Unionists position on the Zionist migrations

One of the critical subjects in our modern history is the issue of the position of the Ottoman Empire on the Zionist migrations to Palestine at the early of the twentieth century. This subject was handled with a great deal of ideology, especially by the political Islam movement, which sanctified the Ottoman Empire, as it described it as a “Defamed Islamic State”, and that its fall was caused by the West due to its opposing position to Zionist migration and in preparation for the establishment of the National Home of the Jews in Palestine.

In this regard, in our article, we will only study the last stage of the life of the Ottoman Empire, which was known as the “rule of the Unionists”; they are the men of union and progress, who managed to overthrow sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1908. We will see how far the men of union and progress corresponded with the Zionist migration movement to Palestine during their rule.

Almost all of the Palestinian studies that addressed this era unanimously agree on the increase in Jewish-Zionist migrations to Palestine during the era of the Unionists, which led to the increase in the land purchases by these Zionist groups, in addition to the establishment of Zionist banks in Palestine, to encourage the investment movement between Zionist immigrants.

A recent Palestinian study indicates the extent to which contemporary Palestinians are disturbed by this Zionist settlement activity. The Palestinian press at the time addressed this activity, vilified it and stated its danger to the economic and social conditions and on the population structure in Palestine.

One of the most significant Palestinian newspapers is “Felesteen” newspaper, whose editor-in-chief, the famous writer Issa Al-Issa; This newspaper launched fierce campaigns against this settlement activity, especially in the period from 1911-1914, and the newspaper stopped after that, and one of the extremely interesting points in this matter is that the newspaper highlighted the role played by the Ottoman officials in Palestine in terms of helping the Zionist settlers, it also referred to the fact that the Ottoman “governor” oversaw the care of the Zionist settlements in person, and checked on the conditions of the settlers.

One of the newspaper’s most critical articles about this role was an article under the name of: “Al Mutasarrif’s Visit,” which referred to the Ottoman Mutasarrif’s visit to these settlements in person. The newspaper appealed to the Ottoman authorities to cease this, and to monitor the Zionist migrations that came to Palestine through the Haifa port.

This resulted in the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem’s anger at the newspaper, and the Ottoman Interior and the Jerusalem Mutasarrif decided to close the newspaper, under the pretext that with these campaigns launched by the newspaper arouse resentment and hatred among the residents of the Jerusalem Mutasarrifate.

The Jordanian researcher, Fadwa Nuseirat, provided an extensive study about this period, and the position of the Ottoman administration in the time of the Unionists regarding the Zionist migrations to Palestine, through “Felesteen” newspaper. The researcher concluded that: ” Felesteen” newspaper waged a strong war against the policy of the Ottoman Empire that facilitated the activity of the Zionists on the land of Palestine, through its continuous coverage of the relationship between the Ottoman Mutasarrif and the Zionist colonizer.”

The Turkish historian Ahmet Ak Kondez defends this position, laying responsibility for this on the men of the Committee of the Union and Progress who turned against Sultan Abdul Hamid II. From his point of view, the Ottoman Empire – especially Sultan Abdul Hamid II – opposed the Zionist migrations to Palestine, based on which the Unionists turned against the Sultan, and they facilitated these migrations.

In fact, it is necessary to highlight the fact that the weakness of the Ottoman Empire, whether before the Unionists or in their time, was the main reason that contributed to the increase and expansion of Zionist settlements in Palestine, and that the Ottoman Empire’s need for Jewish capital pushed it to turn a blind eye to these migrations, not to mention the Corruption of some senior Ottoman officials in the Jerusalem Mutasarrifate, and the facilitation of the Zionist settlements’ conditions provided by such senior officials.