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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Anti-Semitism 321-800

Racist "Christian" elimination strategy against Jewry -  minority rights in Muslim territories - Jewish and "Christian" tax - Byzantium "Christians" become Muslims - Crusades and the effects of the elimination of the "Christians"

from: Anti-Semitism; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 3

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



[Abolition of Jewish privileges and autonomy - rapid disintegration of the Roman Empire]


After Christianity became the official religion of the Roman state (321) the emperors began to translate the concepts and claims of the theologians into practice.The ancient privileges granted to the Jews were withdrawn, rabbinical jurisdiction was abolished or severely curtailed, and proselytism was prohibited and made punishable by death, as were relations with Christian women. Finally, Jews were excluded from holding high office or pursuing a military career. The rapid disintegration of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, however, postponed the principal effects of this legal forfeiture of rights.

["Christian truth" against the synagogue - Jewish murders in the Bible are negative examples]

As the model that was to inspire the clerical and lay legislators of the Middle Ages, its repercussions on Judeo-Christian relations only become apparent centuries later. The persistence of Judaism, seemingly a contradiction of the Christian conception of the church as Versus Israel, "the true Israel", led the great theologians, notably *Augustine, to elaborate the doctrine that represents the Jews as the nation which was a "witness" to the truth of Christianity. Their existence was further justified by the service they rendered to the Christian truth in attesting through their humiliation the triumph of the church over the synagogue. "Unintelligent, they possess intelligent books"; they are thus condemned to perpetual servitude.

A further variation, reversing a biblical image, depicts the Jews as Esau and the Christians as Jacob. They are also Cain, guilty of fratricide, and marked with a sign. However, the hostility of this allegorization also implies a nascent tendency on the part of the church to protect the Jews, since "if someone killed Cain, Cain would be revenged sevenfold."

Thus the ideological arsenal of Christian anti-Semitism was completely established in antiquity. However, from the social standpoint the deterioration (col. 99)

of the Jewish position was only beginning, and it seems clear that in the early period virulent judeophobia was mainly limited to the clergy.

In Islam

[Jews don't accept Muhammad - military spread of Islam - minority rights - Jewish and "Christian" tax]

From the theological standpoint, the Koran also contained attacks against the Jews, as they refused to recognize Muhammad as the prophet sent by God. In certain respects, Muhammad utilized the Bible in a manner similar to that of the Christian theologians, since he found in it the announcement of his own coming, but he also used the New Testament in the same way.

As a result, Jews and Christians, although "infidels", are both regarded by the Koran as "Peoples of the Book", "possessing Scriptures".

Since Islam spread by force of arms rather than by spiritual propaganda, it did not generally aspire, at least initially, to conquer souls. Therefore, it displayed greater tolerance than Christianity. The religions of the two "Peoples of the Book" were officially recognized, and a special status combining subjection and protection was evolved for them. Apart from the distinguishing colors of their insignia, the dhimmi ("protected") Jews and Christians were subjected to the same measures and were obliged to pay the same tax. On various occasions they were included in the same persecutions. But in the regions where Islam reigned, the forms of anti-Judaism and anti-Christianity each evolved in their own way.

When Islam began to spread, the majority of the subjected territories were Christian, and in them Greek remained the official language for some time.

[Islam policy copying "Christian" anti-Semitism - Byzantium "Christians" assimilating to Islam and taking anti-Semitic customs into Islam]

One source of anti-Semitism in Islam, therefore, may derive from ancient Christian anti-Semitism. The celebrated controversialist Al-Jahiz (mid-ninth century) cites in an anti-Christian polemic four reasons why the faithful held a better opinion of the Christian than of the Jews: the Christians wielded power in Byzantium and elsewhere; unlike the Jews, they engaged in secular sciences; they assimilated more easily and adopted Muslim names, and they engaged in more respectable occupations. In the same period the historian Al-Tabari observed that "the Christians bear witness against the Jews morning and night." Thus, a number of anti-Jewish traditions and legends from Christian folklore penetrated, with appropriate adaptations, into that of Islam.

[Similarities between Jewish and Muslim laws]

However, the concepts relating to ritual purity and dietary laws, of similar inspiration for both Jews and Muslims, as well as the observance of circumcision, drew them together in that they excluded or lessened certain inhibitory phobias such as the fear of pollution. In addition, Muslim revelation was not founded on the biblical canon and could not become a ground of contention, thus excluding one source of polemics and oppression. In sum, the term anti-Semitism, which becomes a particularly blatant semantic misnomer [[wrong word]] when used in connection with the Arab world, also regarded as "Semitic" can be employed only with qualifications in reference to Islam.> (col. 100)

[1100-1850: "Christians" eliminated in Muslim countries - Jews loosing stand in Muslim countries]

<From the 12th century, the expeditions of the Crusades aggravated the condition of Christians in the Orient. Persecutions were followed by forced mass conversions to Islam. In many regions the Jews remained the only "infidels" with exceptional status, so that their situation became more vulnerable. In North Africa and Muslim Spain they were also fiercely persecuted (period of the *Almohads). Yet it is from this period that the position of the Jews in western Christendom progressively deteriorated, and until the modern era, Jewish migration usually proceeded from Christian to Islamic countries.

But migratory phenomena, like the frequency or intensity of persecutions, are imperfect indicators of a collective attitude. Literature provides a better conspectus. although in Islamic literature and folklore the Jew is often depicted in an unfavorable light - frequently accused of malevolence (col. 100)

toward non-Jews, or even of plotting their damnation - he is only in exceptional cases invested with the satanic character and attributes frequent in Christian literature. There are Islamic literary sources in the medieval age in which the contemporary Jew is endowed with positive characteristics. In the modern period the position of the Jew in Islamic countries, although varying according to region and historical circumstance, has tended to deteriorate. The most notorious persecutions, in *Yemen in 1697, and in *Meshed, Iran in 1839, were perpetrated by Shi'ites. The Yahud confined to his ghetto - until recently in Yemen and even now in certain mellahs [[Jewish quarter]] in Morocco - appeared to the Muslim an object of contempt rather than of hatred.> (col. 101)


Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                        Anti-Semitism, vol. 3, col. 99-100
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Anti-Semitism, vol. 3, col. 99-100
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                        Anti-Semitism, vol. 3, col. 101-102
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Anti-Semitism, vol. 3, col. 101-102

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