Turkey’s transfer of Ottoman archives to Palestinians undermines Israeli land claims

Turkey has given a copy of Ottoman archive material to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to help Palestinians legally counter Israel’s land claims, Israel National News reported on Wednesday, citing the Israel Hayom newspaper published in Hebrew.

The archives include land registries documented by the Ottoman Empire when it ruled Palestine between 1516 and 1917, Israel National News said. 

“Lawyers from the PA are already using the materials in the archive, in order to undermine Israel's claim on land around Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria,” it said. 

Turkish authorities delivered the archives to representatives of the PA in Ankara last year and a part of the archives was later transferred to Bethlehem, Israel National News quoted Israel Hayom as saying. 

Though the documents in the archives have the potential to shake up Israel’s real estate market, nothing has happened so far, it said. 

But lawyers from Jerusalem's Arab neighbourhoods are regularly turning to the archive to find documents that help them in legal battles over claims to many properties, mostly in the Jerusalem area, Israel National News said. 

Meanwhile, the Ottoman land registry archives for Turkey remain closed, meaning researchers working on properties transferred from Christian minorities to Muslims before the 1923 collapse of the empire, particularly after the deportation and mass killings of Armenians in 1915, are unable to access the documents, historian Yektan Türkyılmaz told Ahval.