Tuesday, December 29, 2009

1876: Abdülhamid II


Following the deposition of Murad V in 1876, his brother Abdülhamid II succeeded to the throne. Abdülhamid was the last Ottoman Sultan to rule with absolute power. He was able to restore Palestine under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, restricting the Khedive rule to be only in Egypt. Abdülhamid organized the state, issued the Ottoman Constitution, established a parliament and Shura Council and allowed the Arabs to be involved in governance.

In 1878, illegal Jewish immigration from Europe has increased substantially until there were more than 15,000 Jews in Palestine. In the same year, the new illegal Jewish immigrants succeeded in establishing Petah Tikva, the first Jewish settlement in Palestine.

During this time, Russian Jews were planning for the assassination of Alexander II, Czar of the Russian Empire. Alexander survived the assassination attempts and, consequently, all the Russian Jews were blamed, and Alexander started a movement of repression and discrimination against the Jews of Russia. This movement became to be known as "Anti-Semitic". After Alexander was assassinated in 1881, discrimination laws against the Jews even increased and large numbers of Jews were expelled out of Russia. During this time, a Jewish movement called "Hovevei Zion" started using its wide influences in France and Britain making them as intermediaries into convincing the Ottoman Empire into allowing the Jewish immigrants in settling  in Palestine. However, Abdülhamid II allowed the Jewish immigrants to settle anywhere on the Ottoman Empire, except for Palestine, while he granted their right to visit their holy places as many times as they wish without settling in Palestine. As a result, 2.5 million Jews immigrated from Russia and Europe and settled in the Ottoman Empire between 1881 and 1914. Most of them settled in Turkey and in the north and south of Africa. Nevertheless, 155,000 Jews were able to sneak and settle in Palestine during this period. In Zionists terms, Zionist Jewish immigration to Palestine is referred to as Aliyah. The first wave of Zionist Aliyah occurred between 1882 and 1903 and resulted in 35,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine.

Although the new Russian and European Jewish immigrants enjoyed similar privileges to any Arab or Turk in the Ottoman Empire, the Zionist movement wasn't satisfied and was always looking for ways to establish a Jewish state. Leon Pinsker, the founder and leader of the "Hovevei Zion", anonymously published his famous pamphlet in 1882 entitled "Warning to His Fellow People, from a Russian Jew" and in which he urged the Jewish people to strive for independence and national consciousness.

During 1886 and afterwards, illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine kept increasing, and this time, conflicts arose between them and the Palestinians, since Jews started establishing new Jewish settlements and attempted to steal Palestinian inhabited and agricultural lands. In 1891, the Jewish German Baron Maurice de Hirsch created the Jewish Colonization Association aiming to facilitate the mass immigration of Jews from Russia and other Eastern European countries into Palestine. By this time, Abdülhamid II sent at Ottoman army to expel every illegal immigrant out of Palestine and issued a decree banning selling lands to illegal settlers.