Eye on the Watcher’s Council

As you may know the members of the Watcher’s Council each nominate one of his or her own posts and one non-Council post for consideration by the whole Council. The complete list of this week’s Council nominations is here.

The Glittering Eye, “Is It Time to Start Thinking About Pakistan Yet?”

In my submission for this week I consider the challenges posed by Pakistan and some of our options in dealing with.

Eternity Road, “Acceptances and Severances Part 2: Affiliations, Associations, and Allegiances”

Francis Porretto considers the nature of the relationships that form the bases of societies.

Rhymes With Right, “Death Penalty Debate Highlights Liberal Hypocrisy on Religious Values”

In this post Greg notes the difficulty in putting together a coherent program when values (religious and otherwise) conflicts with ideology.

The Colossus of Rhodey, “Best Star Trek Movies (in Order)”

I disagree with Hube on the relative value of some of the Star Trek movies.  The easy way to think about the ranking is that the odd-numbered movies were lousy and the even-numbered ones were better.   So, for example, I liked IV (save the whales) best, followed by II, VI, and so on.  I thought Star Trek:  the Movie was truly awful—a lousy episode that we’d already seen of TOS with worse acting (if such a thing be possible) on a wide screen with special effects.

Soccer Dad, “Differing Values”

Soccer Dad’s point is that opposition on the part of people in the Middle East to U. S. Middle Eastern policy didn’t start with Bush but I think that the point is a lot larger than that.  When you read about the disrepute that Bush has brought upon the United States by his actions, low ebb, etc. it can be placed in some perspective when you remember that those who’ve liked U. S. foreign policy outside of the U. S. have always been a small minority.

Done With Mirrors, “Germany and Iraq, Part 4”

Callimachus continues his consideration of the U. S. occupation of Iraq with that of Germany after World War II.

Right Wing Nut House, “A Man for His Times, A Man for All Time”

Rick honors Washington’s birthday by considering Washington, the Man.

The Education Wonks, “Give Homework the Heave-Ho”

EdWonk notes that homework for elementary school students may be going by the boards.  When I was in elementary school there really wasn’t a great deal of homework.  That increased rapidly shortly thereafter.  Did the practice ever have an empirical basis?  Or was it just a response to pressure from parents?

Joshuapundit, “Liar, Liar Pants On Fire…a Response to an ‘anti-Zionist’”

Freedom Fighter does a point-by-point refutation of the arguments of an anti-Zionist commenter.  One of his points caught my eye:

ZionistNot leaves out the leetle facts that the Jews had a continuous presence in Israel throughout all recorded history, and that the Ottoman government actually encouraged Jewish settlement in Israel and sold them land because the Jews created prosperity there and renewed what was essentially a depopulated backwater.

I’ve posted a bit about Ottoman property law and I’d welcome evidentiary support of the prevalence of FF’s point.  My understanding was that most private ownership of real property under the Ottoman was by Christians and that much of the purchasing of land by Jews in Palestine took place under the British Mandate.  I may well be wrong in this understanding.

Bookworm Room, “Means and Ends”

I think that Bookworm’s point about American progressives being undeterred by past failures of their preferred policy solutions is a good one.  I don’t think they have any monopoly on that and I’ve attributed the willingness to ignore experience on the part of Americans, generally, as the conviction that only the present and future are really important.  Remember Henry Ford’s famous comment, “History is bunk!”?

The Sundries Shack, “Gore Fights Back, Feebly”

I don’t know that Al Gore’s enormous energy-guzzling house is hypocritical, precisely.  I suppose that activists, like Caesar’s wife, should be above reproach but I think the real question is, in what precisely does Mr. Gore (or Mr. Edwards who also lives in a palace) believe?  I suspect that in the final analysis it’s paternalism.

American Future, “Senator Obama on Iraq and Darfur”

I don’t think that I find the different positions held by Barack Obama on Iraq and Darfur, respectively, quite as puzzling as Marc does.   There’s a position held by quite a few (and Sen. Obama may be one of them) that the U. S. should only deploy its military when the action is uncontaminated by national interest.  I think it’s a baffling position and diametrically opposed to my own but quite a few people do seem to hold it.

Well, I’ve decided which posts I’ll vote for.  Which would get your vote?

8 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    Here is a good link that might address some of the Ottoman Property right issues: http://www.beki.org/landlaw.html

    I think much of the land transfers were by absentee property owners, such as prominent Arab families that could afford the confiscatory taxes or assert the needed influence. FF says these sales were encouraged by the state. My impression was more that the Ottoman Empire occasionally banned the sales, sometimes lifted the ban, but generally never enforced anything anyway.

  • Thanks but I’d read that article before, PD. I may even have cited it in my post on the subject. Here’s the relevant portion:

    What little milk [ed. privately-owned property] there was in Palestine was mostly “plots of land which had at the time of distribution [by Muslim conquerors] been assigned to unbelievers

    That’s the way I had heard it, too. And the “unbelievers” in question were mostly Christians. That’s why I’d welcome evidence that the “unbelievers” holding private land in Palestine in, say, 1880, were Jews or even mostly Jews.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Dave, I think I’m reading the article differently than you. My understanding is that the Jews purchased registered land. The milk doesn’t appear to be subject to registration, but the Miri, which was the largest portion of land had to be registered. “It should be noted that subsequent laws gradually extended the rights of mīrī tenure to approach those of milk.” It doesn’t go into the details, but reading this from an English property law perspective, this seems to be part of a process of breaking down feudal tenure by converting the obligations of tenure into a tax.

  • My understanding is that miri (arable land) was always the property of the state and not available for sale. The analogy in English property law would be to fee taille. Although someone working the land gained certain rights over it they never acquired fee simple ownership.

  • PD Shaw Link

    This law review article describes the miri “as similar to a Lord’s land in the English feudal system.” It “is the land that the Sultan did not give out as mulk or dedicate to wakf. Instead he would grant the land to people to use under certain conditions. When a Sultan would initially conquer a land he would allow the conquered peoples to use some of the land as tenants.”


    Under the English feudal system the tenant was granted land on the condition of military service without the right to alienate or transfer the property absent permission from his lord and then the permission became a fine and then the fine was outlawed and replaced with a tax (which would presumably include creation of a standing army). That’s kind of how I read the Ottoman registration laws as developing in the 19th century.

    From the first article: “An individual could gain rights over mīrī land by cultivating it and paying taxes; but the state continued to regulate its transfer and improvement.” If those regulations were relaxed over time, the transfer of land even as a tenant becomes essentially fee simple by another name.

  • The “similar to a Lord’s land” I interpreted as fee tail.

    I don’t really know and, as I said in the body of the post, I’d really welcome some clear and authoritative info. My guess is that the complications of Ottoman property law (and the unwritten customs as well) are with us today in the form of the assumptions that Palestinians are making about the land.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Dave, I’m certainly no expert on these matters. I’m looking at Bernard Lewis’ discussion of property laws in “The Middle East.” He says the analogy with British feudalism is common, yet can be very misleading. I believe he is talking about “milk” here:

    ”Such a grant was in principle temporary, limited, and revocable if the condition on which it was given ceased to operate. It was neither alienable nor heritable, but was personal to the grantee. By abuse, however, it frequently became permanent, alienable, and heritable. Likewise, by abuse it was often retained even when services were no longer rendered. It was at this point that the system began in some respects to resemble the feudal order of medieval Europe.”

    However, the grantee never exercised the sort of small government role that an English lord might and was often absent except for collecting taxes. But the larger trend was that during periods of state weakness, individuals would usurp property of the state as their own and during periods in which the state was strong, private lands might be usurped by the state.

    From the common man’s perspective, this all seems to boil down to taxes.

  • Dave: You need to get your hands on The Arabs and Zionism before World War I, by Neville J. Mandel.

    Using Zionist, Ottoman, and western archives and diplomatic correspondence, he addresses the issue of Zionist immigration into Palestine from the 1880s to 1914. In doing so, he demolishes some of the ‘received wisdom’ about the level of population, land sale, and Ottoman and Arab attitudes long before the Mandate.

    If you can’t find a copy, send me your mailing address via e-mail and I’ll lend you my copy.

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