In one of the stranger pieces of news to come our way here at Via Meadia lately, Prince Orhan Aal Othman, a descendant of the former ruling dynasty of the Ottoman Empire, is quoted in an interview blaming Theodor Herzl, the founding father of modern Zionism, for the collapse of his family firm. As the Prince expresses himself,
“The Ottoman state did not collapse in a year or two, or even ten or twenty years. It began when Sultan Abdulhamid made his decision in his meeting with Dr. Herzl. Herzl made several requests to meet Sultan Abdulhamid, and he was refused – once, twice, and three times. The fourth time, he met him, and [Herzl] prepared the ground… he asked him for land in Palestine, to serve as a place for settlement of the Jews. When the Sultan rejected this request – that was the beginning of the fall of the Ottoman state. A decision was made that there should no longer be an Ottoman state, a caliphate, or a sultanate.”
Check out the clip from MEMRI. Really, watch it. It’s worth the time. Who knew that the fall of the Ottoman Empire, also, was due to the schemes and machinations of those cunning, scheming, omnipotent and all-seeing Jews?
As it happens, there is absolutely no historical linkage between Herzl’s meeting with the Sultan and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The empire fell because the Young Turks ruling the country at the time were not very good at international politics, and hitched their wagon to the German star in World War One. Despite a brilliant campaign by Mustafa Kemal (who would take the name Ataturk, overthrow the last feeble Ottoman ruler and proclaim the Turkish Republic) at Gallipoli and despite much courage shown by Ottoman soldiers from modern Iraq to the Balkans, there was no way the feeble empire could survive the collapse of the Central Powers’ cause. Siding against Britain in World War One was the worst and last political mistake the Ottoman Empire made.
The Jews did not secretly conspire to destroy this falling state. If anything, Jewish opinion in Europe was sympathetic to the Ottoman cause in that war because of the hostility of many Jews to the viciously anti-Semitic Russian empire on the other side. Many European Zionists thought they would have a better chance getting a Jewish state if Germany and the Ottomans won the war, when Germany would be supreme in Europe. The Kaiser, Wilhelm II, was the first ruler who had met with Herzl, proclaimed himself a convert to the cause, was responsible for pushing the meeting between Herzl and the Sultan, and had more than once expressed his sympathy for the Zionist project in a way that, in 1914, no other European head of state had ever done. (Supporters of the Balfour Declaration in the west argued that promising a homeland for the Jews was necessary to counter Germany’s overwhelming sympathy among the world’s Jews.)
Once embroiled in the war with Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire had little chance of survival, and Arabs, Kurds, Russians, British, Armenians, French, Greeks, Turks, Bulgarians, Italians and Jews began to fight for the scraps. In some ways the fighting and conflicts convulsing the Middle East today from Iraq to Tunisia are aftershocks from the fall of what was once the greatest empire of its time.
Prince Othman and many others have good reason to miss the peace and security which the Ottomans at their best provided to so many of their subjects, but by 1914 the glory days of the empire were long gone and few, even among the Turks, regretted its fall. Trying to win popularity for the dynasty by inventing implausible stories of Jewish plots and blaming its fall on the hidden hand of conspiring Jews only brings discredit on the family name. It would be better if the Prince would look to a much nobler period in his history, when the Ottomans generously and nobly received persecuted Jews fleeing Christian bigots and torturers in Portugal and Spain. At their greatest, the Ottomans aspired to give something like justice and peace to all believers in God; at their lowest, they blighted their empire and their legacies with paranoid fantasies and horrid crimes.
The Prince should think long and hard about which part of his family’s legacy he wants to uphold.