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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 their graves."1

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 reports that

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 entailed.26
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.

This system of tax-gathering greatly multiplies the petty lords and tyrants who eat up the people as they eat bread.27

The oppression of the peasant swept across the traditional barriers of Islam. With regard to exploitation,
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 superiority."29

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 farming.35

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 prevailed.41

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 seeds, 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 profits.
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 unchanged.

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 and man.

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

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

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.

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 in 1918,
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 invented.

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."

1. Palestine 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.

4. Belin, '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. 

5. "During 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 never conquered, 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.)

7. Granott, 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).

8. Volney, Travels, vol. 2, pp. 406-43 1. 

9. Volney, 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." 

10. Issawi, 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.)

11. Ibid.

12. Granott, System, p. 57.

13. I.M. Smilianskaya, "The Disintegration of Feudal Relations in Syria and Lebanon in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century," from Issawi, Economic History, p. 234. 

14. Olin, Travels in Egypt, p. 138.

15. Hope Simpson, Report, p. 146.

16. W.G.A. Ormsby-Gore, Secretary of State for the Colonies, testimony at 32nd session of Permanent Mandates Commission, August 1937.

17. See C.F. Volney, Travels, vol. 2, pp. 40"3 1; Bernard Lewis, Emergence of Modern Turkey, p. 33, text and n. 21.

18. John 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.

19. Burkhardt, Travels, p. 299.

20. Ibid., 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.

22. Writer 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.

23. Ibid., 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.).

25. "When 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 land.

". . . 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.

26. Elie 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."

27. Thomson, Land and Book, 1868 edition (New York: Harper & Bros.), vol. 1, pp. 497-498.

28. Roderique 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"). 

29. Ibid., p. 65.

30. Fatima Aliye, Ahmed Cevdet Pasa and His Time (Istanbul, 1332), pp. 33-34, cited by Davison, Reform, p. 67.

31. Davison, 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) (Istanbul, 1940).

32. Ahmed Midhat, who wrote, "in exile, for Turkey and against Russia," quoted by Davison, Reform p. 69.

33. Suleyman 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.

34. Granott, Land, p. 58.

35. Thomson, 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; Granott, Land

36. C.T. Wilson, Peasant Life in the Holy Land (London: John Murray, 1906), pp. 288, 290, cited by Granott, Land System, p. 64.

37. Issawi, 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." 

38. Issawi, Economic History, p. 258.

39. Volney, Travels, vol. 2 (1787 ed.), pp. 196-197.

40. Issawi, 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.

42. J.L. 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" (pp. 654-655).

43. H.B. 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. 

44. Lortet, La Syrie d'aujourdhui.- Voyages dans la Phinicie, le Liban et la Judie, 1875-80 (Paris, 1881), p. 137.

45. Smilianskaya, "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, "Disintegration."

46. Ibid. ". . . 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).

47. "The 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.

48. Exact 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, pp. 4-7.

50. James Finn, Stirring Times or Record from Jerusalem Consular Chronicles from 1853-1856 (London, 1878), vol. 1, pp. 180-181. 

51. Mandel, 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."

54.Hermann Guthe, Palaestina (Bielefeld und Leipzig: Verlag von Velhagen und Klasing, 1908), p. 47; cited by Granott, Land System, p. 61.

55. Granott, Land System, p. 61.

56. Charles M. Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta (New York: Random House, ii.d.), p. 56.

57. N. Lewis, "Frontier," in Issawi, Economic History, p. 261.

58. Ibid., p. 263.

59. Makrizi, Histoire des Sultans Mamlouks, II, pp. 29-30, cited in Frankenstein, Justice, p. 122.

60. Parkes, 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.

63. Ibid., 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.

65. Abdel Razak Kader, The Jerusalem Post, January 8, 1969. 

66. Sherif Hussein, AI-Qibla, Mecca, March 23, 1918.

67. Ameen Rihani, Around the Coasts ofArabia (London, 1930), pp. 101, 109, 96-109.

This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz
Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst 
Brooklyn, New York 
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