353note3.txt January 22, 1997
Ottoman Empire, Turkish state that was the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean
from the 16th to the 19th century. It was broken up at the end of World War I, and its
Anatolian heartland became the modern Republic of Turkey. For the empire's history.
Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers, and fighting also took place
between Turkey and Great Britain at the Dardanelles and in Turkish-held Mesopotamia.
The Turkish Front
Turkey entered the war on October 29, 1914, when Turkish warships cooperated with
German warships in a naval bombardment of Russian Black Sea ports; Russia formally
declared war on Turkey on November 2, and Great Britain and France followed suit on
November 5. In December the Turks began an invasion of the Russian Caucasus region.
The invasion was successful at its inception, but by August 1915 the hold that Turkish
forces had gained had been considerably reduced. Turkish pressure in the area,
however, impelled the Russian government early in 1915 to demand a diversionary attack
by Great Britain on Turkey. In response, British naval forces under the command of
General Sir Ian Hamilton bombarded the Turkish forts at the Dardanelles in February
1915, and between April and August, two landings of Allied troops took place on the
Gallipoli Peninsula, one of British, Australian, and French troops in April, and one
of several additional British divisions in August. The Allied purpose was to take the
Dardanelles; however, strong resistance by Turkish troops and bad generalship on the
part of the Allied command resulted in complete failure. The Allied troops were
withdrawn in December 1915 and January 1916.
In the Mesopotamian Valley, meanwhile, British forces from India defeated the Turks in
several battles during 1914-15, particularly that of Al Kuut; but in the Battle of
Ctesiphon, November 1915, the Turks checked the advance of the British toward Baghdad
and forced them to retreat to Al Kuut. On December 7 the Turks laid siege to this
The Turkish Dominions
Considerable military activity took place in 1916 in three parts of the Turkish
Ottoman Empire: Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Palestine. In Mesopotamia, the besieged town
of Kut-al-Imara fell to the Turks on April 29, 1916. In December of that year the
British began a drive toward the town, which they recaptured two months later. In
Arabia in June 1916 Husein ibn Ali, grand sharif of Mecca, continued the traditional
conflict between Arabs and Turks by leading, with his son Abdullah ibn Husein, a
revolt of Al Hijaz (the Hejaz, now in Saudi Arabia) against Turkish rule. Husein had
the help of the British, who recognized him as king of Al Hijaz in December 1916. As a
diversionary move to aid the Arabian revolt, the British in November began an advance
from Egypt, which they had garrisoned since early in the war, into the Sinai Peninsula
and Palestine, and by the early days of January 1917 had taken several fortifications.
The Middle East
In Palestine during 1917 the British made two unsuccessful attempts (March and April)
to take the city of Gaza. Under a new commander, General (later Field Marshal) Sir
Edmund Allenby, the British broke through the Turkish lines at Beersheba (November),
compelling the evacuation of Gaza; and on December 9, Allenby's troops took Jerusalem.
The year also witnessed the beginning of the brilliant leadership of British Colonel
T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, in the Arab revolt against Turkey. Arab
troops led by Lawrence took the Turkish-held port of Al `Aqabah in July, and during
the remainder of the year executed many forays against the Turkish-held Al Hijaz (the
Hejaz) Railway. The year 1917 was also marked by British successes in Mesopotamia;
they took Baghdad in March and by September had advanced to Ramadi on the Euphrates
River and Tikrt on the Tigris.
During 1918 the Allies also brought the campaigning in Palestine to a successful
conclusion. In September the British forces broke through the Turkish lines at Megiddo
and routed the Turkish army and the German corps that was assisting it; after being
joined by Arab forces under Lawrence, the British took Lebanon and Syria. In October
they captured Damascus, Halab (Aleppo), and other key points, while French naval
forces occupied Bayrut, and the Turkish government asked for an armistice. An
armistice was concluded on October 30, and by its terms the Turks were obliged to
demobilize, break relations with the Central Powers, and permit Allied warships to
pass through the Dardanelles.
The Ottoman Turks of Asia Minor defeated the Mamelukes in 1517 and, with few
interruptions, ruled Palestine until the winter of 1917 and 1918. The country was
divided into several districts (sanjaks), such as that of Jerusalem. The
administration of the districts was placed largely in the hands of Arabized
Palestinians, who were descendants of the Canaanites and successive settlers. The
Christian and Jewish communities, however, were allowed a large measure of autonomy.
Palestine shared in the glory of the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century, but
declined again when the empire began to decline in the 17th century.
The decline of Palestine_in trade, agriculture, and population_continued until the
19th century. At that time the search by European powers for raw materials and
markets, as well as their strategic interests, brought them to the Middle East,
stimulating economic and social development. Between 1831 and 1840, Muhammad Ali, the
modernizing viceroy of Egypt, expanded his rule to Palestine. His policies modified
the feudal order, increased agriculture, and improved education. The Ottoman Empire
reasserted its authority in 1840, instituting its own reforms. German settlers and
Jewish immigrants in the 1880s brought modern machinery and badly needed capital.
The rise of European nationalism in the 19th century, and especially the
intensification of anti-Semitism during the 1880s, encouraged European Jews to seek
haven in their "promised land," Palestine. Theodor Herzl, author of The Jewish State
(1896; translated 1896), founded the World Zionist Organization in 1897 to solve
Europe's "Jewish problem" (see Zionism). As a result, Jewish immigration to Palestine
In 1880, Arab Palestinians constituted about 95 percent of the total population of
450,000. Nevertheless, Jewish immigration, land purchase, and claims were reacted to
with alarm by some Palestinian leaders, who then became adamantly opposed to Zionism.
The British Mandate
Aided by the Arabs, the British captured Palestine from the Ottoman Turks in 1917 and
1918. The Arabs revolted against the Turks because the British had promised them, in
correspondence (1915-1916) with Husein ibn Ali of Mecca, the independence of their
countries after the war. Britain, however, also made other, conflicting commitments.
Thus, in the secret Sykes-Picot agreement with France and Russia (1916), it promised
to divide and rule the region with its allies. In a third agreement, the Balfour
Declaration of 1917, Britain promised the Jews, whose help it needed in the war
effort, a Jewish "national home" in Palestine. This promise was subsequently
incorporated in the mandate conferred on Britain by the League of Nations in 1922.
During their mandate (1922-1948) the British found their contradictory promises to the
Jewish and Palestinian communities difficult to reconcile. The Zionists envisaged
large-scale Jewish immigration, and some spoke of a Jewish state constituting all of
Palestine. The Palestinians, however, rejected Britain's right to promise their
country to a third party and feared dispossession by the Zionists; anti-Zionist
attacks occurred in Jerusalem (1920) and Jaffa (1921). A 1922 statement of British
policy denied Zionist claims to all of Palestine and limited Jewish immigration, but
reaffirmed support for a Jewish national home. The British proposed establishing a
legislative council, but Palestinians rejected this council as discriminatory.
After 1928, when Jewish immigration increased somewhat, British policy on the subject
seesawed under conflicting Arab-Jewish pressures. Immigration rose sharply after the
installation (1933) of the Nazi regime in Germany; in 1935 nearly 62,000 Jews entered
Palestine. Fear of Jewish domination was the principal cause of the Arab revolt that
broke out in 1936 and continued intermittently until 1939. By that time Britain had
again restricted Jewish immigration and purchases of land.
1 "Ottoman Empire," Microsoftr Encartar 96 Encyclopedia. c 1993-1995 Microsoft
Corporation. All rights reserved. c Funk & Wagnalls Corporation. All rights reserved.