IV. Anti-Semitism in Slave Society and Feudalism

 

 

 

It is necessary to differentiate between the attacks on rich Jews as part of the ruling class and attacks on all the Jews regardless of their class. When rebelling slaves killed slave masters, among them Jews, it was not a racist act but part of the struggle for the liberation of the slaves. When mobs in 1903 in Russia killed Jews in a pogrom against Jews regardless of their class it was Anti-Semitism. [1]

 

It is possible that Anti-Semitism existed already in the ancient world. Peter Schäfer in Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World (1998) wrote that it began with two fierce outbursts of hostility in Egypt: the destruction of a Jewish temple in Elephantine in 410 B.C.E. and the riots in Alexandria in 38 C.E. According to his account the reason for these outbursts were deep-seated ethnic resentments. It was from Egypt that hatred of Jews, based on allegations of impiety, xenophobia, and misanthropy, was transported first to Syria-Palestine and then to Rome, where it acquired a new element: fear of this small but distinctive community. To the hatred and fear, ingredients of Christian theology were soon added to form a mix all too familiar in Western history. [2]

 

It is not true that the Jews have suffered from Anti-Semitism for 2000 years. Jews have been on both sides of the class struggle. There were periods that some powerful Jews helped persecute others. There is no doubt, for example, that the upper class Jewish priests who owed their position and power to the Romans conspired to have Jesus put to death. They were afraid of his teachings and viewed him as a threat to their power. Yet Jesus was a Jew who was killed because he was a rebel. By the middle of the second century, the Gospel of Peter portrayed the Romans as friends of Jesus, and the Jews as the ones who crucified him. Thus, a Jewish victim of Roman rule and their servants was transformed into a Christian victim of Jewish violence. For centuries, such notions fueled anti-Semitism, leading to the denunciation of Jews as Christ-killers.

 

While the church in the Middle Ages spread Anti-Jewish feelings, the real reason for the Anti-Semitism back then was the social position of the Jewish upper class. Some Jews became prominent in banking and money lending, because early Christianity didn’t permit loans with interest. To divert class animosity of the peasants the rulers directed it against the Jews and in some cases it led to the expulsion of Jews from European countries among them France, Germany, Portugal and Spain during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

 

From 1189 to 1190, the anti-Jewish pogroms in London, York, and numerous other cities and towns displayed cruelty and barbarity never before seen by English Jews. Prior to 1066, no Jews were recorded living in the English kingdom. However, during the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror brought Jews from Rouen, France. Because he wanted the government’s dues to be paid in coin, not by kind, and he saw the Jews as those who could supply him and the kingdom with it. William the Conqueror saw the Jews as an important financial asset, one which could fund the kingdom’s treasure.

 

Those Jews enjoyed privileges unknown to the English peasants. King Henry I (1100 – 1135) permitted all English Jews to travel freely without the burden of tolls or customs, the right to be tried by their peers in a court of law, and the right to swear on the Torah, among other liberties. Henry also declared a Jew’s oath to be worth that of 12 Christians. This did not endear the Jews in the eyes of the peasants.

 

During the reign of King Henry II (1154 – 1189), English Jews prospered economically. Aaron of Lincoln, a Jewish financier, became one of the richest men in all of England. Jews were able to build themselves houses of stone, a material which was usually reserved for palaces. By the end of Henry II’s reign, however, increasing Jewish financial wealth had incurred the anger of the English aristocracy that saw the Jews as a threat to their power as they accumulated debts owed to the rich Jews.

 

To the coronation of King Richard I on September 3, 1189, many prominent English Jews arrived at Westminster Abbey to pay homage to the new king. The nobles incited against the Jews and the Jewish attendees were flogged and thrown out of the banquet following the coronation. A rumor spread that Richard had ordered the English to kill the Jews. Christian peasants attacked the predominantly Jewish neighborhood, setting the Jews’ stone houses on fire at night and killing those who tried to escape. King Richard did not protect the Jews.

 

When Richard left on the Third Crusade Lynn’s Jews suffered attacks. Similar attacks occurred in the towns of Colchester, Thetford, Ospringe, and Lincoln. While their houses were ransacked, the Jews of Lincoln managed to save themselves by taking refuge in the city’s castle. On March 7, 1190, attacks in Stamford, Lincolnshire killed many Jews, and on March 18, 57 Jews were massacred in Bury St. Edmunds. However, the bloodiest of the pogroms took place from the 16th to the 17th of March in the city of York.” [3]

 

Another example is Spain. In the 8th century, the Berber Muslims (Moors) conquered nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula. Under Muslim rule, Spain flourished, and Jews and Christians were granted the protected status of dhimmi. [4]

 

The conditions in Spain improved so much under Muslim rule that Jews from all across Europe came to live in Spain. There the upper class Jews flourished in business and in the fields of astronomy, philosophy, math, science, medicine, and religious study.

 

In the early 11th century, centralized authority based at Cordoba broke down following the Berber invasion and the ousting of the Umayyads. The disintegration of the caliphate expanded the opportunities of rich Jews.

 

Yet, despite this prosperity under Muslim rule, the Golden Age of Spain began to decline as the Muslims began to battle the Christians for control of the Iberian Peninsula and Spanish kingdoms in 722. The decline of Muslim rule gave a rise to anti-Semitic activity as Jews were identified with the declining caliphate. In 1066, a Muslim mob stormed the royal palace in Granada, and crucified Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacred most of the Jewish population of the city. Many Jews fled the Iberian Peninsula to neighboring nations.

 

Though initially the Christian rulers were as hostile to the Jewish population as the Muslim rulers had become, the Christians formed an alliance with the leadership of the Jews and enlisted many of them in their war effort. The Christians relied on the Jews for assistance in fighting the Muslim rulers since the Jews were familiar with the local language and customs. Collaboration between the Jews and Christians brought the Jews increased persecution from Muslim rulers, but full autonomy in Christian controlled regions.

 

Alfonso VI, the conqueror of Toledo (1085), offered the Jews full equality with Christians and even the rights offered to the nobility to give the wealthy Jews the loot from the Moors. Jews prospered under Alfonso and by 1098, nearly 15,000 Jews were living in Toledo, a city of 50,000.

 

At one point, Alfonso’s army contained 40,000 Jews, who were distinguished from the other combatants by their black-and-yellow turbans. (So important were the Jews to the Spanish Christian army that the Spanish chose not to begin the battle of Zallaka until after the Sabbath had passed).

 

After the Christian loss at the Battle of Ucles (1108), a riot by poor Christians that identified the Jews with the ruler broke out in Toledo; many Jews were killed and their houses and synagogues burned.

 

King Alfonso VII at the beginning curtailed the rights and liberties that his father granted the Jews. He ordered that neither a Jew nor a convert may exercise legal authority over Christians, but at the same time he made the Jews responsible for the collection of the royal taxes. He later became friendlier, and gave the Jews all their former privileges and even additional ones.

 

Under the reign of Alfonso VIII, the upper class Jews gained greater influence that angered the Spanish nobility. When the king was defeated at the battle of Alarcos, the nobility retaliated by murdering his Jewish lover and her relatives in Toledo.

 

With the crusades the condition of Jews began to deteriorate and an Anti-Jewish riot broke out in Toledo (1212), robbing and butchering Jews. Like the Jews of France, they were required to distinguish themselves from Christians by wearing a yellow badge on their clothing. A decree issued by Pope Innocent IV in April prohibited Jews from building new synagogues without special permission, outlawing proselytizing by pain of death, and forbidding most forms of contact between Jews and Christians.

 

The money lending business brought the rich Jews wealth and influence. Kings and prelates, noblemen and farmers, all needed money, and could obtain it only from the Jews, who were forced to act as bailiffs, or tax-collectors since Christians were forbidden from charging each other interest rates. Becuase of their acquired wealth, as well as government anti-Semitism, Jews were discriminated and persecuted.

 

In 1492, with the final victory of the Christians, taking back Spain, the rulers were no longer in need of Jews and thus Jews as well as Muslims were expelled from Spain. The systematic robbery of South and North America and the slave trade compensated for the lack of the skills of the Jews.” [5]

 

Thus Anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages, like all other forms of racism, was rooted in the place of the Jews in the relationship of production. Yet it is a different form because it is not directed against the most oppressed but against the middle and upper class Jews who built their fortune by oppressing the working masses in the service of the ruling class. To divert the hate of the oppressed, the ruling class directed it towards Jews in general, including the Jewish working people.

 

For this reason the Socialist Ferdinand August Bebel (22 February 1840 – 13 August 1913) said that Anti-Semitism is the socialism of the fools.

 

 

 

The new Anti-Semitism between the later part of the 19th century and World War 2

 

 

 

The Anti-Semitism of the late 19th century is different in socio-political reasons and the ideology that justifies the persecution of the Jews than the Middle Ages. Capitalist modernization, for Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism, led to the transformation of the role of Jews in European societies. By the end of the 19th century, European states became less dependent on wealthy Jewish financiers and Jews experienced a new status characterized by a significant loss of power while retaining significant wealth.

 

For Arendt, the inconsistency between insignificant power and phenomenal wealth created, within the general public, the image of Jews as a despised parasitical social group. Arendt cites as evidence that the greatest periods of modern Anti-Semitism coincided with the decline in Jewish influence. While there is an element of truth to this argument it is a weak one, because at the time, pogroms against Jews took place mostly in countries still much dependent upon Jewish wealth.

 

In any case, this single factor is not sufficient to explain modern Anti-Semitism and the ideological claim that Jews are an inferior race. Other elements were the mass immigration from East Europe of Jewish artisans that competed against non-Jewish artisans and shop-keepers. The periods of economic crisis within decaying capitalism created an incentive for the ruling class and the mass media to divert public anger towards the Jews. The fact that many Jews in Russia supported the Bolsheviks led to the accusation of all Jews as Bolsheviks. Thus, at the same time, Jews were accused of being the capitalist overlords of the world as well as of anti-capitalist Bolshevism.

 

19th century Anti-Semitism in Russia was rooted in the uneven development of capitalism of the empire. Better medical treatment led to a high rate of natural living births and to the increase of the population that many of them became surpluses who could not be absorbed into the traditional Jewish occupations. Capitalist development, after the liberation of the serfs in 1861 opened up new sources of livelihood for a small number of rich Jews owners of industry and banking, but caused deprivation to most Jews, as it had eradicated many of the traditional occupations.

 

This development was exacerbated by the expulsion of the Jews from the villages and their eviction from occupations connected with the rural economy. Many Jews became artisans and there was fierce competition among them, while others became day-laborers and, in fact, remained without livelihood. Most of them could not find employment in the new modern industry. Many Jews emigrated to West Europe and even more to the US.

 

Like in the Middle age the Russian ruling class with the support of the Orthodox Church diverted the hatred of the suffering peasants and the urban poor toward the Jews. This is the reason behind the “Protocol of the Elders of Zion” and the accusation of Jews of using the blood of Christian children for the Passover rituals. The “Black Hundreds”, a proto-fascist organization, created by the Russian police, organized pogroms against the Jews, especially as Eastern approached. Shops were looted, women were raped, and many were killed.

 

In his diary for 1920, the great Jewish writer Isaac Babel describes witnessing one such outbreak: “they cut off beards, that’s usual, assembled 45 Jews in the marketplace, led them to the slaughter yard, tortures, cut out tongues, wails heard all over the square.”

 

The pogroms started in the 1880s after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, out of fear of the coming socialist revolution and reached the climax during the civil war after the Russian Revolution of 1917. “It seems clear,” Zipperstein says, “that no fewer than one hundred thousand Jews were murdered in these offhandedly brutal horrors, and at least that many girls and women raped and countless maimed between 1918 and 1920.[6] What the Zionists hide is that the advanced workers, armed with whatever they could use, led by the Bolsheviks and others, defended the Jews against the pogroms.

 

Thus the Anti-Semitism in the Russian empire was directed against the socialist revolution. It is not by chance that many Jews joined the revolutionary movement, making the connection between the struggle against Anti-Semitism and the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and the oppressed.

 

“At the same time, Jewish bankers supported the Tsar. The Russians approached the financiers of the West for the first time as early as 1890. By then the pogromist fury had been raging for nine years. The impassioned demurrer of 1882 had no effect; the crimes showed no signs of subsiding. The Rothschilds of Paris, the first to be approached, flatly refused. They put forward strictly economic considerations. Within fifteen months, however, they changed their minds. In April 1891, a Rothschild-Bleichroder combination, assisted by the German Diskonto Gesellschaft and Messrs. Mendelssohn (of Berlin), concluded a loan of $300,000,000 at 3 per cent for the conversion of $175,000,000 of 4 per cent bonds of the Russian Credit Foncier Mutuel.

 

The English Rothschilds criticized this deal because allegedly it was against the interest of the suffering Jews, however Britain became an ally of the Tsar and the Jewish banker Sir Ernest Cassel supported the Loan the British King provided the Tsar. The French Rothschilds, under pressure, retreated from the deal but only for a short time. Upon the renewal of the deal they declared: "It became a patriotic duty to assist Russia in her financial requirements, and the Rothschilds recognized that they would have to ignore the special interests of the Jew.”

 

The Jewish Austrian banker Theodore Ritter von Taussig, the director of one of the foremost banks, the Boden-Kreditanstalt offered Russia a loan “He suffered a penalty, however, at the hands of his fellow-Jews who promptly disowned him.”

 

“When the German "Russia Syndicate" was launched in 1895, the Frankfurt Rothschilds kept aloof, but willing cooperation was secured from Messrs. S. Bleich-Roder, Mendelssohn & Co., and the Berlin Handels-Gesellschaft under the direction of Carl Fiirstenberg, one of the best-known latter-day German Jewish financiers, whose relations with the Tsarist authorities were in fact so intimate that he described himself as 'the banker of Russia”. [7]

 

In the civil war between the Reds and the Anti-Semite Whites, some pro-monarchist Jews joined the whites in spite of the White pogroms. These people were at the same time Russian and Jewish-Zionists-nationalists. One of them was Daniel Pasmanik. Around 1900 he became involved with the Zionist movement and became a leading figure in the Russian branch of the Zionist organization together with Vladimir Zabotinsky. He admired Herzl. He advocated Zionist cooperatives that will be closed to Arabs. By 1906 he became close to the Poalei Zion (Zionist labor). He opposed the Bund and supported the colonization of Palestine. Later on he became an admirer of Nietzsche, quoted from the book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and loved his superman idea.

 

According to him the new Jewish supermen would be the “national aristocrats”. He trusted the Duma of 1912 (the period of reaction) to help the Jews. He volunteered to the Russian army in WWI and supported the victory of British and French imperialism that according to him will advance Russia. During the Russian revolution he joined the bourgeois Kadet Party that even Zabotinsky criticized as an anti-Jewish party. He joined the whites while remaining a loyal Zionist. With the defeat of the whites he escaped to Paris where he praised Mussolini’s fascism. [8]

 

He was not an exception, after all, Zabotinsky opened a sea cadet academy in Mussolini’s Italy.

 

 

 

Anti-Semitism in the US

 

 

 

Even though American Jews did not suffer the same level of virulent, state-sanctioned aggression as European Jews have, nor the level of persecution Indians and blacks suffered in the US, anti-Semitism very much existed in the US as well. Right-wing populist politicians in the 19th century preached that the Jewish bankers, not all the capitalist class, are a threat to the security of hard working Americans. Images of Jews with big noses and crooked faces were used in political cartoons. When more than 1.7 million Eastern European Jews arrived in the country at the turn of the 20th century to encounter furious petit bourgeois’ nativist hate.

 

The most famous American Anti-Semitic incident took place in 1915 when a right-wing mob stormed a Georgia prison to seize and lynch a Jewish businessman Leo Frank, who had been falsely accused of murdering a 13-year-old Christian girl.

 

Henry Ford, the car industry tycoon, published a newspaper in the 1920s, The Dearborn Independent, that used anti-Semitic propaganda. Ford wrote: “Jewish plan to control the world, not by territorial acquisition, not by military aggression, not by governmental subjugation, but by control of the machinery of commerce and exchange.” Another known Anti-Semite was the pilot Charles Lindbergh, a sympathizer of Nazi Germany. Another known Anti-Semite was the priest Father Charles Coughlin, who railed against “world Jewish domination.”

 

In the South, the Ku Klux Klan also targeted Jews and not only African Americans. In Dorchester, Massachusetts, Irish Catholic gangs in the 1940s attacked Jews in the streets. Jews faced restrictions that kept them out of law firms, medical professions, universities and colleges, fraternities, hotels, country clubs and more. Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton universities imposed strict quotas on how many Jews they would admit. Like African Americans, Jews were subject to restrictive real-estate covenants that prevented “Hebrews” from living in particular neighborhoods. [9] The fascist organization known as the Silver Shirts led by William Dudley Pelley, protected by police, marched in the streets.

 

Thus, once again, Anti-Semitism was a diversion of the class struggle against capitalism to the Jews, whether capitalists or working class. Class hatred of the capitalist Jews as part of the capitalist class is not Anti-Semitism. Hatred of all the Jews is.

 

 

 

World War 2

 

 

 

The Jewish holocaust had millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis and their supporters. It is well documented and we will not repeat it in this booklet. The Nazi’s policy of extermination of the Jews came after the Jews became physically weak because of the conditions in the labor camps and Ghettos while other sources of cheap labor from East Europe were available to the Nazis. The mass killing of the Jews began when it was clear to Hitler that he failed in the war with the Soviet Union which foiled his plan to settle the Jews in Siberia. Also, firmly believing that Jews controlled the US, he hoped that by holding the Jews hostage at the threat of extermination would stop the US from entering the war.

 

The United States, however, did not even welcome Jewish refugees from Europe. In 1939, 83% of Americans were opposed to the admission of refugees.

 

In the midst of the Great Depression, many feared the burden that immigrants could place upon the nation’s economy; refugees, who in most cases were prevented from bringing any money or assets with them, were an even greater cause for, as early as 1930, President Herbert Hoover reinterpreted immigration legislation barring those “likely to become a public charge” to include even those immigrants who were capable of working, reasoning that high unemployment would make it impossible for immigrants to find jobs.

 

In 1939, Senator Robert Wagner, a Democrat from New York, and Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers, a Republican from Massachusetts, sponsored a bill that proposed to allow German Jewish children to enter the United States outside of official immigration quotas. The bill caused a loud and bitter public debate, but it never even reached a vote in Congress.

 

In 1940, members of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees argued with the State Department to simplify immigration procedures for refugees. This effort was also defeated. Those in power in the State Department insisted on enforcing the nation’s immigration laws as strictly as possible. Breckinridge Long, the State Department officer responsible for issuing visas, was deeply Anti-Semitic. He was determined to limit immigration and used the State Department’s power to create a number of barriers that made it almost impossible for refugees to seek asylum in the United States.

 

For example, the application form for US visas was eight feet long and printed in small type. Long believed that he was “the first line of defense” against those who would “make America vulnerable to enemies for the sake of humanitarianism.” Long and his colleagues at the State Department went so far as to turn away a group of Jewish refugees aboard the St. Louis in May 1939 when the German ocean liner sought to dock in Florida after the refugees were denied entry to Cuba. Following their deportation back to Europe, many of these people perished in the Holocaust. [10]

 

The United State was urged to bomb the railways leading to the Nazi death camps but the government of the US refused, while bombing the working class neighborhoods of the German industrial cities.

 

“There had been efforts by members of the War Refugee Board in Washington and Geneva to prod the U.S. to bomb the camps. John Pehle, executive director of the War Refugee Board, made repeated appeals to John McCloy, the Assistant Secretary of War who wielded significant influence over the use of military resources but dismissed the idea as “impracticable.” McCloy wrote Pehle that the bombing of Auschwitz “could be executed only by a diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations elsewhere and would in any case be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources.”[11]

 

Yet the US had plenty of resources when it came to save the Nazis at the end of the war.

 

“In his new book, The Nazis Next Door, Lichtblau reports that thousands of Nazis managed to settle in the United States after World War II, often with the direct assistance of American intelligence officials who saw them as potential spies and informants in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.[12]

 

“Honest and idealist … enjoys good food and wine … unprejudiced mind …” That’s how a 1952 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assessment described Nazi ideologue Emil Augsburg, an officer at the infamous Wannsee Institute, the SS think tank involved in planning the Final Solution. Augsburg’s SS unit performed “special duties,” a euphemism for exterminating Jews and other “undesirables' during the Second World War.

 

Although he was wanted in Poland for war crimes, Augsburg managed to ingratiate himself with the U.S. CIA, which employed him in the late 1940s as an expert on Soviet affairs. Recently released CIA records indicate that Augsburg was among a rogue’s gallery of Nazi war criminals recruited by U.S. intelligence agencies shortly after Germany surrendered to the Allies. [13]

 

It is not a secret that the American’s space industry was based on the Nazi V2 program. The United States eventually planted a flag on the lunar surface, though without the help of any orbital reactors. And all through the Space Race, von Braun, a German scientist scooped up by the U.S. in the waning days of World War II, was the public face of the American space program, as well as one of its chief architects. But much of the Cold War-era coverage of von Braun downplayed the darker details of his past: before he was building rockets for America, he was building them for Hitler. Germany launched more than 3,000 missiles of his design against Britain and other countries, indiscriminately killing approximately 5,000 people, while as many as 20,000 concentration camp prisoners died assembling the weapons. [14]

 

Thus the argument that Jews control the US and this explains the support of the US for Israel is not only wrong but Anti-Semitic. The truth is that Israel is supported by the US because of its role as the front line of imperialist control of the region.

 



[1] See on this also the booklet of Yossi Schwartz: The Origins of the Jews, July 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/origins-of-jews/

[2] Peter Schäfer: Judeophobia: Attitudes towards the Jews in the Ancient World, Harvard University Press, 1998

[6] David Herman: The Long Roots Of Russian Anti-Semitism, New Statesman 30 May 2018, https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2018/05/long-roots-russian-anti-semitism

[7] C. C. Aronsfeld: Jewish Bankers and the Tsar, Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Apr., 1973), pp. 87-104 Published by: Indiana University Press

[8] Taro Tsurumi: Jewish Liberal, Russian Conservative: Daniel Pasmanik between Zionism and the Anti Bolshevik White Movement, Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Fall 2015), pp. 151-180 Published by: Indiana University Press

[9] Julian E. Zelizer: Trump Needs To Demilitarize His Rhetoric, The Atlantic, 29.10.2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/Ideas/Archive/2018/10/Americas-Long-History-Anti-Semitism/574234

[11] Jack Schwartz: Why America Didn’t Bomb Auschwitz When It Had the Chance, 03.10.2019, https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-america-didnt-bomb-auschwitz-when-it-had-the-chance

[14] Alejandro De La Garza: How Historians Are Reckoning with The Former Nazi Who Launched America's Space Program, Time, July 18, 2019, https://time.com/5627637/Nasa-Nazi-Von-Braun/