Posts Tagged ‘Ferdinand and Isabella’

How Many Indigenous Jews Are Emigrating from Israel?

April 11, 2019

One of the major issues confronting the survival of the indigenous Christian community in Israel is emigration. Christians constitute one of the best educated and most skilled sectors of Palestinian society and economy. Historically they have provided much of the area’s political leadership, serving as mayors, village headmen and in important positions in the P.L.O., and have also been active running businesses, particularly tourism, and providing for the Palestinian people’s welfare through charity. But their numbers have been decimated through pressure from the state of Israel on the one hand, and Islamic fundamentalism on the other, which views them as collaborators with the Israeli state. Before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Christians comprised about 1o per cent of the Palestinian population. Now it’s down to about 1 per cent. Unable to find suitable jobs in Israel and the Occupied Territories to due the system of Israeli apartheid, and with their businesses and farms heavily squeezed by the mass of regulations and legal obstacles put in the way of all Palestinians, many are emigrating to America, Europe and Australia.

But it’s not only the Christian community that has sought better opportunities elsewhere. I found this fascinating reference to indigenous Jewish emigration from Israel in a passage discussing Christian emigration from the Holy Land in Robert Brenton Betts, Christians in the Arab East (London: SPCK 1979) on page 76 discussing the problem of obtaining the correct figures for emigration from the Israel:

No sectarian emigration figures are available for Israel (largely because they government does not wish to acknowledge publicly the large number of Jews, especially from the Sephardim, who are emigrating as well)….

The Sephardim, or Sephardic Jews are the descendants of the medieval Spanish Jews, who were expelled from the country by Ferdinand and Isabella in the Fifteenth century with the Muslim Moors. Their vernacular language is Ladino, a form of Old Spanish. After their expulsion, many found sanctuary under Islam in North Africa and the Middle East. Israel claims to be the nation state of all Jews, everywhere, something which is denied by non- or anti-Zionist Jews, whether secular, Liberal, Reform or Orthodox. Historically Reform Judaism rejected Zionism because they felt that their future lay as equal citizens in their traditional European homelands. And many Orthodox Jews reject Zionism because they believe that Israel can only be restored by divine action through the Messiah. Until then, they believe that their duty as devout Jews is to remain in exile as commanded by the Almighty.

But the emigration of indigenous Jews from Israel raises further issues challenging the supposed identity of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. For anti-Zionists, Israel isn’t a restoration of ancient Israel, but a White settler state like the other colonies established by Europeans at the expense of the indigenous peoples in the Americas, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. They point to Israeli racism against non-White Jews, such as those from Ethiopia, as well as the persecution of the Mizrahim, Arab Jews. The Zionist pioneers initially were reluctant to admit them, calling them, amongst other derogatory epithets, the ‘dust of the Earth’. They were held to be biologically inferior to White, European and American Jews. The labor shortage due to the lack of White colonists from the West eventually forced the Zionist authorities to admit them, but they were heavily discriminated against. They were given the worst and lowest paid jobs and housing and were educated in separate schools from the Ashkenazim. As a result, many of them have become even more racist and intolerant than mainstream Israeli society. In the 1960s, tens of thousands of Arab Jews were expelled from Israel because they were culturally indistinguishable from Arabs, or so I understand. And from reading this, it appears that many Sephardic Jews, who had lived in Palestine for centuries, also left of their own accord.

Which would appear to confirm that Israel really isn’t the ‘nation state of the Jews’, whatever Benjamin Netanyahu and the other racial nationalists in his coalition say, because clearly there has been a sector of the indigenous Jewish population that has not welcomed the establishment of Israel, or been properly treated and respected by Israeli society and its authorities.

Persecution and discrimination are not confined just to Christians and indigenous Jews. All Palestinians have been brutally maltreated by Israeli expansion and colonization, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, and Christian Palestinians have been at pains to point out that they are persecuted because they are Palestinians, and to show solidarity with their Muslim compatriots. But there’s also a story here of the persecution of the indigenous Jewish community, who have also sought refuge in emigration. And it’s been hidden in order to maintain the stance that Israel is the state of all Jews, everywhere, world-wide. The emigration of the Sephardim strongly indicates that, at least as far as these emigrants go, this definitely isn’t the case.

 

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William Penn on Religious Toleration

November 18, 2016

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was a Quaker and an ardent campaigner for freedom of conscience. He wrote at least three pamphlets arguing for it, The People’s Ancient and Just Liberties Asserted of 1670; The Great Case of Liberty and Conscience (1670) and A Perswasive to Moderation to Dissenting Christians (1685). They’re collected, along with his other writings, in The Peace of Europe, The Fruits of Solitude and Other Writings, edited by Edwin B. Bronner (London: J.M. Dent 1993). Penn argues for freedom of conscience on scriptural, theological, and historical grounds, as well as citing cases of contemporary religious toleration amongst the states in his day, where religious diversity had not caused civil dissension and war. This included the various Muslim empires, which he noticed also were characterised by different sects, all of which apparently lived in peace. He particularly felt that religious persecution was not something Christians should do. Not only was it positively forbidden by scripture, in his opinion, it was unnecessary. Christianity did not need the use of force to prove its truth. Furthermore, the use of force was actually self-defeating, as it caused people to despise, rather than respect Christianity.

Here’s a couple of passages that struck me as particularly acute, though all of the arguments in The Great Case of Liberty and Conscience are worth reading, as one of the arguments for toleration is the peaceful coexisting of Christians and Muslims in Spain under Charles V. This didn’t last long, as they were expelled in the 15th century under Ferdinand and Isabella. Nevertheless, it is important and acutely relevant to today that Penn had no doubts that Christians and Muslims could live together peacefully without religious coercion.

11. It ever was the prudence of the wise magistrate to oblige their people; but what comes shorter of it than persecution? What’s dearer to them than the liberty of their conscience? What cannot they better spare than it? Their peace consists in the enjoyment of it: and he that by compliance has lost it, carries his penalty with him, and is his own prison. Surely such practices must render the government uneasy, and beget a great disrespect to the governors, in the hearts of the people.

12. But which concludes our prudential part shall be this, that after all their pains and good will to stretch men to their measure, they never will be able to accomplish their end: And if he be an unwise man that provides means where he designs no end, how near is he kin to him that proposes an end inobtainable. Experience has told us, 1. How invective it has made the imposed on. 2. What distractions have ensued such attempts. 3. What reproach has followed to the Christian religion, when the professors of it have a used a coercive power upon conscience. And lastly, that force never yet made either a good Christian, or a good subject. (p, 171.)

3. Unity, (not the least, but greatest end of government is lost) for by seeking an unity of opinion (by the ways intended) the unity requisite to uphold us, as a civil society, will be quite destroyed. And such as relinquish that, to get the other (besides that they are unwise) will infallibly lose both in the end. (p. 172).

In short, what religious, what wise, what prudent, what good natured person would be a persecutor; certainly it’s an office only fit for those who being void of all reason, to evidence the verity of their religion, fancy it to be true, from that strong propensity and greedy inclination they find in themselves to persecute the contrary; a weakness of so ill a consequence to all civil societies, that the admission of it ever was, and ever will prove their utter ruin, as well as their great infelicity who pursue it.

And though we could not more effectually express our revenge than by leaving such persons to the scope of their own humours; yet being taught to love and pray for our persecutors, we heartily wish their better information, that (if it be possible) they may act more suitably to the good pleasure of the eternal just God, and beneficially to these nations. (p. 185).

Penn was aware of the counterargument that by arguing for freedom of conscience, he was also arguing for religious Dissenters to be able to attack and murder everyone else, and deals with it in the following passage:

Object. 3. But at this rate ye may pretend to cut our throats, and do all manner of savage acts.

Ans. Though the objection be frequent, yet it is as foully ridiculous. We are pleading only for such a liberty of conscience, as preserve the nation in peace, trade, and commerce; and would not exempt any man, or party of men, from not keeping those excellent laws, that tend to sober, just and industrious living. It is a Jesuitical moral, to kill a man before he is born: first, to suspect him of an evil design, and then kill him to prevent it. (p. 175).

Trump’s embrace of Fascists and anti-Semites, and his automatic suspicion of all Muslims, as somehow a threat to America, is here explicitly condemned by one of the very first founders of America, and a leading figure in the centuries-long campaign for freedom of conscience in Britain. Penn was one of the founders of the great American tradition of religious liberty, a tradition which Trump is determined to attack and uproot. He must not be allowed to do so.