Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chabad Links Bind Alt-Media Darlings Trump and Putin

Chabad Links Bind Alt-Media Darlings Trump and Putin

by Sean Jobst

February 23, 2017

The alt-media's cultish singing the praises of Trump is only exceeded by its dogmatic idolization of Putin. Many of these are certain self-professed anti-Zionists, who assert that both world leaders are secretly "plotting" against the very Israel that both openly support with their words and actions. On the other side, the mainstream media speaks much about the links between Trump and Putin, including pushing the simplistic half-truth that Putin "fixed" the U.S. presidential election in favor of Trump, from the standpoint of liberal interventionist saber-rattling against Russia.

Lost in the entire debate is that Trump and Putin are binded by common links to the Hassidic Chabad movement, a world-wide orthodox Jewish movement with origins in Lurianic Cabbala and a hardline messianism centered around its founder, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. In its obituary of Schneerson on June 13, 1994, The New York Times described the Chabad founder as "a major political force in Israel, both in the Knesset and among the electorate," who "presided over a religious empire that reached from the back streets of Brooklyn to the main streets of Israel and by 1990 was taking in an estimated $100 million a year in contributions."


Schneerson


Jared Kushner's Links to Chabad

Given the movement's massive financial clout, its not surprising the Chabad movement would develop close ties with business interests closely linked with both Putin and Trump. We shall examine those links, but in the case of Trump there are also personal family links via his Jewish convert daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, the Orthodox Jew Jared Kushner; the latter currently serves as Senior Advisor to the President with much power within the White House. Kushner has ties with Chabad and these links were present during his wedding to Ivanka Trump on October 25, 2009:

"Ivanka is only 27, but she recently auctioned off an internship with her for Chabad, the Hasidic organization her boyfriend supports. This donation and the visibility that comes with sounds like a good way to get in with Kushner’s family, because we hear that they don’t like the idea of Jared marrying outside the tribe....The Kushners have long been good friends with Chabad groups. Jared was the head of the Chabad House at Harvard. And dad Charles got a rabbi from Chabad’s Living Legacy organization to write a letter on his behalf when he got into all that prostitute-blackmail trouble. Donating to a Chabad effort, a favored charity of the Kushner family, was the kind of smart move she might want to mention in her upcoming 'motivational' book." ("Ivanka Trump Continues Her Campaign to Be a Good Jew," Gawker.com, November 25, 2008)





On November 6, 2016, Ivanka and Jared visited the "Ohel," Schneerson's grave in Brooklyn - a place of pilgrimage for Hassidic Jews and Kabbalist fellow-travellers. This was reported in a Breitbart article by Joel Pollak, which also lauded "the venerated Lubavitcher Rebbe" and his "worldwide fame and respect" without a word about the racist Jewish supremacism and anti-Gentile hate-speech of Schneerson as contained within his own books that are revered and taught by Chabad to this day. Pollak's article also approvingly cited claims by Chabad members that Ivanka and Jared's pilgrimage to the grave is what "saved" Donald Trump from harm when a man rushed his campaign rally in Reno, Nevada. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Breitbart's pro-Jewish bent.

Chabad Rabbi Ginsburg and West Bank Settlements

Chabad has close links with the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank, with many settlers being Jewish immigrants from the United States. One of these is Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, president of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar, near the Palestinian family of Nablus. This yeshiva is one of the recipients of the Kushner family's donations to many Jewish settler groups. Ginsburg first made a name for himself when he justified the killing of Palestinian civilians by his armed Jewish settlers: "Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg had offered biblical justification for the view that the spilling of non-Jewish blood was a lesser offense than the spilling of Jewish blood. 'Any trial based on the assumption that Jews and goyim are equal is a total travesty of injustice,' he said. 'We have to recognize that Jewish blood and the blood of a goy are not the same thing.'" ("An Israeli Mayor Is Under Scrutiny," The New York Times, June 6, 1989, p. 5)


Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg

Ginsburg elaborated in a later religious ruling: "As for the Goyim....Zalman's attitude (was): 'Gentile souls are of a completely different and inferior order. They are totally evil, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.'...If every single cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, and is thus a part of G-d, then every strand of DNA is a part of G-d. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA. If a Jew needs a liver, can he take the liver of an innocent non-Jew to save him? The Torah would probably permit to take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by, to save the Jew. There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life." (The Jewish Week, April 26, 1996; cited in Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism, London: Pluto Press, 1999, pp. 43, 62)

Chabad Links to Donald Trump?

Such Jewish supremacist teachings proliferate on the West Bank settlements, and they have close links not only to the Kushner family, but have also received donations from David Friedman, Trump's lawyer-turned-his Ambassador to Israel, and even from the Trump Foundation itself. Another Orthodox Jew in Trump's cabinet is his advisor on Israel and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, who has often served as Trump's personal representative to Chabad communities. No surprise that Trump has directly cultivated links with the Chabad movement and been among its leading non-Jewish benefactors:




"President-elect Donald Trump’s foundation has donated thousands of dollars to Chabad institutions. The Israeli daily Haaretz also reported that the foundation of the parents of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner gave some $342,500 to Chabad institutions and projects over a 10-year period.

"The Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $11,550 to three Chabad institutions. In 2008, a year before Ivanka Trump and Kushner were married, the Trump foundation donated $6,750 to the Lubavitch Youth Organization in Brooklyn and $1,800 to the Chabad of Southampton Jewish Charity. In 2011, the foundation donated $3,000 to Chabad of East Boca Raton – an institution in Florida also supported by the Kushners.

"The Charles and Seryl Kushner Family Foundation, on whose board Kushner sits, made $78,000 in donations to the Ohel visitors center at the grave of the Lubavitcher rebbe in 2011 and 2013, and $150,000 to the Chabad center at Harvard University in 2007 and another $3,600 in 2013. Kushner, who is an Orthodox Jew, is a graduate of Harvard.

"The Kushner foundation also contributed to Chabad centers in Florida, Manhattan and New Jersey. It also contributed $7,500 to a Chabad-run school for troubled youth in Israel. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are moving to a home in the tony Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C., which is a 10-minute walk to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s D.C. center known as 'The Shul.'" ("Report: Trump, Kushner foundations have donated thousands to Chabad," Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 10, 2017)

Jason Greenblatt confers with Rabbi Shmuely Boteach


Rabbi Shmuely Boteach is a leading Jewish religious leader in the United States, complete with numerous tv and radio appearances where he's touted as an authority. In 1988, he was personally sent by Schneerson as a Chabad shaliach (emissary) to Oxford, England, where he served as rabbi for eleven years and founded the L'Chaim Society, as he boasts on his website where he's labelled "America's Rabbi." During the 2016 presidential campaign, Boteach publicly endorsed Trump because he was "a much better candidate for Israel." After Breitbart leader Stephen Bannon, the former Goldman Sachs and Hollywood investment banker who serves as Trump's Special Counselor and Chief Strategist, was attacked by the mainstream media, Boteach defended him, joining the numerous other Likudist/Neocon Jews defending the pro-Jewish Bannon.

Boteach and Bannon

Lev Leviev and the Russian Connection

Lev Leviev is an Israeli billionaire of Uzbek Bukhari Jewish background, known for his diamond mining investments in Angola and his role in financing the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He is a major philanthropist of the Chabad movement. In 2015, Leviev personally earned $35 million when his Africa Israel Investments Ltd. sold its 50.1% stake in the Times Square Building in Manhattan for $295 million, to Trump's orthodox Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner. With the rise of the Russian Federation in the 1990s, Leviev avoided ties with President Boris Yeltsin and instead hedged his bets on former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, whose political fortunes he saw rising. (Yossi Mehlman, "No love lost," Haaretz, December 11, 2005)




"AS HAPPENS every year, international businessman and philanthropist Lev Leviev, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States formerly part of the Soviet Union, sent large quantities of Passover food supplies to Chabad emissaries in the CIS to distribute to Jews in these communities. Joining him this time was Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews." (Greer Fay Cashman, "Grapevine: A 100-Ton Gift of the Bread of Affliction," Jerusalem Post, April 2, 2015)

Putin's Chabad Handlers

Born into a Chabad family in Milan, Berel Lazar was ordained a rabbi at the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva in New York City. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Schneerson sent Lazar as his personal emissary to Russia in 1990. Lazar has since served as Rabbi of the synagogue in Maryina Roshcha District of Moscow, and through Leviev was introduced in 1992 to leading Russian-Jewish oligarchs, Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich. On August 1, 1997, Leviev and Lazar founded the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC), the Chabad-controlled organization whose takeover of the Russian Jewish community has occurred through its close connections with Putin.

"Lazar’s work, his Russia boosterism and his ties to the Kremlin — he is sometimes called 'Putin's rabbi' — has helped Chabad’s Russian branch eclipse all the Jewish groups vying to reshape the country's community of 250,000 Jews. Now Lazar heads a vast network that comprises dozens of employees and plentiful volunteers working in hundreds of Jewish institutions: schools, synagogues, community centers and kosher shops....Today, Lazar said, Russia has in Vladimir Putin its 'most pro-Jewish leader,' whom he credits with 'fighting anti-Semitism more vigorously than any Russian leader before him.'....Lazar was Chabad’s chief envoy to Russia before staking claim to the title of chief rabbi in 2000. That’s when he quit the Russian Jewish Congress, an umbrella group, after the organization’s founder, Vladimir Gusinsky, and Russia’s other chief rabbi, Adolf Shayevich, criticized Russia’s war in Chechnya and its alleged human rights abuses — including the alleged targeting, by anti-corruption authorities, of political dissidents." (Cnaan Liphshiz, "'Putin's rabbi' says challenging governments is not Jewish," Times of Israel, June 6, 2015)


Putin's Rabbi....or Rabbi's Putin?


The alt-media's Putin worship partly centers around his alleged struggle against Jewish oligarchs such as Berezovsky and Gusinsky, but what they fail to mention is Putin's cracking down on them coincided with Lazar and Leviev's own falling out with those oligarchs who weren't tied to Chabad. Nevertheless, it was another oligarch tied to Chabad - Roman Abramovich - who first recommended to Yeltsin that Putin become his successor. (Richard Sakwa, The Crisis of Russian Democracy: The Dual State, Factionalism and the Medvedev Succession, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 135) And when Putin formed his first cabinet as Prime Minister in 1999, Abramovich personally interviewed each of the candidates for cabinet positions before they were approved. (Dominic Midgley and Chris Hutchins, Abramovich: The Billionaire from Nowhere, Harper Collins, 2005, p. 102)

The Chabad-Putin Coup

Lazar was an "American citizen who had lived in Russia only nine years, and his command of the Russian language was relatively weak. To remedy that, on May 26, 2000 Putin extended Russian citizenship to thirty-one individuals. While most were Uzbeks and Azeris, the final candidate was Rabbi Lazar. Lazar belongs to the Orthodox Lubavitch Hassidic movement, or Chabad, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. He had been sent, along with several dozen other adherents, to establish Hassidic communities all over the former Soviet Union. It was the Jewish equivalent of a missionary movement. By coincidence, one of Putin's favorite oligarchs, Roman Abramovich, attended Lubavitch services and provided financial support to Rabbi Lazar's movement. Thus Abramovich may have inspired the strategy of the challenge to Gusinsky. Abramovich was also allied with Lev Levayev, a one-time official in the Russian Jewish Congress, who was a major supporter of the Lubavitch Hassidic movement in Israel and Russia, and a man eager to win favor with President Putin.



"Levayev became the president of the new umbrella group, which instead of the Russian Jewish Congress they called the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Commonwealth of Independent States. An Israeli citizen born in Uzbekistan, Levayev was a controversial diamond dealer who has allegedly used his access to President Putin to encroach on De Beers' exclusive rights to Russian diamonds. He has also been involved with the one-time aluminum oligarch Mikhail Chernoi, accused by the Israeli police of being deeply involved with the Russian underworld and international money laundering, charges denied by Chernoi.

"On June 13, 2000, two weeks after becoming citizen and a day after meeting in the Kremlin with Putin, Lazar convened a meeting of his fellow Hassidic rabbi emissaries from forty-five Russian regions. They voted unanimously to make Rabbi Lazar the Chief Rabbi of Russia. This was somewhat awkward since there was an already existing Chief Rabbi, Adolf Shayevich, who was recognized by the Russian Jewish Congress. Undeterred the Russian government immediately decreed Lazar's Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia the official representative of Russian Jews, thereby superseding Gusinsky's Congress." (Marshall L. Goldman, The Piratization of Russia: Russian Reform Goes Awry, London/New York: Routledge, 2003, p. 126)



Jewish Supremacist Teachings of Chabad

Schneerson was seventh in a line of Chabad leaders called Rebbe. The first Rebbe was Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), one of the foremost Hassidic authorities, who authored commentaries and updated versions of Halacha (Jewish law). In the first two chapters of Tanya, he claimed Jewish souls were derived from the Divine, whereas the souls of "the nations" (goyim/gentiles) are derived from evil. So "all the good that the nations do, is done from selfish motives....all the charity and kindness done by the nations of the world is only for their own self-glorification." Zalman also wrote: "All Jews are good by nature, all non-Jews are evil by nature. The Jews are creation's crowning glory, the non-Jews are the scum of the earth."

That this is a "master race" ideology, is seen by the fact that he also said in chapters 18 and 19 of Tanya that even the lowest Jew has a "spark" of the Divine. "The inwardness of a Jew....remains intact in every Jew, regardless of his outward status and whatever the outward circumstances may be." (Schneerson, Letters by the Lubavitscher Rebbe 1956-1980, Brooklyn, New York: Kehot Publication Society, 1981, p. 13) This book is openly sold by Jewish bookstores, while the hate-filled Tanya holds such reverence among the Chabad movement that it contains the entire work on its official website. "The basic religious and social mission of Habad is thus intended to elevate the conscious choice of the individual to the level of his inner Jewish choseness, that is, to actualize his inner given holiness." (Aviezer Ravitzky, Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism, University of Chicago Press, 1996, p. 191)




Schneerson taught that Jews were uniquely "chosen" and granted innate holiness, which further entrenches an ontological barrier between Jews and non-Jews, leading to the exclusivism that really defines Chabad. Schneerson taught that each morning, Jews should give thanks to God for having restored their "Jewish souls", as "'life' is Jewish life only", so that "his entire vitality and life consist - in his being a Jew." (Schneerson, On the Essence of Chassidus, Brooklyn, NY: Kehot Publication Society, 1986, pp. 49, 73) This book is likewise taught on the Chabad website and can be openly purchased from Jewish bookstores.

"Souls of Gentiles unclean"

The following excerpts are from Tanya, which is a major part of Chabad's "outreach" efforts. Here is their true teachings against all non-Jews, laid bare for any honest observer: "The souls of the nations of the world (i.e. all Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.), however, emanate from the other, unclean 'kelipot' (evil forces) which contain no good whatever." (Tanya, New York/London: Kehot Publication Society, 1973, p. 5)

"However, the 'kelipot' (evil forces) are subdivided into two grades, one lower than the other. The lower grade consists of the three 'kelipot' which are altogether unclean and evil, containing no good whatever. From them flow and derive the souls of all the nations of the world (i.e. all Christians, Muslims, etc.), and the existence of their bodies, and also the souls of all living creatures that are unclean and unfit for consumption." (ibid., Chapter 6, p. 25)

"To elucidate still further, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of the verse 'The candle of God is the soul of (neshamah) of man.' What it means is that the souls of Jews, who are called 'man', are, by way of illustration, like the flame of the candle, whose nature it is always to scintillate upwards....Now this is a general principle in the whole realm of holiness....This stands in direct contrast to the so-called 'Kelipah' (evil forces) and 'sitra achara' (the other, evil side), where from are derived the souls of the Gentiles....Therefore they (the Gentiles) are called 'dead.'" (ibid., Chapter 19, pp. 77, 79)

Thus, Chabad lumps all Gentiles with pigs, snakes, worms, and all other "creatures that are unclean and unfit for consumption." There are also comparisons to dogs: "Thus an Orthodox Jew learns from his earliest youth, as part of his sacred studies, that Gentiles are compared to dogs." (Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, London: Pluto Press, 1994, p. 94) This serves as a theological basis behind the actions of Israel and the Zionist movement, to dehumanize the Palestinian "Gentiles" and legitimize their murder.



Schneerson's Anti-Gentilism

Schneerson believed that Jews and Gentiles are "two separate species," going to lengths to innumerate how the former are "superior" to the latter: "A non-Jew should be punished by death if he kills an embryo, even if the embryo is non-Jewish, while the Jew should not be, even if the embryo is Jewish. The difference between a Jewish and a non-Jewish person stems from the common expression: 'Let us differentiate.' Thus, we do not have a case of profound change in which a person is merely on a superior level. Rather we have a case of 'let us diffentiate' between totally different species. This is what needs to be said about the body: the body of a Jewish person is of a totally different quality from the body of [members] of all nations [goyim] of the world.

"The Jewish body 'looks as if it were in substance similar to bodies of non-Jews,' but the meaning is that the bodies only seem to be similar in material substance, outward look and superficial quality. The difference of the inner quality, however, is so great that the bodies should be considered as completely different species.

"This is the reason why the Talmud states that there is an halachic difference in attitude about the bodies of non-Jews: 'and their bodies are in vain'....An even greater difference exists in regard to the soul. Two contrary types of soul exist, a non-Jewish soul comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness.

"The body of a Jewish embryo is on a higher level than is the body of a non-Jew....We therefore ask: Why should a non-Jew be punished if he kills even a non-Jewish embryo while a Jew should not be punished even if he kills a Jewish embryo? The answer can be understood by the general difference between Jews and non-Jews: A Jew was not created as a means for some [other] purpose; he himself is the purpose, since the substance of all [divine] emanations was created only to serve the Jews: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth' means that [the heavens and the earth] were created for the sake of the Jews, who are called the 'beginning.'

"This means everything, all developments, all discoveries, the creation, including the 'heavens and the earth' - are vanity compared to the Jews. The important things are the Jews, because they do not exist for any [other] aim; they themselves are [the divine] aim." (Schneerson, Gatherings of Conversations, 1965; quoted in Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, London: Pluto Press, 1999, pp. 59-60)

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Europeans, Jews, Muslims and the Legacy of Islamic Spain - Part 2: The Rise and Decline of Jewish Prominence in Christian Spain

Europeans, Jews, Muslims and the Legacy of Islamic Spain
Part 2: The Rise and Decline of Jewish Prominence in Christian Spain

by Sean Jobst
February 22, 2017

[The first part appears earlier on this blog and was republished on Non-Aligned Media]

A look at history should be objective, accompanied with an awareness of its ebbs and flows, its various nuances and its complexities, and free from a personal bias that would distort such research. This is especially the case when such history can be emotionally-charged, susceptible to the modern political readings of ideologues. Such is it with the role of the Jews in both the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, the Islamic occupation that followed, and their role in the Christian kingdoms of Spain up until their expulsion.

There are many trends among Jewish historians depending on their own political agendas, as surely as this is true among Gentile historians. More focused on promoting a Neoconservative-inspired "Clash of Civilizations" against the Muslim enemies of Israel, those such as Bernard Lewis only look negatively on the role of Jews under Islamic rule, but neglect to mention the essential aid Jews earlier gave to the invading Moors and for most periods of the occupation. To do so would be an embarrassment for such denizens of a Zionist-friendly "Eurabia" myth, to admit there was a time when it was their fellow Jews who made common cause with Muslims against Europeans - just as they now deny their role promoting the mass-immigration of Muslims into Europe.


Bernard Lewis conferring with Henry Kissinger

Similarly, there are those Westerners more opposed to the Muslim migrants to such an extent that many will not just deny the role of Jewish organizations and powerful Zionist individuals in promoting such migration, but complicitly ally themselves to waging wars on behalf of the interests of Israel. Yet, there are other Westerners who are more aware of the corrosive role of Jews in European history, but only see perfidy when it comes to non-whites. Just like many of their Muslim counterparts, such Westerners will see of history only whatever suits their own ideology - ignoring painful truths that would dampen such a rose-colored manichean view. 

Rise of Jewish Prominence in Christian Spain

Hence, certain Muslim cultural apologists of "al-Andalus" as a paradise for Jews would simplistically assert they were "cruelly" persecuted under the Christians but "tolerated" under the Muslims - as we have seen, the truth is more nuanced and subject to changing periods of time. Meanwhile, many Westerners who only see history in stark racial terms will only look at how Moors were welcomed and aided by the Jews as some part of a "Semitic" racial hatred against white Europeans - the problem here is that they would neglect the time when Christian kings likewise made close deals with Jews at the expense of their own people.

"During this process of 'reconquest', the Jews were well aware of which way the winds of change were blowing, and gradually they 'changed sides' as it were - acknowledging Christian rule where and whenever it replaced Muslim rule, and even migrating from Muslim territory to Christian territory whenever it seemed expedient to do so. The Sephardic Jews had no real allegiance to either the Muslims or the Christians, but simply chose to recognise the rulers who were most likely to treat them the most favourably under whatever circumstances prevailed at the time. To begin with, the Christians were content with this state of affairs, for not only were the Muslims further weakened as a result of the Jews' transfer of alliance, but also the Jews were an important source of much needed income, both as a result of the taxes that were imposed on them by the Christians, and by virtue of the more wealthy Jews being in a position to finance the Reconquest by means of financial loans."(1)

This was confirmed by the Polish-Jewish historian, Abraham Leon (1918–1944), known for his Trotskyite socio-economic interpretation of Jewish history, in one of his works published posthumously: "It was the Jews who first permitted kings to maintain costly armies of mercenaries. In Spain, it was largely the part of Jewish finance that allowed the king to defeat the Arabs."(2) "In 1263, the Jewish banker Jehudah de Cavallera loans the king [of Aragon] a great sum which permits him to equip a flotilla against the Arabs. In 1276, Cavallera amasses funds for an army which fights the Arabs at Valencia."(3) The tide was turning and with increased immigration after the rise of the Almohades, many Jews came to own landed property, fields and vineyards in Christian principalities, especially in León.(4) Just as Jews had obtained the highest political offices in 11th-century Moorish Granada, they also came to dominate commerce and owned one-third of all real estate in Christian Barcelona in the 12th century.(5)




Tolerant Christian Kings

Despite the simplistic historical narrative, as early as the Fuero of Castrojeriz (974) the Christian Count of Castilla, García Fernández, placed the Jews on an equal footing with Christians in nearly all aspects of the law. King Alfonso VI of León and Castilla (reign 1072-1109) was particularly tolerant and benevolent in his attitude towards the Jews, for which he actually won the praise of Pope Alexander II. Alfonso enticed them with many special privileges if they turned against the Moors. In the Fuero of Najara Sepulveda (1076), he not only accorded Jews full equality with Catholics but even bestowed on them the rights enjoyed by the nobility. His army contained thousands of Jews, distinguished from the dominant Catholic troops by their black-and-yellow turbans; these Jewish soldiers were present at the Battle of Sagrajas (1086) against the Almoravides of Yusuf ibn Tashfin. Alfonso even instituted punishment against any of his subjects who harmed Jews, so much so that Pope Gregory VII warned him not to permit Jews to rule over Catholics.

The pent-up anger of the people against Jews was unleashed in Toledo and Carrion with the death of Alfonso VI, and many of their privileges were curtailed. Later, Alfonso VII (reign 1126-1157) renewed these privileges and even expanded many. He was heavily influenced by his Jewish advisor, Judah ben Joseph ibn Ezra, whom the King appointed commander of the fortress at Calatrava in 1147. His influence over Alfonso VII was such that the King adopted an "open door" policy toward Jewish immigration and even allowed Judah to combat Jewish "heretics" called the Karaites (who rejected the Talmud).(6) Toledo especially swelled with the Jewish refugees fleeing the Almohades and there was a boom of new synagogues being constructed throughout Castilla. Jews fought on both sides in the war between Alfonso VII and Fernando II of León, obtaining control over more fortresses following the conclusion of peace.

The pattern of Jews financing both sides was continued in the war between Alfonso VIII of Castilla (reign 1166-1214), who entrusted Jews with guarding Or, Celorigo, and Mayorga, and Sancho VI of Navarre (reign 1150-1194), who entrusted Jews with guarding Estella, Funes, and Murañon. Alfonso VIII was especially regarded as pro-Jewish, perhaps explained by his love towards a Jewish woman from Toledo named Rachel Fermosa, whose family came to be very influential in his kingdom. He was also aided by his Jewish advisor, Joseph ben Solomon ibn Shoshan, who led other wealthy Jews of Toledo in financing the King's war against the Almohades. He temporarily lost Toledo, but a triumphal procession of Jews welcomed Alfonso VIII when he victoriously entered the city in 1212. Before his death in October 1214, the King issued the Fuero de Cuenca, with its very favorable legal provisions to the Jews despite the growing opposition of the nobility and clergy.




A Medieval Approach to the Jews

Many Jewish privileges were revoked under Ferdinand III (reign 1217-1252), king of unified León and Castilla, and James I of Aragon (reign 1213-1276). Jews were compelled to wear an identifying yellow badge, although the rationale given was that it was for their own safety since Jews were still regarded as direct subjects to the king. Indeed, it was common for the kings to speak of "their" Jews and "their" juderias (Jewish neighborhoods), which meant as direct subjects they were protected by the king so that any hostility towards them from other Spaniards was tantamount to opposing the king, who placed himself in between the Jews and his own people.

A number of royal enactments instituted in the Kingdom of Aragon between 1257 and 1340 reveal that the Jews were exempted from many regulations, including from wearing the yellow badge marking them as Jews, from local taxes or being forced to lodge the king, whilst allowing them to hold landed property, castles and manors. They could even serve as bailiffs and town clerks, and continued their practice of polygamy through the purchase of a "license" that would allow them to marry a second wife.(7) Many of these privileges weren't available to the typical Spanish commoner despite all the retroactive claims of "persecution of Jews" made about medieval Spain.

As noted by contemporary Catholic scholar and academic, E. Michael Jones, the medieval Catholic way of dealing with the Jews was traditionally the principle of Sicut Judaeis: that the Jews could retain their faith, without Christians harming their religious liberty, but at the same time the Jews could not be allowed to attain prominence over Christian society. This changed with growing awareness by European Gentiles of the Talmud, with its anti-Christian and anti-Gentile statements and teachings. These efforts were largely due to the efforts of two Jewish converts to Christianity, the monks Nicholas Donin and Pablo Christiani. They translated the Talmud from Hebrew and thus exposed the dark undercurrents of this minority group which segregated themselves within society but harbored deep hatred towards European "goyim."




Yet, even this realization did not always harm the powerful position of Jewish financiers and advisors over Christian kings who preferred the seemingly-unlimited credit flow over the interests of their own people. This was certainly the case with many of the medieval kings of Castilla, León, and Aragon. These court Jews were often used as bulwarks against the rival interests of the nobility and clergy. The latter were usually the local town and village clerics or the monks, as more often than not, the higher echelons of the Catholic Church consented to this status quo. As noted by revisionist historian and researcher, Michael Hoffman II(8), even the Talmud with all its disgusting statements against Gentiles, the Christians, Jesus and Mary, was often defended by Church officials already co-opted by Jewish financial power. He also demonstrated how these "court Jews" used their influence to suppress works critical against Judaism.

Judaic Usury Plagues Spain

Abraham Leon noted the inability of any critics of Jewish influence to oppose what had been enabled by the monarchy: "When the enemy of the Jews, Gonzalo Matiguez, offered the king of Castile three million pieces of gold on condition that he would expel the Jews, the Bishop Don Gil replied to him: 'The Jews are a treasure to the king, a veritable treasure! And you, you want to drive them out....You are then no less an enemy of the king than you are of the Jews....' Again, in 1307, following upon a resolution of the Castilian priests against Jewish usury, the king prohibits raising any difficulties for the Jews. 'The Jews,' states a decree on this subject, 'belong to the king to whom they pay taxes; and that is the reason why it is impossible to permit any limitation whatever on their economic life, because this would be prejudicial to the royal treasury.'"(9)

The American poet, Ezra Pound (1885-1972), devoted much of his life's work to fighting usury and wrote the epic-poem called The Cantos against its evils. In one of his Cantos, he alluded to the legendary Spanish folk-hero Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar "El Cid" (1040-1099). As cited from the oldest preserved Castilian epic poem (epopeva), El Cantar de mio Cid - composed between 1140 and 1175 - after being exiled by King Alfonso IV in 1081, El Cid played a ruse on two Jewish usurers in order to pay his small army. He tricked them into thinking he had stolen tribute, which he pledged to them in return for 600 silver marks. He collected the silver after giving the usurers two chests of sand made alluring by red leather covering studded with gilded nails. His ruse was welcomed by the people of Burgos, who celebrated his clever exploit. Stories such as these indicate both the association of Jews with usury in medieval Spain, and the population's opposition to such usury - with the well-known Castilian folk-hero being bound up with his opposition to Jewish usurers which coincided with his asserting independence from the king who did not have Spanish interests at heart.



Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar , El Campeador

The Spanish Nobility Opposed Jewry

In the latter part of the 13th century, the Castilian cortes (parliament) submitted three demands to the king: "regulation of Jewish credit operations and limitations on the interest rates demanded by usurers; proscription of hereditary rights in the possession of lands by Jews; a reform of the financial administration and elimination of Jewish functionaries and comptrollers." The cortes in neighboring Aragon issued similar demands throughout the 1200s. The Jewish historian Abraham Leon thus observes, in an amount of candor and honesty lacking in the current tyranny of Political Correctness: "These will be the classical demands of the nobility in all the countries of Europe. They aim to limit the portion of surplus value that the nobility is compelled to turn over to the Jews, to prevent the latter from becoming landed proprietors and from seizing control of the state apparatus."(10)

He gave the example of the Jewish Ravia brothers, who supplied the king's army with money and arms during the domestic wars against the insurgent nobles of Catalunya. The same situation was repeated elsewhere in Spain. "The financial support furnished the kings by the Jews was indispensable to them in their struggle against the nobility as well as in their opposition to the growing demands of the cities. It was the Jews who first permitted the kings to maintain costly armies of mercenaries which begin to take the place of the undisciplined hordes of the nobility."(11) "In the circles of the Spanish nobility and rich patrician class the Jews were hated because of their state functions, where they showed themselves to be servile instruments of royalty, as well as because of the great tax and impost farming by which the Jewish magnates unceasingly augmented their fortunes."(12)

Spanish Jewry in the 14th Century

We fast-forward to the 14th century, because that is the turning point when all these events reached their culmination in what would later be the final "confrontation" between the Jews and the broader Spanish society. This was the century when efforts against usury proved the most successful in Spain. Up until this point, the usurers operated completely outside the scope of the law. In 1328, King Alfonso IX reduced the rate of interest to 25% - still exorbitant, but nevertheless significant as the only real move to rein in the power of the usurers - and cancelled one-fourth of all Jewish credits. This was followed in 1371 by further reducing of the credits. In neighboring Portugal, the Cortes (Parliament) complained in 1361 that Jewish usury was becoming "an unbearable yoke upon the population."(13)

Estatua de Ha-Levi en Judería de Toledo

Alfonso IX was succeeded by his son, Pedro I (reign 1350-1366, 1367-1369). He earned the moniker "Pedro the Cruel" among the Spanish people, but the Jews regarded him favorably. Indeed, he surrounded himself with Jews to such a level that the Spaniards generally regarded his court as "the Jewish court." His Jewish treasurer, Samuel Ha-Levi, became very powerful. Opposition to his rule coincided with opposition to Jewish rule and usury, and these twin rallying cries were the focus of the revolt by Henry de Trastamara in 1355. "Everywhere the Jews remained loyal to King Peter, in whose army they fought bravely; the king showed his good-will toward them on all occasions, and when he called the King of Granada to his assistance he especially requested the latter to protect the Jews," proclaims an article in The Jewish Encyclopedia, which continues:

"This civil conflict did not end until the death of Peter, of whom the victorious brother said, derisively, 'Dó esta el fi de puta Judio, que se llama rey de Castilla?' ('Where is the Jewish son of a whore, who calls himself king of Castile?') Peter was beheaded by Henry and Bertrand Du Guesclin on March 14, 1369. A few weeks before his death he reproached his physician and astrologer Abraham ibn Zarzal for not having told the truth in prophesying good fortune for him. When Henry de Trastámara ascended the throne as Henry II there began for the Castilian Jews an era of suffering and intolerance, culminating in their expulsion. Prolonged warfare had devastated the land; the people had become accustomed to lawlessness, and the Jews had been reduced to poverty.

"But in spite of his aversion for the Jews, Henry did not dispense with their services. He employed wealthy Jews—Samuel Abravanel and others—as financial councilors and tax-collectors. His contador mayor, or chief tax-collector, was Joseph Pichon of Seville. The clergy, whose power became greater and greater under the reign of the fratricide, stirred the anti-Jewish prejudices of the masses into clamorous assertion at the Cortes of Toro in 1371. It was demanded that the Jews should be kept far from the palaces of the grandees, should not be allowed to hold public office, should live apart from the Catholics, should not wear costly garments nor ride on mules, should wear the badge, and should not be allowed to bear Catholic names. The king granted the two last-named demands, as well as a request made by the Cortes of Burgos (1379) that the Jews should neither carry arms nor sell weapons; but he did not prevent them from holding religious disputations, nor did he deny them the exercise of criminal jurisprudence. The latter prerogative was not taken from them until the reign of John I, Henry's son and successor; he withdrew it because certain Jews, on the king's coronation-day, by withholding the name of the accused, had obtained his permission to inflict the death-penalty on Joseph Pichon, who stood high in the royal favor; the accusation brought against Pichon included 'harboring evil designs, informing, and treason.'"(14)

This recommendation by the Cortes of Burgos was followed by that of the Cortes of Soria (1380), which enacted that rabbis and other Jewish leaders be forbidden, under penalty of a fine of 6,000 maravedís (a medieval Spanish copper coin unit), to inflict upon other Jews the penalties of death, mutilation, expulsion, or excommunication, although it still allowed them a high level of autonomy by allowing them to choose their own judges - a privilege not afforded the indigenous Spanish population, who submitted to the judges as chosen by the monarchs. Despite his personal objections, in 1385 King John issued an order prohibiting the employment of Jews as tax-farmers to the royal family. The Spanish nobility was clearly rising in prominence, representing growing resentment against undue Jewish influence in society.

The Turning Point of 1391

The authoritative Jewish Encyclopedia continues: "The year 1391 forms a turning-point in the history of the Spanish Jews. The persecution was the immediate forerunner of the Inquisition, which, ninety years later, was introduced as a means of watching heresy and converted Jews. The number of those who had embraced Catholicism, in order to escape death, was very large - over half of Spain's Jews according to Joseph Pérez, 200,000 converts with only 100,000 openly practicing Jews remaining by 1410; Jews of Baena, Montoro, Baeza, Úbeda, Andújar, Talavera, Maqueda, Huete, and Molina, and especially of Zaragoza, Barbastro, Calatayud, Huesca, and Manresa, had submitted to baptism. Among those baptized were several wealthy men and scholars who scoffed at their former coreligionists; some even, as Solomon ha-Levi, or Paul de Burgos (called also Paul de Santa Maria), and Joshua Lorqui, or Gerónimo de Santa Fe, became the bitterest enemies and persecutors of their former brethren.

"After the bloody excesses of 1391 the popular hatred of the Jews continued unabated. The Cortes of Madrid and that of Valladolid (1405) mainly busied themselves with complaints against the Jews, so that Henry III found it necessary to prohibit the latter from practicing usury and to limit the commercial intercourse between Jews and Catholics; he also reduce by one-half the claims held by Jewish creditors against Catholics. Indeed, the feeble and suffering king, the son of Leonora, who hated the Jews so deeply that she even refused to accept their money, showed no feelings of friendship toward them. Though on account of the taxes of which he was thereby deprived he regretted that many Jews had left the country and settled in Málaga, Almería, and Granada, where they were well treated by the Moors, and though shortly before his death he inflicted a fine of 24,000 doubloons on the city of Córdoba because of a riot that had taken place there (1406), during which the Jews had been plundered and many of them murdered, he prohibited the Jews from attiring themselves in the same manner as other Spaniards, and he insisted strictly on the wearing of the badge by those who had not been baptized."(15)

1391 was a turning point for another reason, in that it began what later became known as the Converso crisis (which I will examine in greater detail in Part 3). The Jewish historian Benjamin Gampel writes: "As a result of the massacres of 1391, which decimated many of the Jewish communities in Castile and Aragon, a new group emerged within Iberian society comprising a variety of types of erstwhile Jews, ranging from those who converted to Christianity to avoid certain death at the hands of the mob to those who apostasized out of sincere belief in their adopted religion. The numbers of these conversos continued to swell even after the killings had stopped, as the Jewish communities became progressively demoralized by Christianity triumphant and as their social, economic, and political status gradually eroded."(16)



Américo Castro
 
A Leading Spanish Historian's Verdict

The well-known Spanish historian Américo Castro (1885-1972), known for his works on Spanish identity and history that are generally favorable to the role of Iberian Jewry, nevertheless gives us a general verdict: "We know that in the Visigothic epoch the Jews bought off the clergy and enjoyed the protection of the nobles, in spite of the severe laws dictated against them. But the situation under the Christian kings of the early Reconquest was quite different. The Jews were tolerated if not by law at least in practice, and the kings themselves declared time and again that without the sons of Jacob, their finances would go to pieces. The aljamas, or Jewish communities, paid a head tax and also the church tithe. But apart from these relatively mild discriminations, they were the collectors of the royal taxes, as well as of the tributes owed to the military orders and the great lords, and it was not unusual for them to perform similar services for church officials.

"The aljamas were able to pay the high tribute that the kings coveted so hungrily because the Jews were good craftsmen and very clever entrepreneurs. There was no trade they did not practice, no remunerative business in which they did not have a hand. They exported and imported merchandise, and lent money at an interest rate of 33 per cent per annum. The resentment of their debtors and the hatred of the tax-payers had a great influence in their ruination when the common people acquired a power and initiative in the fourteenth century that they had lacked up to that time.

"We do not realize clearly enough today what it meant to turn over essential branches of the public administration to the Hispano-Hebrews. If the latter had been a normal component of Spanish life, happily articulated in it, their activities as the managerial and banking caste would have had another meaning. Such articulation is historically unthinkable, because the Jew had no honorable place in the Christian idea of the state. England and France expelled the not very numerous Jews from their lands in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries on the initiative of the ruling class. The case of Spain was entirely different. The Jews had remained there in large numbers up to 1492, as serfs of the kings, as enemies of Christianity, and as irritating guests, allowed to share the life of the dominant caste for reasons of necessity and interest. But the politically inferior caste - the Jews - performed functions essential for the collective life in the same way that, as physicians and administrators, they had a place in the private life of those who ruled Spain.

"This false situation was fatal, and equally so was the situation in which the common people had to accept a group whom they hated and despised, as their superiors, legally entitled to prey regularly upon their meager resources. And the more evident the superiority of the Jews turned out to be, the worse it became....Much space would be required to describe in detail the financial activities of the Jews. For our purpose a few facts by way of example will be sufficient. The aljamas were a prime source of wealth because each one of their members contributed to the treasury of the king, to whom, consequently, it was a matter of considerable interest that the Jew should not grow poor; the Christian commoners, who, unlike the hidalgos, were not exempt from paying taxes, delivered their money to the crown by way of the Jews who collected the taxes. In one way or another, the income of the treasury proceeded from Jews or had of necessity to pass through their hands."(17)

Conclusion

As we have seen, despite all their attacks upon Spanish history, the truth is that the Jews in Spain often enjoyed a very privileged position vis a vis the monarchs. They did so because of the influential positions they tended to hold within society, as usurers, tax-farmers and physicians. Yet, rather than being grateful to the land which had welcomed them for so long these Jews regarded themselves as superior to the indigenous Iberians. The Talmud and various works polemical against Christians proliferated among Iberian Jewry, instilling a further level of mistrust and enmity towards the host population. They knew the anger of indigenous Iberians was rising against them, so they bribed powerful officials to maintain their privileged status essentially pitting the monarchs against the people. "Hostility towards the Jews had often been manifested in the past, chiefly because of their involvement in money-lending and tax-farming. Complaints about Jewish usury and Jewish tax collectors occur again and again in the records of the Cortes....Though the Crown usually promised to attend to these complaints, Jews continued to figure prominently in the management of royal finances."(18)

Lest we be accused with the tired slander of "anti-Semitic" when highlighting these facts, I conclude by quoting one of the most esteemed mainstream scholars of Spanish history: "The very misleading term of 'anti-Semitism' is so carelessly, or malevolently, tossed about these days that it virtually has no meaning except as a convenient rock to hurl in anger–but, like a rock, it can hurt....[their] impassioned opinions hamper the writing of fair and unbiased accounts of Spain. Jewish emotion, when aroused by historical memory of [the] Spanish Inquisition and expulsion, exaggerates and distorts, and certainly gives little shrift to the Spanish side of the story....Jewish writers are aided by a popular opinion, much of it created by themselves, which for centuries has influenced writing upon these themes."(19) We keep this in mind as we move to the third part of our story, with direct relevance to our current day.




NOTES:

(1) Ahmad Thomson, The Next World Order, Beirut: Al-Aqsa Press, 1994, p. 107.

(2) Abraham Leon, The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation, 1946; Mexico City: Ediciones Pioneras, 1950, p. 166.

(3) Ignacy Schipper, Jewish History, Vol. 1, Warsaw: 1930, p. 144.

(4) Eliyahu Ashtor, The Jews of Moslem Spain, Vol. 2, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979, pp. 250-251.

(5) Will Durant, The Age of Faith, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950, pp. 371-373.

(6) In our own times, similar to how Vladimir Putin made a deal with the Hassidic Chabad in their own struggle against secular Russian Jews, and the overtures made by certain segments of the American "Alt-Right" towards fanatical right-wing Zionist Jews against the more leftist, Marxist Jews. In each case, one group of Jews uses the "goyim" as pawns in their own internal struggles whilst their own faction comes to wield greater influence over the "goyim" than previously.

(7) Joseph Jacobs, An Inquiry into the Sources of the History of the Jews in Spain, London: D. Nutt, 1894, pp. xxi-xxv.

(8) Michael A. Hoffman II, "Johann Andreas Eisenmenger: Father of the European Enlightenment," Johann Andreas Eisenmenger, The Traditions of the Jews, Coeur d'Alene, ID: Independent History and Research, 2006, pp. 8-9.

(9) Leon, op. cit., Chapter 3: The period of the Jewish usurer, <http://www.marxists.de/religion/leon/ch3b.htm>.

(10) ibid.

(11) ibid.

(12) Schipper, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 133.

(13) Leon, op. cit., p. 165.

(14) Richard Gottheil, Meyer Kayserling, and Joseph Jacobs, "Spain," The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13940-spain>.

(15) ibid.

(16) Benjamin Gampel, The Last Jews on Iberian Soil: Navarrese Jewry, 1479-1498, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989.

(17) Américo Castro, The Structure of Spanish History, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1954.

(18) Joseph F. O'Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975.

(19) Philip Wayne Powell, Tree of Hate: Propaganda and Prejudices Affecting United States Relations with the Hispanic World, Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2008.

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