The Palestinian territories fell prey to the ambitions of Western powers in recent centuries, particularly towards the waning years of Ottoman rule. During this period of weakening, the Zionist movement emerged, swiftly launching a campaign to acquire land in Palestine for the incoming Jewish population from Europe. One of the prominent figures, Moses Montefiore, successfully obtained Sultan Abdul Majid's approval to purchase a parcel of land in Palestine, laying the groundwork for Zionist settlements in the area.

Recognizing the threat of Western and Jewish ambitions in Palestine, the Ottoman Empire enacted a series of laws aimed at regulating land ownership. However, in its final years of decline, the Ottoman state was compelled to adopt laws imposed by a consortium of European nations, aligning with covert European agendas for the region at that time.

The Ottoman-era land ownership system was rooted in Islamic principles. Lands acquired without conflict remained under the possession of their original owners, contingent upon tax payments. However, lands acquired through war became the spoils of the conquerors, with a fifth of it allocated to the state treasury.

Land ownership comprised two categories: individual and state-owned lands. The Ottoman administration employed the "iltizam" system to ensure consistent revenue for the state treasury, a system that persisted until the Ottoman reforms in the early 19th century.

The "iltizam" system rested on several pillars: the state, feudal lords, civilians, military, and farmers. The state claimed ultimate land ownership rights, collecting taxes, fees, and tithes. Feudal lords held land based on their military and administrative roles, categorized into three types:

    "Thimar" (Fruits)

    "Ziamat" (Leadership)

    "Khas" (Special)

Each type of feudal holding varied in annual income. For instance, "thimar" holders, known as "thimarji," typically earned approximately 20,000 aqchas annually, a relatively lucrative form of feudal holding.

"Ziamat" was granted to leaders with incomes ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 aqchas, primarily bestowed upon military commanders. These holdings sometimes extended across multiple regions or districts, not confined to a specific area or district.

In the early 17th century, Palestine comprised the districts of Nablus, Jerusalem, Gaza, and Safad, which included 28 districts classified as "ziamat" and 436 districts classified as "thimar," as detailed below:


The proprietors of these feudal holdings typically hailed from influential families. For instance, in Nablus in 1833, there were 57 feudal holdings, comprising 5 ziamats and 52 thimars. Farmers worked the land and reared livestock, fulfilling specific obligations to landowners, such as paying dues and taxes. Their land utilisation was contingent upon their labour and tax payments. In cases where a farmer had no heirs, the right of disposal reverted to the treasury or could be transferred by the feudal lord to other farmers for a specified sum.

Thimar: An Ottoman feudal land ownership system implemented to replace the prevailing military feudal system in the Levant since the Seljuk era.

Akche: The primary Ottoman silver coin minted during Sultan Orkhan's reign (726–761 AH).

Ziamet: A parcel of land typically granted by the state, often to military leaders, ranging between 20,000 and 100,000 akches.

Khass: Khass Humayuni and Khass Shahanshahi are lands directly granted by the Sultan. They differ from Thimar and Ziamet as they are not subject to inspection by the register office responsible for monitoring the tax farms. Additionally, they encompass larger areas, exceeding 100,000 akches. Khass comes in two types:

    Khass Sultan: Khass Humayuni - Khass Shahanshahi

    Khass Amir al-Umara: Khass Amir Liva

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