The greatest weakness of the Ottoman Empire, a weakness that greatly deteriorated the overall structural integrity of the empire, can be found in the liberal policies surrounding immigration and foreign infiltration. In the West, Islamic states are often portrayed as hardline dictatorships or caliphates by Zionist media sources which succeed in subconsciously influencing uneducated minds with the impression that all Islamic states and empires have operated throughout history in this manner. The Ottoman Empire was quite the opposite and actually contributed, through liberal foreign and immigration policies, to self-imposed interior sovereign fragmenting. Let’s look at some of these policies.
The first policy which began to open the door for foreign
infiltration was the mistake of granting “European states privileges that
permitted their agents to trade within Ottoman lands under the protection of
legal immunity” . Keep in mind that during the 17th and 18th century that the
European states, especially the British empire, were making great advancements
in technology, especially military technology, and economic leaps through
colonial imperialism. The early stages of Capitalism were also a growing, and
expanding, element on the international stage during this period. Treaties such
as the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 and the Treaty of Kuchuk Kanarji in 1774,
treaties aimed at commercial interests, allowed a flow of European Christian and
Jewish immigrants, protected by foreign European states, into the Ottoman Empire
which increased the amount of “dhimmis” communities afforded citizen rights
through payment of taxation.
Another contributing entity that weakened
the structure of Ottoman consolidated sovereignty came in the form of Muhammad
Ali Pasha, viceroy of Egypt during the first half of the 19th century, and his
son, Ibrahim Pasha, who governed Syrian territories and Palestine. These
leaders, especially Ibrahim, “encouraged European trade and the influx of
Christian missionaries” and “granted Christians and Jews effective political and
religious equality with Muslims” . In addition, Ottoman land reforms during
this period, and during the reign of Ibrahim’s son Ismail, eased restrictions on
foreign land purchases and absentee landowners. These liberal trade policies and
land reforms were the beginning of Zionist infiltration and mass land purchasing
The land grab in Palestine, made possible by foreign
capital and a combination of liberal Ottoman policies listed above, was
eventually identified as a serious issue and the overall Ottoman policy was
amended to reflect that “Jewish immigrants will be able to settle as scattered
groups throughout the Ottoman Empire, excluding Palestine”. This policy was
often circumvented as Jewish immigrants, supported by international capital
which could buy the corruption of local authorities and administrators, “entered
the area as tourists or pilgrims; once there, they acquired the protection of
foreign consuls as the European powers were eager to protect their own rights
under capitulations laws”.
1. Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the
Arab-Israel Conflict, 7th ed. (Boston-New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010), 13.
2. Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israel Conflict, 7th ed.
(Boston-New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010), 17.
3. Smith, Charles D.
Palestine and the Arab-Israel Conflict, 7th ed. (Boston-New York: Bedford/St.
Martin’s, 2010), 36.
4. Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israel
Conflict, 7th ed. (Boston-New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010),