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Falastin

Chapter I: Multiculturalism Before the West

Image: Félix Bonfils (1831-1885) A General View of the Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem. 1866/1867

Multiculturalism Before the West (Pre-1916)Contributions by Noor Abed, Sondos Azzam, Adam Broomberg & Rafael Gonzalez, Claire Fontaine, Lamia Joreige, Rashid Khalidi, Nástio Mosquito, and Video Tract for Palestine.Chapter 1 is narrated by Nástio Mosquito.

Al-Quds is the Arabic name for the ancient city of Jerusalem1, which bears witness to a rich tapestry of multiculturalism and religious tolerance within its ancient walls. Mosques, synagogues, and churches representing various sects, such as Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Maronite, Protestant, and many more coexisted responsibly. The Mosque of Omar, built on the site of Caliph Umar's first prayer after capturing the city from the Byzantine Empire, exemplifies the true spirit of coexistence. Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, invited Umar to pray within the walls of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but he refused to endanger the church and opted to pray outside its walls.2 This decision aimed at fostering coexistence, allowing both the church and mosque to peacefully inhabit the ancient city walls.


For 400 years, from 1516 to 1917, Jerusalem was under Ottoman rule. This period saw the flourishing of a diverse society marked by religious tolerance. The Ottomans, influenced by other Islamic empires, implemented a millet system allowing different religious courts to operate based on their beliefs within their territories. The millet system is often lauded as an example of cultural tolerance, and considered as an early form of institutionalized cultural recognition. However, the influx of Western ideas of nationalism in the 19th century broke down the lenient judicial system and led to epochs of greater minority repression.3 This weakened the empire internally, causing its eventual destruction and the entrance of French and British armies into the Middle East.

Explore Video Tract for Palestine's works in detail
Napoleon Bonaparte - Siege of Acre (1799)
1799: Napoleon offers Palestine as a homeland to the Jews

In 1799, Napoleon’s troops were camped outside of the Ottoman-controlled, walled city of Acre. There, he attempted to win the sympathy of European Jews through a written proclamation calling them the “rightful heirs of Palestine.” It was here that the ideas of Zionism were first experimented with, over a century before they would be implemented by the British. Napoleon was defeated in his campaign for Egypt and Syria and returned to France with his empty promise. While the goals of the French general were not immediately implemented, his ideas of nations, ethnicities, and territories would soon sweep the European continent with nationalist revolutions signaling a paradigm shift in Western ideologies of state, land, and identity.


By 1840, the British returned to Palestine with the intention of challenging Egyptian Sultan Mohammad Ali who had liberated Egypt from French occupation. Ali had been an ally and fought for the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, but later turned against him and won territory in Syria, Sudan, and Greece. To halt his expansion, the British intended to convince the Ottomans to back the plans of a Jewish state as a buffer against Egypt bordering the Sinai peninsula. Exerting influence over the weakening Ottoman Empire, British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston wrote to his ambassador in Constantinople urging him to convince the Sultan and his entourage to open Palestine for the immigration of Jews. At that time, there were estimated to be no more than 3,000 Jews in Ottoman-controlled Palestine.

Image: Failed Siege of Acre by French forces led by Napoleon (1799), Wikipedia CommonsSources

We still live under an ideological regime derived from the bizarre categorizations of human beings developed at the peak of colonial conquest in 19th and early 20th century Europe. It was under the context of burgeoning nationalisms that tied ethnicity to land claims in which various 19th-century ideologies were formed in Europe. Other than fascism which would erupt in the wars of the early 20th century, Zionism was coined and emerged in the aftermath of the European identity crisis of the post-Napoleonic political landscape.

Read: "The Invention of the Ethnic Nation-state"
1834: Palestinian Peasants Revoltby Working Class History

During the revolt of Egyptian ruler Mohammed Ali and his son Ibrahim Pasha against Ottoman rule, Palestinians revolted against conscription rules. In the moments of repression by the occupying force, Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike faced the same enemy and began to form a common Palestinian identity rooted in the land against outside forces.


On 25 April 1834, a peasants’ revolt in Palestine and parts of what is now Jordan was sparked when Egyptian Ottoman authorities announced plans to conscript men to the military and confiscate residents’ guns.


According to Khaled Safi: “peasants’ refusal to be disarmed may have been even stronger than the resistance to conscription. They had been carrying guns generation after generation, the weapons being handed down from father to son in order to protect themselves, their lands, their country, and their interests. In their view, the call for giving up their weapons did not only imply that they were being deprived of traditional power, it also wounded their dignity and pride.”


Revolt first broke out in as-Salt, Jordan, then spread through most of the historic area of Palestine, which now includes the current territory of Israel. In particular, battles against Egyptian troops occurred in towns and cities including Gaza, Safad, Nablus, Jerusalem, and Hebron. By June, most of Palestine was in the hands of the rebels.


Then, Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali arrived with a force of 15,000 troops. He first agreed to abolish conscription and amnesty for rebels. But after the peasant forces abandoned their positions, Ali broke his promise, brought in reinforcements, and began a violent crackdown, killing thousands. While Christians and Jews had not taken part in the uprising, as they were exempt from conscription, they were not spared in the violent repression, which was especially violent against Jewish residents of Hebron.


Eventually, Ali succeeded in conquering the region, disarming the population, and introducing conscription. Over 9,000 young men were subsequently captured and conscripted.

Image: Khalil Raad Collection, available at The Institute for Palestine Studies.

Over the course of hundreds of years of uninterrupted rule, the Palestinian people had developed a strong local identity situated within a pan-Arab geography that encompassed diverse religious and ethnic groups. Noor Abed’s practice draws upon folklore and sound archives in order to reclaim local histories that are in danger of being erased. Literary sources point to Palestine as an important site of pilgrimage as well as passage towards Mecca for pilgrims completing the Hajj. Birds, plants, and fish feature heavily in the tales which are situated in the vastly varied ecosystem nestled in the region.

Explore Noor Abed's work in detail
1876: Ottoman Constitution announced

Sultan Abdul Hamid II began his reign by announcing the first Ottoman constitution on December 23, 1876. The Constitution was an attempt to reconfigure the relationship between the Ottoman state and its subjects by crafting a single Ottoman political identity applied equally to all the empire's subjects. This meant that everyone, including Muslims, Jews, and Christians, regardless of their religion had the right to liberties such as freedom of press and free education. The constitution also reaffirmed the equality of all Ottoman subjects, including their right to serve in the new Chamber of Deputies.


The constitution was more than a political document; it was a proclamation of Ottoman patriotism, and it was an assertion that the empire was capable of resolving its problems and had the right to remain intact as it then existed.


It also facilitated the establishment of a General Assembly composed of two chambers: the Senate, whose members were appointed by the Sultan, and the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies, whose members were elected in the provinces.


The constitution was in effect from 1876 to 1878, in a period known as the First Constitutional Era, and from 1908 to 1922 in the Second Constitutional Era.

Image: Young girls of Bethlehem, Félix Bonfils, 1880s. Institute for Palestine Studies, Photograph Collection.Sources
1876-1877: First Ottoman Parliament convenes in Constantinople; first Palestinian deputies from Jerusalem elected to this Parliament

The first Ottoman parliament convened in two terms between March 1877 and February 1878. It consisted of two chambers: the Chamber of Commons and the Chamber of Deputies.


Yusuf Diya-uddin Pasha al-Khalidi was elected to the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies as an official representative of Jerusalem. He was the only Palestinian elected member of the first Ottoman parliament.


On February 13, 1878, the parliament was suspended indefinitely due to criticisms of incompetency over the Russo-Turkish War, but not formally abrogated by Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

Sources

Noor Abed / Still from “Our songs were ready for all wars to come” (2021)

Yusuf Diya’s letter and Theodor Herzl’s response to it are well-known to historians of the period, but most of them do not seem to have reflected carefully on what was perhaps the first meaningful exchange between a leading Palestinian figure and a founder of the Zionist movement. In this excerpt from the Introduction of The Hundred Years' War on Palestine, Rashid Khalidi lays bare the colonial nature of the century-long conflict in Palestine through his own family's history.

Read: "The Hundred Years' War on Palestine"
"In the name of God, let Palestine be left alone"
1878: Petah Tikva, the First Exclusively Jewish Agricultural Settlement

Petah Tikva (Gate of Hope) was the first Jewish agricultural settlement established in Ottoman Palestine. Its name is a reference to its original proposed location near Jericho which was denied by Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Instead, he granted the European Jews lands which were of low value in a malarial swamp. In 1880, the settlement was abandoned due to the outbreak of disease.


It was settled again in 1882, as the first Zionist settlement, by immigrants in the first wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine, most of the new villagers arrived from the Russian Empire. Funding for swamp drainage was provided by Baron Edmond de Rothschild. David Ben-Gurion lived in Petah Tikva in 1906 after emigrating from Europe.

Image: The first Zionist colony in Palestine, 1878. Before their Diaspora, Institute for Palestine Studies.
Sources
1881: The Ottoman Government Prohibits Jewish Migration to Palestine

In 1881, the assassination of Tsar Alexander II began a period of deep antisemitism and pogroms across the Russian Empire. Many Russian Jews emigrated to the United States, but a movement formed named “Lovers of Zion” whose destination was Palestine. Aware of their intentions, the Ottoman Empire wished to avoid another national problem within their empire and proclaimed: “[Jewish] immigrants will be able to settle as scattered groups throughout Turkey, excluding Palestine. They must submit to all the laws of the Empire and become Ottoman subjects.”


The context behind these prohibitions came from the recent experience of the Russo-Turkish war over Crimea when Russia had laid claim to protect all Orthodox Christians in Ottoman lands. A legitimate fear of Europe claiming protections rose in Constantinople about what would happen if European Jews were allowed to flood into Jerusalem. Furthermore, most of the Jewish people who were arriving were Russian subjects - the arch-enemy of the Ottoman Empire.

Sources
Roshpinah, the Jewish colony, supported by Baron Rothschild in the mountain of Galilee, Palestine
1882: Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Paris begins financial backing of Jewish colonization in Palestine.

Settlers established agricultural enterprises, thanks to the massive financial contributions of wealthy European Jews, most notably Baron Edmond de Rothschild and Baron Maurice de Hirsch. De Rothschild invested more than 14 million French francs in order to establish 30 Jewish settlements. Baron Maurice de Hirsch established the Jewish Colonisation Association in London in the year 1881 investing 15 million French francs. This organization still exists today after being renamed the Jewish Charitable Association.


Baron de Rothschild undertook five journeys to Palestine, each marked by the accompaniment of experts and specialized equipment aimed at aiding the colonies and fostering the growth of health, education, and agriculture. His inaugural journey, at the age of 42 in 1887, was executed incognito to evade Ottoman notice.

Images: Historical images of Baron de Rothschild's visits to Palestine. The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation.Sources
[Edmond de Rothschild's] inaugural journey, at the age of 42 in 1887, was executed incognito to evade Ottoman notice.
1882 - 1903: The First Aliyah

The first wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine was called the “First Aliyah” in which roughly 25,000 Jewish immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe, settled in the lands within 20 years. The term aliyah is one of the basic tenets of Zionism meaning to “ascend” to the land that they consider Israel. Yerida, the opposite of aliyah, is the practice of emigrating from Israel; it means “the descent.” This vocabulary is important in understanding the aims and ideology of Zionism which considers this a metaphysical uplifting. The term aliyah was widely popularized by Arthur Ruppin, a German Zionist and pseudoscientist who proposed a Jewish race theory.

Image: Early agricultural settlers in Be'er Tuvia, one of the First Aliyah colonies, circa 1888. Wikipedia Public Domain.Sources

1882: Ottoman government adopts a policy allowing Jewish pilgrims and businessmen to visit Palestine but not to settle there.

In 1882, it had already been declared that only pilgrims were allowed to go to Palestine. There were two main purposes of the Ottoman government behind the formulation of a restrictive policy for the Zionist movement in Palestine. First, the foreign Jews had been able to enter and settle in Ottoman Palestine through the protection of the European powers under the capitulations. Therefore, by the restrictions, the Ottoman government was also willing to prevent the foreign powers from interfering in its domestic affairs and the foreign subjects from deriving benefits from the capitulations.


Secondly, the Ottomans wanted to avoid the budding Jewish nationalism in the Ottoman land, fearing that it might turn into a larger movement for a separate Jewish state in Ottoman territories


The explicit exclusion of Palestine is notable in that it indicates an early awareness among the Ottomans of the threat posed by the Zionists and their European sponsors.


Sources

Sondos Azzam’s multi-sensory dining experience, Nāranga, explores the collective memory of the Jaffa orange through a five-course meal. With each dish, the diner considers one of the fruit’s sensorial layers and recontextualizes it. It all begins with peeling an orange wrapped in wax paper, onto which excerpts from Ghassan Kanafani’s “The Land of the Sad Oranges” are imprinted. The project thus finds an anchor in history: Jaffa’s role as a hub for orange production until 1948, the confiscation of Palestinian-owned orange groves during the Nakba, and the fruit’s later subsumption into the Israeli national identity.

Explore Sondos Azzam's work in detail
The Jaffa Orange: The Palestinian Gift to the World

Today the Jaffa orange is the agricultural product that is most closely associated with Israeli production, yet Palestinian expertise had already developed the Jaffa orange before the Zionist colonization of Palestine got underway. In 1886, the American consul in Jerusalem, Henry Gillman, writing to Assistant Secretary of State J. D. Porter, called attention to the excellent quality of the Jaffa orange and the superior grafting techniques of Palestinian citrus farmers: "I am particular in giving the details of this simple method of propagating this valuable fruit," he reported to Washington, "as I believe it might be adopted with advantage in Florida." It was not until the end of the Mandate that Jewish production managed to catch up with Palestinian production levels. Even then, however, Palestinian citrus production remained slightly ahead, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Images: Khalil Raad Collection, available at The Institute for Palestine Studies.Source
1882: Ottoman government informs Jewish leadership in Constantinople that it views Zionist colonization in Palestine as a political problem.

Towards the end of 1882, Isaac Fernandez, the President of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Constantinople, was told that the Ottoman Government feared the possibility of nurturing a national problem within the Empire. Ottoman ministers informed Fernandez that they were determined to 'firmly resist the immigration of Jews into Syria and Mesopotamia, as [they] did not wish to have another nationality established in great numbers in that part of the Empire.’


A year later, the Minister of Internal Affairs and others explicitly indicated to Fernandez that they regarded Jewish colonization of Palestine as a political issue and they 'did not want, after the Bulgarian, Romanian and other questions, to have a new question on their hands.'


Sources
The first of the “First Aliyah” colonies, Rishon le Zion was amongst a handful that benefited from the management and administration of philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild
1882: Founding of Rishon le Zion

In 1882, the first of the six “First Aliyah” Judean colonies—which all originated from Jewish colonists purchasing land from Christians near Jaffa—was established. Rishon le Zion was amongst the three Judean colonies—Eqron and Qastin (in its first phase) being the other two—that benefited from the management and administration of French-Jewish philanthropist, Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The Rothschild administration acted as a quasi-governmental institution for the colonies, mediating deals and requests with local Ottoman authorities for the survival of the colonies. It was precisely because Rishon le Zion hosted the administration’s regional headquarters—as well as due to its proximity to Jaffa, size, and economic activity—that the colony served as the administrative and organizational center for all the Judean colonies.


In 1882, Rothschild declared: "I have done this because I have seen in you the fulfillers of Israel's dream of resurrection and of the precious ideal of us all - the sacred goal of Israel's return to the homeland of its forefathers."


Though Judean colonists mainly came from different backgrounds in Eastern Europe, the colonies eventually crystallized into a bloc. They cooperated extensively, exchanging resources, and expertise, and offering mutual support. As their presence grew, they aimed to create a contiguous Jewish territory by acquiring additional land and preventing its purchase by non-Jews. This fostered the development of a collective sociocultural identity, which launched the formation of a Jewish national community in Palestine, laying the groundwork for future Zionist aspirations in the region.

Sources
1884: Ottoman government closes Palestine to foreign (non-Ottoman) Jewish businessmen but not to Jewish pilgrims.

In March of 1884, the Ottoman council, composed of the Ministries of Internal and Foreign Affairs, decided to ban entry to Palestine to Jewish businessmen, citing that the capitulations that allowed Europeans to trade freely within the Ottoman Empire only applied to areas deemed suitable for trade. The council did not consider Palestine as such an area.


As a result, only Jewish pilgrims were permitted to enter Palestine and they were required to have their passports properly approved by Ottoman Consuls abroad. Upon arrival, they were obliged to provide a deposit ensuring their departure within thirty days. For the restrictions to be effective, they needed to be accepted by the foreign powers, whose nationals would be affected by them.

Image: Khalil Raad Collection, available at The Institute for Palestine Studies.Sources
1885: Nathan Birnbaum Coins the Term “Zionism” Later to Oppose it as Heretical to Judaism

Nathan Birnbaum was an Austrian-Jewish writer and theorist who first coined the term “Zionism.” His beliefs and thoughts progressed through three stages in his lifetime. In the first phase of his thinking from 1883 to 1900, he was involved with the conceptualisation of Zionism. After the turn of the century and until 1914, he turned away from Zionism and towards a form of Jewish Cultural Autonomy that advocated for Jews staying in Eastern Europe and defending their shared cultural heritage, particularly the Yiddish language. In the last part of his life, he became more religious following Orthodox Judaism and loudly opposed Zionism as heretical to the Jewish faith. Birnbaum was living in Berlin in the 1930s during the Nazi’s rise to power. He fled to the Netherlands where he published the Anti-Zionist newspaper Der Ruf ("The Call") until his death in 1937.


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1888: European Powers Press the Ottomans on Jewish Immigration

Aware of their discontented Empire and worried about the loyalty of their Arab subjects, the Ottoman government attempted time and time again to prevent Zionist settlement. Though it had decided, in 1888, to solely allow Jewish pilgrims to enter Palestine, strong opposition from Britain, France, and the US forced the Ottomans to yield. Thus, regulations came to apply to large groups of Jewish immigrants exclusively, however, no obstacles were to obstruct the path of individual Jews.


Sources
Sondos Azzam / Nāranga (2021)

The olive tree has become a symbol of Palestine and resistance. The oldest trees in this region are believed to be 4,000 years old, predating the Roman occupation of “Palaestina.” They have been a constant companion to the people and the landscape regardless of changing rulers—they have fed and shaded villagers for millennia. Today, some of the oldest trees are in danger of being uprooted by occupation forces to build walls and settlements. Adam Broomberg and Rafael Gonzalez have been photographing and documenting Palestine’s olive trees, issuing a call for their preservation in the face of the relentless advance of bulldozers.

Explore Adam Broomberg and Rafael Gonzalez's works in detail
1891: Establishment of the Jewish Colonization Association

The Jewish Colonization Association (JCA) was founded in 1891 by Baron Maurice de Hirsch in London to establish Jewish agricultural colonies globally. Initially focused on South America—transporting 150,000 Eastern European Jews to colonize Argentina by 1920—the JCA extended its support to Jewish settlements in Palestine in 1896. By 1899, the JCA assumed management of nine struggling colonies previously supported by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, which had, up until that point, failed to become self-supporting and settler-owned.


Despite internal disagreements, the partnership lasted until after World War I, with the Palestine Commission overseeing the colonies' management, and Baron de Rothschild providing financial support. Rothschild later established the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association in 1924, acquiring more land in Palestine, creating settlements, and supporting various communities, including winemaking businesses and kibbutzim.

Sources
1892 - 1893: The Ottomans and the Sale of Land to Jews in Palestine

The Ottoman government bans the sale of miri land (private usufruct State land) to both Ottoman and non-Ottoman Jews. The decision was later retracted, after complaints by European powers—giving Jews legally residing in Palestine the right to buy land.

Image: palestineremembered.comSources
1894: The Dreyfus Affair

In 1894, a French officer of Jewish origin, Alfred Dreyfus, was falsely accused of passing military secrets to the German Empire, specifically regarding French artillery to the German military attaché in Paris. He was targeted primarily because he was Jewish, and the prevailing anti-Semitic sentiment in French society at the time fueled his wrongful conviction. The accusation led to his wrongful conviction for espionage and treason.


Given the unsubstantiated nature of the allegations and the fact that they were motivated by anti-Semitism, the “Affair” exposed deep-seated anti-Semitism within French society and institutions and sparked a major public debate over issues of justice, nationalism, and religious prejudice. It ultimately resulted in Émile Zola’s famous open letter to the French government, titled "J’Accuse…!." In the letter, Zola publicly accused the French government and military of anti-Semitism and of wrongfully convicting Alfred Dreyfus. Zola's letter was a powerful denunciation of the injustice surrounding the Dreyfus Affair and played a significant role in bringing attention to the case both nationally and internationally. It ignited public debate, galvanized supporters of Dreyfus, and ultimately contributed to the eventual exoneration of Dreyfus and the reexamination of the case.


The profoundly pessimistic picture of French anti-Semitism that the affair painted convinced Herzl that assimilation into European society was pointless. Though this is now questioned by scholars, Herzl claimed that The Dreyfus Affair bore his advocacy for the founding of a Jewish state.

Sources
"The bride is lovely, but she is already wedded to another."
1896: Publication of The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl

In 1894, Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian journalist, famously published The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat), a seminal text of early Zionism advocating for an independent Jewish state as a solution to the “Jewish question.” Anchored in nineteenth-century European political maneuvers—which included the notion that European governments held sovereignty over non-European colonies—and conscious of the lack of uninhabited territories to be had, the pamphlet emphasized the need for a European power to award Zionists a charter to establish a Jewish state under its protection.


Herzl envisioned gradual Jewish migration to establish the state, describing his plan as a colonial scheme. The book contemplated Palestine or Argentina as potential locations for the Jewish state, considering pragmatic benefits rather than solely religious claims. In line with Herzl's guidance, Max Nordau, his associate, sent two rabbis to Palestine to evaluate the feasibility of a Jewish state. Their resulting report depicted the situation as follows: "The bride is lovely, but she is already wedded to another."

Image: Theodor Herzl in Palestine in November 1898. Wikipedia, Public domain.Sources
Adam Broomberg & Rafael Gonzalez / Anchor in the Landscape, 2023
"I cannot sell even a foot of land, for it does not belong to me but to my people."
1896: Abdul Hamid II rejects Herzl's proposal that Palestine be granted to the Jews: "I cannot give away any part of it [the Empire]…. I will not agree to vivisection."

Herzl offered to pay £20 million, which is around $2.2 billion in today's currency, to the Ottoman Sultan to issue a charter for Jews to colonize Palestine. The money would have relieved around 20 percent of the Ottomans’ debt burden. It has been reported that Herzel exclaimed that "without the help of the Zionists, the Turkish economy would not stand a chance of recovery."


Sultan Abdul Hamid II refused the offer outright in 1896, saying, "if Mr Herzl is as much your friend as you are mine, then advise him not to take another step in this matter. I cannot sell even a foot of land, for it does not belong to me but to my people. My people have won this Empire by fighting for it with their blood and have fertilized it with their blood. We will again cover it with our blood before we allow it to be wrested away from us."


Sources
1897: First Zionist Congress takes place in Basel, Switzerland and the first Zionist organization is founded.

The First Zionist Congress, convening in Basel, Switzerland establishes The World Zionist Organization (WZO) and issues the Basel Program, the first manifesto of the Zionist movement, which stated: “Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine.”


In response to the First Zionist Congress, Abdul Hamid II initiated a policy of sending members of his own palace staff to govern the province of Jerusalem.


Source
1897: Local Control of Zionist Land Purchases in the Sanjaq of Jerusalem

Having fought Jewish immigration and land purchases since the early 1880s, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Taher al-Husseini, presides over a new commission that scrutinizes applications for the transfer of land in the Sanjaq of Jerusalem and succeeds in stopping all purchases by Jews from 1897 to 1901.

Source
1898: Arabic press reacts to First Zionist Congress.

Cairo journal al-Manar warns that Zionism aims to take possession of Palestine.

1899 (March 1): Yusuf Dia Pasha al-Khalidi, Mayor of Jerusalem, sends letter to Theodore Herzl

In his 1899 letter to Herzl, Yusuf Dia Pasha al-Khalidi, Mayor of Jerusalem, agreed that the Jewish people had the right to find refuge. Yet he also warned about the dangers he foresaw, highlighting the presence of a Palestinian population that would never accept conquest, and the crucial role of Palestine in the Ottoman Empire—pleading with Herzl to leave Palestine alone.


Source

Foreigners Everywhere (Arabic/Hebrew) 2010, is a work that conceptually confronts the identity of the foreigner with that of the displaced. The work is originally appropriated from an anarchist collective from Turin named Stranieri Ovunque and uses the ambiguity and suggestiveness in this name in different languages and spaces to reflect changing contexts. Despite political removals of special taxes for Jewish people, European antisemitism in the 19th century paradoxically saw European Jewish populations as foreign to the homogenous and patriotic nation-state. It was Napoleon who first pointed to Palestine as their origin and home, and newly conceptualised political unity tied ideas of blood to soil. Zionism thus emerged as a solution, conforming Jewish identity to the same ideas that would go on to create 20th century fascist movements. From one mass-displacement to another, the status of the foreigner was transferred onto the Palestinian population—a people who had nothing to do with the suffering of European Jews—expelled from their lands into exile.

Explore Claire Fontaine's works in detail
1899 (March 19): Theodor Herzl responds to al-Khalidi

"The Zionist idea, of which I am the humble servant, has no hostile tendency toward the Ottoman Government, but quite to the contrary this movement is concerned with opening up new resources for the Ottoman Empire. In allowing immigration to a number of Jews bringing their intelligence, their financial acumen and their means of enterprise to the country, no one can doubt that the well-being of the entire country would be the happy result. It is necessary to understand this and make it known to everybody."


In Theodor Herzl's reply to al-Khalidi—perhaps the first Zionist response to objections over the occupation of Palestine—he argued, in a staple argument of the Zionist movement, that Jewish immigration would benefit indigenous Palestinians, bringing intelligence and wealth to the region.


"You see another difficulty, Excellency, in the existence of the non-Jewish population in Palestine. But who would think of sending them away?"


In response to al-Khalidi's apprehensions regarding the non-Jewish majority population of Palestine, Herzl retorted with this rhetorical question, and cryptically concluded, "If he (the Ottoman Sultan) will not accept it, we will search and, believe me, we will find elsewhere what we need."

Image: Letter from Theodore Herzl to Yusuf Diya-uddin al-Khalidi, 1899. Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question.Sources
"If he (the Ottoman Sultan) will not accept it, we will search, and, believe me, we will find elsewhere what we need."
1901: "Special Commission for the Prevention of Jewish Immigrants from Settling in Palestine" is established in Jerusalem but is not successfully enforced.

In 1901, another attempt to curb Jewish immigration to Palestine was made. The laws established in 1881 against the settlement of Jews had been largely inefficient due to the capitulations. Countries such as France argued that French Jews had rights and could therefore settle in Palestine according to the rights granted to all French citizens. The new edict also failed. It was not until 8 September 1914 that the Ottoman Empire abrogated the laws of capitulations, ending the centuries-long treaties.


Sources
1901: Establishment of Jewish National Fund to purchase land in Palestine

The 5th Zionist Congress establishes the Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (Jewish National Fund) to raise funds for land purchase in Palestine, opens a branch of the Jewish Colonial Trust in Jaffa, and approves of a program focusing on developing Hebrew culture.


The fund still exists to this day and receives large sums of money from Zionist communities in the USA with all donations being tax-deductible. The organization aims to expand Jewish populations and settle the extremities of what is today considered Israel. The About Us page states that “Israel’s population cannot remain concentrated on a vulnerable coastal plain, and a vibrant north and south should be attractive new frontiers for Israeli families,” employing colonial terminology such as “frontiers” and pledging up to 40% of its income to promoting activities such as “North American Aliyah.”

Image: Jerusalem, 1898. Library of Congress, Public domain.
Source
1903: Anglo-Palestine Company (APC), subsidiary of JCA, established in Palestine to finance Zionist colonization.
1904: 2nd Wave of Jewish Immigration to Palestine (Second Aliyah)

The second wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine (which lasts until 1914) consists of around 40,000 immigrants, many of whom have a strong ideological commitment to Zionism and call for the "conquest of the land" and the "conquest of labor." This anti-Arab attitude, which expresses itself in the expulsion of Palestinian fellahin from the settlements in which they work, will aggravate the disputes in Palestine between Jewish colonies and neighboring Arab rural communities.


Theodor Herzl dies.

Claire Fontaine / Foreigners Everywhere (Arabic), 2005

Directions For a Possible Connected Manner to Celebrate the Listening Of “US & WE”

You and a minimum of 2 more people get together.

The space/room has, at least, two speaker stereo system.

You have something ready to drink. If Alcoholic, let it be a spirit.

You have something ready to eat. Anything ‘bread’ is recommended.

You turn off all the lights.

You toast. You drink.

You internally invoke your gratitude awareness. You break the bread. You eat.

You get comfortable.

You press play.

Together, you listen.

Once finished, silence is a suggestion; a discussion a possibility; a 50 second group hug a recommendation.

Be.

WE.iS

Explore Nástio Mosquito's work in detail
1907: Zionist Evasion of Ottoman Regulations

The Ottoman governor of Jerusalem issues a report that describes how Zionist immigration and land acquisition evade the regulations in force.


Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann visits Palestine. He is later credited with bringing about the Balfour Declaration. Charles Dreyfus had introduced Weizmann to Lord Balfour during a visit to London in 1905.


Carrying out a resolution passed during the 8th Zionist Congress in July 1907, the Zionist Organization opened an office in Jaffa. This Palestine-based office focused on procuring land and founding Jewish settlements, serving as a hub for various colonization efforts initiated by philanthropic groups or immigrant associations.


Arthur Ruppin, a German Zionist proponent of pseudoscientific race theory and one of the founders of the city of Tel Aviv, emigrated to Palestine. Ruppin believed that in order to achieve Zionist intentions, the “purity” of the Jewish race would need to be preserved. These theories were influenced by the same racist sources that contributed to Nazi race theory. Ruppin argued against the immigration of Ethiopian and Yemeni Jews.

Image: Peasant family of Ramallah. Wasif Jawhariyyah Collection.
Sources
Historical image of Hijaz Railway across Aman
Historical Map of the Hijaz Railway across the Ottoman Empire
1908: Hijaz-Palestine Railway

During the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the Hijaz-Palestine Railway project emerged as a way to link the holy sites in the Hijaz to Istanbul, easing the journey for Muslim pilgrims. The Sultan presented this railway project as an important symbol in confronting Europe and its influence in the Middle East, a region that was still largely subordinate to the authority of the Ottoman Empire. It would also help the Sultan tighten his grip on distant Ottoman states far from the center of his rule in Istanbul and send military forces should a rebellion or revolution need quelling.


The railway was successful in developing cities such as Haifa from villages to bustling centers of trade that connected Mediterranean ports to inland routes.


The investments that poured into developing this region demonstrate the enormous potential that existed in the multicultural climate fostered by Ottoman policy. The rail line was eventually halted by Col. T.E. Lawrence in the battles waged by Britain against Ottoman forces.

Image: Amman viaduct of the Hijaz Railway, 1903. Historical map of the Ottoman Railway System.Sources
1908: Young Turk Revolution

Army officers loyal to the Committee of Union and Progress take control of Constantinople and force Sultan Abdul Hamid II to restore the 1876 constitution and call for parliamentary elections. The revolution helped to establish the Second Constitutional Era, ensuring a multi-party democracy for the first time in the country's history.


Both Arabs and Turks participated in the "Young Turks" movement but, as World War I approached, tensions between the two peoples mounted.

Image: Young Turks, Turkish nationalist movement. Britannica.
Source
1908: First Palestinian anti-Zionist weekly newspaper was published by Arab Christian, Najib Nassar.

In 1905, prominent Palestinian journalist, Najib Nassar, began campaigning against Zionism by publishing articles in the newspapers al-Mokattam in Cairo and Lisan al-Hal in Beirut. After the Ottoman constitution was restored, Nassar sold his property and purchased a printing press in Beirut. In 1908, he established the newspaper al-Karmel in Haifa, Palestine, which was published twice weekly and named after Mount Carmel in the Haifa district. Nassar consistently highlighted the Zionist threat to Palestinians and, as such, due to a Zionist campaign against him, his newspaper was shut down by Ottoman authorities for two months in June 1909. In 1910, The Jewish Chronicle featured an article by its correspondent in Palestine about a legal case involving Nassar. The correspondent reported: “The lawsuit against Nassar was attended by a numerous audience which after his acquittal carried him triumphantly in a demonstration hostile to the Jews.”

Sources
1909: Foundation of the Zionist Paramilitary Group, Hashomer

The Bar Giora Group was created in 1907 as an underground organization that met in the Kfar Tavor colony in the Tiberius subdistrict. The founders decided to establish themselves publicly and to merge into a new organization named Hashomer (the "Watchman"). This paramilitary formation was founded by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and David Ben-Gurion, who would later go on to become Israel’s first prime minister. The group’s original slogan was “Judaea was lost by blood and fire and will rise again by blood and fire.” Its purpose continues to be to guard Jewish settlements in Palestine and provide training for an Israeli fighting force.


With the approval of the Jewish Colonization Association, the new organization applied for a license to form a unit of 10 armed Jewish guards. Tiberias authorities granted the license; it includes the provision to increase the size of the unit, if necessary. Israeli historians consider Hashomer as the nucleus of the Haganah and the Israeli army (IDF).

Image: Hashomer founded, 1909. History Central.Sources

​​The ongoing project Uncertain Times covers the last days of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the French and British Mandates in Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine from 1913 to 1920. Lamia Joreige’s interest in this period is in the uncertainty about the region’s future which led to various speculations and alternatives to the historical timeline that played out to this day. It was a moment of rupture and fragmentation that led to the geographic, social, and political transformation of the region that dictates our present.

Explore Lamia Joreige's work in detail
1909: Founding of Tel Aviv

The initial parcels of land upon which Tel Aviv was established north of Jaffa were auctioned off in 1909, with the plots purchased from the Bedouin Tribes.


On April 11, 1909, 66 Jewish families convened on a sand dune to divide land through a lottery system using seashells. Organized by Akiva Aryeh Weiss, president of the building society, the lottery utilized 120 seashells collected from the beach, equally divided between white and grey shells. Names were inscribed on the white shells, while plot numbers were assigned to the grey ones. A boy and a girl were entrusted with the responsibility of drawing both names and numbers.


Tel Aviv, derived from the Hebrew translation of Theodor Herzl’s 1902 novel "Altneuland" ("Old New Land"), was coined by Nahum Sokolow. The name originates from a Mesopotamian site near Babylon mentioned in Ezekiel, which Sokolow associated with the Jewish people's return to their ancestral land.

Image: 1909 auction of the first lots in Tel Aviv. Wikipedia, Public domain.Sources
1911: Palestinian newspaper Falastin begins publishing, addressing its readers as "Palestinians," warning them of consequences of the Zionist colonization.

The period spanning the end of 1910 to the first half of 1911 marked a significant shift in the opposition to Zionism in Palestine and neighboring Arab regions. Within this relatively short timeframe, key events unfolded, drawing the participation of Arab journalists, notables, and officers in anti-Zionist activities. Criticism of Zionism surged in the Arabic press during this period, reflecting a notable change in the attitudes of the educated Arab public toward Jewish land acquisitions, immigration, and the Zionist movement.


Arab deputies from Jerusalem, Beirut, and Damascus lobby in the Ottoman Parliament for legislation against Zionist mass immigration to Palestine.


In a telegram to Constantinople, 150 Palestinians from Jaffa demand measures against Zionist mass immigration and land acquisition.


Two Jerusalem deputies open the first full-scale debate in the Ottoman Parliament on Zionism, charging that the Zionist aim is to create a Jewish state in Palestine.

Source
1913: Palestinian journalist, Neville Mandel, writes: "If this state of affairs continues … then the Zionists will gain mastery over our country, village by village, town by town; tomorrow the whole of Jerusalem will be sold and then Palestine in its entirety."
1914 August 1: Outbreak of World War I.

World War I breaks out, and it quickly leads to a series of events that affect the future of the Ottoman Empire. In September, the Ottomans decide to abolish capitulations that once afforded European powers special status within the Empire. In November, they officially enter the war on the German side. In December, the British annex Cyprus and declare Egypt a protectorate. In January 1915, the Ottomans occupy the Sinai peninsula. By February, the Gallipoli campaign begins to put Ottoman lands within the apex of the imperial battlefield of the war.

Source
1915: British cabinet member Herbert Samuel calls for the British annexation of Palestine in the memorandum “The Future of Palestine.”

I am assured that the solution of the problem of Palestine which would be the most welcome to the leaders and supporters of the Zionist movement throughout the world would be the annexation of the country to the British Empire. I believe that the solution would be cordially welcome also to the greater number of Jews who have not hitherto been interested in the Zionist movement. It is hoped that under British rule, facilities would be given to Jewish organizations to purchase land, to found colonies, to establish educational and religious institutions, and to spend usefully the funds that would be freely contributed for promoting the economic development of the country. It is hoped also that Jewish immigration, carefully regulated, would be given preference so that in a matter of time the Jewish people grow into a majority and settle in the land, may be conceded such a degree of self-government as the conditions of that day may justify.

Image: Herbert Samuel, Jerusalem, 1920
Source
1916: Sharif Hussein of Mecca proclaims Arab independence from Ottoman rule based on his correspondence with Sir Henry McMahon.

Sharif Hussein of Mecca and Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt began exchanging a series of letters wherein the Government of the United Kingdom pledged to acknowledge Arab independence and territory following the war. This commitment was made in exchange for the Sharif of Mecca's support in initiating the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire.


The Arab Revolt against Constantinople began soon after and, later that year, Sharif Hussein was proclaimed "King of the Arab countries."

Palestinians only became aware of the text of the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1917 after the Bolsheviks overthrew the Tzar of Russia and published the signed agreement in Pravda.
1916: Sykes-Picot Agreement

The secret agreement between Great Britain and France, with the assent of Russia, that defined their mutually agreed spheres of influence and control in the declining Ottoman Empire. Named after its principal authors, Mark Sykes of the UK and François Georges-Picot of France, Sergey Dimitriyevich was also present in formulating the agreement representing Russia as the third member of the Triple Entente. Britain was awarded Palestine as its main interest was to secure safe passage to India through the Suez Canal.


Palestinians only became aware of the text of the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1917 after the Bolsheviks overthrew the Tzar of Russia and published the signed agreement in Pravda.

Image: Map of Sykes–Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia, and areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French.
Sources

The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 marked a significant moment in setting the stage for a series of brutally transformative events that would affect Palestinians for decades to come. With its clandestine inception and subsequent revelation to the Palestinians in 1917, the agreement acclaimed the beginning of British military administration in Palestine and furtively laid the groundwork for the establishment of the British Mandate. The subsequent incorporation of the Balfour Declaration into the Mandate further solidified the trajectory; symbolizing the triumph of Zionist influence within British political circles. This agreement isn't just a footnote in history books; it's the pivotal link connecting Palestine's past to its future. It represents decisions made in secret by oppressive forces against indigenous peoples, denying their right to self-determination and paving the way for the influx of Jewish settlers driven out of Europe by intolerance and antisemitism. The price of Europe’s expulsion of its Jewish population would soon be paid by the Palestinian people’s displacement from their ancestral lands.

End of Chapter I
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