Ottoman Archives Help Palestinians Reclaim Their Land

by | Jan 20, 2020

Ahmed Melhem at Al-Monitor writes about the release of 140,000 microfilm pages from the Ottoman archives by Turkey.  These documents are helping Palestinians to prove ownership of property expropriated by Israel under the pretext they were state property and prove the Palestinians owned the land hundreds of years before the establishment of Israel.

Turkish officials had announced as early as 2015 that they were handing Ottoman documents to the Palestinians to help them claim ownership of properties taken over by Israel. Daily Sabah, a pro-government paper, quoted Kudret Bulbul, head of the Turks Abroad and Related Communities Directorate of the Prime Ministry between 2014-2016, as saying that the archives included “land registers, sultans’ decrees and historical documents proving the property ownership of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.” In 2018, a full electronic archive of 140,000 documents was available, spanning over 400 years of Ottoman rule in Palestinian lands.

“The Palestinians see these documents as a game-changer in their battle with Israel over land. They have already used the archive to challenge Israeli ownership of land and real estate in various parts of the country,” the article noted, adding that the Turkish authorities delivered the microfilms to the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Ankara last year.

The Ottoman archives on Palestine proved to be a huge advantage for the Palestinians, as it allows them access to many title deeds and properties that existed prior to the creation of the State of Israel, specifically in the area currently classified as Area C.

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