Author Topic: Ottoman Palestine  (Read 447 times)

Offline Vetus Ordo

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Ottoman Palestine
« on: August 18, 2019, 03:47:45 PM »
Ottoman Palestine

In The Institute for Palestinian Studies.

The following is excerpted from Part One of Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History of the Palestinians, 1876-1948, by Walid Khalidi. (A family in Ramallah, north of Jerusalem.)



From 1516 until the end of World War I, the whole region of western Asia was part of the Ottoman Empire. The majestic superstructure of the walls encircling the Old City of Jerusalem, built by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-66), attests to Jerusalems’s standing in Ottoman eyes. Equally revealing is the endowment made in 1552 by Khasseki Sultan (known in Europe as Roxelana), the favorite and queen of Suleiman. Seeking “the pleasure of Allah,” she built a complex in Jerusalem “for the poor and the needy, the weak and the distressed” that included a monastery “with fifty-five doors” and an inn together with a public kitchen, bakery, stables, and storerooms. The endowment deed specified the range of employees required to run this institution – stewards, clerks, master cooks (and apprentices), food inspectors, dishwashers, millers, handymen, and garbage collectors. It described in detail the menus to be served, the ingredients to be used, and the quantities to be cooked. For the maintenance of the establishment, it set aside the revenues from twenty-three Palestinian villages as well as those from a village in northern Lebanon, and shops and soap factories in Tripoli. Khasseki Sultan’s public kitchen and bakery were still functioning under the British Mandate.

The Ottomans scrupulously continued the Muslim tradition of tolerance toward Christian religious interests in Palestine. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem was acknowledged in the sixteenth century as the custodian of the Christian holy places, and from about the same time France became the guardian of the Latin clergy. Like earlier Muslim powers, the Ottoman Empire opened its gates to hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Spain and other parts of Christendom. But the vast majority, as in the earlier centuries after the Crusades, did not choose to live in Palestine. Thus the number of Jews in Jerusalem in the first century after the Ottoman conquest dropped from 1,330 in 1525 to 980 in 1587. Even by the middle of the nineteenth century, only a few Jews had availed themselves of the opportunity to settle in the Holy Land. Those who did so lived in the four cities of special significance to Judaism: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias. The Ottomans presided over a set of regulations and understandings, known as the “status quo”, that governed privileges and access rights of Jews and Christians at their respective religious sites and monuments. These regulations and understandings were based on customary practice as it had accumulated over the years. They included rights acknowledged by earlier Muslim rulers and the decisions of Muslim courts in support of these rights, as well as Christian and Jewish commitment to adhere to customary practice.

The activities of European merchants in the coastal towns of Palestine were unimpeded by the Ottomans. The agriculture and industrial products of the interior found their way to Europe via the ports of Gaza, Acre, and Jaffa. As before, the overland trade routes between Syria and Egypt passed through Palestine, while the pilgrimage routes to Mecca (whether from Cairo, Damascus or beyond) converged at the Palestinian port of Aqaba. By the mid-nineteenth century, many European powers had consulates in the country, and during the second half of the century Christian missions – Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox – proliferated along with their schools, hospitals, printing presses, and hostels. In 1892 a French company completed the building of a railroad connecting Jaffa and Jerusalem. Of all the Arab provinces in the Ottoman Empire, with the exception of the Maronite sections of Mount Lebanon, Palestine was the most exposed and accessible to Christian and European influences.

The exposure also had its disadvantages, particularly with the gradual decline of the Ottoman political and military power. The industrial revolution and the European economic penetration of the region dealt a severe blow to local crafts and industries, while increasing European political leverage against Constantinople. One much-abused avenue for such leverage was afforded by the so-called Capitulations – a system of extraterritorial privileges granted to nationals of European powers who resided in the Ottoman Empire. The early Zionist immigrants and settlers were to make full use of the Capitulations.

In 1887-88, the area that later became Mandatory Palestine was divided into three administrative units: the district (sanjak) of Jerusalem, comprising the southern half of the country, and the two northern districts of Nablus and Acre. The two northern districts were administratively attached to the province (vilayet) of Beirut, but because of its importance to the Ottomans, the district of Jerusalem was governed directly by Constantinople. The area across the Jordan River (Trans-Jordan or Jordan) was administratively separate from the Palestinian districts and formed part of the province of Syria, with Damascus as its capital. At this time the population of the three Palestinian districts was ca. 600,000, about 10 percent of whom were Christians and the rest mostly Sunnite Muslims. The Jews numbered about 25,000; the majority were deeply religious, devoting themselves to prayer and contemplation and deliberately eschewing employment or agricultural activity. Until the advent of Zionism, relations between Palestinians and Jews were stable and peaceful, mellowed by more than a millennium of coexistence and often shared adversity.

Contributing to the climate of tolerance was the reverence held by Islam for the Hebrew prophets, enhanced in the case of Palestine by the tradition of pilgrimage to biblical sites. Palestinian Muslims, more than any other Muslims, were particularly imbued with such reverence if only because they lived in continuous proximity to the sites associated with these prophets. The inscription of Jaffa Gate (the main western gate into the Old City of Jerusalem) reads: “There is no God but Allah, and Abraham is his friend.” Mosques and Muslim shrines honoring Hebrew prophets and bearing their names in Arabic were regular features of the Palestinian landscape. Perhaps unique among Muslims was the Palestinian practice of celebrating religious festivals in honor of Hebrew prophets. No less distinctive was the widespread use by Palestinians of Hebrew first names. The same tolerance is evident in the attitudes of Palestinian Muslims toward their Christian compatriots, relations with whom have been remarkably free of tension (unlike the situation in some neighboring Arab countries). It is no coincidence that the various Christian sects in Jerusalem have traditionally entrusted the keys of the Holy Sepulcher to a Palestinian Muslim family.

Although proud of their Arab heritage and ancestry, the Palestinians considered themselves to be descended not only from the Arab conquerors of the seventh century but also from indigenous peoples who had lived in the country since time immemorial, including the ancient Hebrews and the Canaanites before them. Acutely away of the distinctiveness of Palestinian history, the Palestinians saw themselves as the heirs of its rich associations. Politically their loyalty was to Constantinople, partly because the Ottoman sultan was also caliph and head of the Muslim community (ummah) and partly because they felt like citizens rather than subjects of the empire. Their feeling of citizenship derived from the fact that the Ottoman Turks had never colonized the Arab provinces in the sense of settling in them; thus among the Arabs Ottomanism had acquired the connotation of partnership between the peoples of the empire rather than that of domination by one ethnic group over another. Nevertheless, relations between the different ethnic groups within the empire became increasingly strained during the period from the turn of the century to World War I, largely under the influence of growing European nationalism. Both Arabs and Turks were affected by this climate, which strengthened the appeal of the specific ethnic and political identity of each. A powerful secondary influence in the same direction was the Arab intellectual and literary renaissance that crystallized toward the end of the nineteenth century and radiated its influence from Cairo, Damascus, and Beirut.

The promulgation of the new Ottoman Constitution in 1876 (short-lived as it was) enabled the first elections to be held to the Ottoman Parliament, in which many delegates from the Arab provinces, including Palestinians from Jerusalem, took their seats. (It is ironic that Palestinians were sitting in the Parliament in Constantinople twenty years before the Zionists held their first congress in Basel in 1897.) Arabs, including Palestinians, were appointed to high office not only in the civil service, the diplomatic corps, the judiciary, and the army, but also as ministers in the Ottoman cabinet. The “Young Turks” Revolution in 1908, which brought reformists to power, further raised Arab and Palestinian expectations, stimulating political debate and intellectual activity best exemplified in Palestine by the appearance of new journals and newspapers. Delegates from Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nablus, Acre, and Gaza were elected to the Ottoman Parliament in 1908 and 1912. But Ottoman reforms could not keep abreast of deteriorating Turkish-Arab relations. Many Arabs wanted a greater share in government. Some advocated decentralization; others spoke of Arab unity, revolt, and independence.
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Offline Heinrich

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Re: Ottoman Palestine
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2019, 05:01:26 PM »
Did these endearing Palestinians who felt they were citizens of the Empire do anything to help the Armenians?
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Offline Fleur-de-Lys

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Re: Ottoman Palestine
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2019, 08:20:19 PM »
Quote
[…] Like earlier Muslim powers, the Ottoman Empire opened its gates to hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Spain and other parts of Christendom. But the vast majority, as in the earlier centuries after the Crusades, did not choose to live in Palestine. Thus the number of Jews in Jerusalem in the first century after the Ottoman conquest dropped from 1,330 in 1525 to 980 in 1587. Even by the middle of the nineteenth century, only a few Jews had availed themselves of the opportunity to settle in the Holy Land. Those who did so lived in the four cities of special significance to Judaism: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias.

It is interesting to note how the vast majority of Jews declined emigration to Palestine when given the opportunity by the Ottoman government, just as they had declined similar offers from earlier Arab rulers of the Holy Land. It is only with the advent of Zionism that mass emigration to Palestine became an eschatological imperative for the Jews.
 
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Offline Vetus Ordo

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Re: Ottoman Palestine
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2019, 08:24:47 PM »
Quote
[…] Like earlier Muslim powers, the Ottoman Empire opened its gates to hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Spain and other parts of Christendom. But the vast majority, as in the earlier centuries after the Crusades, did not choose to live in Palestine. Thus the number of Jews in Jerusalem in the first century after the Ottoman conquest dropped from 1,330 in 1525 to 980 in 1587. Even by the middle of the nineteenth century, only a few Jews had availed themselves of the opportunity to settle in the Holy Land. Those who did so lived in the four cities of special significance to Judaism: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias.

It is interesting to note how the vast majority of Jews declined emigration to Palestine when given the opportunity by the Ottoman government, just as they had declined similar offers from earlier Arab rulers of the Holy Land. It is only with the advent of Zionism that mass emigration to Palestine became an eschatological imperative for the Jews.

Yes. Almost ironically, the state of Israel is another product of modernity.
DISPOSE OUR DAYS IN THY PEACE, AND COMMAND US TO BE DELIVERED FROM ETERNAL DAMNATION, AND TO BE NUMBERED IN THE FLOCK OF THINE ELECT.
 
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