About this blog

I plan to collect historical documents and articles by various authors in this blog, usually without comments. Opinions expressed within the articles belong to the authors and do not always coincide with those of mine.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Christian Anti-Semitism in the Ottoman Empire

Extracts from:

Stanford J. Shaw (Professor of Turkish History, University of California Los Angeles), 'Christian Anti Semitism in the Ottoman Empire,' Belleten, C. LIV, 68 (1991).

As a result of the tension now existing between Israel and the Muslim world, it long has been assumed that the anti Semitism to which the Jews of the Ottoman Empire were subjected over the centuries was the result of Muslim antipathy for Judaism and Jews, and that it was carried out
largely by Muslims. This idea was spread by Christian nationalist groups within and outside the Ottoman Empire for the purpose of gaining the support of world Jewry for their causes. At times, moreover, these groups even stimulated Muslim attacks on their own people to gain the support
of the Christian nations of Europe [1]. The fact, however, was quite different. It was the Muslim Turks who invited Jews to the Ottoman Empire as they were driven out of western Europe and Russia by massacres, blood libels, and persecutions of all sorts. It was the Muslim Turks who provided Ottoman Jewry with the kind of opportunities and protection which enabled them to prosper during four centuries of Ottoman rule. During the centuries of Ottoman decline which began in the seventeenth century, it was the Ottoman Turks who provided Jews with what protection they could against the advancing anti-Semitism of Christians both within and outside the Empire. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in particular it was Christian armies invading the Ottoman Empire as well as Christian national movements arising within that carried out most of the mass attacks, persecution and massacres which decimated much of Ottoman Jewry before World War I despite the continued protection provided by the Ottoman government.

Anti Semitism originated as a Christian and not a Muslim phenomenon. Jews were driven from the Holy Land by Pagan Rome primarily for political rather than religious reasons. The Jews of Eretz Israel refused to accept Roman rule and wanted to remain independent. But once rule over Palestine was settled, Pagan Rome had no antipathy to Jews, and allowed them to settle freely elsewhere in its domains, particularly in Anatolia where they constituted a large portion of the population. It was only after Rome converted to Christianity, and in particular after the East Roman Empire became Byzantium and developed its own form of Orthodox Christianity, which was particularly virulent regarding Jews, that the latter came to be subject to intense persecution so that hardly any Jews were left by the time the Ottoman Turks came onto the scene.

Just as the Turks began moving into the Middle East and Anatolia from Central Asia at the end of the eleventh century, thus beginning the process by which they would take over the area and establish the Ottoman Empire, the Jews ..themselves began to experience new waves of persecution... In 1078, the Pope decreed that Jews should not occupy important positions in Christian countries and that in particular no Jew could be superior to any Christian. Jews who had settled in France and Germany found their occupations increasingly narrowed by economic and religious prejudice to trades associated with banking and money changing, which in turn exacerbated long-held religious prejudices into ever-deepening political and economic persecutions based on racial and religious anti-Semitism.

Jews had long been accused of being Christ killers, those who had caused the Crucifixion. Added to this, however, were new accusations, of which the most influential were the popular myths known as the 'blood libel', or 'ritual murder' accusations, invented by the ancient Greeks, the idea that Jews kidnapped and murdered Christian children and drained their bodies of blood for use in religious ceremonies, especially those associated with wine and the making of unleavened bread, or 'matzoh'.

Added to this was the myth of 'desecration of the host', by which Jews were alleged to be profaning the wafer consecrated in the Catholic ceremony of the Eucharist which, since the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, was believed to [be] the actual body of Jesus, which the Jews were said to be stabbing, tormenting or burning in order to subject Christ once again to the agonies of the cross. These accusations seem utterly absurd in the modern world. It stretches the imagination to believe that such ideas could stir people up to such frenzies of emotion that they could attack even aged and crippled Jews in the street, not only stoning them and pulling their beards and hair but massacring them and destroying their shops and homes, particularly during the week preceding Easter when Christian religious passions were at their peak. Yet such incidents took place repeatedly in Europe, starting first at Norwich, England in 1144, and continuing into the late nineteenth century, and also, with even more vehemence and violence, in the Middle East by native Christians infected by the prejudices of their European coreligionists.

Stimulating and exacerbating these long-held religious passions and economic motives were the Crusades, particularly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. On November 27, 1095 Pope Urban II went to Clermont-Ferrand in Southern France and delivered a speech which started almost half a millenium of Crusades against the 'infidel' Muslims. With great emotion, he said the Christians of the East, and particularly in the Holy Land, were suffering at the hands of the Muslims, formerly the Arabs and now the advancing Turks. He said that Jerusalem already had been profaned by the anti-Christians and that Christian Constantinople now was under threat, and he appealed to all of Christian Europe to send off armies to save Byzantium and rescue the Holy Land from the unbelievers, offering remission from all sins, past and future, for those who shared in this endeavor. All of Christian Europe was stirred to frenzy by religious and political leaders who spread the idea of freeing the Holy Land and Byzantium from the infidel Muslims, though again, as with the blood-libel and desecration of host accusations, economic motives were probably as important as religious ones, at least for many of the leaders. There was no particular reason that these Crusades should have effected the Jews, but they did because of the passions involved. Those Christians who were stirred to believe that the Muslims were the embodiment of all evil soon found it convenient to include the Jews who were prospering in the Muslim lands and therefore supporting the Muslims against the Crusader attacks in fear of renewed spread of anti-Semitism into the Middle East, and who were in any case considered just as bad as the Muslims. People who felt that they were servants of God, with all sins forgiven in advance for what they were going to do in the Holy Land, were in no way inhibited from plundering the Jews as they went along, particularly when the monks who accompanied them suggested that it would add to their favor with God if they forced the Jews they found to convert to Christianity as well. So as the Crusaders marched along from England and France through Germany and Austria toward the Islamic Middle East, they sacked and often destroyed Jewish communities found along their paths massacring many as they went in Germany and Bohemia in particular.

When one group of Crusaders led by Emmerich Count of Leinigen, reached Worms they demanded ransom from its Jews, who paid. But soon afterwards he sent his men to break into their houses, slaughtering the men and children and raping the women, with many commiting suicide to save themselves. Many Jews were burned alive in their synagogues. After seven days of this, the Jews who survived were offered the opportunity to baptism and convert to Christianity with the alternative of being turned over to the crowd to be torn apart. They were given time to think about it in the local synagogue, but when no answer came, the mob broke in and found all the Jews had committed suicide. The same thing happened as the Crusade went on to Mainz and Cologne, and throughout the Rhineland.

These Crusaders left in their wake new 'blood libel' and 'desecration of host' passions which in turn led to later attacks on the surviving Jewish communities wherever there was even the slightest rumor which provided a pretext and rallying cry. The spread of the Black Death throughout Western Europe, particularly between 1348 and 1350, provided a new pretext to blame Jews for catastrophe, in this case with the story that they poisoned water supplies to cause the plague and wipe out Christianity, with the hope that by persecuting them its spread would be checked [8]. Many Jews who survived were ultimately allowed to resettle in their old homes, but invariably in worse terms than before [9]. The Black Death and the resulting pogroms not only caused deaths and destruction of homes and shops of thousands of Jews, thus, but also intensified the popular Christian stereotypes of the Jews, many of which have remained the basis for anti-semitism in modern times.

There often were massacres, as for example in Frankfurt in 1241, Munich in 1285-6 [10] and Amleder in 1336 [11]. Expulsions had been carried out in earlier centuries, but they always had been limited both in time and area. But now as royal authority extended more widely in each kingdom, so also did the expulsions become more permanent and extensive. Now there were sudden and violent deportations, sometimes for very long periods of time. They began in England, strangely enough the last country of Western Christandom to admit Jews, starting with the decree of Edward I issued on 18 July 1290, which was enforced for almost four centuries, until 1650 [12]. In France, Louis IX (1226-1270) enforced the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council with great severity, decreeing the expulsion of all Jews from his kingdom as he left for the first Crusade in 1249. Philip the Fair (1285-1314) ordered all French Jews to be arrested (July 1306), following this up with a decree condemning them to expulsion and confiscation of their property, though this later was revoked by his successor. Charles IV expelled the Jews again in 1322, and it was only due to a financial crisis in 1359 that they were admitted again. In 1380 and 1382 there were riots against the Jews in Paris, and starting in 1394 they were expelled again, this time not to return for centuries, in some areas not until the start of the French Revolution four centuries later[13]. Jews were excluded from Russia from the fifteenth century until 1772, when masses of Jews were included as a result of the Russian annexation of Poland and Lithuania. They were banned from Hungary after 1376 [14], from Naples in 1510-1511, and from almost anywhere in Germany in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, though in some cases because of its lack of unity these deportations were temporary and local at best, with Jews simply going from one locality to another, and then ultimately returning to their original homes as time passed and the deportation decrees were annulled or forgotten by political and religious leaders who saw their own incomes falling in the absence of their Jewish advisors.

Things were no better in Byzantium. Byzantine Jews were nominally free to follow their own faith, but just as the Romans had reduced Jews to no more than subject status, so also Byzantines excluded Jews from rights of full citizenship. The motives of Romans were mainly political; but Byzantines were moved also by religious reasons as well. From their absolute conviction, taught by the Greek Orthodox Church, that the Jews were condemned by God for rejecting his Word and for the Unforgivable Crime of killing Jesus Christ, it was logical to conclude that the Jews ought to be punished by God's new chosen people, the Christians, by being subjected to various restrictions.

Byzantine leaders demanded on numerous occasions that Jews be removed from Constantinople and the Empire altogether, and several expulsion orders were issued. Judaism actually was outlawed and Jews ordered forceably converted at least five times, by Emperor Heraclius in 632, in 680 in an effort to secure a united front against Islamic attacks, by Leo III in 721-723, by Basil I in 873-874, and by Romanos I in 930. Jews were allowed to seek 'salvation' through conversion, but even those who did convert were suspected of potential acts of blasphemy and were therefore subjected to periodic persecution, as was later the case in Spain. Legends of Jewish moneylenders took on the negative dimensions of the later Shylock traditions. In church services Jews were normally referred to as 'the accursed', but they could benefit from divine guidance to baptism, as opposed to other non-Christians who could be converted only by the sword. There were also passion plays and the like which played on the popular prejudice. All these religious traditions and folklore accounts influenced the Orthodox urban neighbors of Jews, causing a great deal of persecution and conflict [15].

Those Jews who lived in Byzantium were subjected to various legal restrictions, severely limiting even minor details of their religious activities, excluding them from most of the privileges of citizenship while imposing all sorts of intolerable burdens. Theodosius II (408-450) excluded Jews from all offices of honor and prohibited them from building new synagogues, although he did allow them to repair old ones. Soon afterwards, during a battle between parties in the chariot races at Rome, many Jews were murdered, their synagogues burned, and their bodies thrown into the fire.

Justinian (527-565) was the first emperor to set a precedent for interference with the social and religious practices of Judaism, in 553 even going so far as to dictate that Greek and Latin translations of the Old Testament should be used in Jewish religious services in hope that this would convince some Jews to convert. He forbad the use of the phrase 'our God is the one and only God' in Jewish services because he considered this to be blasphemy against the Christian Holy Trinity, and he outlawed the reading of sayings of Isaiah promising consolation for the downtrodded people of Judaism. He went on to forbid the observance of religious services during Passover, forbad the celebrating of Passover at the same time as Easter, and ordered end to the baking of unleavened bread [16]. He even placed spies in synagogues during services to watch out for any violations of his rules, though he soon found they could not prevent secret praying of the disputed passages at other times of day when the spies were not present. He also imposed many disabilities on Jewish citizens, prohibiting them from testifying against Christians in court and restricting them to minor positions in bureaucracy. As a result of all this, when his armies attacked Naples, its Jews gave up their property and even their lives joining in defence of the city against the Byzantines.

Heraclius (610-641) was the first emperor to convert the Jews to Christianity by force, and other emperors did the same between the eighth and tenth centuries. After the Vandals destroyed the Jewish synagogue in the late fifth century, the Byzantines refused to allow it to be restored, and soon after Heraclius died, the Church prevented the survivers and newly arriving Jewish immigrants from building new synagogues to meet their religious needs. Basil I (867-886) first tried to convert the Jews by persuasion, inviting rabbis to debate to defend their faith and offering them benefits if they accepted defeat. He then had recourse to bribary, providing gifts to those who agreed to convert. After that failed, in 884 he ordered all Jews converted to Christianity, and though this effort was abondoned under his immediate successors, the pressure continued, and most Byzantine theologians and church leaders protested vigorously when those who had converted under pressure during the preceding regime were allowed to return to Judaism. Emperor Romanos Lucapenus, in about 935, again ordered the forcible conversion of all Jews of Byzantium, leading to the murder of hundreds of Jews and the desecration of many synagogues throughout the Empire.

To the Greek Orthodox Church, Jews were absolute filth, whose touch was considered to be contaminating. Christians who had any contact with Jews had to be excommunicated.

Thus the Quinisext Council of 692 declared that 'Whatever remnant of pagan or Jewish perversity is mixed with the ripe fruit of the truth must be uprooted like a weed...Neither clergyman nor layman may partake of the unleavened bread of the Jews, associate with them, accept medical treatment from them, or bathe with them. Should anyone attempt to do it, if a clergyman, be defrocked, if a layman excommunicated.' [17]

[1] The latter efforts were well-documented in William L. Langer, 'The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890-1902,' (2nd Ed., New York, Knopf, 1956) and Louise Nalbandian, 'The Armenian Revolutionary Movement: The Development of Armenian Political Parties Through The Nineteenth
Century,' (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1967), particularly pp. 110-112.
[2] 'Anti-Semitism', EJ III (Jerusalem, 1972), 87-159; Hermann L. Strack, La Superstition du Sang dans l'Humanite et les Rites Sanguinaries (Munich, 1892); Salomon Reinach, 'L'Accusation du Meurtre Rituel', Revue des Etudes Juives, XXV (1892), 161-180; J.W.Parkes, Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study of the Origins of Antisemitism (1934). A. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1961). G. Kisch, jews in Medewal Germany (1949). B. Blumenkrantz, Juifs et Chretifens dans le monde occidental 430-1096 (Paris, 1960). Philip P. Argenti, The Religious Minorities of Chios: Jews and Roman Catholics (Cambridge, 1970).
[3] On the blood libel, see 'Blood Libel', EJ (Jerusalem, 1972) IV, 1119-1131; 'Blood Accusation', The Jewish Encyclopedia: New Edition III (New York, 1925) 260. M. Samuel, Blood Accusation (1966). Cecil Roth, The Ritual Murder Libel and the Jew (1935). Bernard Lewis, Semites and anti-Semites: an Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (New York and London, Norton, 1986), 101. On its invention by Greeks in the Ist century A.D. see Philip P. Argenti, The Religious Minorities of Chios: Jews and Roman Catholics (Cambridge, 1970), 20.
[4] 'Host', EJ.
[5] 'Blood Libel', EJ (Jerusalem, 1972) IV, 1121, The Jewish Encyclopedia:
New Edition III (New York, 1925), 260. Jessopp and James, St. William
of Norwich (Cambridge, England, 1899). 'England', EJ VI, 747.[8] 'France', EJ VII, 16. 'Germany', EJ VI, 468.
[6] A. Neubauer and M. Stern, Hebraische Berichte uber die Judenverfolgungen wahrend der Kreuzzuge (Berlin, 1892), and review by Charles Porges, 'Les Relations Hebraiques des Persecutions des Juifs pendant la Premiere Croisade', Revue des Etudes Juives XXV (1892), 181-201, XXVI (1893), 183-197.
[7] The situation of Jews in Europe during the Crusades is described in 'Crusades', EJ V, 1135-1140. Bernard Lewis, Semites and anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (New York and London, Norton, 1986), 101. 'France', EJ VII, 13. 'Anti-Semitism', EJ III (Jerusalem, 1972), 102. 'Germany', EJ VI, 462-463.
[EJ = Encyclopedia Judaica (17 Volumes and supplements, Jerusalem, 1972).]
[8] 'France', EJ VII, 16. 'Germany', EJ VI, 468.
[9] J. Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews (1961), 97-108. P. Ziegler, Black Death (1969). 'Black Death', EJ IV, 1063-1068.
[10] 'Germany', EJ VI, 467. The Jewish Encyclopedia: New Edition III (New York, 1925), 266. Zunz, Synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters, 33. Mom.Germ. XI. 210, 872, XVII, 415. A. M. Hebermann, ed., Sefer Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Zarefat (1946), 199. 'Blood-libel', EJ (Jerusalem, 1972) IV, 1122. Stobbe, Die Juden in Deutschland, 282.
[11] 'Germany', EJ VI, 468.
[12] 'England', EJ VI, 751-752.
[13] S.A. Rozanes, History of the Jews in Turkey (in Hebrew) (2nd edition, Sofia, 1930-38), 11, 128; Barisa Krekic, Dubrovnik in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Norman, Oklahoma, 1972), 30. 'France', EJ VII, 17.
[14] EJ [Encyclopaedia Judaica] VI, 469.
[15] Steven Bowman, The Jews of Byzantium (Alabama Press, 1985), 34-36.
[16] Byzantine Empire, EJ [Encyclopaedia Judaica] IV, 1550-1552. Joshua Starr, The Jews of Byzantine Empire, 4-6, 212-213. Philip P. Argenti, The Religious Minorities of Chios: Jews and Roman Catholics (Cambridge, 1970), 39-63. Abraham Galante, Histoire des Juifs d'Istanbul depuis la prise de cetle ville en 1453 jusqu'a nos jours (Istanbul, 1941-42), 39.
[17] Joshua Starr, The Jews of Byzantine Empire (Athens, 1939), 89.


On the basis of examining literally thousands of reports of anti-Semitic attacks found in the archives of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris, Professor Paul Dumont reported:

''..the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Turkey during the second half of the nineteenth century is striking. Though the Ottoman government never failed to punish the guilty parties, the antagonism between communities remained intense. In most towns in Rumelia, as well as Anatolia, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in apparent harmony, often intermingled in the same quarter. But the slightest spark sufficed to ignite the fuse. Whenever a young Christian disappeared at the approach of Passover, Jews were immediately accused of having kidnapped him to obtain blood necessary for the manufacture of unleavened bread. Threats and violence followed close behind the suspicions and generally things ended with a boycot of Jewish shops and peddlers. It is especially with Greeks that the Jewish communities had a bone to pick. But anti- Semitic prejudice was also frequent among Armenians and Bulgarians. Furthermore, as a general rule, when an incident occurred, Christians, without regard to their particular ethnic or religious affiliation, forgot their own quarrels and formed a block against Jews. In the region of Izmir, where the Greek population was particularly cohesive the correspondents of the Alliance from 1870's onward, reported anti-Jewish upheavels practically every year. These upheavels were usually based on blood libel. '' [1]

[1] Paul Dumont, 'Jewish Communities in Turkey during the Last Decades of the Nineteenth Century in the Light of the Archives of the Alliance Israelite Universelle', Braude/Lewis, 222.

No comments:

Post a Comment