“The salvation of the Jews will not come at the hands of an expected Messiah, but rather through Jewish human effort to save themselves by taking the initiative to build a society that depends on the Jew’s connection to the land he cultivates that serves as a national homeland for him, and this can only be done in Palestine.”
Zvi Hirsch Kalisher, 19th-century German rabbi
From October 7, 2023 until that moment, the entire world, and Palestine in particular, has been living the repercussions of the “Al-Aqsa Flood” battle, which began with the Palestinian resistance’s attack on the settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip, and the subsequent genocidal war waged by the occupying state against the people of Gaza. This final scene of the Palestinian-Zionist conflict leads us to look at the beginnings of the conflict and its harbingers with the beginnings of Jewish settlement in Palestine, which passed through several stages, the most important of which was the founding stage during the time of the Ottoman Caliphate, specifically the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century.
The settlements targeted by Operation “Al-Aqsa Flood” were not born in 1967 with the entity’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but rather were an extension of the “settlement” concept that began with the Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem and ended with the establishment of the occupying entity on 78% of the lands of Ottoman Palestine. What are the features of this early settlement, which began before the emergence of the official Zionist movement and continued until the beginning of the British Mandate over Palestine in 1918?
In 1827, the wealthy British Jew, Moshe Montefiore, visited Palestine with the aim of exploring the conditions of the Jews there. He found more than 500 Jews in a terrible state of poverty and decadence, which caused him much distress and prompted him to apply to the Sublime Porte of the Ottoman Caliphate and request Permission to build a number of shelters to house these Jews was granted in 1838. It took 18 years until the construction of these shelters began in 1856, so 27 huts were built on a plot of land located outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, before the Ottoman authorities approved a law in 1869. Ownership by foreigners, and then its recognition of this Jewish community, which later became the nucleus of the Jewish neighborhood or Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem (1).
Although a number of researchers consider that this stage does not reflect settlement in the replacement sense pursued by Zionism, and that the Jews in Palestine at that time represented part of the Palestinian Arab fabric since their migration there following their expulsion from Andalusia in the late fifteenth century, the academic Dr. Akram Hegazy ( 2) He believes that the Jewish settlement that began “with the humanity of Mr. Montefiore,” and was built on religious and family considerations, cannot be viewed outside the scope of the Zionist settlement that expanded after that. The reason, according to Hijazi, is that the first Jewish neighborhood represented the infrastructure for the idea of organized and purposeful settlement, whether directly or not (2), by transforming the Jewish presence into an organized institution in an isolated geography very similar to the idea of settlements.
Even if the Zionist movement had not been officially and clearly established at that time, capitalism represented by Sir Montefiore and other wealthy Jews was not far from Zionist thought and its philosophical and religious travails, as Hejazi describes it, especially since the activity of this European Jewish capitalist movement coincided with the arrival of capitalism. European to the peak of its colonial activity, and also with the Jewish call to return to the Promised Land. The call to return before Zionism was crystallized through the writings of some Jewish elites in the nineteenth century, such as Zvi Hirsch Kalisher (1795-1874), who said in his book “The Quest for Zion”: “The salvation of the Jews will not be at the hands of an expected Messiah, but rather through The path of Jewish human effort, to redeem themselves by taking the initiative to build a society that depends on the Jew’s connection to the land he cultivates that serves as a national homeland for him, and this can only be done in Palestine” (3).
It is worth noting that Kalisher’s quest did not stop at that theoretical call, but rather extended to form an association funded by Jews that would invest in Palestine. He had what he wanted in 1864 to establish the “Land of Israel Investment Association” to cooperate with the “General Israeli Alliance Association,” known as the “Land of Israel Investment Association.” Alliance established the first agricultural school in 1870, “Mikva Israel” or Israel Hill, on an area of 640 acres of Jaffa land (4), for the purpose of studying Palestinian soil and training Jewish immigrants in types of agriculture (2). This association was a true expression of Jewish capitalism’s support for early Jewish settlement in Palestine, as it was largely funded by the famous French baron “Edmond Rothschild” – the richest of the Jews of the nineteenth century – who had the greatest influence in settling Jews and financing the construction of settlements. He alone spent about 6.5 million pounds sterling on settlement activities during the second half of the nineteenth century (5), through which he contributed to the establishment of 14 settlements (2).
Also at this early stage, despite the Ottoman authority being aware of the danger of Jewish immigration to Palestine and settling there and then enacting laws prohibiting foreigners from owning property and prohibiting Jews traveling to Palestine from staying there for more than one month, the lax implementation of these laws and administrative corruption among state officials and employees prevented the expansion of These laws are in practice (4). The Turkish researcher Omar Tallioglu (6) mentions in his study of the archives of Ottoman documents between the years 1882-1914 that there were a number of circuitous methods through which the Palestinian lands were transferred to Jewish ownership. These include bribery, purchasing through European intermediaries, purchasing under false names, purchasing with forged documents and at attractive prices, especially for Arab capitalists not residing in Palestine, occupying endowment lands, and circumventing the law to enter the umbrella of subjects of the Ottoman Empire and bypass foreign ownership restrictions.
In addition to all of this, foreign consulates played an important role in purchasing lands and transferring them to the Jews, or by exchanging them for European lands (2). The goal was to establish agricultural settlements that would pave the way for the emergence of an independent Jewish economy, but this endeavor and that individual spending during that era are incomparable to what It resulted in the Zionist movement and its financiers seeking to settle the organized Jewish migrations that began in 1882.
In 1882, the Jewish thinker Leo Pinsker published his book “Self-Emancipation,” calling for a solution to the Jewish problem in the world, which at that time was represented by the permanent view of Jews wherever they lived as strangers. For this reason, Pinsker believed that their true liberation would be in “creating a Jewish nationality for the Jewish people to live on a unified and specific land,” calling for a global Jewish conference to purchase land that would accommodate millions of Jews (7). All of this was before the invitation of Theodor Herzl, who expressed great admiration for Pinsker, saying that he would have done without his book “The State of the Jews” if he had seen it earlier (3).
Pinsker's call roughly coincided with the assassination of the Russian Tsar Alexander II in 1881 and the accusation of the Jews being involved in the matter (8), which was followed by a severe wave of violence against them that prompted them to emigrate from Russia to the United States and to Palestine. Then, in 1882, the beginning of organized immigration began, influenced by Pinsker’s call and fear of Russian oppression. The “Lovers of Zion” association was established and contributed to the establishment of the first Zionist settlement colonies, “Rishon Letzun” (the first for Zion), aiming to establish agricultural colonies that would facilitate the possession of Palestine later. For this reason, the association began to spread its branches throughout Europe, such as Russia, Romania, and England. It also established a student association at the Russian University of Kharkov called “Belo,” which is an abbreviation for “The House of Jacob Lekho Venlekha,” meaning “Come, House of Jacob, let us go together” (3).
This wave was called “The First Aliyah,” which means the first migration to the Promised Land, and it occurred in the period between 1882-1903, during which approximately 20-30 thousand Jews immigrated (6). But this “higher” movement faced quite a number of dilemmas, including the high average age of immigrants, and their complete ignorance of agricultural work and the foundations and rules of irrigation, even though this was the primary goal of immigration. This is in addition to the immigrants facing problems of water shortages and the spread of epidemics that led to the death of many of them, and the accompanying successive Bedouin attacks on them because of their settlement of lands from which the Bedouins were benefiting (9).
Zionism theorist Menachem Oshkin realized the magnitude of the crisis that the Jewish settlers suffered. He saw that the main condition for the success of the settlement process was the creation of a spiritual relationship between the settler people and the land they settled, and the saturation of its soil with their sweat and blood, which meant the necessity of Jews working in the lands they controlled, not relying on Arab labor as the immigrants of the first Aliyah did (2). Rothschild, as the primary financier of settlement, noticed this dilemma and saw it as a result of the control of Arab labor over the land that he had spent his money to Judaize (10). In the end, he found that the money he had given to hire Jewish labor was mostly saved by the Jews in exchange for hiring low-cost Arab labor. Therefore, Rothschild then transferred support for the settlements to the ICA Association, which in turn was concerned with developing a plan for economic regulation, and later contributed to resolving the Rothschild crisis with the settlements (9). Then the second Aliyah came to establish deeper and greater settlement.
Degania… the mother of settlements
During the First Migration, and coinciding with the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Zionism had developed institutional capitalism that aimed to finance and supervise settlement on a larger scale and with greater spending. Multiple financial and capitalist institutions emerged with the aim of strengthening the Jewish presence and financing its settlement projects in Palestine. Thanks to this funding, and Herzl’s instructions to settle Jewish farmers and craftsmen (7), the second exodus and what followed took a form different from what the first exodus had been, and brought about 40,000 Jewish immigrants who came knowing what needed to be done to lay the foundation stone for the occupying Zionist entity. This is why many names emerged from among its members who later assumed the leadership of the occupying state, such as “David Ben-Gurion,” “Yitzhak Ben-Zvi,” “Levi Eshkol,” and others (4).
As a result of this new institutionalization, and in contrast to the first immigration, the majority of the new immigrants were Jewish youth who despaired of changing conditions for the Jews in Eastern Europe on the one hand, and Russia in particular, and were influenced, on the other hand, by the calls of the leading Zionists for the youth to build their alleged homeland, such as the writer’s call. Yosef Vitkin, who issued it by saying: “A screaming voice calling out to Israeli youth” (9). These calls resonated among Jewish youth in Europe, and created for them an ideology different from their immigrant predecessors, which is “the occupation of work,” which means “a call on all Jews to control work in all fields by Jewish workers, to create a true and sound Jewish labor society capable of absorbing Thousands of Jewish immigrants to Palestine” (11).
As a result of this doctrine, and the doctrine of self-guarding of the settlements, the people of the Second Immigration began to establish a Zionist society that paves the way for successive immigrants, and fills the gaps left by the First Immigration, where the settlers who usurped the land of others felt that – surprisingly – they were strangers in this land “because there was no body or institution that represented them.” It takes care of their conditions and their livelihood in a country they have never known before” (9). This is why two party trends emerged: “Hapoel Hatzair” and “Po’alei Zion,” calling for the settlement of Jewish labor and the creation of a Jewish community in Palestine (9). As a result of these paradoxes between the Jews of the two migrations, the new immigrants decided to establish their own settlements, “so they established joint collective work in the town of Al-Shajara (next to the Arab tree), and focused their work on the land, barns, planting trees, and working in the nearby quarries” (9). They then contributed to the establishment of the first form of cooperative socialist settlements, which produced the “Degania” settlement in 1909.
“Degania” and similar settlements that followed contributed to the establishment of the kibbutz system of life, or agricultural settlements based on cooperative work, whose members carried out agriculture, livestock raising, and other aspects of rural life on their own without relying on Arab labor (12). As a result of its pioneering role in sculpting this settlement concept, “Degania” was called “the mother of kibbutzim” (13). This second wave resulted in a remarkable development of the Zionist economy, which was followed by another development in the form of civil life for Jewish immigrants. A large number of them went to settle in urban cities, establishing special Jewish neighborhoods in them, such as the Ahuzat Bayt neighborhood outside the walls of Jerusalem, and the Jewish neighborhoods in Jaffa, which was the first nucleus of the city of Tel Aviv (9).
This presence later paved the way for the subsequent migrations, removed the obstacles to settlement, and created for the Zionist society the social, economic, and political foundations upon which the military presence and the Zionist terrorist groups were later built, which emptied the Palestinian land, exterminated its residents, and forcibly deported them from their countries and homes, before the occupation government came out on us on the 7th of May. October to tell us that the resistance’s storming of the settlements, which according to their claims were part of their historic homeland, is an aggression that obliges Israel to have the right to defend itself. But this “alleged defense” came from Zionism's “evidence” of non-stop ethnic genocide and forced deportation.
- Bayan Nuwaihid Al-Hout, Palestine: The Issue, the People, and the Civilization.
- Akram Hijazi, The Social Roots of the Nakba… Palestine 1858-1948.
- Hassan Hallaq, The Ottoman Empire’s Position on the Zionist Movement 1897-1909.
- Samih Shabib, Settlement and Immigration in Zionist Thought 1864-1939, Research Study, Palestinian Affairs Magazine, No. 248.
- Walid Al-Khalidi, book The Zionist Question by Ruhi Al-Khalidi.
- Omar Tallioglu, Jewish immigration to Palestine between 1882-1914 in Ottoman archive documents and the methods applied in the transfer of lands to the Zionists.
- Sabri Jiryis, History of Zionism, Part One 1826-1917.
- Elias Shoufani, A Brief History of the Political History of Palestine (from the dawn of history until 1949 AD).
- Organized Jewish Migrations – Madar Center for Israeli Studies.
- Tamar Gojansky, The Development of Capitalism in Palestine.
- Labor Occupation – Encyclopedia of Terms – Madar Center for Israeli Studies.
- Saqr Abu Fakhr, Settlement in Palestine: From Infiltration to Control.
- Degania – Encyclopedia of Terms – Madar Center for Israeli Studies.