Ottoman archive: Palestine’s weapon against occupation

Qays Abu Samra 18/02/2020
Copy of Ottoman archive provided by Turkey to Palestinian Authority helps prove ownership of lands

Al-Qods- The struggle of the Palestinian people to prove their ownership of lands under Israeli occupation has been taken to a new level thanks to the Ottoman archive.
Turkey late last year handed the Palestinian Authority an electronic copy of the Ottoman archive of some 38,000 pages of land ownership registries for Palestinians.
The Ottoman Empire notably ruled the territory of historical Palestine from 1516 to 1917 and the archive contains documents dated to pre-1917.
The archive is currently located at the Mithaq Foundation in East Jerusalem. The foundation belongs to the Palestinian Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs and is dedicated to reviving heritage and Islamic research.
The foundation has received special safes from the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) to store the archive.
“The Palestinian archives were lost due to the British Mandate, the Israeli occupation, and the population displacement of Palestine,” Murad Abu Sobh, head of Ottoman documents at the Mithaq Foundation, told Anadolu Agency.
He noted that “Israel is depleting Palestinian lands on the pretext that they are absentee property or claims they are properties of Jewish individuals and associations.”
He asserted that the Ottoman archive is a “lifeline” for Palestinians to prove the ownership of lands and properties.
Abu Sobh stated that the documents are confidential and are given to the concerned parties after consulting relevant Palestinian institutions.
The documents are written in the Ottoman language, he said, adding the process of translating them is carried out by Palestinian specialists.
Turkish cooperation
For his part, the head of Mithaq, Khalil al-Rifai, said there is great cooperation between various Turkish institutions and the foundation.
“Turkey provides us smoothly with everything we want,” al-Rifai said, adding the archive was provided by Turkey under the guidance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is being used mainly for scientific research.
He went on to say that Mithaq is unremittingly making efforts to prevent the Judaization of Jerusalem, stressing that “the Ottoman archive is our weapon to prove the truth.”
“Israel has documents that prove our ownership of the lands that are in its national library… All Palestinian documents have been seized by Israel.
“There is no justification for the Israeli fuss over receiving the Ottoman archives; whoever works legally does not fear such documents,” al-Rifai said.
He pointed out that before receiving the archive, if a Palestinian citizen wanted to document his land, he would travel to Turkey to obtain its documents. But today, he can obtain them from the West Bank.
Israeli fear
Israeli media outlets have highlighted the concerns of Israel over the Turkish move to help Palestinians prove their right to lands occupied by Israel, especially Jerusalem and the West Bank, by providing them with the Ottoman archive.
The Israel Hayom daily newspaper reported that “attorneys for the Palestinian Authority are already using archived Ottoman-era documents to claim the rights to lands.”