Lebanese leader blasts Arab leaders, evokes Ottoman legacy in Palestine

  • 27 Jun 2019

In light of the recent US-sponsored Bahrain conference, a prominent Lebanese leader urged pro-Israel Gulf leadership to take lessons from the Ottoman rulers who refused to surrender Palestine to Zionists for material gains.

Backdropped by a Palestinian flag, left, and a picture depicting Abdul Hamid II, the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire, a protester participates in a rally against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Istanbul on Dec. 10, 2017. ( Lefteris Pitarakis / AP Archive )

Walid Jumblatt, the president of the Progressive Socialist Party of Lebanon, berated the leaders of the Gulf countries for participating in the Bahrain conference, warning them against "betraying" Palestinians, while reminding them of the unflinching Ottoman position on Palestinian independence. 

Organised by Jared Kushner, a wealthy Jewish-American businessman and the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, the “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop in Bahrain was promoted as a peace plan for Palestine and even described as “the deal of the century.” 

While the conference failed to bring all stakeholders of the Palestine-Israel conflict to the negotiation table, Palestinians rejected Kushner's deal outright.

Jumblatt's scathing criticism of the conference and of pro-Israel Arab leaders came as another blow to Kushner's attempts to generate interest toward his deal from the Arab world. 

“Under Sultan Abdul Hamid (II), (Theodor) Herzl asked him to buy Palestine to transport the Jews (there), and the Sultan refused,” Jumblatt wrote on Twitter. 

“Today in Bahrain, the grandson of Herzl, Jared Kushner, will ask Arabs to sell Palestine to transport Palestinian families to Jordan to Sinai to Lebanon to Syria to the diaspora,” he continued.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who is one of the kingmakers in Beirut’s turbulent politics, talks to the media at the Elysee Palace after his meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Jan. 28, 2013.(AP Archive)

“Will the Arabs do what the Ottomans rejected?” the Lebanese leader asked. 

Herzl is the founding father of Zionism, the official ideology of Israel, whose picture is hung in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem.  In 1896, Herzl wrote "The Jewish State," which is considered one of the most influential Zionist texts, outlining the road map for Israel. He also organised the first Zionist congress in Switzerland’s Basel. 

Jumblatt reminded his Arab counterparts about the time when Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II refused to accept a Zionist settlement in Palestine, defying various odds during his reign between 1876 and 1909. 

Herzl had tirelessly worked to implement the Zionist plan, meeting notable political figures across the world, which included Abdul Hamid II. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next to a picture of the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, ahead of his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 2, 2018.(AP Archive)

From 1896 to 1902, Herzl visited Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, at least five times. He offered to ease the Ottoman debts, which the state owed to European states and merchants, in exchange for Palestinian territories.

The sultan rejected the offer. 

In his memoir, Herzl said Abdul Hamid II’s refusal came to him through a mediator named Philip Michael Ritter von Newlinski, who was a Polish nobleman. 

“I cannot sell even a small portion of land [to the Zionists] because these lands do not belong to me but to my nation. My nation earned this empire by fighting and bleeding. These lands could be taken from us only by blood,” Abdul Hamid II said. 

“Tell Jews to hide their billions. They can have Palestine for free after the empire is divided up [among Great Powers]. Our corpse may get torn apart, but while we are alive, I will never allow any part of my country to be taken from us,” the sultan thundered. 

Abdul Hamid II’s legendary response to Herzl made even the Zionist leader respect the sultan. 

“The sultan’s intimate and sublime words have made me emotional and shaken me,” Herzl wrote in his memoirs. 

“While he ended all of my [Ottoman] hopes [for Palestine], there was a tragic beauty in this particular sultan’s prediction of the empire’s death and disintegration and in its decisive fatalism, which has a passive determination to fight to the last breath,” the Zionism’s founding father concluded. 

The sultan passed away in 1918, when much of the empire’s Middle Eastern lands, including Palestine, was occupied by the Allied powers and split up towards the end of WWI, marking the unofficial end of the Ottoman state.