Constantinople, 19 September 1915.
Mr. Foreign Minister,
In my earlier reports I have mentioned the Young Turks' relations with the Greeks and Armenians who live in the Empire, and I have shown the fatal consequences for the country's economy if they will eventually succeed in chasing away or annihilate these peoples. There is, though, yet another people in Turkey who has played and still plays a very large role in Turkey's trade: the Jews - in Constantinople alone there are probably some 70.000 Jews, almost all of them working in trade, in the banks, and in financial institutions. The relationship between the Turks and the Jews has up until now been so good that a number of Jews have regarded themselves as Turks; indeed, some even converted to Islam whereby they could further consolidate their position.
The question of the future relationship between Jews and Turks has gained immediate importance in the present situation as there has recently been signs that the alliance between the Jews and the Turks is loosening; this is not only because the adaptability of the Jews, however great, can hardly avoid clashing with the Young Turk neo-nationalism, but also because at the moment there are genuine bad feelings between both the government and the Zionist movement here and between the general public and the rich Jewish-Muhammedan merchants. It is certain that the times are different from the days of the revolution when Jews and Turks stood together in the struggle against despotism; when the Committee had its base in the almost purely Jewish Salonica [Thessaloniki] and took great advantage of Jewish support - intellectually and financially; when Djavid Bey and Carosso [Carasso; Karasu] Effendi (both Deunmés, [dönme] i.e., of a Jewish family that has converted to Islam) were among the leading members of the Committee; and when Carosso Effendi was appointed spokesman for the deputation that brought Sultan Abdul Hamid the message that he had to surrender the Throne to his brother.
Regarding the government's relationship with the Zionists, the ill-feeling caused by the Jews' attempt to colonize Palestine is obviously not of recent date, in so far as Abdul Hamid already 25 years ago forbade Jews of foreign nationality to settle down in this country. Most likely this prohibition was particularly aimed at preventing the immigration of Russian Jews, thereby putting a stop to the growing Russian influence in Palestine.
The Turkish law has from that time on prohibited foreign Jews from settling in the Holy Land, but the letter of the law was not followed, and over the years more than 40.000 Jews settled in Palestine where just about everyone bought land and where they enjoyed favourable economic conditions, although their legal status was somewhat insecure as, according to the law, their residence permit was only valid for the first 3 months of their stay, meaning that they from that time on had no formal right or permission to live in the country.
In the first liberal days of the Constitution the Jews who had immigrated to Palestine were exempted from the formality of the issuing of the 3-month residence permits, but the actual state of things, i.e., the law's formal prohibition against settling, was still not changed.
When the Holy War broke out last fall the Turkish authorities changed their practice. Djemal Pacha [Cemal Pasha], chief of the expedition toward Egypt, was against the Jewish colonization, and the authorities, particularly the governor of Jaffa, Behaedinne Bey [Behaeddin Bey], initiated a number of deportations and arrests. In one night 600 Jews were sent from Jaffa to Egypt. Djemal Pacha and Behaedinne Bey sent anti-Jewish reports to the capital, and it seemed as if Talaat Bey was influenced thereby.
At that point the American ambassador (who is Jewish himself) and the German ambassador, Baron von Wangenheim, intervened, and they obtained that Behaedinne Bey was removed from his post as governor of Jaffa, just like the government, as a result of the applied diplomatic pressure, decided to temporarily postpone the decision of the question about the permanent residence of the Jews in Palestine. It was only decided that the Jews who were subjects of enemy states (in this case almost exclusively Russians) had to either leave the country or let themselves become Ottoman subjects. About 10.000 Russian Jews emigrated, but the rest let themselves become Ottomans.
However, the question of the foreign Jews' right to stay in Palestine and of the obstacles that the authorities place in the way of the Jewish colonies' land purchase is still undecided, and when the leader of the Zionists here, M. Lichtheim [Richard Lichtheim], recently applied to Talaat Bey regarding this matter, he recieved only an evasive answer.
How the future position of the government will be toward the Zionists and toward the Jews in Turkey in general, whether the old mistrust toward the Jews in Palestine that has flared up once again will already now spread and have consequences for the Jews that live in other places around the Empire, this cannot yet be said for certain. But it could perhaps be of importance that what appears to be a rather strong ill-feeling has lately arisen toward the rich Deunmés in Constantinople, those who at the moment dominate the capital's trade with a number of necessities, and who are being accused by the Turkish population of hoarding up a number of foodstuffs and necessities and of having made fortunes by forcing up the prices (for instance, the price of rice has risen from 4-5 to 12-14 Piastre pr. Okka (1 Okka is 1150 grammes), sugar from 3 to 11-12 Piastre. Petroleum from 14-15 to 110-150 Piastre pr. Ridon.)
Perhaps the Young Turk government, which is closely connected to certain Turkish-Mohammedan trade organizations that have contributed to the price rise alongside the mentioned Jewish merchants, will use the ill-feeling toward the latter to shift the blame for the steps taken away from themselves and solely to the Jews - and it is still uncertain what the consequences of such an act could be.
With the highest esteem I remain, Mr. Minister, yours faithfully