“If Mr. Herzl is your friend, as you are my friend, tell him not to take a further step in this matter. I do not wish to sell even a tiny portion of land, because this country does not belong to me. It belongs to my people. My nation has watered this fatherland with its blood … The men of my Syrian and Palestinian contingents have all become martyrs at Plevna. All of them, without exception, have remained on the battlefield and did not return. I do not wish to give up any part of the Ottoman state. Let the Jews keep their millions … I cannot allow surgery on a living body.”
…there was no nationalist fervour among the Ottoman Empire’s Arabic-speaking subjects. One historian has credibly estimated that a mere 350 activists belonged to all the secret Arab societies operating throughout the Middle East at the outbreak of World War I, and most of them were not seeking actual Arab independence but rather greater autonomy within the Ottoman Empire.
More than a century later Samuel Usque, a Portuguese Jew who wrote a famous book called The Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, expresses a similar view. Usque sets forth these consolations in two categories, the one human, the other divine. Among the human consolations the “most signal is great Turkey, a broad and spacious sea which God opened with the rod of His mercy as He opened the Red Sea at the time of the exodus … here the gates of liberty are always open for the observance of Judaism.” This must have come as a considerable surprise to a traveller from sixteenth-century Portugal.
“In 1896, the Sheikh had been outraged by the discovery that Egyptian nationalist tracts calling for independence from the Ottoman Empire were being distributed in Cairo, London and Paris. Quilliam’s anger led to the issuing of a fatwa on the 20th April 1896 in which he makes his position on loyalty to the Caliph veryContinue reading “Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam’s Call for Unity”