The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Ottomans Blame Zionists for Collapse

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.

Published on January 10, 2012 9:01 pm
  • http://funnyifnottragic.blogspot.com Robert Morris

    It would have been fascinating to see more of the interview. These Memri clips are a bit frustrating. It’s nice to get the inflammatory stuff, but I would love to hear more from this guy. The idea of an Osmanli party seems equal parts nuts and “just might work”. Ok may 95% the first and 5% the second.

  • Luke Lea

    It was Ezer Weitzman, of course, not Hertzl, who got Balfour’s ear and persuaded him of the military and diplomatic advantages of an Allied commitment to Jewish settlement in Palestine. It would detach Jewish loyalties to Germany and help bring the US in on the side of England and France, once Russia was out of the picture. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was very much a foreseen result undertaken nonetheless for reasons of state.

  • Kris

    Given how all-powerful them Jews supposedly are, one would think that anti-Semites would know better than to take them on. It’s as if the fabled Jewish intelligence has been achieved by their stealing the brains of their enemies.

    (By the way, if one is going to traffic in conspiracy theories, at least get the details right. “The Ottoman state did not collapse in a year or two, or even ten or twenty years.” Herzl met Sultan Abdulhamid II in 1901.)

  • Cheves

    The science is settleld! Those pesky Jews put failure juice into the Ottoman Empire’s water supply, which caused the once mighty people to weaken for a moment. Then—and here’s where it gets weird—the news media (which is, ya know) covered up the story. If only MEMRI would cover THAT!

  • Kris

    “Ottomans Blame Zionists for Collapse”

    Because the Zionists had to go and sit on the footstools! Those Zionists… Brainy people, but not quite the “proper sort,” eh?

    [/humor]

  • g

  • Rob Crawford

    Meh. Call me when someone interviews the heir to the Byzantine throne.

  • CR

    “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.”

    Actually, the little prince senses that there is a market for such babble in modern Turkey. Far from discrediting, he is endearing himself to a gullible section of his public.

  • http://joelengel.com Cassandra

    As it happens, a Jewish spy ring spying for the Brits was indeed instrumental in Allenby’s taking of Jerusalem. The NILI spies, as they called themselves, were headed by a brother and sister, the Aaronsohns, Jews who’d arrived in the Holy Land in the late 19th century. The brother, Aaron, became one of the early 20th century’s most important agriculture scientists, and his sister, Sarah, was tortured to death by the Turks. But she’d succeeded in getting the important info to Allenby in Cairo. It’s one of the greatest little-told swashbuckling stories of the war.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Is anyone else finding the constant blaming of others by the Islamic cultures for their own failings, incredibly tiresome? And how about Obama’s constant blaming of Bush, ATM’s, etc… for his failures? I think constantly looking for scapegoats, instead of taking responsibility for conditions, is a sign of immaturity.

  • http://paterzplace.blogspot.com DonM

    We are all heirs to the Roman (Byzantine) empire.

  • gringojay

    Ottoman army had jewish soldiers, as did the Kaiser’s Hungarian-Austrian Empire. Maybe it would have been smarter to let them run things, instead of sent to run around.
    Naah, blaming jews is satisfying enough.

  • Andrew

    I’ll look forward to watching the interview tonight. However, Prince Orhan’s claim is even more ludicrous than it appears on the surface because it exposes a base ignorance of his family’s history.

    I’ve traveled in Turkey regularly for several years and studied its history. The notion that the Ottoman Empire began to decline in even the 18th century, let alone the 19th or early 20th, is ludicrous.

    Historians date the Ottoman decline to the reign of Selim II (Selim the Sot), the alcoholic son of Suleyman the Magnificent, in the late 1500s. Subsequent Ottoman history comprised a long, slow decline punctuated by intermittent spasms of competent rule. By the 1800s the entire edifice needed only a modest tremor to collapse entirely.

    Prince Orhan is not only a pathetic bigot; he’s a ignoramus.

  • zfredz

    Luke Lea: It was Chaim Weizman, not Ezer Weizman, who met with Lord Balfour. Chaim was
    the first President of Israel (1948); his nephew Ezer, became President of Israel 45 years later.

  • ari

    Well, since they stole it from Christians in the first place, I’m not exactly crying that they lost it.

  • Tortillapete

    As glenn reynolds would say “that’s a feature, not a bug”…

  • Rollory

    This writer repeatedly reaches Francis Fukuyama levels of stupidity, and here he has done it again.

    The Central Powers WON the war on the Eastern Front. The only reason they lost in the end was a combination of the desperate French resistance that barely and at the last minute diverted the Schlieffen plan by the few miles needed, and Woodrow Wilson, the worst president ever, breaking the one promise his re-election had been predicated on – with the direct consequences of the Versailles Treaty and a second war many times worse than the first. To say that the Young Turks “weren’t good at politics” for allying with Germany is incredible tendentious stupidity, it is the sort of pretense at thinking that one expects from a sophomore in a liberal university, not someone masquerading as a respected columnist.

  • M. Report

    @13Andrew: Just so. Plus:
    Suleiman had chosen a competent successor,
    but his wife convinced him to let her son
    take the throne.

  • Cunctator

    Scratch a modern-day Muslim, find a measure of anti-Semitism. Really very sad. If ever there was a dynasty that deserved to be toppled, it was the Ottomans. With its last few generations it was truly a pathetic, dissolute, incompetent succession of rulers.

  • http://kavanna.blogspot.com Kavanna

    It was the chemist and Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, not Ezer Weizman, who got the ear of, not just Balfour, but Churchill and Lloyd-George as well. The Balfour Declaration was actually put together by all three, not just Balfour, in Britain’s wartime coalition cabinet. The Weizmann Institute, Israel’s major scientific school and institute, is named for Chaim Weizmann, who helped found it.

    The ravings of a descendant of a failed dynasty are mildly interesting for a few minutes, but no more. Search through the remains of the Hohenzollerns, Hapsburgs, et al., and you’ll find various cases of involvement with Nazism and similar movements after 1918. It’s very analogous.

  • AJ

    Thanks everyone. I have to say that this is possibly the most intellectually thoughtful thread of comments to a blog post I have ever read (even or despite of the fact that there are many disagreements amongst you). Well done ladies and chaps, well done.

  • Wajahat

    A very balanced article. But the best account of the fall of the Ottomans is David Fromkin’s “A Peace to End all Peace”, which deals also with the efforts of the British leadership to win over the Arab and Jewish leadership.

  • Lynn Ertell

    Yes, Thanks for both the article and the comments. Lately I’ve been digging into various arcana of modern history surrounding the Donmeh of Salonika and their participation in the Young Turks’ movement and administration. Not sure how the Donmeh regarded Zionist efforts and projects in Ottoman Palestine before the first War.

  • https://twitter.com/Suada1976 Suada

    Orhan disgraces his family’s good name with these comments. The Yishuv in Palestine remained for the most part loyal to the Porte; one Prime Minister of Israel (Moshe Sharett) and the founder of the Haganah both served in the Ottoman army during World War 1.