Mr. Sherman to Mr. Angell.
Washington, February 7, 1898.
Sir: In your dispatch, No. 78, of January 5, ultimo, you report the adverse decision of the Turkish Government with respect to the application of Mr. Simon Ben Nachman Lowenstein for permission to purchase a house and lot in Jerusalem.
You examine and discuss in this relation the privilege of American citizens, and especially those of Hebrew faith, under the Ottoman law of 1867, which concedes to foreigners the right of holding real estate in the Ottoman Empire, which law is formally accepted by the protocol of 1874, which has, as between the United States and Turkey the force of convention. By the eleventh article of that law, foreigners being proprietors of real estate in town or in country are placed upon terms of equality with Ottoman subjects in all things that concern their landed property, from which it would seem that the Turkish Government deduces the inhibition of alien Jews to purchase real estate in Jerusalem, inasmuch as Ottoman subjects of the Jewish faith are not allowed to hold real estate there. Although this phase of the argument has not [Page 1108]heretofore been dwelt upon in correspondence, nor been pressed with much emphasis by the secretary for foreign affairs in conversation with you, you expect sooner or later to see it pressed, in view of which you desire to receive such instructions as the Department may think proper to give on the subject.
The reservations or inhibitions derivable from article 11 of the Ottoman law of 1867, as annexed to the protocol of 1874, have heretofore attracted the attention of this Department, and, without having an express case before it for decision, it has nevertheless been inclined to think that a specific disability imposed upon Ottoman subjects for any cause as regards their tenure of real estate would in like manner be deemed to apply to aliens, provided no discriminations among the several classes of foreigners were thereby made. As to the reason and equity of the inhibition in question, that is another matter, and in view of the fact that the inhibition is not aimed at American Jews, the conditions of whose residence do not fall within those of Russian and other Hebrews, which is supposed to have led to the adoption of the Turkish rule, it would seem proper for you to endeavor to obtain some modification of the restrictions whereby, under such limitations and regulations as may be practical and just, American citizens of the Jewish faith may be allowed to purchase real estate in Jerusalem.