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Why the Jews?

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Fall Back
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Jan 6 2009 17:48
Why the Jews?

So, all the anti-semitism topics had me thinking on this. I'm sure there's a shit load written on this, but put in simple terms - why have the Jews been so persecuted over 2000+ years?

Or looked at from another angle - have they been especially persecuted as opposed to other minority groups? Have historically Jews faced worse prejudice than Christians in Muslim societies (or vice-versa)?

Also I guess kinda similar - why has Judaism persisted for so long in the face of such oppression? Have not groups of a similar historical size and legacy not been completely wiped out/assimilated?

What is "different" than anti-semitic ideology from racism? Why is this? Has anti-semitism always been viewed racially?

I know stuff about Jews being used as money lender etc. related to the emergence of capitalism - is it largely stemming from this, or is this overstated? Or were Jews just used in this way as a result of their "hated" position? Were historical Christian reasonings just retrospective justifications?

Sorry this is a bit garbled as I'm pretty much collecting together my thoughts (and not sure if it'd be better in history, I can move it if need by), but I reckon I've gotten the question over!

petey
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Jan 6 2009 18:30
Jack wrote:
Or looked at from another angle - have they been especially persecuted as opposed to other minority groups?

they certainly have had a bad time of it, but on the evidence of the OT there was a time, however long ago, when they gave it out too, and may have been considered not especially different or persecutable but as a nation like many another nation. perhaps the demonization was started by xians who needed to prove a theological point?

Jack wrote:
I know stuff about Jews being used as money lender etc. related to the emergence of capitalism - is it largely stemming from this, or is this overstated? Or were Jews just used in this way as a result of their "hated" position?

i know that this is a deep topic, and this isn't an explanation, but as i recall it, first there came a prohibition on jews owning land in places, and as a result they had to turn to trading professions. so i think, but don't know, that this connection of jews with money lending (e.g.) predates capitalism, at least of the industrial variety.

no1
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Jan 6 2009 18:56

coz they killed Jeeeeesus.

Antisemitism is a very complex phenomenon and I'm no expert, but one aspect is religious antisemitism. Antisemitism is different from 'normal' racism in that it pre-dates the concept of race as invented by Europeans to justify slavery and colonialism. So in the pre-capitalist era you have many many centuries of Christian religious anti-Semitism, justified by the idea that the Jews are to be blamed for Jesus being sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate. I don't know when it all started, but I know that, to get in the right mood, one of the first things the crusaders (i.e. 12-13 century) usually did was to massacre a lot of Jews. When 'scientific' racism was invented, this also transformed religious anti-semitism into the sort we know from the Nazis. The religious aspect of anti-semitism hasn't completely died out, for example a friend of mine was taught at school by his Catholic teacher (a nun, I think) that "The Jews" killed our lord jesus.

Islam was generally far more tolerant towards Jews and Muslims - as 'people of the book' they have a special status that safeguards their religion and makes them an integral part of soceity. The main thing that sets them apart is that they aren't allowed to take part in military stuff, and instead need to pay a special tax.

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Jan 6 2009 19:46

I had come to the understanding that Abram Leon fleshes out a theory which suggests that Jews are not a race, but rather a 'people class', who by various quirks of history developed a niche within mercantile trade before the rise of capitalism and this catergory stuck with them in one form or another. MIA I havent read the piece but some of the jewish socialists I had come across a number of years ago, swore by his understanding.

Further to the above, Im part way through a Social History of England, and the Jews arrived in Britain according to Morton after the Norman invaision in the form of sanctioned tax collectors which was a practice long carried out in France. Of course Morton suggests that the implicit reason was that the state could play out ethnic tensions to its own ends.

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Jan 6 2009 20:00

I was stuck on this about a year ago and never really came up with a satisfactory answer. Since anti-semitism is so long-lasting across cultural divides, it really is an important question. I'm sure the money-handling thing is a big part of it, but I think the difficulty with assimilation and acculturation (i.e. diet, marriage, religion, ethnic grouping, etc) probably led to an easy target for "othering."

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Jan 6 2009 20:00

Could it be that because they're matrilineal but patriarchal they are much less likely to marry outside of the group. Add this to their distinctive customs and they do tend to fail to integrate. Also the jews tend not to have migrated by conquest so they had to take land on sufferance which meant they were always likely to end up as scapegoats. (I recently read a book which said that part of the reason for the massacres and pogroms was because jews didn't fight back, not sure if that was true or not. It was about 17th century poland)

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Jan 6 2009 20:09
jef costello wrote:
Add this to their distinctive customs and they do tend to fail to integrate.

Customs possibly, but intergration? Jews in Germany were possibly at the time one of the most intergrated ethnic groups in Europe. Theres jews on possibly every continent and they regularlly absorb and reflect the host country, so Im not sure I would agree.

Mike Harman
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Jan 6 2009 21:03

october_lost: Both Jef and me have lived for a long time near Stamford Hill which is the largest Hasidic community in Europe, and extremely non-integrated - see this (somewhat annoying but listed high on google) Guardian article for an example - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/15/religion.communities so I don't think integration can be generalised either way.

petey
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Jan 6 2009 21:20

i think the lack of integration is part of it, but by no means all of it. the amish here in the US are just as ostentatiously non-integrated, but don't have the jews' trouble. but they don't have that long a history either. perhaps mormons did at first have some of the same attitudes shown to them that jews often have, but they're xians of a sort and started in the US and integrated pretty well after they ditched the polygamy. it keeps coming back to the jesus bit.

Angelus Novus
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Jan 6 2009 21:39

Nothing against reading Abram Leon, but I think it's better to start here:

http://www.autodidactproject.org/other/postone1.html

Actually, I think this text belongs in the Libcom library...

"Elements of Anti-semitism" from the Dialectic of Enlightenment is also worth consulting, but strangely, it's not available online.

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Jan 6 2009 21:52

petey-very good point re: the amish. i wonder though, as they are completely separated and have very, very little interaction with the larger population, if that doesn't make them a bit more immune from attacks. i grew up in rural indiana where there are a significant number of amish communities, and aside from their horse and buggies, i can't recall ever having a single conversation with one (but i do get really confused sorting out the mennonites, amish, and german baptists).

immediately after joseph smith's hallucinogenic founding, the mormons had a hell of a time--a couple of massacres here and there, some against them and some by them iirc. things only cooled off once they isolated themselves in utah and they have subsequently been rehabilitated into the larger society--well sort of. i for one got a lot of mileage out of jokes about the golden tablets on the white house lawn when mitt romney was the republican frontrunner.

i wonder if the conclusion here is a community can be completely separate or seek to integrate fully but being half-way just isn't going to be accepted?

Boris Badenov
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Jan 6 2009 22:42
Quote:
I know stuff about Jews being used as money lender etc. related to the emergence of capitalism - is it largely stemming from this, or is this overstated?

I don't think it's overstated at all; if the Jews had not been used (and implicitly otherized and ghettoized) for jobs unfit for Christians, but essential to the workings of a Christian society, Jewish identity, whatever you choose to designate by that, would be completely different today.
Despite the pogroms and the intense violence that Jews were subjected to through the ages, in Europe, they were never really the victims of systemic annihilation until the Nazis came along; traditional anti-semitism is based on ignorance and popular prejudice, that stems partly from an age-old tradition of anti-Judaism that can be traced back to ancient Rome, and partly from the aforementioned ghettoized identity games that the Jews have historically been forced into by the European ruling class.

tigersiskillers
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Jan 6 2009 23:01

I had a feeling that some of it has been that they've been seen to have an identity that is supra-national and therefore suspicious or even dangerous in the eyes of those with a vested interest in creating a national identity, in a similar way that Catholics were seen in this country after the state religion became protestant.

In reality it's likely to be a combination of most of the factors already raised.

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Jan 6 2009 23:41

This article from our International Review draws a lot on Marx's original essay on the Jewish question and Leon's book, which focuses on the economic role imposed on the Jews in feudal society. However as the article says there is also scope for looking into the ideological/psychological elements in anti-semitism. http://en.internationalism.org/ir/114_jewish_question.html

Zazaban
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Jan 6 2009 23:49
tigersiskillers wrote:
I had a feeling that some of it has been that they've been seen to have an identity that is supra-national and therefore suspicious or even dangerous in the eyes of those with a vested interest in creating a national identity, in a similar way that Catholics were seen in this country after the state religion became protestant.

In reality it's likely to be a combination of most of the factors already raised.

Wouldn't explain why there's so much hatred of jews in the left.

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Jan 7 2009 00:01
Zazaban wrote:
Wouldn't explain why there's so much hatred of jews in the left.

as someone pointed out in another thread, i think this has more to do with the white guilt stuff.

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Jan 7 2009 00:02
tigersiskillers wrote:
I had a feeling that some of it has been that they've been seen to have an identity that is supra-national and therefore suspicious or even dangerous in the eyes of those with a vested interest in creating a national identity, in a similar way that Catholics were seen in this country after the state religion became protestant.

In reality it's likely to be a combination of most of the factors already raised.

Good point.

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Jan 7 2009 02:33
no1 wrote:
Islam was generally far more tolerant towards Jews and Muslims - as 'people of the book' they have a special status that safeguards their religion and makes them an integral part of soceity. The main thing that sets them apart is that they aren't allowed to take part in military stuff, and instead need to pay a special tax.

It was more tolerant, but not all that much more. Christians were heavily persecuted in Egypt, for example, at several points.

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Jan 7 2009 02:40
petey wrote:
i know that this is a deep topic, and this isn't an explanation, but as i recall it, first there came a prohibition on jews owning land in places, and as a result they had to turn to trading professions. so i think, but don't know, that this connection of jews with money lending (e.g.) predates capitalism, at least of the industrial variety.

Yes, it long predates capitalism. The reason why many Jews became money lenders is that usury was prohibited for Christians in medieval European societies (why/when did that change?), so as non-Christians they were the only ones allowed to do it.

Boris Badenov
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Jan 7 2009 02:58
888 wrote:
(why/when did that change?)

According to Walter Laqueur:

"The issue at stake was not really whether the Jews had entered it out of greed (as antisemites claimed) or because most other professions were barred to them... In countries where other professions were open to them, such as Muslim Spain and the Ottoman empire, one finds more Jewish blacksmiths than Jewish money lenders. The high tide of Jewish usury was before the fifteenth century; as cities grew in power and affluence, the Jews were squeezed out from money lending with the development of banking."

akai
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Jan 7 2009 04:46

Vlad336 is quite right about this (about the effects of limiting the professions). For those interested in the subject, I can recommend a very interesting book by Hillel Levine called Economic Origins of Antisemitism: Poland and Its Jews in the Early Modern Period. Of course this does not explain the development of antisemitism entirely - it's just a good look at some factors of its development in Poland.

Another very strong reason for this was the role of the Catholic church. The "Jesus killer" stuff is just for the masses: the church is and was a major power and industry. Church antisemitism has always been interlaced with both religious zealotry and primitive attempts to create religious hegemony (all the better for power and profit).

If we look at modern-day antisemitism we can see different trends. Clearly in the Arab world there are very different aspects of this than in say Poland. There is an important factor here which is very simple: the ability to manipulate poor, undereducated and socially outcast people with ideologies such as nationalism and with religion and the convenience of the Jews as the generic "other" or great threat. Modern day antisemitism in Poland at least is also related to the relatively low number of Jews in society (we all know why) which lends to the paranoid attitudes about "minorities" who supposedly have "too much influence".

It cannot go without mentioning that a very important role in the resurrection or virulent antisemitism in post-war Poland was played by the communists. Perhaps some people here don't know about the incidents of 68 and about the role of Moczar. Moczar's "Zionist purges" in 68 have to be seen as partly motivated by the desire to simply get rid of some people and put his people in their place - but Moczar also was nationalist minded and a real antisemite, which in earlier times had him in trouble in the party. Moczar's antisemitism was usually guised as anti-Zionism and was welcomed in the Eastern Bloc during the period immediately after the Six-Day war since the Eastern Bloc's geopolitical interests in the Middle East lay with Arab countries outside of the US field of influence. But the Soviet Politburo had come up with a policy to "weed out Jews" much earlier - in 1965.

I should note that, at least in Poland, Soviet support anti-Zionist purges served another purpose. In reality, there was a growing wave of anti-communism and Russophobia and the charges of Zionism was a good red herring used also to discredit anti-communists (or anti-Soviet socialists). They had no scruples about manipulating hate propaganda to divide people.

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Jan 7 2009 07:38

The discussion of integration / non-integration of Jews is missing one key element - the Haskalah (the Jewish englightenment) which began in the late 18th century (orig in Germany). Prior to this, there was virtually no integration whatsoever - Jews lived geographically near non-Jews but separated themselves almost entirely (or stopped being Jews entirely).

So I definitely think jef's point "Could it be that because they're matrilineal but patriarchal they are much less likely to marry outside of the group. Add this to their distinctive customs and they do tend to fail to integrate." is probably a large contributing factor, and (pre-Haskalah) october_lost's point "Jews in Germany were possibly at the time one of the most intergrated ethnic groups in Europe. Theres jews on possibly every continent and they regularlly absorb and reflect the host country, so Im not sure I would agree." doesn't ring as true.

Obviously there is no one reason why Jews have suffered historical oppression, but rather a number of factors - the religious (Christian espec) aspect, the money-lending aspect are probably to of the biggest factors, and I think pre-Haskalah lack of integration combined with the high number of Jews in most major European centres also made them an extremely convenient scapegoat for the ruling class when one was needed - probably the closest to a perfect picture of an "other" than those in power could ever hope to find.

Zazaban - Yeah, ambi is a fucking moron. I don't know why people on flag put up with him, seriously...

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Jan 7 2009 09:09
888 wrote:
no1 wrote:
Islam was generally far more tolerant towards Jews and Muslims - as 'people of the book' they have a special status that safeguards their religion and makes them an integral part of soceity. The main thing that sets them apart is that they aren't allowed to take part in military stuff, and instead need to pay a special tax.

It was more tolerant, but not all that much more. Christians were heavily persecuted in Egypt, for example, at several points.

I would say that it was a lot more tolerant. Tolerant is exactly what it was. It didn't offer equality. It tolerated them, but compare the treatment of Jews in the Islamic world and Christendom and you will see a qualitative difference.

Devrim

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Jan 7 2009 10:12

Zizek discusses islamic tolerance of jews here, kind of relevent although not focused on anti-semitism per se:

Zizek wrote:
Let us begin with fundamentalism. Here, the evil (to paraphrase Hegel) often dwells in the gaze that perceives it. Take the Balkans during the 1990s, the site of widespread human-rights violations. At what point did the Balkans—a geographical region of South-Eastern Europe—become ‘Balkan’, with all that designates for the European ideological imaginary today? The answer is: the mid-19th century, just as the Balkans were being fully exposed to the effects of European modernization. The gap between earlier Western European perceptions and the ‘modern’ image is striking. Already in the 16th century the French naturalist Pierre Belon could note that ‘the Turks force no one to live like a Turk’. Small surprise, then, that so many Jews found asylum and religious freedom in Turkey and other Muslim countries after Ferdinand and Isabella had expelled them from Spain in 1492—with the result that, in a supreme twist of irony, Western travellers were disturbed by the public presence of Jews in big Turkish cities.
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Jan 7 2009 13:28

before i say anything more i would add that i've never specifically read up on any of this stuff and don't have any jewish background and consequent knowledge, so while i can string together a plausible narrative it's the product of all sorts of fragments i've read, discussions etc rather than proper research, or even reading a jewish history book.

in terms of the original questions, from what i've read the anti-usury angle plays a big part (and i focus on this in my blog as i'm addressing anti-semitism among anti-capitalists), but then again i was reading up around the social credit movement, which headed by the anti-semite CH Douglas blamed banks for the problems of capitalism (including workers being paid less in wages than the value of their products, muppet).

other factors will include/cultural religious stuff like others have mentioned i.e. inter-religious conflicts, 'jesus killers' (particularly since christianity became Rome's state religion in... 4th century AD was it?) and the conflict of a 'stateless nation' with the emerging hegemony of the nation-state (i don't think there's a 'jewish nation', but they are presented as such by some).

as to how judaism survived while other sects perished, well partly this is fallacious - if they didn't survive we'd be discussing another sect now. but also there were various centres of religious tolerance that allowed jews sanctuary - the turkish regions mentioned by zizek above as well as the dutch republic of the 16th-17th century spring to mind. if anything persecution probably strengthened judaism; it's very hard to physically exterminate a whole group of people (even the holocaust failed to), whereas minority sects tend to cease to be by going extinct of their own accord. persecution may have sharpened the jewish identity and helped sustain it.

as to whether jews have been persecuted more than others, they're probably up there, not least because they've been around for 2 millenia but not been a state religion for most if not all of that time. of course with the emergence of zionism in the late 19th/early 20th century made this victimhood central to the identity (if it wasn't already) as the foremost argument for a jewish state. this created an unlikely agreement between anti-semites and zionists - both wanted jews out of europe (was it balfour that was the raving anti-semite?). of course the holocaust further reinforced this identity, given the importance of the nazis as the ultimate evil in western cultural hegemony today, although we'd do well to heed gilles dauvé's warning that:

Dauvé wrote:
The horrors of fascism were not the first of their kind, nor were they the last. Nor were they the worst, no matter what anyone says.

Boris Badenov
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Jan 7 2009 13:38
JK wrote:
if anything persecution probably strengthened judaism; it's very hard to physically exterminate a whole group of people (even the holocaust failed to), whereas minority sects tend to cease to be by going extinct of their own accord. persecution may have sharpened the jewish identity and helped sustain it.

yes, only before the holocaust persecution of the jews was never took up by Christian powers on a large scale; during the middle ages, some groups were persecuted much more intensely than the jews precisely because they really were "enemies from within" (the cathars for example were the focus of the first crusade on european soil and the reason why the inquisition was founded), and not just a "necessary evil".
Had the Jews been treated in that fashion it is not unlikely that they might not have survived as such a distinct cultural and religious group to this day.
It was really an uneasy mix of persecution and state-sponsorship that did it.

no1
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Jan 7 2009 14:22
Joseph K. wrote:
[...] this created an unlikely agreement between anti-semites and zionists - both wanted jews out of europe (was it balfour that was the raving anti-semite?).

The most striking example of this agreement is probably the raving pro-Zionist Adolf Eichmann.

petey
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Jan 7 2009 16:13
jesuithitsquad wrote:
petey-very good point re: the amish. i wonder though, as they are completely separated and have very, very little interaction with the larger population, if that doesn't make them a bit more immune from attacks. i grew up in rural indiana where there are a significant number of amish communities, and aside from their horse and buggies, i can't recall ever having a single conversation with one (but i do get really confused sorting out the mennonites, amish, and german baptists).

i've been in lancaster, and the amish there interact easily, if not very frequently, with the "english". i've heard they're more conservative tho' in IN and NY: the buggies have orange triangles in PA. (the PA boys sometimes come to town on weekends looking for action because all english girls are, of course, loose.) ps i think you can call the amish 'fundamentalist mennonites'.

jesuithitsquad wrote:
immediately after joseph smith's hallucinogenic founding, the mormons had a hell of a time--a couple of massacres here and there, some against them and some by them iirc. things only cooled off once they isolated themselves in utah and they have subsequently been rehabilitated into the larger society--well sort of.

yeah, as you say, sort of - lots of people still don't like 'em. but their initial reception is the closest thing i can think of to the pogroms and disabilities to which jews have been subjected.

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Jan 8 2009 00:03
Joseph K wrote:
but then again i was reading up around the social credit movement, which headed by the anti-semite CH Douglas blamed banks for the problems of capitalism (including workers being paid less in wages than the value of their products, muppet).

There is heaps on the history of Douglas, antisemitism, Social Credit and the arguments over Jews within it (and related groups like the League Of Rights) in NZ, Australia, Canada and the UK in the excellent book The Politics of Nostalgia: Racism and the Extreme Right in New Zealand by Paul Spoonley.

Jones
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Jan 8 2009 02:08

admin: trolling deleted - you're on a warning

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Jan 8 2009 02:56
Jones wrote:
Quote:
I'm sure there's a shit load written on this, but put in simple terms - why have the Jews been so persecuted over 2000+ years?

It is a sad state of affairs that questions such as this get asked on an Internet forum. It means that our educational system has completely failed us.

As is admited, there is a shitload written on this. Do people not know how to perform basic research? Certainly, that there is a lack of educating critical thinking skills, but lack of basic research skills? Do people really not understand that to learn one must actually read books?

Ever hear of a library? It is full of these things called books. And some of these books are about something called history. And in these history books there is a shitload written about Judaism in Europe.

Try reading "Constantine's Sword," John Carroll. Tells you a, um, shitload.

Troll, lazy or dumb... Take your pick.

Can someone delete this useless trolling comment.
Jack asked an honest question and I for one have found the resulting discussion interesting.