Yousef al-Khalidi

Yusuf Dia Pasha al-Khalidi (1842–1906; Arabic: يوسف ضياء الدين باشا الخالدي‎, Yousef Ḍiya’ al-Dīn Bāshā al-Khalidī) was a prominent Ottoman politician who served as mayor of Jerusalem during several non-consecutive terms in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Al-Khalidi was born in Jerusalem in 1842.[2] His father, al-Sayyid Muhammad Ali al-Khalidi,[3] served AS deputy qadi and chief of the Jerusalem Sharia court secretariat in Jerusalem for about fifty years.[3][4] Members of the Khalidi family, one of the two politically prominent, old families of the local nobility (the other being the al-Husayni family), continuously held the office through the 18th and 19th centuries.[4] Although the Husayni family was larger and wealthier, the Khalidis were more united and noted for their intellect.[a] As a teenager, al-Khalidi may have been influenced by the Ottoman Reform Edict of 1856. At the age of 17, he wrote of his thoughts about the state of the world, personal dignity and the individual's quest to become free, in the context of meditations on why the Ottoman Empire was being increasingly surrounded by European powers pilfering the region of its wealth and identified the cause of the situation to be the disparity in knowledge between the region and Europe. The interests of the country could only be defended by dropping frivolous studies and acquiring scientific, historical and philosophical knowledge.[4]

Yousef's initial requests to receive an education in Egypt was turned down because he lacked an invitation from that country and his father rebuffed his proposal that he be educated in Europe. Afterward he and his cousin Husayn left Jerusalem without the family's permission and reached Malta where they were enrolled into the Protestant college through the mediation of the Anglican bishop Gobat of Jerusalem.[5] There, he studied English and French, and then continued to study Semitic languages in the Oriental Academy of Vienna.[6] Yousef's brother Yasin persuaded him after two years in the Protestant college to attend the Imperial Medical School in Constantinople, capital of the Empire.[7] Yousef was dissatisfied with his time at the medical school after a year, finding no "salvation, he enrolled in an American Protestant missionary school outside of the capital, Robert College."[3][7] He remained there for a year and a half before returning to Jerusalem because of the death of his father.[7]


Al-Khalidi played a key role in the opposing political factions established to prohibit the Ottoman Empire's attempts to violate the constitution. He also wrote the first Kurdish-Arabic dictionary. al-Khalidi was very familiar with Zionist thought, and the anti-Semitic environment in Europe out of which it emerged. He also perceived the danger Zionism could expose Jews to throughout the domains of the Ottoman Empire.[3] In 1899, compelled by a "holy duty of conscience" to voice his concerns that Zionism would jeopardize the friendly associations between Muslims, Christians and Jews, he wrote a letter to Zadok Kahn, the chief rabbi of France, to prevail on Zionists, through Kahn's offices, to leave Palestine in peace. Thus he wrote:

"Who can deny the rights of the Jews to Palestine? My God, historically it is your country!",[b]

Khalidi suggested that, since Palestine was already inhabited, the Zionists should find another place for the implementation of their political goals. " ... in the name of God," he wrote, "let Palestine be left alone." According to Rashid Khalidi, Alexander Scholch and Dominique Perrin, Khalidi was prescient in predicting that, regardless of Jewish historic rights, given the geopolitical context, Zionism could stir an awakening of Arab nationalism uniting Christians and Muslims.[9][c]

Kahn showed the letter to Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism. On 19 March 1899 Herzl replied to al-Khalidi in French arguing that both the Ottoman Empire and the non-Jewish population of Palestine would benefit from Jewish immigration[d] As to al-Khalidi concerns about the non-Jewish majority population of Palestine, Herzl replied rhetorically: "who would think of sending them away?". Rashid Khalidi notes that this was penned 4 years after Herzl had confided to his diary the idea of spiriting the Arab population away to make way for Jews:

We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our own country The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.'[3]

and concluded ambiguously that "If he (the Ottoman Sultan) will not accept it, we will search and, believe me, we will find elsewhere what we need."[e]

Al Khalidi served as mayor of Jerusalem from the years 1870 to 1876, 1878 to 1879, and 1899 to 1906.[1]


Al-Khalidi died on 25 January 1906.[citation needed]


  1. ^ The Husayni were the larger and wealthier of the two families, but according to the German consul, the Khalidi made up for this through greater unity and intelligence (Scholch 2005, p. 67)
  2. ^ 'Qui peut contester les droits des Juifs sur la Palestine ? Mon Dieu, historiquement, c’est bien votre pays ! Et quel spectacle merveilleux ça serait si les Juifs, si doués, étaient de nouveau reconstitués en une nation indépendante respectée, heureuse, pouvant rendre à la pauvre humanité des services dans le domaine moral comme autrefois! Malheureusement, les destinées des nations ne sont point gouvernées seulement par ces conceptions abstraites, si pures, si nobles qu’elles puissent être. 11 faut compter avec la réalité, avec les faits acquis, avec la force, oui, avec la force brutale des circonstances. Or la réalité est que la Palestine fait maintenant partie intégrale de l’Empire Ottoman et, ce qui est plus grave, elle est habitée par d’autres que des Israélites. Cette réalité, ces faits acquis, cette force brutale des circonstances ne laissent au sionisme, géographiquement aucun espoir de réalisation, et ce qui est surtout important, menacent d’un vrai danger la situation des Juifs en Turquie...Certes, les Turcs et les Arabes sont généralement bien disposés envers vos coreligionnaires. Cependant, il y a parmi eux aussi des fanatiques, eux aussi, comme toutes les autres nations même les plus civilisées, ne sont pas exempts des sentiments de haine de race. En outre, il y a en Palestine des chrétiens fanatiques, surtout parmi les orthodoxes et les catholiques qui, considérant la Palestine comme devant appartenir à eux seulement, sont très jaloux des progrès des Juifs dans le pays de leurs ancêtres et ne laissent passer aucune occasion pour exciter la haine des musulmans contre les Juifs...Il faut donc pour la tranquillité des Juifs en Turquie que le mouvement sioniste, dans le sens géographique du mot, cesse. Que l’on cherche un endroit quelque part pour la malheureuse nation juive, rien de plus juste et équitable...Mais, au nom de Dieu, qu’ON LAISSE TRANQUILLE LA PALESTINE.'[8]
  3. ^ 'L’auteur de cette lettre admet qu’il peut exister un droit historique des Juifs à s’établir en Palestine. Mais il écarte immédiatement cette perspective au nom des réalités géographiques du moment. Et surtout il entrevoit que le sionisme peut contribuer à éveiller le nationalisme arabe local en réunissant dans une même opposition Chrétiens et Musulmans. La suite des événements confirme cette analyse.'[10]
  4. ^ "Glossing over the fact that Zionism was ultimately meant to lead to Jewish domination of Palestine, Herzl employed a justification that has been a touchstone for colonialists at all times and in all places and that would become a staple argument of the Zionist movement: Jewish immigration would benefit the indigenous people of Palestine." (Khalidi 2020)
  5. ^ "S'il n'acceptera pas nous chercherons et croyez moi nous trouverons ailleurs ce qu'il nous faut." (Scholch 2005, p. 72)


  1. ^ a b Büssow 2011, p. 554.
  2. ^ Scholch 2005, pp. 65, 67.
  3. ^ a b c d e Khalidi 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Scholch 2005, p. 67.
  5. ^ Scholch 2005, pp. 67–68.
  6. ^ Khalidi 1984.
  7. ^ a b c Scholch 2005, p. 68.
  8. ^ Perrin 2020, p. 118.
  9. ^ Scholch 2005, p. 72.
  10. ^ Perrin 2020, p. 119.


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