Bareness and oppression of Palestine due to
feudal system of taxes by absentee Arab Landowners
Just as today the myths are being perpetuated
about the "Palestinian Arab identity for thousands of years" and about
the "golden age of Jews in Arab Lands," so public opinion of the world
was swayed by Arab propaganda to blame the plight of the wretched fellah
(peasant) driven off his land "since time immemorial" -- on the "moneyed
Jews of the world." The story goes: "But poor and neglected though it was,
to the Arabs, who lived in it, Palestine ... was still their country, their
home, the land in which their people for centuries past had lived and left
In fact some Arab -- or Arabic-speaking
-- peasants were displaced, but they were displaced by Arabs beginning
long before the Jews' mass restoration of the land had begun, and continuing
long after Jewish settlements thrived, as we will see in other chapters.
It was those peoples----peasants crippled by the corruption in Palestine
and land nearby-along with migrants by tradition, and immigrants "Planted"
by the Turks-who would flood into the area of opportunity, the Jewish-settled
areas of Western Palestine. And it was those same "Arabic" migrant-peasants
and immigrants to the Jewish-settled areas who would later be 'Acounted
as "settled" Muslims on their land "from time immemorial" who were being
"displaced by the Jews."
The barrenness of the land, the bleak desolation
of its disintegration from the once fertile biblical "milk and honey" to
sour decay, resulted in and from the same conditions-ravages of conquest,
epidemics, earthquakes, abandonment, and corruption.
As historians' findings indicate earlier
in this book, the spoils system predominated from the time of the Prophet
Muhammad and was regulated by his successor, Caliph Omar. According to
the commandments of Allah,
Know that whenever you seize anything
as a spoil, to God belongs a fifth thereof and to his Apostle .... 2
The rest belonged to the conquering Muslims
as a collective group, not to any individual. 3
In the Prophet Muhammad's time, that fifth
of the booty of conquest was portioned out to members of his family and
purportedly to "the needy" as well. But as the booty passed to the
leaders who succeeded Muhammad, it appears that patterns for an unequal
distribution of wealth were set "as early as the days of Omar I." 4
In the centuries that followed, as spoils
became spoilage, Palestine's wide open, virtually lawless state encouraged
a perpetuation of the corrupt system. The dwindling number of peasants
were so heavily taxed and extorted by whateve fiefdom. or feudal state
existed at the particular moment that those who might have remained sedentary
were compelled to join the traditional ranks of the wandering migrant population.
The fiefdom of the Mamluks (1260-1516)
was replaced when the Ottomans conquered the country in 1516. The Ottoman
feudal system only exacerbated the conditions of corruption. Bernard Lewis
Harsh, exorbitant, and improvident
taxation led to a decline in cultivation, which was sometimes permanent.
The peasants, neglected and impoverished, were forced into the hands of
money-lenders and speculators, and often driven off the land entirely.
With the steady decline in bureaucratic efficiency during the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries ... the central government ceased to exercise
any check or control over agriculture and village affairs, which were left
to the unchecked rapacity of the tax-farmers, the leaseholders, and the
bailiffs of court nominees.5
Another study of the land system found that
... Every day the law was circumvented,
because the rich used to take over all the tenancies with the purpose of
again letting them privately, and at a great profit to themselves, to sub-tenants,
in clear contradiction to the express object of the State that the lands
should remain in the hands of the actual tenants all their lifetime. These
sub-tenants also endeavoured to squeeze out profit for themselves by laying
an intolerable burden on the peasants.6
In 1730 reforms were attempted to abolish
life tenancies, but "Various attempts made to introduce reforms in the
fief system ended in failure." 7
Recognized authorities of the day traveled
to the country and their recorded findings were unanimous. At the end of
the eighteenth century, Count Volney found a wasteland, 8
where ". . . nothing is more destructive to Syria, than the shameful and
excessive usury customary in that country." 9
Historians, sociologists, official visitors,
tourists-all have described the devastating conditions of existence in
the country. Tax farmers, who "were supposed to raise from the peasants
only a stipulated amount ... enjoyed great power," and ". . . owing to
the increasing weakness and corruption of the government, the peasants
had practically no legal redress. . . ." 10
By the nineteenth century there was "cash
farming," which prompted " a tendency for village or tribal lands to be
appropriated by some powerful individual, e.g., tribal shaikhs, local landlords,
or urban money lenders." 11
In order that the tax-gatherers
-- the multazim -- might be able to extract from their venture the
money which they had paid to the Government and a profit besides, they
exploited and ransacked the peasants to the last penny, robbing them of
half their produce and even more. The fellah was delivered hand and
foot to the tax-collectors, since he had not the slightest protection
against their tyranny.12
As a result, most peasants were "impoverished"
and "could not ... seek a living in town for, by the 1840's, industrial
production was sharply declining." The relative few among the peasantry
who worked their own farms were "forced" to attempt to remain, "thus falling
prey to the usurer."13 And those in the towns
were reported, by witnesses of the time, to be equally poor, as the inhabitants
of Jerusalem, who "really seem to be without any regular employment."14
The Arabs' migratory pattern of living
had long been common in the region of Palestine. Well into the twentieth
century the nomadic life was still the custom. As Sir John Hope Simpson
wrote in 1930, "the fellah ... is always migrating, even at the present
time."15 And in 1937, Lord Ormsby-Gore, Secretary
of State for the Colonies, testified that "There has always been a certain
amount of migration inside the Arab world."16
The coming and going of the populace was
a constant throughout the literature of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
scholars who visited the area. In the last decades of the eighteenth century
there is evidence that many of the peasants migrated throughout the region
in search of work.17
John Lewis Burckhardt graphically described
the migratory patterns he found in the early 1800s:
The oppressions of the government
on one side, and those of the Bedouins on the other, have reduced the Fellah
of the Haouran to a state little better than that of the wandering Arab.
Few individuals ... die in the same village in which they were bom. Families
are continually moving from one place to another; in the first year of
their new settlement the Sheikh acts with moderation towards them; but
his vexations becoming in a few years insupportable, they fly to some other
place, where they have heard that their brethren are better treated, but
they soon find that the same system prevails over the whole country. .
. . they are always permitted to depart.18
Burckhardt found that not only robbery but
also incessant migration were largely responsible for the land's corrosion:
This continued wandering is one
of the principal reasons why no village in the Haouran has either
orchards, or fruit trees, or gardens for the growth vegetables. "Shall
we sow for strangers?" was the answer of a Fellah, to whom I once spoke
on the subject.... 19
In his journal Burckhardt noted, for example,
that when he passed through the village of Merjan in 1819, only one family
lived there. Two years later, he returned: to the village to find nearly
a dozen families. Many were Druses who had come from another village, which
in 1810 had many inhabitants but two years later was, deserted.20
One historian noted, in passing, "the emigration
of many Druzes from Lebanon to Jebel Druze [Syria],"21
and another found "analogous" situations in Palestine in the 1840s, "where
peasants from remote villages came to ... grain cultivation areas." The
writer "struck up an acquaintance in the region of Hebron with a peasant
from the village of Bait Jala...."22
The traditional roving was endemic: "...Trans
Jordanian peasants ... left...their villages in 1847 owing to famine [and]
found work in various villages near Hebron."23
Peasants from Western Palestine, west of the Jordan River, moved to cultivate
land in Eastern Palestine. Other "Palestinian peasants" were "brought in"
by prosperous merchants to cultivate a "considerable stretch of territory"
and the emigres' efforts made the merchant "a wealthy notable." 24
Such was the custom.
In 1858 a reform was attempted, with destructive
results.25 According to Professor Elie Kedourie,
it was "a new, European-model land law."
The Land Code did not create a
European-style small landed peasantry with a stake in the land. On the
contrary, the small agriculturist, whether member of a settled village
community, or of a tribe which had never known individual ownership of
land, found his customary rights and interests squeezed and destroyed by
a law, the operation of which was made even more vicious by the corruption
and malpractices that a large, unwieldy, centralized bureaucracy naturally
In the 1860s and 1870s, here is one graphic
example among the myriad reports of the unrelenting ruination of the peasant:
[The tax-collectors] extort from
[the peasants) nearly all the produce of their lands in return for the
doubtful advantage of having them stand between them and the officers of
the government.... The farmer [tax-farmer] of a village ... is, in fact,
a petty tyrant who takes all if he cannot otherwise get back what he has
spent, and the iniquitous interest also.
The oppression of the peasant swept across
the traditional barriers of Islam. With regard to exploitation,
This system of tax-gathering greatly multiplies
the petty lords and tyrants who eat up the people as they eat bread.27
The line of basic demarcation
ran ... not between Muslim and Christian, Turk and non-Turk, but between
ruler and ruled, oppressor and oppressed.... The maligned Turkish peasant
. . . was generally no better off than the ordinary non-Muslim and as much
oppressed by maladministration.28
But those barriers-separating Muslim from
non-Muslim infidel-were powerful forces against reform. The leaders who
sought reform were faced with an "imposing obstacle" -- "the conviction
of superiority, which Muslim Turks possessed." It was a formidable "conviction,"
a bias bound to undermine a "reform based on equality of all Ottoman subjects....
Christians and Jews were inevitably considered second-class citizens" not
only "in the light of religious revelation" but also because of "the plain
fact that they had been conquered and were ruled by the Ottomans. The common
term for the infidel, gavur, carried this implication of Muslim
Compounding the difficulties of reform,
the Muslims "opposed innovation .Cevdet Efendi (later Pasha) who began
to learn French in 1846, had to do so secretly for fear of criticism."30
In 1868 a Muslim writer estimated that only about two percent of the Muslim
population were literate.31 Another bemoaned
the fact that most were "without pen and without tongue."32
"Suleyman Pasa [sic] in the same period guessed that in the capital itself
only twenty thousand Muslims could read a newspaper."33
The widespread illiteracy sustained and
fed the coffers of the feudal extortionists. The peasant had to borrow
to pay the taxes, and the debts he incurred from outrageous usurious rates
of interest forced him to sell his land, often to the wealthy effendis
landlords -- in the town.34
But even after surrendering his property,
the peasant still had to deal with moneylenders and their viselike usury,
because the unstable conditions-Bedouin raids, earthquakes, epidemics,
high prices-prevented the fellah from supporting himself through
A writer described the moneylending, a
practice that carried on into the twentieth century:
Money lending ... was one of
the curses of Palestine. Nearly everyone borrowed money, and the rate
of interest was fantastic, not because the surety for the loan was not
satisfactory, but because the borrower was completely in the hands of the
lender. The fellah, even if he was in a good position, had practically
never a penny to bless himself with. One day the Government official turns
up and demands a large sum in cash. What is the fellah to do? But
here comes a merchant from the town, or a Moslem frangi (i.e., a
man in European dress) happens to be walking about in the village with
his pockets bulging with money, and one of them is willing to accommodate
the fellah. But the lender requires not only substantial security,
but a good rate of interest also -20, 25, and even 30 or 40 per cent. "What
can I do," thinks to himself the needy fellah He knows very well
that just at this moment he will not be getting in any money, and if he
will not be able to bribe the tax-collector and postpone the payment he
will in the end be imprison as a defaulter. He also knows that to get out
of prison will cost him a lot of money, much more than paying the interest
to the lender, not to reckon his loss of time. On the other side
it is clear to him that if the grain or olive crop is a failure he
will not be able to liquidate his debt, and the interest payments which
he will have to make every year will go on increasing.36
Another blight was the centuries-old traditional
incursion by Arab raiders, which befell the few "sedentary peasant-farmers"
who remained on the land.
... unless checked by firm government
action, the nomads have always sought to thrust into the settled areas,
terrorizing and exploiting the villagers and eventually causing them to
give up cultivation and flee.37
One historian contrasted the "excellent roads
and fortifications, and judicious alliances" of Judeo-Roman times with
the spoiled, debauched Ottoman-ruled land at the end of the eighteenth
century, following the emigration of the 'Anza tribes from Central Arabia.38
In 1785, Volney recorded the scene:
The peasants are incessantly making
inroads on each others' lands, destroying their corn (durha), sesame and
olive trees and carrying off their sheep, goats, and camels.... The Bedouin
whose camps occupy the level country are continually at open hostilities
with them (the Turks), of which the peasants avail themselves to resist
their authority or do mischief to each other.... The mutual devastation
of the contending parties renders the appearance of this pan of Syria more
wretched than that of any other.39
As a direct result of the tribal raiding,
"large portions of the country went out of cultivation, and hundreds of
villages were depopulated."40
In the nineteenth century a great number
of Bedouin tribes continued to filter into the region. "Arabia has always
periodically overpeopled herself and, at this time, the emptiness of the
Syrian plains and their almost absolute lack of defenses tempted the ...
Arabia tribes. Once the movement was under way, this attraction communicated
itself to other tribes." In addition, the "disturbances" in the warring
Arabian plains caused still other tribes to emigrate. Tribes who lived
in Syria and environs were forced, by raiding and tribal warfare among
the new imigris, to flee into the "fringes of the desert," and plundering
Burckhardt recorded graphically a predatory
practice long common to that terrain--one that is known in the latter-twentieth-century
western world as the "protection racket."
The ... most heavy contribution
paid by the peasants, is the tribute to the Arabs. ... Constant residents
in the Haouran, as well as most of the numerous tribes of Aeneze, who visit
the country only in the summer, are, from remote times, entitled to certain
tributes called Khone (brotherhood), from every village in the Haouran.
In return for this Khone, the Arabs abstain from touching the harvest of
the village, and from driving off its cattle and camels, when they meet
them in their way. Each village pays Khone to one Sheikh in every tribe;
the village is then known as his Ukhta or Sister, as the Arabs term it,
and he protects the inhabitants against all the members of his own tribe.
It may easily be imagined, however, that depredations are often committed,
without the possibility of redress, the depredator being unknown, or flying
immediately towards the desert. The amount of the Khone is continually
increasing, for the Arab Sheikh is not always contented with the quantity
of corn he received in the preceding year, but asks something additional,
as a present, which soon becomes a part of his accustomed dues.42
The journal of the Christian traveler H. B.
Tristram was another among the plethora of documents that totally contradicted
the widely believed propaganda claim by the Arabs that it was "Jewish immigration
and settlement" that disrupted the Palestinians' "tranquility and stability."
Tristram wrote in 1865 that,
A few years ago, the whole ghor
(Jordan Valley) was in the hands of the Fellahin and much of it cultivated
for corn. Now the whole of it is in the hands of the bedouin, who
eschew agriculture except in a few spots, cultivated here and there by
their slaves. And with the bedouin, come lawlessness, and the uprooting
of all Turkish authority. No government is now acknowledged on the east
side; and unless the porte acts with greater firmness and caution than
is his wont ... Palestine will be desolated and given up to the nomads.43
A French writer reported that, during travels
in Palestine and Syria in the late 1870s, he found that in order to buy
the peasant paid an interest rate as high as 200 to 300 percent.44
According to one scholar,
This state of affairs was made
possible by the fellahin's misery and lack of rights, which were
the result of the high degree of feudal exploitation in villages.45
Not only regional rich effendis snatched up
the land, but also enterprising foreigners saw the chance to reap the local
Buyers operating in Syrian villages
were usually agents of foreign merchants. Foreign capital found a fertile
soil for its commercial and usurious activities in villages pressed beneath
the feudal yoke.46
And these were Arab profiteers, not Jewish
settlers, though a small number of native Jews and Yemenite Jewish immigrants
were already assuming the task of developing and reclaiming future farmland.
Most of the "Palestinian" Jews were still "paupers,"47
eking out an existence in the towns and villages of the "Holy Land."48
The great wave of Jewish settlement would not begin until 1882.49
Meanwhile, the effendis
were gaining from their monopolistic grip
on the land.
The British Consul in Jerusalem from 1845
to 1863 reported that a group of prominent landholding families in Jerusalem,
exerting the influence of their wealth, had gained control of "all the
municipal offices. In consequence they hold certain villages or groups
of villages in a species of serfdom."50
By the end of the nineteenth century the political power was in the hands
of those Muslim families "with names like al-Husayni, al-Khalidi and al-Nashashibi."51
The "Parasitic landlord class" had acquired, through the fellahins'
ruinous indebtedness, huge landholdings, which the landlords seldom if
ever visited, and almost never farmed.52
In the late 1880s, several years after
the new major Jewish immigration had begun, the migratory patterns remained
When the debts reach a certain
figure the fellah takes his bundle of bedclothes, along with his
cooking pan and water can, and if he is very fortunate, his small water
jug and his shoes, and having loaded the whole on his one ass, if he has
managed to retain an ass, and on to his wife, he flees on a dark night
and crosses the Jordan Valley, until he reaches the Hauran or AjIun, where
he finds a tolerably secure refuge from his pursuers and oppressors.53
As late as 1908, a German historian found
that thefellah had turned Bedouin to escape the grip of his indebtedness.
If the fellah sensed peril, he packed his family and they fled across the
Jordan, where they became members of a nomad tribe.54
"The land was left without owners and without workers, and became mahlul"
--a kind of state domain.55
So thorough was the plundering of the Bedouins,
so corrupt the government and its feudal system, that despite the imported
replenishment of peoples from near and far, Doughty, in his account of
travels in the region, was moved to write in 1876 that
"The desert" (says the Hebrew
prophet) "shall become a ploughland," so might all this good soil, . .
. return to be full of busy human lives; there lacks but the defense of
a strong government.56
Doughty found a "desert" that was devoid of
but a few "human lives" at the precise moment when the Jews had begun to
develop their settlements--on the semi-abandoned territory where one day
the Arab propaganda would claim that Jews had crowded out, "displaced,"
and rendered the "Palestinian" Arabs "landless."
Thus, we are faced with the facts of the
land once called Judah, Judea, and later the Romans' "Palestina" and "Southern
Syria," a once fertile 'ploughland" laid waste, whose inhabitants sadly
diminished in number through natural disaster -- and the greed of goat
The peoples who roamed the country in the
nineteenth century were not the peoples who conquered, with the Prophet
Muhammad's troops, the land Judah-Palestine. Those peoples were not indigenous
to the land. They did not stay on the land. Of the sparse population who
were later counted as "original" settled "Arabs" in the nineteenth century
when the arriving Jewish immigrants united with the native Palestinian
Jewish population, many were in fact imported Muslim peoples from Turkey
and other lands, whom the Turks, in many cases, had recently brought, to
protect against the wandering Bedouin tribes-a kind of landed pirates who
periodically attacked that settled multi-ethnic populace. "The Land's"
vicious cycle of conquest and destruction had relentlessly claimed its
inhabitants. Thus each new conqueror brought his own measure of the population
with him as protective force, while other thousands went in and out from
lands as distant as the Caucasus.
The government was often "directly responsible"
for importing immigrants to spur development.
For example, Circassian and other
colonists were deliberately planted on the frontier of settlement, especially
from 1870 onwards.57
Kurds, Turcomans, Naim, and other colonists
arrived in Palestine around the same time as the Jewish immigration waves
began. Eighteen thousand "tents" of Tartars,59
the "armies of Turks and Kurds," whole villages settled in the nineteenth
century60 of Bosnians and Moors and "Circassians"
and "Algerians" and Egyptians, etc-all were continually brought in to people
the land called Palestine.
About 1860 several hundred tents of the
Wulda tribe crossed the Euphrates and eventually settled down about thirty
miles south of Aleppo, in Jebel Samaane. Sections of other tribes, such
as the Bu Shaikh, Lheib, and Aquedat also drifted west, usually after being
defeated in raids or wars, half fleeing from the powerful desert tribes
and half attracted by the possibilities of settlement.58
This melting pot will be seen in following
chapters to have been counted as "original settled Muslims" in "Palestine."
However, it is clear by now that the claim that a numerous "descended Arab
Palestinian people" exists, with "family ties to the land for thousands
of years," is historically inaccurate.
"In 1878 the first Circassians arrived....
Two years later a second group settled.... In 1885 Circassian immigrants
arrived to found three villages ...." The Circassians "effectively fulfilled
the role allotted to them: to occupy and cultivate land, to weaken and
to act as a buffer against the bedouin"61
-- in short, to fulfill the same function as the protective forces of Ibrahim
Pasha: Ibrahim, Palestine's Egyptian conqueror, had left behind him "permanent
colonies of Egyptian immigrants at Beisan, Nablus, Irbid, Acre, and Jaffa,
where some five hundred Egyptian soldiers' families established a new quarter"-500
alien families, at least 2,000 persons, imported at a single moment-and
that was only one among countless similar situations. "With this aid and
the resettlement of the Jews, which dates from 1830, Jaffa began to grow."62
In another area, "The Muslims of Safed are mostly descended from . . .
Moorish settlers and from Kurds ...."63
The land called Palestine was never considered
a nation at all, and surely could not have been regarded by the later immigrants
as their "ancestral" homeland, any more than a Norwegian immigrant to the
United States would consider that his "ancestral" home was the United States
when his ancestors were born in Norway.
As late as the time coinciding with Jewish
reclamation and development, the
land was so sparsely populated that "landlords
[were] bringing in peasants and former semi-nomadic tribesmen" from other
areas "to work on their land." The Turkish land laws enacted in 1858 had
worked to the disadvantage of the peasant, but "made it easy for landlords
and speculators to gain control of disproportionately great areas of land."
When the peasants and semi-nomads "fell prey to the usurer" and lost their
tenancies, they fled and were replaced by new immigrants.64
The majority of genuine "Arabs" among the
sparse population in the "ruined" country when the Jewish settlers began
to buy land for restoration were Arabian tribal nomads. The multi-ethnic
"Arab" peasants who remained were so few -- despite the consistent replenishment
of peoples -- and generally so impoverished that an Arab writer was prompted
to sum up the harsh conditions thus:
... At the turn of this century,
Palestine was no longer the land of milk and honey described by the Bible,
but a poor Ottoman province, a semi-desert covered by more thorns than
flowers. The Mediterranean coast and all the southern half of the country
were sand, and the rare marshy plains were fens of Malaria which decimated
the sparse, semi-nomadic population, clinging to slopes and bare hills.65
Much of the Muslim population that remained
in the country was transient. As the Arab leader Sherif Hussein observed
The resources of the country are
still virgin soil and will be developed by the Jewish immigrants. One of
the most amazing things until recent times was that the Palestinian
used to leave his country, wandering over the high seas in every direction.
His native soil could not retain its hold on him... 66
How then does the profusion of evidence of
an uninhabited Palestine jibe with the Arab propaganda claim of an overwhelming
Arab settled population in a Palestine so crowded that the "Jews displaced
the Arabs who had been there for thousands of years?" The rotation of multi-ethnic
Muslims and Christians had been imported either by various conquerors or
through traditional migratory patterns to Judah-cum-Palestine, where they
had met with the omnipresent Jewish and Christian inhabitants-all have
been abundantly documented. That they were "Arabs" who had been for "thousands
of years," or even hundreds, as a consistent presence in Palestine is known
to be inaccurate. Moreover, according to the Arab writer Ameen Rihani,
confusion abounded with respect to an "Arab" identity "achieved mainly
by exciting the fanatical spirit of the tribes." The Arabic-speaking peoples
in Palestine were not motivated toward Palestinian nationalism or Pan-Arabism,
and there were no prominent Arab negotiators in Palestine even to protest
the "giveaway [of] Syria and Palestine."67
It was the Arabs themselves -- by
tradition as well as corruption -- who prompted Arabic-speaking Muslims
to disregard or abandon the land, and it was the Jews who would create
a climate of opportunity that drew the peasant-migrants by the thousands
to the Jewish-settled area of Palestine. But, as we will see, it was long
after, not before, the Jews settled their new farms that the first claims
of "Palestinian Arab" identity and an "age-old" tie to the land would be
Even the Arabs' impressive propaganda effort
could not obscure the unassailably recorded persistence of Jewish nationalism,
or the lesser-known obstinate Jewish presence in Judah-cum-Palestine-a
combination of historical factors that resulted in the international recognition
of the Jews' renewed national liberation. So the Arab world has attempted
to match the Jewish history by inventing an "identity" for the "Palestinian
Arabs" that would, they reason, "counter Zionism." Thus has been largely
accomplished the cynical rewriting of history, which in turn can only result
in a perversion of "justice."
Royal Commission Report, p. 6, para. 12.
2. The Koran,
Surah 8, "The Spoils," v. 41.
3. "In the
book, Kitab al-Kharaj (Book of Offerings) by Abu-Yussuf, a disciple of
Abu-Hanifa, in the chapter on 'The Division of the Spoils,' it is deduced
from that chapter of the Koran, that ganima, the spoils, after a fifth
has been set aside from it to God, belong to the victorious Moslems, not
individually, but to all together, the collective body." See the translation
of this chapter in the periodical Der Islam, vol. 1, pp. 347-353, appendix
to the article by F.F. Schmidt, 'Die Occupato im islamischen Recht,1 ibid;
p. 300ff., cited by A. Granott, The Land System in Palestine (London, 1952),
p. 327, n. 8.
'Du Regime des fiefs militaires dans l'Islamisme, et principalement. en
Tur quie,' Journal Asiatique, 1870, Sixi6me s6rie, tome XV, pp. 196-197.
Cited in A. Granott, The Land System in Palestine (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode,
1952), p. 18.
the seventeenth century some of the more permanently established lease-holders
began to coalesce with the landowners into a new landed aristocracy-the
ayan-i memleket or country notables, whose appearance and usurpation of
some of the functions and authority of government were already noted at
the time." Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modem Turkey (London, 1961),
p. 33. Lewis notes the following: cf. the remarks of Huseyin Hezarfen,
writing in 1669 (R. Anhegger, "Hezarfen Huseyin Efendi'nin Osmanli deviet
teskilatina dair mulahazalari," TM, x(1951-3), 372, 387. The ayan-i vilayet
already appear occasionally in Kanuns of the sixteenth century (Barkan,
XV ve XVI inci asirlarda ... Kaunular, i (1943, index).
6. A. Granott,
The Land System in Palestine, pp. 31-32. According to de Haas: "The sultans
regarded Palestine as their personal domain, acquired by the law of arms
and war. The inhabitants, except a few tribes like the Druzes who were
could not pretend to real or personal property. Even
private inheritance reverted to the sultan. Though the peasants were
not serfs as under the feudal system, and under no obligation of service,
all the country was crown land. When this system of crown land was compromised
by grants to nobles, the peasants did not go with the land. The census
when it was introduced, was employed for imperial military purposes. The
individual could not be imprisoned for debt though the village, as a unit,
could be made to suffer for its collective obligation. The struggle, therefore,
was between the land and the tax collector. If the assessor arrived at
the right moment he seized what he claimed, and satisfied his demand. The
peasant had no interest in thorough cultivation, or in the fertilization
of the soil. His primitive tools were evidence of his poverty and indifference.
The like picture was presented in Greece to the middle of the nineteenth
century." From de Haas, History, pp. 361-362; also see Volney, Travels,
vol. 2, pp. 370, 406, 408. (Emphasis added.)
System, p. 31. "They were abolished by the well-known edict of Tanzimat
('the new regime') ... of Gulhane in 1839. This proclamation declared that,
in spite of its deplorable consequences, there was still to be found in
the Ottoman Empire the 'destructive principle' of illizam-a principle
which produced the unlimited rule of the governors in the provinces and
a crushing exploitation of the inhabitants. The object of the reforms was
to enable the State to recover for itself all its rights of ownership of
the landed properties" (p. 32).
Travels, vol. 2, pp. 406-43 1.
Travels, vol. 2, p. 411. He also said, "When the peasants are in want of
money to purchase grain, cattle, etc. they can find none but by mortgaging
the whole, or part of their future crop, greatly under its value. The danger
of letting money appear closes the hands of all by whom it is possessed;
and if it is parted with it must be from the hope of a rapid and exorbitant
gain; the most moderate interest is twelve per cent, the usual rate is
twenty, and it frequently rises as high even as thirty."
Economic History, p. 72. "Their extortion was usually proportionate to
the shortness of their tenure,- this led the government to introduce in
the 18th century a system of life farming of taxes, malikane, in the hope
of checking abuses but its application was not universal." (Emphasis added.)
System, p. 57.
Smilianskaya, "The Disintegration of Feudal Relations in Syria and Lebanon
in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century," from Issawi, Economic History,
Travels in Egypt, p. 138.
Simpson, Report, p. 146.
Ormsby-Gore, Secretary of State for the Colonies, testimony at 32nd session
of Permanent Mandates Commission, August 1937.
C.F. Volney, Travels, vol. 2, pp. 40"3 1; Bernard Lewis, Emergence of Modern
Turkey, p. 33, text and n. 21.
Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London, 1882), p.
299; according to Smilianskaya, "Reports from Volney, Petkovich and Uspenskii
of peasants migrating in search of a living were substantiated by Urquehart
... .. Disintegration," in Issawi, Economic History, p. 235.
Travels, p. 299.
cited by Norman Lewis, "The Frontier of Settlement in Syria, 1800-1950,"
International Affairs, XXXI (January 1955), pp. 48-W; reprinted in Issawi,
Economic History, p. 261.
21. N. Lewis,
"Frontiers," p. 261.
P. Uspenskii, Russian Foreign Policy Archives (Embassy in Constantinople
Fund), case 915, 1. 174, cited by Smilianskaya in "Disintegration," in
Issawi, Economic History, p. 235.
pp. 234-235, n. 46.
24. N. Lewis,
"Frontier," Issawi, Economic History, p. 265. He cites C. Doughty, Travels
in Arabia Deserta (New York, n.d.).
the mandatory powers took over the territories of these four countries
[Palestine, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq] [sic] after the last
war, the system of land tenure was based on the Ottoman Land Code. This
was a body of civil law ... on the statute books during the nineteenth
century. Its weakness was that it was never generally enforced... [emphasis
added] . . the main legal categories into which land was divided by the
Ottoman Land Code (promulgated in 1858) ... are:
"1. Mulk Iands This is the
land held in absolute freehold ownership. It is governed by the provisions
of sacred law and not by those of the Civil Statute Law. Landownership
comprises two rights: the raqaba, or right of absolute ownership, and the
tasarruf or right of the usufruct of land. In mulk tenure both rights belong
to the individual.
"2. Miri Iand:... the raqaba
or absolute ownership belongs to the state but the usufruct to the individual.
It is a form of heritable leasebold ownership in which the state leases
land to the individual.
"3. Waqf Iand: ... dedicated
to some pious purpose and is not very important in this region.
"4. Matruka: Land reserved
for some public purpose as for example village threshing floors.
"5. Mawat land: Dead or unreclaimed
". . . these different divisions
do not cover the leasehold tenancies between landlord and cultivator....
The Ottoman Land Code apparently does none of the things that a land-tenure
code ought to do."
[The purpose of these categories
of land, then, was really] "the collection of revenue. The real purpose
of the code was to tax every piece of land, and therefore to establish
clearly the title to it by registering its legal owner as a miri owner.
The state's claim to ownership really meant only that the state did not
recognize ownership unless the titles were registered and the land therefore
taxable." Doreen Warriner, "Land Tenure in the Fertile Crescent," in Issawi,
Economic History, pp. 72-73.
Kedourie, "Islam Today," in Bernard Lewis, ed., Islam and the Arab World
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976), p. 3 3 1. According to Kedourie, the
new state law "resulted in the transformation of customary tenures and
of land in common or tribal ownership or use into state-registered, individually
owned free-holds. This reform rode rough-shod over customary rights which,
though not set down in official documents, yet had immemorially regulated
agrarian relationships in large parts of the empire."
Land and Book, 1868 edition (New York: Harper & Bros.), vol. 1, pp.
H. Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton, 1963), p. 63. Davison
refers to "forceful" evidence of such conditions in Mustafa Fazil Pasa's
Lettre adresse a S.M. le Sultan (n.p., n.d., "but Paris, either late 1866
or early 1867").
Aliye, Ahmed Cevdet Pasa and His Time (Istanbul, 1332), pp. 33-34, cited
by Davison, Reform, p. 67.
Reform, p. 69, citing Ziya Bey from Hurriyet #5, as quoted in Tanzimat,
1, p. 841 (The Tanzimat, on the Occasion of its Hundredth Anniversary)
Midhat, who wrote, "in exile, for Turkey and against Russia," quoted by
Davison, Reform p. 69.
Pasa zade Sami, ed., Suleyman Pasa muhakemesi (Suleyman Pasha's Trial)
(Istanbul, 1328). "A biography and defense of his constitutionalist father
by the son, with large portions on his interrogation and trial arising
from his generalship in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877," cited by Davison,
Reform, p. 69.
Land, p. 58.
Land and Book, pp. 497-498; C.T. Wilson, Peasant Life in the Holyland (London,
1906), pp. 288-297; also see Issawi, Economic History; Davison, Reform;
Wilson, Peasant Life in the Holy Land (London: John Murray, 1906), pp.
288, 290, cited by Granott, Land System, p. 64.
Economic History, p. 258. He adds: "This process had been described and
analyzed, with unrivalled depth and vividness, by the fourteenth century
historian and sociologist, Ibn Khaldun."
Economic History, p. 258.
Travels, vol. 2 (1787 ed.), pp. 196-197.
Economic History, p. 258. A "vivid account" by the British consul in Aleppo:
Skene to Bulwer, May 12, 1860, FO 78 No. 1538.
41. N. Lewis,
"Frontier," in Issawi, Economic History, pp. 258-260.
Burckhardt, Travels, pp. 301-302. At one spot, ". . . the whole neighborhood
of Aleppo is infested by obscure tribes of Arab and Kurdine robbers, who
through the negligence of the Janissaries, acquire every day more insolence
and more confidence in the success of their enterprises. Caravans of forty
or fifty camels have in the course of last winter been several times attacked
and plundered at five hundred yards from the city gate; not a week passes
without somebody being ill-treated and stripped in the gardens near the
town; and the robbers have been sometimes taken their night's rest in one
of the suburbs of the city, and there sold their cheaply acquired booty"
Tristram, The Land of1sraeb A Journal of Travels in Palestine (London,
1865), p. 490. According to de Haas, "To 1900 Beersheba had no permanent
inhabitants, but about that year the government obtained control of the
Negeb, and in order to exercise police power over the Bedouins established
a station at the site of the Biblical wells." History, p. 445. Thus Beersheba
in 1909 became "a straggling little town with government buildings, a few
stores . . . and dwelling houses for eight hundred people." Ellsworth Huntington,
Palestine and its Transformation (Boston, 1911), p. 115. Across the fifteen
miles between Debit and Beersheba, Huntington found "no sign of any village,
merely three ruins, and the tents of some Bedouins." The land was so impoverished
that the government rented 7,500 acres in the Negev for an annual rental
of $2,000. Huntington, Palestine, p. 117.
La Syrie d'aujourdhui.- Voyages dans la Phinicie, le Liban et la Judie,
1875-80 (Paris, 1881), p. 137.
"Disintegration," in Issawi, Economic History, p. 234. Also see account
in 1841 by K.M. Bazilli, Russian Consul General in Beirut, Arkhiv vneshnei
politiki Rossii, fond "Posolstvo v Konstantinopole" (Russian Foreign Policy
Archives, "Embassy in Constatinople" Fund), case 718, 1.112, cited by Smilianskaya,
". . . representatives of the feudal class used the capital they accumulated
by the exploitation of peasants. This capital was not invested in agriculture
as a rule, but in trade and usurious operations.... One branch of the ancient
feudal family of Dahdah, owners of a muqataa in northern Lebanon, had commercial
offices in Marseilles, Paris and London" (p. 239).
Jews in Jerusalem are in general very poor.... the whole Jewish people
are suffering the greatest distress-and if some relief be not afforded
... whole families must, during this next winter, perish from want....
In the midst of their wretched condition they look upon 500 as acknowledged
paupers. . . ." Young to Palmerston, Jerusalem, May 25, 1839, FO 78/368
(No. 13), cited in Hyamson, British Consulate, vol. I, p. 5.
population statistics for the mid-nineteenth century are unlikely, and
estimates of the period varied broadly. One source, Murray's Handbookfor
Travellers in Syria and Palestine (1858), was reprinted in the Encyclopaedia
Britannica, 8th ed., vol. XVII, pp. 180-198 (1860). According to that set
of statistics, covering a wider area than historic Palestine-the whole
Turkish Pashalic of Sedon-coupled with the 1895 figures of Vital Cuinet,
Syrie, Liban, the number of Jews in Palestine in 1858 is roughly estimated
at about 15,000.
49. In 1839
the British Consul wrote from Jerusalem: "I commenced with the intention
of numbering the whole Jewish population.... I found the religious prejudice
so strong against their being numbered at all-for by their law it is not
allowed-that at present I am only able to give your Lordship the aggregate
number, which I think may be considered as pretty accurate-but certainly,
rather under, than overstated, as the Jews will ever be considered less
in number than they really are. " (Emphasis added.) Young to Palmerston,
Jerusalem, May 25, 1839, FO 78/368 (No. 13), from Hyamson, British Consulate,
Finn, Stirring Times or Record from Jerusalem Consular Chronicles from
1853-1856 (London, 1878), vol. 1, pp. 180-181.
Arabs and Zionism, p. xxii. The office of Mufti of Jerusalem belonged to
the Husseini family from the "mid-19th century on," Porath, "Social Aspects,"
in Society, Milson, ed., p. 98.
52. D. Warriner,
"Land Tenure," in Issawi, Economic History, p. 77. One factor that "influences
the land system is the existence of a parasitic landlord class, a result
of the Turkish system in which grants of land were made to political supporters
of the sultan or in which powerful chiefs seized in the rights to farm
taxes. But the more general cause for the rise of the city-notable type
of landlord is the perpetual indebtedness of the peasants, which results
from the uncertainty of grain yields. One or two years of bad harvests
impoverish cultivators, force them to borrow even to buy seed, and after
borrowing at high rates of interest, they are eventually forced to sell
their holdings to wealthy merchants in the town and to continue to exist
as tenants of the big landowners....
"The landlords who have acquired
land in this way are rarely farmers and may not even visit the villages
they own.... Landownership is a credit operation and nothing more.... In
this case the large landowner ... appears simply in the role of a money
lender without responsibility to the land. This type of ownership is injurious,
since it prevents constructive investment in the land."
53. G. Schumacher,
"Der arabische Pflug," Zeitschrift des deutschen Palaestina- Vereins, 1889,
Bd. XII, p. 165. According to Granott, Land System, pp. 335-336, n. 13:
"There was no need to flee to a distance in order to escape the pursuers,
since there were places of refuge within the country itself. Among the
swamps of Nahr ez Zerqa in Samaria, between Caesarea and Tantura, there
are several lonely stretches without a footpath and without any connection
with the outer world, so that it is almost impossible to find anyone hiding
there. These marshes were used as places of refuge by the Arabs who ran
away to escape confiscation of their property, and other oppressive requirements
of the Turkish Government. See G.A. Smith, The Historical Geography of
the Holy Land (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931, 25th ed.), p. 145."
Guthe, Palaestina (Bielefeld und Leipzig: Verlag von Velhagen und Klasing,
1908), p. 47; cited by Granott, Land System, p. 61.
Land System, p. 61.
M. Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta (New York: Random House, ii.d.),
57. N. Lewis,
"Frontier," in Issawi, Economic History, p. 261.
Histoire des Sultans Mamlouks, II, pp. 29-30, cited in Frankenstein, Justice,
Whose Land?, pp. 210, 212. See Parkes' map of various ethnic settlements
in Palestine, and their locations, p. 211.
61. N. Lewis,
"Frontier," in Issawi, Economic History, p. 266, 263.
62. De Haas,
History, p. 419.
p. 425; 3,000 Albanians were brought into Acre, according to Sir Sidney
Smith's dispatch of May 9, 1799, in de Haas, History, p. 355.
64. N. Lewis,
"Frontier," p. 266. According to Davis Trietsch, "In the last decades,
several Turkish provinces have been lost to Christian neighbors because
the Christian population was recognized as independent by the State (Ottomans).
Many Muslims had to leave. " (Emphasis added.) JUdische Emigration und
Kolonisation (Berlin, 1923), p. 31.
Razak Kader, The Jerusalem Post, January 8, 1969.
Hussein, AI-Qibla, Mecca, March 23, 1918.
Rihani, Around the Coasts ofArabia (London, 1930), pp. 101, 109, 96-109.
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