History of Palestine: The Ottomans

History of Palestine: The Ottomans Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

In 1517 the Mamelukes were defeated by the Ottomans, who ruled Palestine for the next four hundred years -- until the winter of 1917-18.

Under Ottoman rule, the country was divided into districts which were administered by native Palestinians. The Christian and Jewish communities were allowed a large measure of control and Palestine flourished as the Ottomans flourished and declined as the Ottoman Empire began the slow and ponderous progress toward its end.

Palestine's decline in trade, agriculture and population continued until the 19th century. As European powers sought raw materials, new markets and expanded strategic interests, they inevitably came to the Middle East. This in turn stimulated economic and social development.

In the 1830s, Mohammed Ali, the viceroy of Egypt, extended his control to Palestine where he modified the existing feudal order, increased agricultural production and improved the system of education. In 1840, the Ottomans once again took control of Palestine and set in motion reforms of their own.

During the Turkish rule, Palestine was divided into several districts, most of which were administered by Arabized Palestinians, who were descendants of the Canaanites and later settlers. However, the Christian and Jewish communities were allowed a large measure of autonomy. Palestine shared in the glory of the Ottoman Empire during its rise in 16th century, but declined accordingly in the 17th century when the empire began to decline.

The decline of Palestine in trade, agriculture and population continued until the 19th century. Muhammad Ali, the Viceroy of Egypt, extended his rule to Palestine between 1831 and 1840; his policies modified the then prevailing feudal system, increased agriculture and improved education.
The rise of European nationalism in the 19th century, and especially the intensification of anti-Semitism during the 1880s, encouraged European Jews to seek haven in what they viewed as their “promised land”, Palestine. Jewish immigration to Palestine increased as a result of the so-called “solution of the Jewish problem” mentioned in Theodor Herzl’s “The Jewish State” and propagated after the establishment of the World Zionist Organization” in 1897. In 1880, Arab Palestinians constituted about 95% of the total population (450,000). The increasing Jewish immigration, Jewish claims and land purchase were strongly objected to by Palestinian leaders who saw increasing Jewish immigrations as a threat to the Palestinians’ rights.

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