The Zionist movement (support for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine) in the late 19th century led to numerous European Jews migrating to Palestine, with most land purchases occurring in the coastal plain areas of Acre, Rehovot, Esdraelon, Jordan Valleys, and Galilee. This migration had significant economic, social, and political impacts on Palestine.
In the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire prohibited foreigners from purchasing land in Palestine, a policy that remained in effect until 1867. The Ottoman Empire opposed Jewish self-rule in Palestine, fearing it might lose control after losing other territories to European powers. The Ottoman government also feared Jews from Russia, who sought the empire’s downfall.
In 1881, the Sublime Porte announced that foreign Jews could immigrate to and settle anywhere within the Ottoman Empire, except Palestine. From 1882 until 1918, the Ottomans restricted Jewish immigration and land purchases in Palestine. In 1892, the government prohibited the sale of land to Jews, even if they were Ottoman citizens.
The ‘’Ottoman Land Code of 1858’’ allowed influential and wealthy families in Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Jaffa to appropriate vast areas of land in Syria and Palestine, registered in their names in land registers. Many peasants did not understand the importance of these registers, leading wealthy families to exploit small farmers who become in debt to rich families, hence transferring land to new owners whereas Jewish buyers found it favorable to purchase large areas of land from wealthy owners.
In 1918, the British military administration closed the Land Register in Palestine, prohibiting land sales. In 1920, the Register was reopened, but restrictions were imposed to prevent speculation and ensure livelihood for fellahin. This was due to a preference for land that was cheap and without tenants.
Many successful land purchases were made through organizations like Jewish Colonization Association, Palestine Land Development Company, and the Jewish National Fund. The Sursock Purchase, (the largest Jewish land purchase from the 1880s to 1948) involved Jews acquiring land in Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine (a geopolitical entity established between 1920 and 1948 in the region of Palestine under the terms of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine), with 5.67% of the land acquired by Jews as of April 1st, 1945.
In 1948, the State of Israel was established after the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to partition Palestine into two states: one Jewish and one Arab. The establishment of Israel was met with opposition from neighboring Arab countries and led to a series of conflicts between Israel and its neighbors.