Banque Commerciale de Palestine (Commercial Bank of Palestine) was considered by the Arabs of the Land of Israel to be their national bank, although we are aware today that half of its shares were held by the Anglo- Palestine Company of the World Zionist Organization. David Levontin initiated the establishment of the bank, under the assumption that an Ottoman company managed by Arabs would stand a better chance of obtaining concessions for development purposes, and this would benefit of the Land’s Jewish inhabitants as well. The bank was established in 1909, and employed MuslimS and Christians as well as Jews. The bank was managed by Salim Bei Ayub, a Christian. Ismayil Bei Al Husseini – a Muslim and member of the well known Jerusalemite family – served as the bank’s chairman. Itzhak de-Avila, one of the pioneers of the Maccabi movement and an Anglo-Palestine Bank employee, served as vice manager of the bank from 1909 to 1918.
The bank had an Ottoman subsidiary for public works, which carried out lighting, electricity, sewage and telephone projects in Jerusalem. The company laid a twenty kilometer tramcar network around the gates of the Old City and transported water to Jerusalem from Rosh a’ayin. The bank acquired approximately 2,500 acres of land between Rafiach and El-Arish (in the Sinai Desert) for future Jewish settlement. The acquisition was made under the name of a British citizen residing in Cairo, in order to overcome the limits on transferring properties to Jews under Ottoman law, and in 1912 the land was sold to the Anglo-Palestine Bank. During the liquidation of the bank in 1921, the liquidator learnt about this transaction, and the Anglo-Palestine Bank pulled out, so as to refrain from involvement in possible olitical disputes. Eliezer Hoofien, CEO of the Anglo-Palestine Bank, wrote in 1933: “It is better for us that the political developments of this [deal] stay within the Government ministries in El-Arish, Cairo and London, and in their files, and remain unbeknownst to the Arab press.”
(From Barlev collection of Securities Certificates)