First of all, I would like to thank you for accepting our interview offer , Mr. Mazza. I read your study “Jerusalem”. Excellent and informative. I hope it will translate in to Turkish. We need objective, well-written resources about such a sensitive issue. The first question; You have given detailed information on Jerusalem’s Ottoman administrative units from the late 19.century to the first world war period. You studied also in Ottoman archive. Could we say that a kind of “Pax-Ottomana” was existent among Jerusalem residents regardless of their nation, religion?
We can safely say that at least for Jerusalem Sancak and for the surrounding administrative units a sort of ‘Pax Ottomana’ existed and it was based on two major assumptions: first the large presence of foreigners from the mid 19th century onwards stimulated the Ottomans to keep the area safe and well ruled; secondly, the fact that Jerusalem is a holy place for three world religions, contributed to downplay any significant conflict. Last but not least, we can also say that the reforms implemented by the Ottomans since the Tanzimat era and expanded after the 1908 Revolution contributed to the development of modern mechanism of representation which relegated inter-communal strife to a corner. Nevertheless this is not to say that everything was great or conflict did not exist. We have pletny of examples of local struggles which were kept under control by local authorities and local leaders. The Millet system granting Muslims a superior status was a reminder that other communities had limited power and in case of a struggle it would have been hard for Chritians and Jews to compete. One thing that certainly brought all communities together was the dislike – in different forms – of the Capitulations, another external mechanism that helped the ‘Pax Ottomana’.
You refers frequently Spain’s Jerusalem war-time consulate Conde de Ballobar’s memories in your study. As far as I know, You translated the memories into English. What is the importance of this source for historians ?
When I translated the diary of the Spanish Consul in Jerusalem who served during the War (Spain was a neutral country), I was not sure of how historians would welcome it. Since its publications it has received a lot of attention and many entries have been quoted by professional and amateur historians suggesting the Spanish Consul provided us with a glimpse of war-time Jerusalem: an era we did not much about.
How was the mood of Jerusalem inhabitants when the Allenby’s campaign began on 31 October 1917? Did they feel the end of Ottoman rule? Could we say Muslims , Christians and Jews had different feelings as Allenby’s army was approaching to the sacred city?
It is hard to make a generalization, however it can be said that the local population by the end of 1916 – way earlier than the push began by Allenby – was exhasuted by the war-time policy. A local inhabitant and an Ottoman soldier -Isahn Turjman – was quite negative towards the Ottoman establishment and captured the mood of the city quite well. No one liked the idea of a foreign occupation, but if that meant the end of the war and the suffering, then we can say all communities were ready to welcome the British.
Some well-known Turkish historians claims that German and Austrian Churchs celebrated the fall of Jerusalem in December 1917. Do you come across any source that mentions on such a celebration?
No, this is not true. Perhaps some individual local church may have done that, but if it happened – and it is a big if – it was an isolated incident. The Austrians in particular, due to their attachement to the Catholic Church were not at all happy to leave the holy city. Let’s remember that the Vatican did not take any official position, even though we can certainly say some were satisfied with the end of Ottoman rule but not happy with the beginning of British rule.
How was the religious aspect of the fall of Jerusalem in December 1917 for both side? Did Germans and Austrian used “Crusaders” terminology?
The ‘Crusader mania’ was a unique British phenomenon that lasted only a brief period of time right before the occupation of Jerusalem and in the following weeks. Yosef Bar-Eitan wrote extensively about this and he correctly demonstrated that this was part of the war-time propaganda. We need to remember that at the very same time the British were suffering terrible losses on the Western Front; news coming from Palestine were meant to distract a mourning nation.
You wrote that at the start of Allenby’s 1917 campaign, British goverment’s propaganda was pro-muslim and it was avoided of “Crusades” term. Even Times newspaper likened Allenby to Selahaddin, medieval heroic Muslim commander in crusades . I am curious how British Foreign Office conduct such a propaganda after the Balfour declaration? Do you think that it was an effective on Muslims?
The famous D-Note meant to avoid a negative reaction by Muslims in relation to the term Crusades was in fact targeting more British Indian Muslim troops than local inhabitants. The policy was designed to avoid incidents in Palestine and the fact that British newspapers used the Crusader analogy was not an issues as those newspapers did not reach Jerusalem indeed. As for the Foreign Office, they obviously had to deal with many actors, so we should not be surprised by the contradicting propaganda. I am not sure if this had been effective, but the fact that locals used the famous legend of Al-Nebi (the Prophet) to refer to Allenby suggests that they did not really care in the first few months of British occupation.
The population statistics of Jerusalem from the late Ottoman Era to British rule you gave in this study reveals that Jews formed %50 of the population of the city. What were the their approaching Zionism, nationalism ? You wrote that some Zionist intellectuals such as Jabotinski despised them for their low-interest to Zionism
Most of the Jews living in Jerusalem by the beginning of the war belong to different nationalities but the majority did not consider themeselves Zionist as in fact these were conservative religious Jews. Many were of Arabic or Sephardi descent and spoke Arabic, as well as those European Jews that moved there earlier did not support Zıonism. These Jews were often despised by Zıonists, nevertheless they were a target of Zionist propaganda and after the war, many turned to Zionism less for ideological reasons and more for practical support.
And of course I wonder your opinion about Huseyni family, one of the notables in Jerusalem city? Could we say that they are Pro-Ottoman? How was their relationship with Cemal Pasa ?
This is a very complicated question, in a sense that we can say the Husayni were pro-Ottoman and pro-British depending on the context. In other words, all large, powerful and established families had to deal with the contemporary contigencies and change accordingly. In terms of relations with Cemal, again it is hard to say as Cemal did not say much and whatever he may have said or written it is in the archives and they are not accessible.
Do you think that had not been Cemal Pasa’s opressing policy toward Arabs , the result would have been different? Because some Arab historians said that under the more tolerant, reconcile Turkish ruler, Arabs would have remain loyal to Sublime Porte.
It is possible that Cemal’s repression accellerated the collapse of the Empire, but it is also true that eventually Arab nationalism should have been confroted by the Ottoman-Turkish leaders in Istanbul and it is hard to say if they could have accepted an autonomous Arab world within the Empire
An the last question. Trump ignored the international sensivity and accepted Jerusalem as a capital of Israel. What would you say about Trump’s Jerusalem decision?
Well, Trump made a choice which may prove a disaster for many, including Israeli, Americans and obviously Palestinians. It is hard to see his logic when he says this should help peace. If he were to add to his statement that Jerusalem is not only the capital of Israel but also of the future state of Palestine, this could have been a complete different kind of statement. Trump’s decision was not unexpected, he did promise this during the campaign and he delivered on this. We can speculate that AIPAC played a major role, or even Christian Evangelicals, perhaps his son-in-law, we do not know; however his decision will have major repercussions. The peace process is over, or at least in terms of two-states-solutions; America clearly demonstrated to be one-sided (until now America was leaning towards Israel but still critical of the Occupation and the illegal settlements); last but not least Trump may have committed a mistake, but if anything good, everyone is talking about this and making Palestine an unavoidable topic.
Many thanks for your answers.
This interview Turkish version :