What Palestine Would Look Like Under Turkish Rule

Or, more accurately, what it did look like…

I’ve posted this before, but in view of recent events (i.e., the sea fight between the Israelis and the Turks/Palestinians) it bears repeating.

I think it’s fair to say that the recent changes in Turkey have as their long-term objective the recapturing of Ottoman glory, caliphate included.  This map shows the Ottoman provinces in Palestine and what used to be called the “Trans-Jordan” before World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was dismembered.

If we look at the sweep of Islamic history, one lesson emerges: if there’s enduring unity of any kind to be had, it doesn’t come from the Arabs, from whence the religion originated.  The Turks are the most successful Islamic rulers in this regard, and what we’ve seen in Turkey in recent years is not only a revival of “Islamic fundamentalism” but also of Turkish nationalism and the days when the Ottoman Empire ruled from Budapest to Mecca.

The last point is significant because the Turks were the last people to rule all of the Islamic holy cities at the same time: Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, and the Shi’ite places in Iraq such as Karbala.  In turn, the “Arab Revolt” during World War I wasn’t against the Europeans (the British, via T.E. Lawrence, actually helped to incite it) but the Ottoman Turks.  That fact isn’t lost on the Saudis, who came out of that revolt, nor their Arab allies in the Gulf or the Egyptians.  They view Turkey’s volte-face vs. Israel as nervously as they do in Jerusalem.  (Turkey’s rapprochement with Iran is an alliance of convenience buttressed by popular opinion against the West; if the Turks actually make progress in their advance to the south, it will crumble.)

The U.S. could be benefiting from this, because the best way to deal with Islamicists is to encourage (or simply give free rein to) their internal divisions, divisions encouraged by the Middle East’s power holder/power challenger political system.  But we’ve vacillated between Bush’s “democracy in the Middle East” mirage and Obama’s attempt to be the great healer between the West and Islam, and thus squandered an opportunity to enhance our national security at someone else’s expense.  We’ve traded managed conflict for unmanaged conflict, and the Middle East will respond by taking instability and danger to a new level.

8 Replies to “What Palestine Would Look Like Under Turkish Rule”

  1. Good stuff! But really, there’s not way that Turkey is going to try to engage in *territorial* expansion, right? I mean, they will hold on to what they have and their chunk of Cyprus and that’s all.

    Also, the ‘Arab Revolt’ was entirely funded by British gold. It was not brave Arabs who made it happen, it was that gold and opportunistic marauders who wanted some of it.


  2. The territorial ambitions of all of the players in the Middle East–and that includes the Iranians–is a good question. I find it hard to believe that, for example, Iran is developing nuclear weapons just to let places such as Iraq, the UAE or even Saudi Arabia “as they are.”

    With the US’ endemic weakness on display, more things become possible in the Middle East that weren’t before.

    I agree with you that the British incited and financed the Arab Revolt, but the Ottomans were the objects of that revolt. From a British standpoint, it was an investment with the oil. The fact that the Arabs turned on the West is what one would realistically expect, although their ingratitude has parallels in American history.


  3. Could you please tell me what the colored sections in the map represent? I’ve been looking for maps showing Palestine going back as far as they exist.
    A teacher


    1. The term for those administrative divisions is “sanjaq.” The Sanjaq of El-Kuds (Jerusalem) was directly subject to Constantinople, while those of Akra and Nablus were subject to the Vilayet of Beirut (also shown.) The Sanjaqs were subdivided into qazas as follows:

      El-Kuds (Jerusalem): Jerusalem, Jaffa, Hebron, Gaza, Beersheeba.
      Akra: Acre, Haifa, Safed, Nazareth, Tiberias.
      Nablus: Nablus, Jenin, Tulkeram.

      My source for this is Luke’s Handbook of Palestine, which is available online.


      1. Thank you so much! So, they were divisions within what was then designated as Palestine, if I understand correctly.


      2. The problem with “designation” is that the two northern sanjaq’s were under the Vilayet of Beirut while El-Kuds directly reported to Constantinople. So the Ottomans did not administer the area as a unit. (Neither, for that matter, did the Romans in NT times).


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