewish workers, 100 apartments were ready for occupancy by October 1880. Development continued, such that, by the turn of the century, the suburb had 300 houses, a flour mill and a bakery.

However, the existing Jewish population could barely sustain itself – let alone expand – being downtrodden, poverty stricken and lacking local resources. Support – financial, human and spiritual – had to come from the European Jewish Diaspora.  But even this was not achieved without difficulty.

  • Indeed one of the main fears lying in the hearts of the existing Jewish urban settlements was that the haluka on which they relied would be reduced if demands for other purposes were made on Jewish philanthropists in the Diaspora. It was this fear that led a number religious Jews to oppose the settlement in Eretz Yisrael of poverty stricken Jewish migrants fleeing from East-European anti-Semitism.
  • It must also be remembered that, in general, the Ottoman authorities were opposed to any settlement in Palestine by persons who claimed foreign consular protection. Even individual Jews who were born in the Empire and inherited property but claimed to be under foreign jurisdiction were told that unless they renounced their consular protection their title deeds would be invalidated.

ii. Early Attempts at Establishing Jewish Agricultural Settlement

During the second half of the nineteenth century, there were also attempts at establishing a Jewish agricultural settlement. In 1859 a Baghdadi Jew, Shaul Yehuda, with the aid of British Consul James Finn, purchased farmland on the outskirts of Jerusalem in Motza, from the nearby Arab village of Colonia, for agricultural and industrial purposes (a tile factory). Unfortunately, legal complications prevented the construction of the settlement for some considerable time, although a travellers’ inn was established at the site in 1871.

While rural settlement close to Jerusalem may have been blocked for the time being, as was earlier noted in Chapter  the Jewish messianic impetus to bring about a Jewish return to agricultural work still continued.(see Arie Morgenstern, Dispersion and Longing for Zion 1240-1840 in Azure,  2002, Winter  Issue, Shalem Center, Jerusalem, (hereinafter ‘Morgenstern’  http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=264 )

Although the Jewish migration to Palestine grew out of the messianic dream, it was an obscure orthodox Sephardi rabbi, Rabbi Judah Alkelai from Belgrade, who began to promote the necessity for establishing Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine as a prelude to the Redemption.  By the 1870’s he succeeded in attracting only a small group of followers to settle together with him in Palestine, before his death in 1878, but his extensive writing stirred others to consider doing likewise.

Contemporaneously, other rabbinical figures in Poland with substantial followings, such as Rabbis Zvi Hirsh Kalischer and Eliyahu Guttmacher, believed that the Jewish people would be redeemed only after they first returned to the land of Israel, worked the land and observed the commandments relating to the land. Instead of waiting passively for the Messiah, redemption could be achieved by natural means – self help. Jews should purchase land in Palestine, establish agricultural settlements and send poor Jews from Europe to be farmers, so as to colonize Palestine without delay.

Only when many pious and learned Jews volunteered to live in Jerusalem, Kalischer explained, would the Creator hearken to their prayers and speed the Day of Redemption. Prayers would not suffice. Kalischer urged the formation of a society of rich Jews to undertake the colonization of Zion; settlement by Jews of all backgrounds on the soil of the Holy Land; the training of young Jews in self-defence; and the establishment of an agricultural school in the Land of Israel where Jews might learn farming and other practical subjects. Far from undermining the study of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), “the policy we propose will add dignity to the Torah …. ”
(Howard M. Sachar A History of Israel From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, Alfred A. Knopf, 2nd ed. New York 2003 (Sachar- History ) pp.7-8

To implement their ideas, Guttmacher and Kalischer made appeals to European Jewry to raise money for Jewish settlement in Palestine and participated in a conference in Thorn (Torun, Western Poland) in 1860. This laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Society for the Settlement of the Land of Israel.

However, Jewish religious efforts to return to Eretz Yisrael in significant numbers had to await the occurrence of East European (Rumanian and Russian) Anti-Semitic Violence and the failure of Western European secular ‘Haskala’ (Enlightenment) movements to eliminate Anti-Semitism in order to produce a combined Jewish religious and secular response expressed in practical, cultural and political Zionism.

3. Jewish-Israeli Narrative

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Israel’s frame of reference and perception of the conflict is different from that presented by the Palestinians. She claims that the Jewish people, whom she represents in part, has had an unbroken connection with ‘Eretz Yisrael’ – the Land of Israel from before the rise of Christianity and Islam, notwithstanding their exile by the Romans in the first century.

“Judea capta est,”  inscribed on the arch of Titus (“Judea has been captured”)  memorialises the Roman victory over the Jews, their majority forced into exile, taken into slavery and later dispersed throughout the Roman Empire for over two millennia. Throughout this period, they were denied both freedom of national self-expression and the claim of their “right of return” to re-establish a patrimonial sovereignty in their homeland.  For the remnant in Palestine, there followed subjugation and suffering under the oppressive yoke of successive conquerors: Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Mameluke and Ottoman. The Jewish remnant was a spent force, militarily and politically, but it nevertheless maintained a physical and spiritual continuity in and with the Land.  Acting as caretakers, Jews maintained a vigorous religious presence, mainly in urban centres throughout the country (see Chapter II below), praying for the “return unto Zion”, a day on which Jewish national sovereignty would be, prophetically, restored as it had been under the previous Babylonian exile. That day was to come on November 29, 1947 when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181.


Until the eighteenth century, the Jewish people in the Diaspora were seen both as a religion and as a nation.

  • As a nation they made attempts to return to the Land but were frustrated by conflicts from emanating from without.
  • As a religious group, they were compared to Christians and Muslims and as a nation, they could be compared to Turks or Frenchmen.

However, civic unity in Christianity and in Islam especially, was based on uniformity of belief, within neither of which could Jewish destiny be fulfilled. This made it absolutely impossible for a Jewish group to be anything other than second-class subjects.

It needed the sixteenth century reformation in Christianity and the rise of the nation state in the eighteenth, for Jewish religious imperatives to be redirected and asserted towards the possibility of reviving the notion of a Jewish State in Palestine. However, religious motivation from within was insufficient to meet the economic and political challenge. It required the addition of European anti-Semitism later in the nineteenth century to motivate secular and emancipated Jews to organise politically – in a decentralised movement, meeting centrally at its annual congresses – to advance their political objective for matters.

The emergence of the possibility of the establishment of Israel as a Jewish State came to materialise as a consequence of World War I which saw the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and World War II which saw the decline of the British Empire. As central power became less effective, so burgeoned the demand for self-determination and the illegitimacy of colonialism backed by American democratic ideals.

In the political restructuring of Europe and the Middle East following the conclusion of WWI, the articulated voice of the Jewish people made itself heard among the nations as did the voices of the Arabs. Although both Zionists and some Arab leaders saw the possibility of working together in regional co-operation, the Great Powers had their own interests in the Middle East to consider:

  • America wanted political stability in the region, secure access to oil and to replace Britain as the Great Power;
  • France sought to protect what was left of her commercial and cultural interests despite the fact that she played no significant part in the war for control of the Middle East;
  • Britain maintained her belief in a continuing need to be able to control – a little or no cost to herself – the Suez Canal to ensure a secure passage to India, access to the Iranian and Syrian oil fields and her commercial interests in the Far East.
    Co-incidentally she also had an interest in containing the expansion of French influence in the region.

For the Allies, an independent and unified Arab Middle East did not bode well if they were to achieve these diverse and conflicting objectives.  To the extent that Jewish interests coincided with those of the Great Powers generally, and of Great Britain in particular, they were accommodated, but in so doing they were played off against Arab tribal sensibilities and Islamic religious principles.

Israel’s contemporary claim to legitimacy is premised on:

  • an uninterrupted physical, spiritual and cultural connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel since before the second century – as expanded in Chapter II;
  • involuntary dislocation and dispersion  of the majority the Jewish people from the land since the second century;
  • the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I which gave the impetus to the rise of both Jewish and Arab nationalism;
  • the victory of the Allies over the Central  powers and the disposition of the conquered territory in accordance with a new regime introduced into international law – mandate or trustee territory;
  • the Balfour Declaration expressing its support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  • The Treaty of Sevres 1920, under which Turkey ceded its sovereignty over Palestine and accepted the Balfour declaration with its incorporation into the Mandate as an international agreement. This formed a constituent part of the Middle East post war settlement between the Allied and Central Powers in which Turkey, Britain and the United States participated and in which both Jews and Arab expressed their interests.

Notwithstanding attempts by the British mandatory power to frustrate the clear objectives of the Mandate, and despite the fomentation of Islamic religious opposition against the establishment of a Jewish homeland, the Jewish people succeeded in creating a viable political and economic entity.


British financial investment and a colonial style of government coupled with an infusion of Jewish capital, migration and labour brought a higher standard of living to the Palestinian population – both Arab and Jewish
-  than that enjoyed in the neighbouring states.


However, the economic advances in Palestine attracted Arab immigration from outside of its borders.  Rather that regulating such Arab
migration, the British Administration, contrary to the terms of the Mandate, placed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine which prevented the creation of a Jewish majority in cis-Jordan – Palestine;

  • Arab violence fomented by anti-Zionist elements in the British Administration, and the continued demographic Jewish imbalance made more favourable to the Arabs by British immigration policy ultimately led to violence between Arab and Jew.
  • The Mandatory found its solution in a proposal to partition the territory lying to the west of the Jordan River between Arab and Jew while retaining certain strategic locations to itself.
  • The Jews accepted the Mandatory’s partition proposal but the Arabs rejected it.


World War II intervened, creating the Holocaust.

Although this tragedy gave a big impetus towards partition, British policy remained steadfastly against any change in its Palestinian immigration policy, with the result that Jews became actively obstructive to continued British rule, both civilly and militarily:

  • Britain, unable to control the violence directed against her Administration, referred the matter to the United Nations General Assembly;
  • The Assembly recommended in Resolution 181, passed on November 29, 1947, the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.
  • Again the Jews accepted the proposal, but the Arabs rejected it.

Britain decided to surrender its mandate. In the process of the British military withdrawal, armed conflict broke out between Jews and Arabs with the British Administration publicly taking a more or less neutral stand while surreptitiously assisting the Arabs.

On the day following the final British withdrawal on May 14, 1948:

  • The Jewish population of Palestine declared themselves as the self governing state of Israel in accordance with the UNGA Resolution and the major powers (excluding Britain) accorded her international recognition.
  • The Arab Palestine failed to follow the same course.


Instead,

  • contrary to international law, five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish State but failed to eliminate her;
  • Jordan became an occupying power of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria including Jerusalem) and Egypt took control of the Gaza strip.

In the process,

  • between 600,000 and 800,000 Arab Palestinians left or abandoned their homes on the advice of the Arab leadership, or for fear of Jewish brutality which failed to emerge, while a number Palestinians were driven out in the military confrontation between Jewish forces and the Arab armies;
  • the Jewish population living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank (Etzion Block) and Gaza were killed or evicted; and
  • the surrounding Arab states evicted, without compensation, their Jewish population which numbered over 800,000 in consequence of the establishment of the Jewish state.

A humanitarian problem was thus created:

  • the majority of Palestinian Arab refugees found themselves languishing in camps located in the Jordanian controlled West Bank and Egyptian controlled Gaza or in camps located in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
  • Apart from Jordan, Palestinian Arab refugees were neither offered citizenship nor otherwise absorbed by their host states.
  • The new State of Israel absorbed all the Jewish refugees driven out from the Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, and those Jews evicted from the Arab states.

The United Nations ultimately arranged a cease fire between the belligerents:

  • Israel organised itself as a civic society within the cease fire-lines as determined in Armistice Agreements made between herself and the invading states- Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt respectively, while reserving her claims over the territory held by Jordan and Egypt.

However:

  • the Armistice Agreements were constantly breached by Arab terrorist infiltration emanating out of Jordan and Egypt; and
  • Egypt breached international law and the Armistice Agreement with Israel by blockading the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping intermittently from 1948 until 1956, thereby prevented free access to the Israeli southern port of Eilat, as well as closing the Suez Canal to all shipping bound for other Israeli ports. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Foreign+Relations/Israels+Foreign+Relations+since+1947/1947-1974/FREEDOM+OF+NAVIGATION-+INTRODUCTION.htm ;
  • The blockade was broken by a joint British, French and Israeli attack on the Suez Canal in 1956 in response to Egypt’s nationalisation of the international waterway. As part of the withdrawal arrangements, UN peace-keeping troops were stationed along the Egyptian border with Israel while the maritime nations gave their undertaking to support Israel should Egypt seek to re-impose its blockade.

In 1967,

  • Egypt re-imposed its maritime blockade in the Straits of Tiran and closed the Canal to Israel shipping;
  • the maritime nations failed to implement their guarantee,
  • the UN removed its peace-keeping force; and
  • the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan were poised in offensive mode against Israel which was threatened with annihilation.

Israel’s appeals to the Security Council were in vain and on June 5, 1967 she executed pre-emptive self defensive strikes against Egypt, and Syria and retaliated against Jordanian attack, in what later became known as the “Six Day War.”

  • Israel overcame the immediate threats facing her and gained control and occupation of
    • the previously held Jordanian positions on the West side of the Jordan River including Jerusalem;
    • Egyptian occupied Gaza Strip and Egyptian sovereign territory in Sinai;
    • Syrian sovereign territory in  the Golan Heights
  • The Arabs rejected Israeli offers of peace at the Khartoum: “no negotiation; no recognition and no peace.”
  • The United Nations Security Council passed UNSC Resolution 242 which was accepted by both Jews and Arabs. Unfortunately the terms of the Resolution have been interpreted differently by the parties.

With intensive American support, extended peace negotiations took place between Israel and her adversaries in the 1980’s and a cold peace reigns between Israel and Egypt which regained all of  the territory it lost in 1967.
A slightly warmer peace pertains with Jordan which relinquished in favour of the Palestinians all its claims to the territory lying to the west of the Jordan River.

In taking military control of the West Bank and Gaza, over which no state has exercised legitimate sovereignty since the Ottoman defeat in 1920, Israel has the best claim to title based on the Treaty of Sevres 1920, Article 95; Palestine Mandate 1922, Article 8 and on the UN Charter, Article 80.

  • Based on the above international agreements and also consistent with the laws of belligerent occupation Israel, has also erected a number of military outposts in the West Bank territory to maintain the peace as well as establishing a number of civilian settlement blocks in the West Bank. Some of these have been erected on land owned by Jews prior to 1948 and others on undeveloped and unoccupied public or waste land owned by the Ottoman government in 1918.
  • While not illegal, a significant number of settlements have created a political obstacle to peace.

Following secret direct negotiations between Israel, led by Yitzhak Rabin, and the PLO, headed by Yassir Arafat, the parties succeeded – with Norwegian and American assistance – to agree the Oslo Accords in 1993 which included

  • mutual recognition of the opposing party;
  • an undertaking by Israel for a transfer of civilian powers to a Palestinian Authority, the members of which were to be chosen by Palestinians within the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza in free and democratic elections;
  • an interim arrangement on Palestinian self government by the Palestinian Authority for a period of five years; and
  • an undertaking to commence negotiations on a number of “Final Status” issues within three years of the commencement of the interim agreement- from which such issues had specifically been excluded.
    The Accords provided for and resulted in:
  • recognition by Israel of Palestinian aspirations and of the PLO as representing the Palestinian population in negotiations;
  • PLO recognition of Israel as having a legitimate existence;
  • An undertaking by the PLO to cease violence and to resolve its conflict with Israel by negotiation;
  • the admission into Gaza and the West Bank from their exile in Tunis, of the PLO political leadership and military of elements of  its organisation in the form of a “strong police force” to maintain the peace and suppress terrorism in Palestinian self governing territory;
  • a withdrawal and redeployment of Israeli forces from a large proportion of the Palestinian urban territory it captured in 1967; and
  • Palestinian self rule exercised over approximately 95% of the Palestinian population;

Unfortunately the parties have been able to resolve the political issues which appear to remain outstanding between them- sovereignty over Jerusalem, the extent of territorial; adjustments secure borders and the “Right of Return” of Palestinians refugees. Neither has there been a cessation of Palestinian violence.  In 2000, final status negotiations between Israel and the PLO broke down and the Palestinians resorted to armed attack on Israel’s civilian population waged by suicide bombers recruited, trained, armed and operationally directed by Hamas, an organisation linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Fatah, one of the militant wings of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

To counteract these attacks Israel has:

  • initiated targeted killings against the Palestinian terrorist leadership;
  • temporarily re-entered a number of  Palestinian cities in 2002 to eliminate  terrorist nests and destroy bomb building factories;
  • attempted to prevent the smuggling of weapons and armaments through subterranean tunnels between the Gaza Strip with Egypt; and
  • commenced the erection of a terrorist security barrier situated mainly on  previously held Arab land on the West Bank beyond the 1948 Israeli-Jordanian cease fire lines, the route of which has been adjusted many times to minimise the personal and economic hardship to Palestinians.
    The barrier has dramatically reduced Israeli civilian casualties but its erection has brought international condemnation and an adverse advisory non-binding opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The opinion has, however, been subjected to serious professional criticism as being politically motivated and based on incorrect factual information. The ICJ opinion is inconsistent with a number of rulings made by the Israel Supreme Court based on detailed and actual facts on the ground.

International intervention in the search for a resolution to the conflict has been renewed as part of a global concern over continuing instability in the Middle East generally which has given rise to fears of an interruption or even a cessation in oil supplies to the West and the bringing into question by certain Middle Eastern powers of Israel’s very legitimacy.

The United States, under its own auspices and those of the United Nations, the European Union and Russia initiated a new peace proposal – “A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” (Road Map) in 2003. Thus far, the initiative has failed to produce any concrete results towards a rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians.


In order to reduce continuing military confrontation between Israel and Palestinian militants, Israel took unilateral action and withdrew her military occupation and civilian settlements completely from the Gaza Strip in 2005, leaving the physical infrastructure and economic assets in the form of extensive greenhouses available for Palestinian use.

Palestinian elections held in 2005 brought victory to the Hamas party, whose declared political and military objectives are the elimination of Israel as an independent Jewish State. Since then an internecine conflict has been carried on between Hamas and Fatah for control over the Palestinian Authority, its assets and political largesse funded from abroad.

The Gaza Strip, now completely controlled by Hamas, is currently (2008) being employed both for smuggling weapons and ammunition from Egypt contrary to the Oslo Accords and as a staging area for the launching of short and medium ranged rockets directed against Israel civilian targets located inside Israel ‘proper’ i.e. well within the ‘green’ 1948 cease fire line.

6. Jewish Presence in Palestine Under the Ottomans

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The early sixteenth century saw the Ottoman capture of Palestine by Sultan Selim. The Ottoman regime was to last 400 years until its defeat at the hands of the British at the end of World War I in 1918. Throughout this period, Jewish life was maintained in four main urban centres: Jerusalem, Safad, Tiberias and Hebron. Bahat notes:

    The largest community, numbering about 10,000 Jews was situated in and around Safad,; most of them were refugees from Spain, from which they were expelled in 1492. The Jews of Safad were reported as trading in spices, cheese oils, vegetables and fruits. Many Jews Jews were engaged in weaving.  Amongst the prominent leaders of the community in the 16th century was…R. Joseph Karo, compiler of the ‘Shulhan Arukh’  [and] the Cabbalist R. Isaac Luria.  During this century Safad was the centre of Jewish mysticism” (p.50)

According to official censuses, in the second quarter of the 16th century the number of Jews in Jerusalem varied between 1,000 and 1,500, living in three quarters coextensive with the present Jewish Quarter of the city, while William Biddulph, an English priest who visited Palestine in 1600 commented in his book “The Travels of Four Englishmen and a Preacher ” that Tiberias is entirely occupied by Jews.

In 1631, the Christian writer Eugene Roger records that there were approximately 15,000 Jews were living in various parts of the country, including Jerusalem, Hebron, Gaza, Haifa, Ramla, Nablus, Safad, Acre and Sidon.

They were subject to the whims of the local rulers who in many cases had purchased their posts at great cost [from the Ottoman Government] and attempted to recoup this money during their period of rule. (Bahat p.54)

Bahat’s research provides information regarding the visit of George Sandys, son of the Archbishop of York who visited the Holy Land in 1611. He states in his Travailes,

    “And in their Land they (the Jews)live as strangers, hated by those amongst whom they dwell, open to all oppression and deprivation, which they bear with patience beyond all belief, despised and beaten. In spite of all this, I never saw a Jew with an angry face.”

The writings of a Dutch scholar, Olf Dapper who collected data mostly from travellers to the Holy Land in this period summed up his findings in 1677 with the statement:

    “There are Jews all over Syria and the Holy Land, especially in Acre, Sidon, Damascus, Jerusalem, Hebron and Gaza. No transactions take place without the knowledge of the Jews and even the smallest dealings pass through their hands.”  (Bahat p.54)

Despite the economic and cultural decay of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries, Jewish immigration to the Land continued even though life became increasingly difficult. Jewish communities began to organise themselves and agricultural settlements such as Kfar Yasif were established in the Galilee. On the other hand, with the increasing impoverishment of the Ottoman Empire, the non-muslim inhabitants of Palestine bore an increasing burden of taxation. Such were the human and natural disasters that it is estimated that during the first half of the 19th century the total population of the country did not exceed 250,000. In Jerusalem, however, travellers Richardson, Carne and Scholte reported in 1820-21 that Jews constituted the largest religious group in the city. This is confirmed by the first official census for Jerusalem held in 1844, which showed the population to be composed of: 7120 Jews, 5760 Muslims and 3390 Christians

By 1874, the American consul in Jerusalem, de Haas, reported that the city’s population numbered 30,000 of whom, 20,000 (two thirds) were Jews. (Eliyahu Tal, Whose Jerusalem? p.274)

In concluding this brief survey of the evidence of the uninterrupted presence of Jews in the Holy Land from the year 70 C.E. it is worth while presenting Behat’s extensive references to the official and institutional reports. These attest to the increasing significance of the Jews in the urban centres of Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem, as well as the first Jewish agricultural institutions and settlements, culminating in the waves of European immigrants who arrived on the shores of the Holy Land at the turn of the 20th Century.

“During the 19th century, immigration increased, as the English missionary, W.H. Bartlett, records in his book, Jerusalem Revisited, London 1855, that the Jewish community in Jerusalem numbered over 11,000. This is confirmed by the second British consul in Jerusalem, James Finn, in his book Stirring Times, London 1878. Mary Elisa Rogers writes in her book, Domestic Life in Palestine, London 1862, that there was an active Jewish community in Haifa. She lived there with her brother, the British vice-consul, from 1850 to 1859. The English missionary, Andrew Bonar, who visited the Holy Land in 1839, mentioned the synagogue of the Jews in Nablus besides that of the Samaritans (Narrative of a Mission of Enquiry to the Jews … Edinburgh 1846). The American officer W.F. Lynch who arrived in the country in 1848 describes the Jewish community in Jaffa in his Narrative of the U.S.’s expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea, London 1852. All these communities were urban in nature and attempts by Jewish philanthropists abroad to establish rural villages

In 1870, the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School was founded near Jaffa. This was followed almost immediately by the establishment of villages in Motza (Jerusalem) and, in 1878, in Petah Tikvah.

The rise of nationalism in Europe and the Russian pogroms of the 1880′s led to a new wave of immigration. The names given by these immigrants to the villages which they founded reflect the vision and ideals represented by them – Rishon LeZion (the First in Zion), Nes Ziona (the Banner of Zion), Yesud HaMa’ala (the Start of the Ascent) and Rosh Pina (Cornerstone). The deterioration in economic conditions in the Land of Israel adversely affected settlement and threatened the total collapse of agricultural enterprises! The Jews of the Diaspora and the Jewish philanthropists, particularly Baron Edmond de Rothschild, came to the rescue.

In 1904, the second great wave of immigration, known as the Second Aliyah, began. This, too, was ideologically motivated, being based on the principles of Jewish labour, independent agricultural settlement and the brotherhood and equality of men. Subsequently the revolutionary forms of settlement we know today – the kibbutz (collective settlement) and the moshav (cooperative small-holders’ village) – were established. The Hebrew language, long relegated to liturgical or literary usage, was revived as a spoken tongue.

The World Zionist Organisation began to create the necessary tools for consolidating Jewish settlement, such as the Workers’ Bank, the Jewish National Fund, whose task was to purchase land for the nation, and many other institutions dedicated to the mission of national revival.

As will be discussed later, the Balfour Declaration, issued by the British in 1917 recognising the right of the Jews to a national home in Palestine, and the subsequent Mandate for Palestine, in which the League of Nations incorporated this aim, served as the international recognition of what was to become the State of Israel in 1948.” (Behat pp 64-65)

One must also bear in mind that Zionism is not a modern phenomenon imitating other nationalistic movements prevalent in the 19th century. While a spiritual longing to return to Zion has long existed ever since Jewish expulsion by the Romans in the first century, there has been a constant physical Jewish aliya -“going up” – or return to Israel driven by the age old messianic dream of medieval times which started well before the early Zionist aliyot (plural  of aliya) in the 1880’s. The relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is a basic element in Jewish consciousness. For some historians, notably Benzion Dinur, Israel’s Minister of Education from 1951-1955, the driving force behind the aliyot of the medieval and early modern periods was the “Messianic ferment” that cropped up in Jewish communities which, together with the appearance of charismatic leaders heralding the end of days, precipitated the organisation of groups to return to Israel in order to hasten the Redemption.

(see Arie Morgenstern, Dispersion and the Longing for Zion 1240-1840, Vol 12 Azure, Winter 2002; Joseph Farah “The Jews took no one’s land” www.WorldNetDaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=27338 )

“First Photographs of the Holy Land” http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~dhershkowitz/index2.html ; also Photographs of Early Zionist  in Palestine http://www.zionism-israel.com/photos/Historicphotos1.htm ;

The purpose of this Section has been to refute any argument that the Jewish connection with Palestine is one of relatively recent origin. It also serves to bring to the readers’ attention the factual basis upon which the Palestine Mandate document was able to declare in no uncertain terms in the third paragraph of its Preamble as follows:


“Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country”