Tuesday, February 22, 2022

On The Turkish Expulsion of the Yishuv's Jews

From "The Zionist Leaders’ Fear: Perception of, Comparison with, and Reactions to the Armenian Genocide" by Martina Berli:

The first attack on the Yishuv had already taken place in December 1914, when a large number of Jews were expelled from Palestine. Entering the war, Turkey faced the problem of having thousands of non-Ottomans living in the empire, a great number of them from hostile countries. The backbone of Jewish colonization was built of non-Ottomans, of whom 50,000 were Russians. According to Zionist perception, Talât could not bear having a “Russian vilayet in Palestine”80 and gave the Jews two options: either to become Ottomans or to leave. Having secured Cemal’s support, Behaeddin Bey, the kaymakam (governor) of Jaffa, who had a rigid anti-Jewish attitude, expelled several Jewish families on December 17. He forced 600 persons to board a boat that brought them to Egypt. The amount of time set for the Jews to become Ottomans was not respected, and the expulsion was not limited only to Jews from hostile countries. The expelled Jews were mistreated, beaten, and their belongings were stolen; some fell into the water, and because the ship could not take all those being expelled on board, many families were separated.81

This, however, marks only the beginning of the persecution of the Yishuv. Was this course predictable? For Ruppin, stationed in Jaffa, it was: “If this school of thought [the xenophobia of Behaeddin and Cemal Pasha] is the dominant one in the Young Turk party, we will have to make ourselves ready for serious opposition in our further work in the country.”82 The eviction of Jews continued during the entire summer of 1915. Unremittingly during the war, the Jewish population was exposed to house searches, arrest, expulsion, and deportation. The Jewish arbitral court and the Anglo-Palestine Bank were closed. Zionist flags and weapons owned by Jews were confiscated, and the latter were distributed among the Arabs. Furthermore, the use of Hebrew in correspondence was prohibited.83 In all these repressive measures, the Zionists saw Cemal’s intention to halt the Jewish colonization work in Palestine.84

In fact there was considerable disparity between the central government’s order to facilitate the Ottomanization of foreign Jews and its implementation by local officials. The Turkish authorities in the Jaffa district especially caused difficulties, whereas Constantinople often asked the local authorities in Palestine why, in specific cases, Ottoman citizenship was refused to Jews.85 In the end a great number of individuals left the country, discouraged by the process of naturalization. The total number of Jews who left––whether they were expelled or left of their own accord––between December 1914 and the end of 1915 amounted to 11,277.86

In spring 1917 a major incident—the evacuation of Jaffa—provoked international attention, as the expulsion in December 1914 had already done. Prior to this event, however, attempts to harm Jewish colonization had already been discussed by Cemal and Talât. According to a telegram addressed to Cemal Pasha on August 25, 1915, Talât was already considering the deportation of foreign Jews living in the empire.93 

Even the Jews who applied for naturalization were to be placed outside Palestine.94 The Zionists were alarmed. The chief rabbi in Constantinople, Haim Nahum Effendi, with whom the Zionist leaders were in touch, was visiting Talât to discuss the deportations of the Jews from the Marmara region,95 when Talât commented:

“What would you think if we were to cast out the Jews from Palestine too?”96 During that time Talât informed Cemal that “it is certain that one must agree to the brutal expulsion of Zionists, who are undoubtedly harmful to the homeland, in order to clean it.”97 This growing tension was noticed by the Zionists, as Lichtheim’s report from the end of November 1916 reveals. In his opinion Cemal “undoubtedly in recent times again considered measures against the Palestinian Jews.”98

The Zionists saw Cemal as the main actor of the anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist campaigns. Their reports convey that there was talk of “cleansing” all suspicious elements in Palestine and that these talks were initiated and led by Cemal.99 They also claimed that he was acting with malicious intent against Zionism and had influenced the central government with his anti-Zionist attitude and his mistrust of all Jews. In the end the Zionists had to assume that the Turkish government was harboring a “hostile attitude” toward them.100 In the Zionists’ interpretation this was exactly the attitude shown toward them by the decision to evacuate Jaffa’s Jewish population, which consisted of some 10,000 Jews and was the center of the Yishuv. 

With the arrival of the British forces in Gaza in March 1917, the evacuation of the population of Jaffa was ordered. Cemal explained this as an “unfortunate military necessity,” which had to happen “for the good of the fatherland and the population.”101 The evacuees could go wherever they wanted, but those without means would be transported into the Syrian hinterland.102 The movement of the refugees was under constant Ottoman surveillance.103 Gaza, with its mostly Muslim inhabitants, had been evacuated some weeks earlier. This had also been done on Cemal’s order, for military reasons and to relieve the army of the burden of civilians.104

The first British attack on Gaza was repelled. This military success brought with it the justification for the evacuation of Jaffa.105 The Jews and newly appointed Journal of Levantine Studies 101 German Consul Karl Freiherr von Schabinger interpreted this evacuation as an act directed against the Yishuv because the German and Austrian non-Jewish nationals were allowed to remain at their own risk. It also seemed that the mutasarrif, the administrative authority of the district, showed some consideration with respect to the Muslim orange-grove owners but not to their Jewish neighbors.106 Finally, about 9,000 Jews were deported. 


Emigration from Mount Lebanon in the Late 19th Century

From this book, Akram Khater, Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender and the Middle Class in Lebanon, 1870–1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001)

"In 1871 two men left the coast of Lebanon for the United States. We do not know their names, or why they chose such a lonely and unprecedented endeavor. Moreover, for over a decade after, few followed in their footsteps to either North or South America. In fact, until 1886 only a few hundred emigrants were recorded to have left the Mountain, and most went to South America.[1] Yet, in 1887 hundreds began to emigrate to the United States, Brazil, and Argentina, and by the middle of the 1890s the yearly recorded numbers were in the thousands.[2] By the time World War I erupted on the European continent, almost one third of the population of Mount Lebanon had left their villages and towns seeking fortunes in unfamiliar lands. For a people who thought a trip to neighboring Damascus was at once a courageous and foolhardy act, emigration across the seas could not have been an undertaking entered into lightly.[3] Accentuating these willful acts of departure from the norm is their sheer magnitude as a phenomenon. Collectively these peasants marked history in an indelible manner that prompts us as latter-day observers to take note and ask why they left their homes for unknown futures.

Figure 1. Rate of Lebanese emigration to the United States. Figures from Immigration Commission, Reports of the Immigration Commission: Statistical Review of Immigration, 1820-1910, 61st Cong., 3rd sess., 1911, S. Doc 756, and Reports of the Immigration Commission, 63rd Cong., 3rd sess., 1915.

The Persecution Theory

Some historians have attributed this human movement to the persecution of Christians—who made up the overwhelming majority of the emigrants at the hands of the ruling Ottoman administration—and by neighboring Muslims. This myth, as it were, was developed originally by some of the newcomers themselves, particularly those of Maronite background. To understand the reasons behind such a fabrication, it is important to note that throughout the nineteenth century various Maronite intellectuals and elites—secular and religious—were concerned with establishing a “Maronite nation.”[4] To bring such a project to successful fruition, it was necessary to enlist the support of external Western powers by appealing to them along the assumed common lines of Christianity. Writers like Abraham Rihbany, George Haddad, and Philip Hitti portrayed Christians in Mount Lebanon as defenseless victims of persecution, oppressed by ruthless “Turks” who extorted money from them.[5] Such narratives were “corroborated” by articles published in the popular Western press and written by missionaries returning from Lebanon. One such report appeared in 1896 in the New York Times. The author referred to the Muslims in Lebanon as “non-speakable” Turks who were bent on expelling all the Christians from the Holy Land.[6] That Lebanon was not quite the “Holy Land” and that Muslim-Christian tensions there did not derive from one-sided persecution were niceties that somehow did not matter. Even the emigrants themselves were prone to embellish their personal stories with horrific tales of massacres and persecution. Yusuf Bey, the Ottoman consul in Barcelona, remarked on this tendency in a 1889 report to the Porte: “When questioned why they had to leave their homes in such large numbers, they invent ridiculous stories about the massacre of their wives and children . . . all to increase the compassion and thus the alms they can elicit.”[7] What is striking about this myth is its durability. As late as 1992 some scholars were attributing Lebanese emigration to “banditry, economic decay, poverty and religious and social conflict. In times of religious strife, the Christians were apt to suffer massacre at the hands of their better armed Druze and Muslim neighbors.”[8]

Belying this mythology are various contemporary sources, indigenous and otherwise. Documents from the Ottoman archives show that Ottoman policy toward the Lebanese in general, and toward their emigration in particular, was hardly uniform or oppressive. Allowing for the presence of corruption within the Ottoman administration of the Mountain and the city of Beirut, these documents illustrate two things. First, various Ottoman governors of the Mountain had different agendas and attitudes toward the inhabitants, who in turn had different reactions to these Mutasarrifs. Franko Pasha, the governor of Mount Lebanon from 1868 to 1873, was well liked and remembered by many observers for his cordial relations with the Maronite church and the European consular corps, as well as for his efforts to bring prosperity to the people of Lebanon. One measure of his popularity with the Maronite of the Mountain is their support for the nomination of his nephew, Naum Pasha, for the position of governor in 1892. However, Rüstem Pasha (who was governor between 1873 and 1883) was neither fondly remembered nor particularly receptive to the demands of the Maronite religious and secular elites. Rather, he “made a point of establishing cordial but equidistant and formal relations with all major groups and institutions wielding influence in the Mountain, including the Maronite Church and the French Consulate.”[9]

Second, establishing that different governors had different agendas, varying by small or large degrees, leads to another (self-evident) observation. Ottoman governors, as well as more minor officials, were hardly omnipotent in Mount Lebanon. Rather they had to constantly contend with the intervention of European consuls, the machinations of local politicians, and the distant demands of the Sublime Porte. Dealing with these conflicting currents, the governors had to play a balancing act that precluded any notion of complete control. If anything, it appears at times that the local elites were successful not only in blocking an Ottoman action but also in forcing the resignation of the governor over that action. One such instance occurred during the governorship of Muzaffer Pasha (1902–1907). Among the various changes he tried to effect was an increase in taxes by 30 piasters on every dirhem of cultivated land. This money was supposed to fund, among other things, seventeen new positions of inspector for various governmental departments. However, the popular outcry against the taxes and “unnecessary” expenditures forced Muzaffer to rescind his appointments and return the tax rates to their previous levels.[10]

On balance, most evidence that we have shows that the Ottoman administration tried to accommodate the needs of the population of the Mountain. Except in a few instances, the governors kept from even trying to raise the artificially low taxes in the Mountain. To wit, the 1861 Règlement gave the Ottoman administration the right to collect 1.75 million piasters in taxes from the Mountain's inhabitants. This figure was based on a cadastral survey of the lands completed in 1861 which grossly underestimated the true extent of agricultural plots in the Mountain, particularly those held by the Maronite Church. Even after the extent of cultivable lands increased over the following fifty years, the tax base could not be revised because of the standing objection of the Lebanese. Moreover, expenditures of the administration of Lebanon outpaced income by over 2 million piasters, a difference that the central government in Istanbul supplied over a twenty-year period before its patience ran out. In 1910, when the male population had reached—at least—the 200,000 mark, the personal tax was still being collected on the basis of the 1861 census, which counted 99,843 adult males (above fifteen years of age) in the Mountain.[11] In addition to these glaring tax advantages, the inhabitants of the Mountain enjoyed improvements in transportation (length of roads increased from 38 kilometers to 1,104 between 1860 and 1912), the right to avoid conscription into the Ottoman army during times of war, as well as greater freedoms of expression. It thus becomes quite clear that neither were the Ottomans quite the “monsters” they were drawn as, nor were the Lebanese “oppressed.”

But one need not depend solely on Ottoman sources to reach this conclusion. Reports by various French, English, and U.S. consuls, based in Beirut and unsympathetic to the Ottomans, contradict reports of persecution of Christians in Lebanon. Shortly after the civil war of 1860, Lord Dufferin, who was in the region to investigate the causes of that conflict at the behest of the British government, wrote:

When I first came to this country I was under the impression of those natural sentiments of indignation [against] the atrocities perpetrated by the Druses on the Christians. . . .To my surprise however I soon began to discover . . . that there were two sides to the story. . . . I am now in a position to state, without fear of contradiction, that however criminal may have been the excesses to which the Druses were subsequently betrayed, the original provocation came from the Christians.[12]

A later, and perhaps more neutral commentary, came from U.S. consul general Ravndal about the state of unrest gripping the city of Beirut during the fall of 1903.[13] His report painted a picture of a city in transition from being a traditionally Muslim stronghold to one dominated demographically and economically by Christians newly descended from the Mountain. While he faults the Muslims of the city for not accepting this change, he also places part of the blame for continued conflict at the door of a “weak and indecisive” Ottoman administration that was incapable of arresting Christian suspects implicated in various violent incidents. Moreover, he reported that the Maronites of northern Lebanon “seem to be prominently identified with the policy of sowing distrust and accentuating existing differences between the Moslems of the city [Beirut] and the Christians of the mountains.” Finally, he noted that as a result of the “troubles” over thirty thousand Christians had left the city for the mountains.[14]

From this one glimpses an intricate political life in Lebanon around the time of the emigration movement. For Christians to leave the city in search of security indicates that the mountains were considered a safe haven of sorts, even by those who later spoke of persecution at the hand of Ottoman authorities. In turn, these authorities—while biased against the Christians—do not appear to have been capable of persecuting that community, even if one accepts the idea that they intended to do so. Standing between these authorities and the population at large were the European powers, among whom the Maronites singled out “Our Mother France” for protection. In one instance after another, the Ottoman authorities would retreat from decisions in the face of local opposition backed by European sponsors. In practice, then, Christians were not persecuted in Mount Lebanon, even if they felt at odds with Ottoman administrations and wary of their Muslim neighbors."


How Could An Empty-Handed Man Catch...


Z. gave much thought to the place of education in a mobilized society: “There is only one goal before us, which is providing excellent teaching and an excellent education.” But what was the aim of education? Consensus remained somewhat vague. Z. defines it as “safeguarding the homeland.” In that context he pondered the futility of too much gymnastics and too many parade-ground drills, in the spirit of the German turnen (group gymnastics) that inspired the Hareali gymnasium. He wondered how such activities helped shape skilled warriors. When Arab gunmen terrorized Hebrew society, the most pressing aim was to prevent daily killings. Z. asks himself “how an empty-handed man could catch an armed person.”

January 29, 1939

Palestinian Rights in the Balfour Declaration?

 I just came across this article:

The Balfour Declaration in International Law

which concludes so:

"The Balfour Declaration may have continuing legal relevance—not as a promise of a Jewish national home, which has already been fulfilled, but as a promise for Palestinian rights."
I was so taken aback that I wrote the author so:
If the term used to describe other persons than Jews was simply "non-Jewish communities", which indicated Arabs, Armenians, Syrians, Moslems, Christians and what not, and in the subsequent League of Nations Mandate, that phrase becomes "the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion" while the terms "the Jewish national home"  and "a national home for the Jewish people" are used, and if, in the 1919 agreement between Faisal and Weizmann we find the use of "the Arab State and Palestine", what would provide you any basis for assuming there were/are "Palestinan rights" that apply specifically to a social or national group of Arabs?

To be continued.