Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Liberal Policies of the Ottoman Empire Concerning Immigration and Foreign Land Purchaching

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” [1]. 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” [2]. 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 within Palestine.

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”[3]. 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”[4].

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), 36.

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