Posts Tagged ‘World War I’

3. Increasing Foreign Diplomatic, Political and Military Involvement in Domestic Ottoman Matters: Consular Protection Extended to Non Ottoman Residents

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

In the wider arena of international power politics a new dimension emerged, in the form of European political, economic and commercial penetration into the Ottoman domain. This arose from three sources:(a) the Capitulations, (b) Ottoman debt burden following the Crimean War, (c) Legislative reforms necessitated by the debt burden and (d) European ‘aid’ extended to support, maintain and modernise the Ottoman Government.

a.   The ‘Capitulations’

  • Origin

Although Christian-European interface with the Arabs in relation to Palestine found its nemesis in the Crusades, and Arab military expansion into Europe reached its watershed with the Ottoman defeat in the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the Ottoman Empire never presented itself as monolithic and impenetrable to European influence.  However, after the European victory, the Ottomans found it expedient to enter into agreements with various European states (France leading the way), granting them preferential trading privileges, and exemptions in respect of excise and customs duties expressed in the various Capitulations.

  • Personal Jurisdiction of Non-Ottoman Subjects

Today, sovereignty is primarily linked to territory but a connection also exists between the sovereign or state on the one hand, and the subject on the other, whereby the latter, if found to be within the jurisdiction of a foreign sovereign or state, could then and still can today, claim in times of danger or personal distress, the extraterritorial protection of his own sovereign or state. The Capitulations therefore also included provisions in which the Ottoman government conceded power to the foreign states to safeguard the interests of their respective subjects. Such protection enabled foreign diplomats, consular officials and non-Muslim merchants to reside in the Ottoman Empire indefinitely without becoming either subjects of the Sultan and/or falling under his jurisdiction.

  • Foreign Subjects Exempted from Ottoman Local Laws

The Capitulations also contained exemptions from the application of considerable Ottoman legislation to foreign subjects engaged in trade who resided within the Ottoman jurisdiction. Such exemptions included liability to pay Ottoman poll taxes, bearing the cost and inconvenience of billeting Ottoman troops, and conscription from serving in the Ottoman armed forces as well as other financial impositions.

The European powers pressured the Ottomans into extending these privileges to non-Muslim middlemen (dragomans) and many others who could in any way be associated with foreign trade, such as currency changers, European-Arabic translators, warehousemen, artisans and even shopkeepers.

  • European Extension of the Scope and Exploitation of the Capitulations

In the course of the nineteenth century the abuse of the Capitulations became so rampant that European protection could even be bought as a commodity, and Ottoman deeds of appointment (berati) as dragoman virtually became transferable. The privileges acquired by non-Islamic non-Ottoman subjects were extended to the establishment of foreign banks, post offices and commercial houses, which took full advantage of Turkish weakness. In contrast, the foreign consuls became more powerful, each vying with the other in trying to advance the interests of their respective States.

  • Foreign Dhimmis (Non Muslims) Also Benefited

The foreign consular exploitation of the capitulations also enabled foreign dhimmis to avoid the indignities which they would otherwise have had to suffer had they been Ottoman subjects. Although non-Muslim Christians and Jews were in Islamic eyes treated as inferior persons, they could nevertheless acquire, if they were non-Ottoman subjects, a degree of consular protection against Ottoman autocracy greater than the Sultan’s own Islamic subjects could achieve for themselves. This could not but engender disaffection between the newly arrived foreign immigrant Jews on the one hand, and the Arab effendis and fellahin on the other hand, with whom they were in contact.

b.  Ottoman Foreign Debt Burden and the Costs of Ethnic Uprising in the Empire

During the Crimean War (1853-1856) and for the nineteen years following, the Ottomans incurred heavy foreign indebtedness, which enabled the European states and their consular representatives to exert greater political pressure in favour of the non-Ottoman nationals under their protection. The first foreign loan, contracted in 1854, created a degree of indebtedness which enabled the Western powers to exercise only a limited influence on Ottoman internal affairs. However, from 1863 onwards, debts accumulated and snowballed, so that by 1875 the Empire was bankrupt.  In 1876 financial matters were made worse by the uprising of ethnic Bulgarians against Ottoman sovereignty and the involvement of Russia in the process (Russo-Turkish War 1977-78).

Although the uprising was ultimately suppressed with heavy loss of life, ethnic opposition to Ottoman rule was to make the Ottoman government very sensitive to the concentration of ethnic minority groups within the Empire generally and was to influence its future policy regarding the settlement in Palestine of individual Jews and their supportive political and financial organisations.

This notwithstanding, the Ottoman need to repay its European-owed debts still demanded a restructuring of its governmental and financial administration. The latter was achieved by the establishment of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration in 1881 which took control over state revenues which benefited, to some degree, by the sale of public lands to sectarian interests, both Christian and Jewish.

The Ottomans found themselves in a cleft stick however. On the one hand, the reorganisation of the public debt management brought them some financial stability but, on the other, the process of reform allowed the European states and their diplomatic and consular representatives to exercise a degree of influence and pressure on Ottoman internal policy that would have been unthinkable a decade or two earlier.

(see Stanford Jay Shaw, Ezel Kural Shaw,  History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey 1808-1975, Cambridge University Press, 1977; Birdal, M. “Cooperation, Commitment and Enforcement: Understanding the Ottoman Public debt Administration” , 2005-03-05 http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p71340_index.html

Thus European foreign consuls acquired further leverage to extend legal protection and privileges which hitherto had not been available to their foreign protégés resident in the Ottoman Empire. Unsurprisingly, Jewish and other non-Muslim immigrants arriving in Palestine preferred to retain their original foreign nationalities and claimed protection from the various foreign consuls against the arbitrary treatment meted out by Ottoman officialdom.

Such preference could not have created anything but resentment among the Islamic urban poor and middle class and among the rural fellahin. The exploitation of the 1858 Ottoman land legislation (subsection c.ii. below) by non-Ottoman nationals in their moves to acquire land in Palestine could only have added to this resentment.

c.  Ottoman Legislative Reforms Necessitated by Debt

i.  Non-Ottoman Subjects Gain Equality with Ottomans

The Capitulations, coupled with the financial consequences of the Crimean War coerced the Ottoman government into introducing important reforms designed to gain the support of its European Allies. Published on the eve of the 1856 Paris Peace Conference, the Hatt-i Humayun (Imperial Rescript) granted to foreign Christians and other non-Muslims rights equal to those of its Muslims subjects in respect of protection of their persons and property, freedom of worship, and provision of education for children of all religious communities.

Also included in the 1856 legislation was permission, at least theoretically, for foreigners to acquire land in their own names without their having to obtain a special firman from the Sultan. For Jewish would-be purchasers, however, there were still other problems to be overcome, as will be shown below.

The point being made at this juncture is the fact that Jewish non-Ottoman subjects resident within the Ottoman Empire generally and Palestine in particular, received extensive diplomatic protection from the vagaries of local Ottoman officialdom, a fact which impacted on an expanding Jewish land acquisition policy. To mitigate the effects of foreign interference in internal Ottoman Affairs and to ‘encourage’ permanent settlers to renounce their foreign protective status, the Ottoman Nationality Law was enacted in 1869, which created a common Ottoman citizenship, irrespective of religious or ethnic divides.

(see Kark, p.359;   Maurits H. van den Boogert,  Capitulations and the Ottoman Legal System: Qadis, Consuls and Beraths In The 18th Century, (Studies in Islamic Law and Society) Martinus Nijhoff, Leiden 2005

(http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/9004140352/ref=sib_dp_pop_fc?ie=UTF8&p=S001#reader-link Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey and Zionism, 1897-1918, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK 1977 especially Chap 3. hereinafter “Friedman, 1977” )

ii.  Ottoman Land Reform Legislation, 1865

Motivated by the need to open up the Empire to foreign investment in order to overcome its financial crisis, the Ottoman government introduced significant reforms in relation to land, its registration, title holding, disposition, benefits and burdens, the totality of which had a major influence upon the redistribution, ownership and occupancy of rural land.

  • Customary Rights in Land

Prior to the introduction of the Ottoman Land reform legislation, ownership of land evidenced by registration of legal title in government records or written agreements was less important than its physical occupation and cultivation.

  • Peasants – fellahin – could acquire ‘ownership’ to uncultivated land, nominally owned by the State, if they planted and took its produce for two consecutive years.
  • They could also acquire rights of pasturage on communally controlled ‘musha’ land located close to the village land and used in common.

From the peasant’s perspective, musha tenure gave him neither incentive to work the land to the best of his ability nor to invest in it. While the system may have encouraged village independence, it also contributed to village disharmony.

“It was common practice for the urban landowning agent, who often functioned as the intermediary between the landowner and the peasantry, to move tenants or other agricultural labourers from plot to plot within a larger area of land so to prevent the fellah from claiming legal title on any particular parcel of land….
Not surprisingly, moving a peasant from one plot to another after every growing season disadvantaged him: it did little to engender a sense of economic security; it created harsh local jealousies over who received the most of often meagre amounts of good and mediocre land; it caused the peasant to extract what he could from his land and, antithetically, dissuaded him from upgrading a land area with physical (weeding, terracing, manuring) investment because the land would become someone else’s during the next growing season. …
Already strained by hamula or clan conflicts, a village regularly withstood periods of uneasiness each time unequal village lands were redistributed. Land disputes, encroachment on another’s land, and uprooting of trees were not uncommon where cultivable lands were sparse and the local village population increased over time.”

Kenneth W. Stein, “One Hundred Years of Social Change: The Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” in Laurence J. Silberstein (ed) “New Perspectives on Israeli History: The Early years of the State” New York University Press, 1991 pp. 57-81 (hereinafter “Stein”)

http://www.ismi.emory.edu/BookChapters/Hundred%20Years%20Social%20Change.html

  • Land Reform 1858

In 1858, the Ottoman Government introduced significant land reform legislation in order to help discharge its foreign debts and to finance an ever growing bureaucratic government. This was to be achieved by (i) attracting foreign investment in land development, (ii) increasing central government income from land transfer fees and (iii) imposing higher taxation on both existing worked arable land and from bringing waste land into cultivation. Failure to pay the tax assessed on the land could result in its being forfeited and resold by public auction.

The legislation provided, inter alia, for:

  • dissolution of the communal musha ‘ownership’ of village lands and its redistribution among villagers into registered plots in accordance with a cadastral survey;
  • holding of kushans, or title deeds as evidence of ownership or title to the land – independently and distinct from its rights of occupation;
  • the acquisition of land – other than by purchase or inheritance -  by adverse possession (i.e. possession without objection from any other owner claiming valid title) for a period of ten years;
  • ownership to the land lapsed if it was not worked for three consecutive years (mahlul);
  • Government forfeiture of land remaining uncultivated for three years (without a legally acceptable reason), which would then be offered for re-sale by public auction;
  • Non-Ottoman subjects were permitted to purchase land in their own names which, prior to the legislation, could only be done through an Ottoman nominee or with special permission of the Sultan.
  • Effect of the Legislation on the Fellah

The implementation of the legislation had serious consequences for the Arab fellahin.

  • It put the fellahin under economic pressure to sell their land holdings, especially the now distributed musha shares, to urban interests or non-resident effendi landlords in order to discharge their pre-existing indebtedness and to reduce the risk of uncertainties in agricultural yields. The landlords in question, after consolidating their holdings into larger parcels, would subsequently sell them at highly inflated prices to Jewish development companies and individuals at considerable profit. Such was the situation that, by 1859, British born Lawrence Oliphant was able to report that almost every acre of the Plain of Esdraelon was under intense cultivation and the nomadic Bedouin presence all but eliminated, owing to the commercial activities of the new landlords, who charged exorbitant rents, payable in hard cash under penalty of instant eviction;
  • Although land title registration enabled there to be a clear separation between the ownership of land from its occupancy, the registration itself was accompanied by the payment high fees and additional tax valuations. Fellahin therefore preferred to have the ownership of their lands (including the newly redistributed musha) registered formally in the name of urban notables while they continued to cultivate the land in a share-cropping arrangement as previously.
  • Land registration also enabled the Ottoman officials to identify those eligible for compulsory military service. Fellahin, forcibly taken into the Ottoman army and away from their lands for more than three years, often found on their return that their land was now “owned” by another.
  • The separation of legal title from the rights of occupancy enabled absentee effendi landlords to threaten with eviction the Arab fellah who worked the land if he failed to pay his rent, and enabled the landlord to sell the property over his head to would be Jewish purchasers. The Arab fellah naturally felt resentment against the Jew rather than against the effendi because, prior to the legislation, there was hardly any market for land, and if a fellah failed to pay his rent, the landlord really had no option but to permit the fellah to remain in occupation and allow the latter’s indebtedness to increase.

As a consequence of these reforms, the Arab fellah in Palestine became inexorably dependent upon those who would provide him with temporary relief from economic hardship, and yet were, at the same time, the main cause of his situation. Ultimately, by necessity, he forfeited individual control over his own life and livelihood to others:

The Ottoman reform movement strengthened and benefited a relatively small, urban, landowning elite of no more than several thousand out of a population of more than half a million. Through the dependency of the patron-client relationships that evolved, landowning interests accrued local political prestige and influence, ensured themselves access to the accumulation and disposal of land, and used land as a commodity to obtain capital for maintaining their comfortable lifestyle. (Stein)

  • Government Sales of State Lands Ultimately Purchased by Jews

Registration of land ownership, as distinct from its occupancy, also encouraged the sale of government owned land to large scale Arab land speculators such as Alfred Sursoq of Beirut who purchased some 200,000 dunams at a suspiciously low price. The speculators were prepared subsequently to re-sell their interests at greatly inflated prices to Jewish land development companies. Such was the situation that by the end of the Ottoman period only 144 extensive landowners owned 3.1 million dunams (1 acre = 4.047 dunams). (Kark)

iii. Socio-Economic Consequences of the Land Reform

Thus, what started as an attempt by the Ottomans to bring about land reform as one of the means to ease their debt burden, ended with the abandonment by many Palestinian peasants of their agricultural occupations and their gravitation to nearby urban centres. While not yet ‘political refugees,’ because they still remained in their patrimony, nevertheless in the decades before the 1947 UN partition resolution, many Palestinians were already disenfranchised by their own leadership and then displaced from villages and from lands which they had either regularly or periodically worked.

The sale of land and the movement of the peasant population to the towns resulted in the fellah’s loss of his traditional livelihood. It created economic friction and an ever widening cultural gap between himself and the urban Palestinian population. To this was added social and economic unrest felt from an increasing non-Muslim presence in the Land.

Although the legislation had the effect of enabling Jews to purchase land directly and occupy legally in their own names, the implementation of the law encountered regional opposition, forcing its suspension by the Ottoman central government.

This notwithstanding, continual foreign consular pressure coerced the Porte to remove the suspension and to permit Jewish purchasers to take advantage of the legislation when the occasion arose – as it did later in the 1880’s.

(see Raphael Patai, Musha’a Tenure and Co-Operation in Palestine, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Jul. – Sep., 1949), pp. 436-445; Gerber,  especially Chapter 5; also Islam, Land & Property, Research Series, paper 2, Islamic Land Tenures and Reform, UN-Habitat 2005, http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/3546_86904_ILP%202.doc ; N. Forni, Land tenure policies in the Near East Land tenure policies in the Near East, UN Food and Cultural Organisation, http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/Y8999T/y8999t0f.htm ; David Hurwitz, Agrarian Problem of the Fellahin, in Enzo Serini and R.E. Ashrey (eds), Jews and Arabs in Palestine, Hechalutz Press, New York, 1936 p.49

d. German ‘aid’ extended to support, maintain and modernise the Ottoman Government

As part of the Porte’s efforts in extracting itself from its weak financial and political situation, it turned to Germany for assistance. She responded by making investment in transportation – communication infrastructure and transferring military and civilian administrative know-how to the Ottoman government. It naturally brought with it an extension of Germanic hegemony, trade links in the Middle East and military dependence on and strategic subordination to Germany’s political interests.

In particular, Germany financed and constructed a railway intended to run from Berlin to Baghdad, with an extension of the Hejaz branch from Damascus to Ma’an and thence to Medina – deep into the heart of the Arabian Peninsula. The new railway links were to be used to develop Ottoman internal communications, the transportation of grain, collection of taxes, military conscription and troop movement.

This last purpose was to become of crucial strategic value to Germany in the coming 1914-1918 World War. It converted the Hejaz into a strategic military asset; the numerous inlets along the peninsula provided German submarines with safe havens and opportunities to attack and sink Allied shipping en route to the Gulf and to India. Any German expansion eastwards towards would endanger British oil interests in the region, as well as undermine British commercial and strategic interests in the Suez Canal and unhindered access to Indian subcontinent and the Far East.

The German supplied organisational know-how for the restructuring and training of the Ottoman military machine also was to raise British fears. These brought repercussions in World War I when the indigenous Hashemites of the peninsula were faced with the choice of supporting the Central Powers (Germany,Austro-Hungary and the Ottomans) against the Western Allies. As will be shown later, Hussein, King of Hejaz succeeded in extracting from Britain  the latter’s recognition of a Hashemite sphere of influence extending well beyond the Hejaz: establishing the Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Transjordan, as well as asserting a claim to the territory west of the Jordan River. This was, of course, to have a direct impact on Jewish aspirations to establish a homeland in Palestine.

In civilian matters, the Porte attempted to restructure its governmental organisation in accordance with Weberian concepts of industrial specialisation and governmental bureaucratic organisation; abandoning government traditionally based of nepotism and the sale of offices to the highest bidder and to replace it with one founded on meritocracy and specialisation as the bedrock for hierarchical authority.

As will be shown in Section 4 next following, this impacted on the loci of Arab centres of political power in Palestine. Ultimately, Chapters V and VI will show how these changes influenced in turn both the effendi and the fellah in their respective relationship with the Jewish immigrants and their supporting organisations as well as with the British military and civilian governments after World War I.

Also not to be overlooked was Germany’s political support of Theodore Herzl in his attempts to obtain a Charter from the Sultan for the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. Far from being altruistic, such support was intended to achieve two objectives: (i) to establish in the eastern Mediterranean the potential for a political entity friendly to German interests and (ii) as a means for ridding Germany of its Jews.   This subject is also examined more closely in Chapter V.

4. Changes in the Loci of Arab Elite Power Bases: From the Land to the Towns and the Metropolis

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Traditionally internal power and patronage of the Arab elites was traditionally centred in the local village and relied upon land ownership. External factors – particularly the financial predicament in which the Porte’s found itself in the latter half of the nineteenth century were to change this.

To manage its heavy public debt burden more efficiently, the Porte attempted to centralise and assert greater administrative control over the population and territory under its jurisdiction. The Young Turks, after their revolution against the rule of Sultan Abdulhamit II in 1908, propelled this movement and tendency towards the centralisation of power with greater enthusiasm.

Prior to World War I The Ottoman administrative structure placed Palestine in the regional Wilayet (Wali) of Beirut and the independent Sajak of Jerusalem. The wilayet themselves were subdivided into administrative subunits- sanjaq – which were further subdivided into local qaza . The local qaza of Palestine consisted of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth, Sefad, Tiberius, Jenin, Tulkarm, Beersheba, Gaza, Hebron, Jaffa and Jerusalem. As will become apparent in Chapter V, the appellation of administrative wilayet within which Palestine lay became a central issue in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence over the alleged conflicting promises Britain gave to the Jews and to the Arabs over the disposition of Palestine following World War I.

Kenneth.W. Stein, The Land Question in Palestine 1917-1939, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1984, (hereinafter Stein) p 9

If the Ottomans were to extract themselves from their economic plight and dependency on external influences, their government re-organisation now demanded a more highly trained and centralised bureaucracy. However, since it was hard to recruit qualified candidates, the reforms which the Porte wanted to institute failed to be realised for the most part. Instead, the bureaucratic structure which they established created many new official positions. These presented elites with opportunities to serve on local councils, committees, boards and commissions, often holding more than one administrative position at the same time and over an extended period, as exemplified in sanjaqs of Acre and Nablus.

The administrative reorganisation coupled the exploitation of the land reform legislation – discussed earlier in Section 3.c.ii – permitted the elites to accumulate both property and power and enabled them to place their tribal kinsmen at pivotal points in the administrative structure. The qaza level of administration required numerous civil servants to support the local councils, tax and finance commissions, courts of first instance, agricultural and commercial committees, chambers of commerce, education committees, land registry, military transportation commissions, telegraph and postal services and the local police. The appointed incumbents of the official positions and their supportive staff, each in his own sphere and in the exercise of his authority, were thus enabled to generate considerable ‘emoluments,” and advancement in social status. (see Stein pp 7-8)

As a consequence, small town patrons who previously had wielded power and garnered their wealth based on land holdings, now saw the larger urban centres as the arenas in which to operate for their own advancement and that of their kinsmen. Accordingly, Arab elites migrated from the villages to the larger towns and from the latter to Istanbul, Damascus and Beirut directing their attentions and efforts to wider horizons.

This shift in the locus and system of patronage from that based on local land ownership left the fellah under the control of a lower status kinsman or at the mercy of an indifferent agent, and bereft of his traditional patron to whom he could turn in times of trouble. Consequently, when Jewish settlements began to appear, it naturally created tension between Jews and Arabs, as one group intentionally or otherwise interfered with the land resources claimed by the other. Cultural and language barriers between the two probably exacerbated the issues of contention.

Furthermore the middle-ranking official and bureaucratic supportive Arab staff employed at all levels of public administration later provided Arab-Palestinian nationalists with unexpected political and administrative leverage in their subsequent dealings with the local British military and civil governments in Palestine after 1919.
(see Donna Robinson Divine, Politics and Society in Ottoman Palestine: The Arab Struggle for Survival and Power, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, CO, 1994 http://www.questia.com/library/book/politics-and-society-in-ottoman-palestine-the-arab-struggle-for-survival-and-power-by-donna-robinson-divine.jsp)

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”