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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sociology of Arab Imperialism (according to Schumpeter) -- Part Seven

This is the last excerpt from Schumpeter on Arab imperialism. Here he explores psychological and religious motives for holy war, jihad.

[p 42]
This does not, of course, mean that we deny the signifigance of religious commandments in the consciousness of the people. Had an Arab been asked why he fought, he might, as a born warrior, on proper reflection have countered with the question as to why one lived. That is how self-evident, how far above all rational thought, war and the urge for expansion were to him. But he would not have given such a reply. He would have said: "I fight because Allah and his Prophet will it." And this reply gave him an emotional prop in his struggle, provided him with a mode of conduct that preserved his character as a warrior. Religion was more than a mere reflex, certainly within the body social. It is not my intention to pursue this approach to the extreme, particularly since we here touch on problems that reach far too deeply to be disposed of within the framework of our topic. It was for that reason that I emphasized just now the possibility of the religious idea's taking on a social life of its own, in the example of Christianity. But the imperialism of a people or a state can never be explained in this fashion.
Arab imperialism was, among other things, a form of [p 43] popular imperialism.
Here we have it. Arab imperialism was an imperialism of the people. Democratic no doubt. The people wanted it. The Arabs seem to have enjoyed off the labor of others, the dhimmis who paid tribute. To sum up Schumpeter's views on Arab imperialism: 1) the warlike, conquest-seeking nature of Islam flows from the warlike nature of the pre-Islamic Arabs; 2) the early Arab-Muslim empire was concerned with living as a superior, parasitic warrior caste ruling over non-Muslim subject peoples and exploiting their labor and economic productivity.
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coming soon: oppression of Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Land of Israel

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Sociology of Arab Imperialism (according to Schumpeter) -- Part Six

Schumpeter is writing about the early period of the Arab conquests and Arab rule in non-Arab lands. He explains the economic motives of the conquerors to exploit the conquered peoples. However, his view of how the ruling people treated the subject peoples seems rather naive. More on this below.

[p 41]
The Arabs, for their part, did not proselytize. When the inhabitants of the conquered countries adopted Mohammedanism en masse, this was not the result of a deliberate plan by the conquerors, though it was an entirely plausible process of adaptation. Nor did the Arabs annihilate the infidels. On the contrary, they were treated with remarkable mildness. Neither conversion nor annihilation would have accorded with the Arab brand of war on behalf of the faith. From the viewpoint of their interests, neither course would have paid, for they were dependent on the labor and tribute of subjugated peoples for their livelihood, for their chance to remain a parasitical warrior and master nation. Once the [p 42] infidel was converted or killed, an object of exploitation was lost, an element that was necessary to Arab life, and social organization was sacrificed. Thus the Arabs were quite content to leave the infidels their faith, their lives, and their property. Let them remain infidels. What mattered was that they must serve the faithful. There was never any objection that such a policy might be wrong since it perpetuated the existence of infidels --an argument that should carry much weight with religious sentiment and that was, indeed, always decisive in the case of Christian sentiment as embodied in the Catholic Church. However this policy may fit into the inner logic of the Mohammedan religion, it was Arab practice. And this is precisely what characterizes the position of the religious element in this case. The meaning of the struggle was not the spreading of the faith but the spreading of Arab rule -- in other words, war and conquest for their own sake. [Joseph Schumpeter, Imperialism/Social Classes (New York, 1955)]
At the beginning of their rule, the Arabs did not seek to convert the conquered peoples, as Schumpeter says. They were primarily concerned with controlling and taxing them so that the Arab conquerors could live as warriors without doing ordinary labor, viewed as degrading. This does not mean that they were "mild" or kind to their subjects, and here I disagree with Schumpeter who falls unfortunately into the all too common apologetics for the Arabs. Logically, the Arabs should have been mild, just as it would make more sense for a slaveholder anywhere to treat his slaves well [at least materially] and keep them in good health, fit for work, since they were property, indeed they were capital, that is, a means of production. But in real life, the Arabs may have hated and feared their subjects, and were always concerned about a possible revolt. In such a situation they could be very cruel, indeed murderous, toward the subject peoples.

To be sure, the Arab-Islamic system of rule was milder at the beginning, and well into the Umayyad reign. However, then Arab control over the dhimmis, Arab exploitation and humiliation of them grew worse. For example, the Arab conquest of Israel was completed in 640 CE with the fall of Caesarea. The Christian settlement of Nissana [Nessana or Nitsana] in the Negev lasted until about 700 CE. We know this since manuscripts from there [the Nissana papyri], records of local doings, which were kept until about 700, are still extant. They stop at that time. Apparently the settlement was abandoned. It is believed that not until the Caliph `Umar II [reigned 717-720] that the set of humiliating and exploitative rules governing Muslim-dhimmi relations was promulgated in the form that we know them, called the Pact of `Umar [or Omar]. The Quran too is very hostile and contemptuous towards unbelievers, but it is an uncertain source for the period of the early conquests. This is because it has long been known that at least one early version of the Quran existed before the one now in use. In recent decades, parts of another version of the Quran were discovered in Yemen and are being studied by certain Western scholars. Hence, the Quran's explicit call to humiliate and impose tribute on unbelievers may go back to a time after the early conquests, and thus cannot be used against Schumpeter's argument.

Be that as it may, it seems reasonable that even in the early period, any sign of rebelliousness on the part of the conquered peoples was ruthlessly suppressed.

Bat Yeor, Andrew Bostom, and Norman Stillman have all published books and anthologies of documents regarding Arab/Muslim treatment of the subject peoples, the dhimmis. Stillman's works deal specifically with the treatment and Muslim view of Jewish dhimmis.
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We regret an error in copying: "parasitical warrior and master nation" is correct. At first, we mistakenly typed the word "class" instead of "nation."
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to be continued
Coming: More on oppression of Jews in Jerusalem under Muslim rule

Jewish Life in 19th Century Morocco -- one aspect

For a quaint glimpse of how Jews were traditionally treated in Muslim society, look at 19th century Morocco. Here is an account by a contemporary French traveler there. Bear in mind that this was many years before France occupied Morocco. In 1883-84, the Muslims there were free to do what they wanted with the Jews, what came naturally.
Consider Morocco in 1883-1884:

"Every Jew in the Bled es-Elba belongs in his person and property to his lord, his sid. If his family has been established in the area for a long time, he came down to him [his lord] as an inheritance, as part of his property, according to the rules of Muslim law or the imaziren customs. If he himself came to settle in the place where he is [now] living, he had to make himself someone's Jew as soon as he arrived. Once the Jew has paid homage to him, he is tied forever --he and his posterity-- to the one he has chosen... The Jew lives the most wretched, most unhappy life, he cannot earn a penny without it being torn away from him. His children are taken away from him. In the end, he himself is taken to the marketplace; he is put up for auction and he is sold, as things are done in certain places in the Sahara, but not everywhere. On the other hand, he may be looted and his house destroyed, and he be driven away with his family. One sees villages where a whole quarter is deserted; the astonished passerby learns that there was a mellah [Jewish ghetto] and that one day all the sids by common accord attacked their Jews and drove them out. Nothing in the world protects the Jew from his lord. He is at his mercy. If he wants to be away, he needs authorization. He is not refused this since the Jew's trips are necessary for his commercial activities. But he will not take his wife and children with him for any reason. His family must remain behind close to the sid as hostages for his return..."

This account has been translated from the French.
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Schumpeter's sociological view of Arab imperialism will continue. There are only two or three instalments left.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sociology of Arab Imperialism (according to Schumpeter) -- Part Five

Schumpeter goes on to offer an explanation of the rise of Islam based on the social traits of Arabian society and of the Arab tribes. He sees their society as part of the phenomenon of "mounted nomads." For Schumpeter, this explains a great deal, in particular, the aggressive, warlike character of Islam. After all, the Arab tribes were aggressive and warlike before Muhammad. Schumpeter insists that the mere preaching of Muhammad alone did not bring about the rise of Islam, but rather that Muhammad's preaching fit Arab tribal society, its values and needs.

[p58]
What was the role played by the religious element, the commandments of Allah, the docrtrine of the Prophet? These pervaded and dominated Arab life with an intensity that has few parallels in history. They determined daily conduct, shaped the whole world outlook. They permeated the mentality of the believer, made him someone who was characteristically different from all other men, opened up an unbridgeable gulf between him and the infidel, turning the latter into the arch enemy with whom there could be no true peace. These influences can be traced into every last detail of Arab policy. And most conspicuous of all in the whole sructure of precepts is the call to holy war that opens wide the gates of paradise.

Yet if one sought to conclude that the religious element played a causative role in the Arab policy of conquest, that imperialism rooted in religion must therefore be a special phenomenon, one would come up against three facts. In the first place, it is possible to comprehend Arab policy quite apart from the religious element. It rises from factors that would have been present even without Allah's commandments and presumably would have taken effect even without them -- as we saw in the example of the Persians. Some [p59] aspects of Arab imperialism may make sense only in the light of the Word of the Prophet, but its basic force we must clearly place elsewhere. In the second place, it was by no means true that religion was an independent factor that merely happened to be tending in the same direction as the imperialist drive for conquest. The interrelation between the Word of the Prophet and the data of the social environment (that by themselves already explain the drive) is too obvious to be overlooked. It was the Prophet of the mounted nomads who proclaimed war was everlasting --not just any prophet. We simply cannot ignore the fact that such preachments came naturally to the Prophet and his followers. We cannot dispose of the question by positing a theoretical dominance and creative social force somehow peculiar to the religious element --as though some mysterious and unfathomable vision, remote from environmental pressures, had given rise to the Word of the Prophet in a vacuum, as it were, and as though that Word alone had driven the people forward in agmen, in pulverem, in clamorem [in a multitude, in dust, in shouting]. It is pointless to insist that the Word of the Prophet is an ultimate fact beyond which social science analysis cannot go, any more than it can transcend the data of physicial nature --when that fact becomes easily understandable from the very social, psychic, and physical background that is itself quite adequate to explain fully what the Word of the Prophet is otherwise left to explain alone. Quite apart from trying to explain the unknown through the still less known, we would be resorting to a crutch that is quite unnecessary. But suppose we do accept the theory that the Prophet's doctrine existed in vacuo [in a void]. In trying to explain its success, we would --to mention the third point-- inevitably come up against the same situation that confronted us when we sought to grasp its basic spirit.
. . . .
Here, Schumpeter makes a comparison with the Christian teachings of peace, humility, etc. Here too he sees the religion, in this case Christianity, as arising from the social background or environment of Jesus' early followers in Judea.

And if, conversely, Mohammed had preached humility and submission to his Bedouin horsemen, would they not have turned their backs on him? And if they had followed him, would not their community have perished? A prophet does more than merely formulate a message acceptable to his early adherents: he is successful and comprehensible only when he also formulates a policy that is valid at the moment. This is precisely what distinguishes the successful --the "true"-- prophet from his unsuccessful fellow --the "false" prophet. The "true" prophet recognizes the necessities of the existing situation --a situation that exists quite independently of him -- and when these necessities subsequently change, he manages to adopt a new policy without letting the faithful feel that this transition is treachery.
I do not think that this view can be disputed. What it means is that even in this highly charismatic case no causative role can be ascribed to the Word of the Prophet and that Arab imperialism must not be looked on as something unrelated to other imperialisms. What is true of Arab imperialism is true of any imperialism bearing a religious "coloration" --as we may now put it. This applies to states and peoples, but not, of course, to the expansive drives of religious communities as such --that of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, for example.
Schumpeter tells us that Islam is warlike in essence, and that this essence derives from the character of its early surroundings, the tribal society of Arabia with its raids, captives, loot, enslavement, blood feuds, etc. This implies that Muhammad's teachings likewise derive from this environment.
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To be continued
Coming soon:
Oppression and exploitation of Jews in 19th century Morocco
Oppression of Jews in Jerusalem in the 19th century

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sociology of Arab Imperialism (according to Schumpeter) -- Part Four

Schumpeter gets very specific in his definitions. He describes the Arabs and Arab society very frankly.

[Schumpeter, Imperialism, p 37]
We are here face to face with a "warrior nation" and must explain from its circumstances how it came to be one. We see how internal struggles gave rise to a unified war organization behind which rallied all the popular forces -- including those in the ideological sphere-- a war machine that, once in motion, continued so long as there was steam behind it and it did not run up against a stone wall. War was the normal function of this military theocracy. The leaders might discuss methods, but the basic issue was never in question. This point emerges with particular clarity, since the Arabs, for the most part, never troubled to look for even flimsy pretexts for war, nor did they even declare war. Their social organization needed war; without successful wars it would have collapsed. War, moreover, was the normal occupation of the members of the society. When there was no war, they would rebel or fall upon each other over theological controversies. The older [p38] social doctrine, especially the tendency to guard against merging with the conquered land and to keep the people fixed in the profession of arms, served the needs of this situation. Whenever that failed, whenever a new environment beckoned in another country with a richer background, whenever the Arabs settled down there, especially when they acquired land -- then the impetus of war was spent and there developed such cultural centers as Cordoba, Cairo, and Bagdad. The energies of the best elements were diverted to other goals. We have, then, a typical case of "objectless," violent expansion, born of past necessities of life, grown to the proportions of a powerful drive by virture of long habit, persisting to the point of exhaustion -- a case of imperialism which we are able to view historically, precisely, and completely from its very origins to its death in the functional transformation of its energy.
Schumpeter is talking about the first centuries of Islam before the Crusades, from about 622 till 1099. By the end of the period, the Arab domain was divided between several dynasties, such as Abbasids governing from Iraq [in fact, Turkish officials controlled the state], Umayyads in Spain, Fatimids in Egypt, and dynasties of lesser importance here and there. Dynasties sometimes held power through alliance with specific sects. For instance, the Fatimids were Shiites governing a mainly Sunni empire, etc. Schumpeter stresses the point that the society focussed its energies on war and needed war. It was a society of a master caste of warriors, originally purely Arab, then Turkish tribes and Berber tribes joining in. The master caste lived off the labor of the subject peoples. At the beginning, the subject peoples were non-Muslim and non-Arab. As the Arabs began to admit converts to their ranks at some later point, the master class expanded but the tax base of non-Muslims diminished. Nevertheless, the contempt and hatred for the dhimmis persisted and even worsened, the smaller a part the dhimmis became of the population.
The status of the Copts in Egypt is probably as bad today as it has ever been, the "democratic" veneer of the 21st century Egyptian state notwithstanding. The new feature in the last century is that the enlightened West does not care what the Arab-Muslims do to their fellow Christians.

As a military society to this day, a society still mentally focussed on jihad, is it any wonder that the Arabs have given little of intellectual or artistic distinction to the world since Ibn Khaldun who died in 1406. The intellectual ferment among Arabs, such as it has been, has been mostly a matter of restoring the antique purity of Muslim society, such as they imagine it, and how to fight a better, more effective jihad, and how to deceive the unbelievers who have waxed strong and militarily proficient, in defiance of Allah's promises to the Muslims. Wilfred Cantwell Smith points out that "apologetics" for Islam and for Arab society are a major part of Arab intellectual output directed toward the West as well as internally.
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to be continued
Coming soon: The Jews' status in Muslim society
Poems of Zion

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Sociology of Arab Imperialism -- Part Three

President Bush believes that Islam is a "religion of peace." Be that as it may, Professor Schumpeter was of a different opinion.

[Schumpeter, Imperialism, p 36]
". . . the call for war on behalf of the faith --the jihad--. . . the most important practical demand, the normal outward attitude of the faithful. Partly as a result of this ideological orientation, partly as its consequence, there came into being a practical fighting organization, which reduced the element of inner communion to the role of a means for self-discipline on the part of the warrior, and to which the Bedouins took like ducks to water. Both ideology and organization proved their vitality and grew with the task for which they had been created -- the struggle for Mecca and the unifying conversion of the Arab tribes. And when, suddenly, they had arrived, become firm, grown into a power, they followed the impulse they had received. Mohammed himself attempted to reach beyond Arabia (the campaign of Said), though without success. Abu Bekr, having developed the new politico-military organization and secured it against uprisings, invaded Syria without difficulty. Yet the new clerical warrior state remained democratic, despite the Caliph's wealth of temporal and clerical power. It could do so, because it had grown straight from the people. Loot was community property, to be distributed according to military rank. Not until Othman was the acquisition of land in the conquered countries permitted. The original idea had been that the Arabs would [p 37] remain a master class, merely establishing garrisons. Under Omar . . ."
. . . Arab-Muslim invasions continued, occupying in a short period Persia, the Land of Israel, Syria and Lebanon of today, and Egypt.

The Arabs had defeated two mighty empires, the Persian and Byzantine, that were exhausted from decades of struggle against each other. Then North Africa and Spain [the Visigoths were defeated in Spain in the 7th century]. However, the Arab advance in the West was stopped at Poitiers in middle France by the Frankish chieftain Charles Martel:

"Frankish might rather than any lack of Arab will put an end to further penetration" in the West. Meanwhile, in the eastern Mediterranean, "The Arab wave spent itself against Byzantium," which Arab armies besieged twice and failed to conquer twice. "In Asia it was the same story. Many armed actions still succeeded. A halt was called only when it was impossible to push on. And whenever a halt was called, internal difficulties erupted, destroying the empire in the end." As the centuries went on, Arab rulers increasingly used Turkish tribes converted to Islam to do their fighting and protect the rulers. Eventually these Turkish warriors became the effective rulers themselves, the Arab Abbasid caliph remaining as a nominal sovereign. Of course, as one would expect among the Arabs, one dynasty and one sect fought another, sometimes sectarian warfare combining with dynastic ambitions. And the armies of Turkomans joined in the destructive festivities. All this occurred before the Crusades, when Fatimids ruled an empire from Egypt, Abbasids ruled in Bagdad, Hamdanids and Tulunids had ruled as well, not forgetting the depredations in the Land of Israel of the Arab-Muslim Karmathian sect, etc.

Note that Arab society in the conquered territories was originally meant to maintain the Arabs as an exploitative ruling class over the conquered non-Muslims, and that war was necessary to prevent "internal difficulties." Further, the conquests would have continued indefinitely if they had not been stopped by equal or superior military force.

There is also a hint of communism in Schumpeter's account. "Loot was community property." Some mad "leftist" historians and sociologists, such as one Maxime Rodinson, operating in France, have waxed poetic over the "communism" of the Arabs. That is, the loot that they seized from conquered and occupied peoples became the community property, waqf, of the Arab Muslims. Is this what the Left of today wants us to admire in Islam?

The early Arab Muslim empire existed not merely on loot from the conquered and occupied peoples, but on taxes regularly collected from them. At the beginning, only the non-Muslims paid taxes, which at the very beginning remained as they were under the previous regime [Byzantine, Persian]. However, as time went on, the tax burden became more onerous, whether because the Arab state needed more money, or because conversions to Islam --not allowed at the beginning-- reduced the size of the tax base, or for both of these reasons, and perhaps others. Eventually, Muslims too had to pay taxes, although these were always much less than those paid by non-Muslims, dhimmis. The taxes paid by non-Muslims, by unbelievers, infidels, were considered tribute, in line with the Quranic verse 9:29, which exhorts the Muslims to fight the unbelievers until they are brought low and pay tribute. This tribute too was communal property, giving the mad Leftists like Rodinson and others a pretext to idealize Islam as "communist" [of course, it's all a matter of definition. Maybe communism means exploitation of non-Muslim occupied peoples].
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to be continued
The low status of Jews in Arab-Muslim society .
Poems of Zion
Jews in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel under Muslim rule, particularly in the 19th century

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Sociology of Arab Imperialism (according to Schumpeter) -- Part Two

Schumpeter traces Muhammad's career. First he starts as a reformer, while he does not hold power. He inveighs against the gap between rich and poor, and against the pursuit of profit. Then, once he gains control of the city of Medina, he becomes aggressive and jihad becomes a/the dominant theme of Muslim culture. Jihad is of course, among other things, a war for loot to be captured from unbelievers, the Infidels.

[Schumpeter, Imperialism, p35]
There were three elements that brought this Arab world to the stage of ferment. First of all, there was the alien rule of the Byzantines and Persians. . . Secondly, in the realm of ideas, there was the religious bond that existed between the tribes. This was objectified in the ancient sanctuary of the Kaba at Mecca, where all the tribes met and were exposed to religious currents of every description, especially from the Semitic world, and where they created a cultural as well as a religious center. The center itself, the breeding place of new trends, was in the possession of a single tribe, the Koreishites, who thereby assumed a privileged position, often at odds with other interests. Even within the Koreish tribe the holy place was in charge of a special clique, as always happens in such cases. In the third place, an urban commercial culture, reaching out to draw in certain individuals, clans, and tribes, developed in the centers of communication, especially Mecca. This was bound to wear down many corners of the old order and way of life and thinking, at the same time opening a gulf between the elements so affected and the simple, old-style Bedouins, to whom these things appeared alien and dissonant. There appeared, at first purely by way of reaction, a movement of social reform or revolution, beginning in the early seventh century. Pristine simplicity, a softening of the contrasts between poor and rich, a voluntary relinquishment [p 36] of the pursuit of profit --these were Mohammed's first thoughts. He threw down the gage of battle to established interest and "acquired right," and his first practical demand was for a purge of the stain of money-grubbing by means of almsgiving.

Whatever his adherents may have thought, the interests that were threatened recognized the situation with the clarity peculiar to them and acted promptly. But their measures failed to destroy Mohammed, merely driving him out, and only a year after the Hegira [the migration from Mecca to Medina] he was able to make himself master of Medina. Thus all they succeeded in doing was to force him, first, onto the defensive and, then, the offensive, with a corresponding shift in his viewpoint. The reformer of the sacred tribe became the aggressive fighter against the "Infidels." Inner communion gave way to the call for war on behalf of the faith --the jihad-- as the most important practical demand, the normal outward attitude of the faithful.

People today in the 21st Century can savor what our medieval ancestors might have felt in the face of aggressive jihad warfare by the early Muslims. Perhaps in those days, people were less naive than today about military aggression, and understood that they were being attacked, whereas today, various powerful interests seek to convince us that all the Arabs want is "liberation" from outside control, social justice, to be rid of "occupation" and "imperialism." Yet, the political terms used by Arab/Muslim spokesmen have to be understood in their historical and cultural-religious context, as well as in their use as propagandistic or psychological warfare weapons. Arab/Muslim spokesmen are sensitive to the negative, pejorative connotations of such words as occupation and imperialism in Western culture, influenced by Marxist-Leninist- Stalinist views and by the memory of World War 2. "Occupation" can mean Infidel control of any place that was once under Muslim control. Hence, some Islamist/jihadist spokesmen have frankly admitted that Spain, once under Muslim rule, is considered "occupied." "Imperialism" usually means non-Muslim conquest of Arab or Muslim countries. However, Arab/Muslim conquest of non-Muslim lands, such as the southern Sudan, is not considered imperialism. It is jihad and jihad is just in their minds. Conversely, the term "resistance" took on a positive connotation in view of WW2 resistance movements. So jihadist terrorism is labelled "resistance," even if it slaughters civilians, which was not the tactic of the WW2 resistance partisans. Even the slaughter of thousands of civilians inIraq, fellow Muslims, is labelled "resistance." Bear in mind that most of the slaughter is committed by Sunni Arabs against Shi`ite Arabs and against Kurds [in fact, mostly Sunnis].

All this notwithstanding, political leaders and prominent academics in the West work hard to convince us that the demands of today's jihadists are reasonable and even just, without a thought of the imperialistic history of the Arabs themselves and of other Muslims.

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To be continued
Also coming soon: More on oppression of Jews in Jerusalem under Muslim and Arab control

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Sociology of Arab Imperialism, according to Joseph Schumpeter - Part One

Arab imperialism had specific sociological-economic features which are described by Joseph Schumpeter. This author was a famous economist in the early and mid-20th century. He belonged to the so-called Austrian School of economics and he was not a socialist, although at certain periods he associated with some Marxian socialist economists on a committee. His important work was written from the first decade of the 20th century up to 1950 when he died in the United States. I agree with most of what he says about Arab imperialism, although there are probably a few minor points that I would not agree with. Without being a socialist or Marxist, he was influenced by them at least in the sense that he was interested in exploring some of the same categories and phenomena that they considered important.

His writings on imperialism quoted here seem to go back to the 1930s.

In order to illuminate especially the character of the religious brand of imperialism, let us briefly discuss the case of the Arabs. The relevant facts are simple and uncontroverted. The Arabs were mounted nomads, a persistent warrior type, like the nomadic Mongol horsemen. At heart they have remained just that, despite all modifications of culture and organization. Only at a late date and incompletely did portions of the Arab people relinquish the equestrian profession --no one readjusts so slowly and with such difficulty as the mounted nomad. Such people are never able to support themselves alone, and in Arabia they constituted a master class that systematically exploited for its own purposes, sometimes by means of outright robbery, the (likewise Semitic) population that had settled here and there and was engaged in agriculture and trade. Internally the Arabs were organized along thoroughly democratic lines, again like all mounted nomads. It was a gentile [clan] and patriarchal type of democracy, in keeping with the "relations of production" that prevailed among a nation of herdsmen and horsemen, and quite different from agrarian and urban democracy -- but democracy all the same in the sense that all members of the nation carried political weight and that all political expression grew from the people as a whole. The Arabs were divided into loosely knit tribes, headed by a freely elected sheik or emir who was dependent, in all affairs of importance, on the assent of the clan chiefs. The stock from which the tribes developed constituted the primary community, the fundamental social bond.
[Joseph Schumpeter, Imperialism / Social Classes (New York: Meridian, 1955), pp 34-35]

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to be continued
Coming soon: more on the status of Jews in Arab-Muslim society

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Friday, November 11, 2005

A Poem of Zion by Dunash ben Labrat

Reply to an Invitation to a Feast -- Dunash haLevi ben Labrat

He said: "Do not sleep.
Drink vintage wine,
While henna and lily,
Myrrh and aloes,

Pomegranates and dates,
Tamarisks and grapes,
And pleasant anemones
Fill the garden rows

. . . .

"We shall pour out fine oil,
Burn woody spices.
Let us finish our feast
Before life's last hour"

I rebuked him: "Silence!
How can you talk so,
When the Temple, God's footstool,
Is in the enemy's power?

. . . .

"You no longer think
On the law of God.
You can be happy,
While foxes run loose in Zion.

"How can we drink wine?
How raise our eyes?
When we are nothing,
A race all despise!"

גערתיהו , דום דום ! עלי זאת איך תקדום--
ובית קודש והדום אלוקים לערלים!
. . .
ובציון ירוצון שועלים
!ואיך נשתה יין ואיך נרים עין-- והיינו אין , מאוסים וגעולים

Dunash haLevi ben Labrat [d. 990 CE]. Born in Baghdad, Hebrew linguist and poet. Lived in Fez, Morocco, and then in Cordova in Spain.

Here is a Jewish poet born and living his life in Arab-ruled countries and not entirely pleased with the experience. He was unhappy that the Temple was in enemy hands and that foxes were running loose in Zion. Who was the enemy he was referring to and who were the foxes?
[translation slightly altered/corrected by Eliyahu; basic translation by David Goldstein, Penguin pubs., 1971, in The Jewish Poets of Spain, 900-1250]

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Roman Documents Showing Judea [IVDAEA] as the Roman name for Israel

The Roman Empire called the Land of Israel IVDAEA, Judea, in the heyday of the empire, not only in official documents but in books by Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny writing in Latin, and by Plutarch, Strabo the Geographer, and Ptolemy the Geographer writing in Greek. The name in Greek is transliterated Ioudaia, it is apparently pronounced identically to the Latin pronunciation of IVDAEA. These names come from the Aramaic word Yehudaya meaning "the Jews," according to the historian Felix Abel of the Ecole Biblique.

One kind of official document using the name Judea was the military diploma. In ancient Rome this was something like army discharge papers combined with what in the USA might be called Veterans Administration certification. They spelled out where and in what legions the veteran had served, as well as his veteran's rights. They are important for supplying information about which legions were stationed where and when, names of commanders and governors, etc. The diploma consisted of two bronze plates inscribed with the same text, one copy open and the other kept sealed for the purpose of verifying the open copy in case of doubt.

One such diploma of a legionary who had served in Judea is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. See below the two surviving plates, the outer or overt plate coming down to us in better condition than the inner or sealed plate. Both plates show the name IVDAEA --Judea. In between are printed copies of the text of each plate.



On both plates note that the name IVDAEA appears on the fourth line from the bottom. The photos can be enlarged by clicking, and then clicking on the second image that appears.

These photos appeared in the journal, Israel Museum Studies in Archeology, 2: 2003.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Muslims/Arabs Exploiting Jews in Jerusalem before the Crusades

The dhimmi communities or peoples were caught up in a constant cycle of regular taxes and special exactions, forced bribes, etc. Moshe Gil writes that in this respect the Jews of Jerusalem may have been more fortunate than dhimmis elsewhere:
"It appears that the tax system in Jerusalem . . . was more lenient than elsewhere"
This was because the tax system for this city had been determined in the early days of Islam "immediately after the conquest of the city by the Muslims" [638 CE], when special conditions may have been offered in order to obtain surrender and to pacify local populations. Nevertheless, Gil also quotes from a letter written about 1025 by Solomon haKohen ben Yehosef in regard to an exaction:
. . . and the living was made a guarantor for the dead, and he who stayed -- for the one who ran away; afterwards they had to pay an additional tax. And if you saw who paid all those moneys you would have been surprised, and lamented over them and say of them: could such a large `onesh [punishment, irregular tax, exaction] have come from those poor people? [Gil, "The Authorities and the Local Population," (see prior post), p 106]

Gil points out that the yearly payment of the Jerusalem Jews also "purchased" the right of Jewish pilgrims to come to the city [in many places, dhimmis were taxed for the privilege of entering a city]; and further exempted these pilgrims from having to show a receipt [bara'a] for having paid the jizya. This was no small privilege in oppressive Arab-Muslim society. A local Jewish leader, Solomon ben Judah, explained that the lump sum payment also gave the local Jews and Jewish pilgrims the right to parade around the Temple Mount, stopping at its gates, praying near them, and to go up on the Mount of Olives on the Hosh`ana Rabba holiday and pray there --"even out loud!"

So the Jewish dhimmis could have a comfortable life under Islam, if they could pay all the taxes, fines, exactions, enforced bribes, etc. That is, everything would be OK if you had enough money to keep paying.
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Coming soon: Hebrew poets of medieval Spain and their feelings on Arab rule
Extortion of money from Jews in Jerusalem in the late 19th century, before Napoleon came to the Land

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Exploiting Jews in Jerusalem before Napoleon

Why do we say before Napoleon?
The belatedly departed Edward Said complained about Western writers on Muslim-Arab society who came after Napoleon, as if Napoleon or his military campaigns in Egypt and Israel around 1800 had some determining influence on unfavorable views of this society written by these authors.

Another academic clown, a French "historian" named Henry Laurens, implied in La Question de Palestine, that the Jews throughout the world had no interest in Jerusalem before Napoleon [who issued an appeal to the Jews in the East to support his forces, promising aid to restore the ancient Jewish state]. In other words, the Jewish interest in the Land of Israel was created by Napoleon. What a gross lie!

Let us then look at exploitation of Jews specifically in Zion, in the city of Jerusalem, before Napoleon. One piece of evidence is from before the Crusades. Another is from the late 18th century, before Napoleon. The Jews were exploited by Muslim-Arab rulers, and this had nothing to do with Napoleon or with the Political Zionist movement founded by Theodore Herzl, who was not born until 1860.

Non-Muslims permitted to live in Muslim states were called dhimmis. In return for the right to live under Muslim rule, they had to pay special taxes, jizya and kharaj, foreshadowed by the Quranic verse, 9:29, which calls on Muslims to fight the unbelievers until they are brought low and pay tribute. Bear in mind, that the non-Muslims were living in the now Muslim lands, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, etc., before the Arab-Muslim conquest. The non-Muslims represent the indigenous or pre-Islamic population in those countries.

In Jerusalem Muslim-Jewish relations were not all negative at the beginning. Muslim rulers were more tolerant towards Jews in Jerusalem in the Middle Ages than either Byzantine or Crusader rulers, who simply did not allow Jews to live in the city [until the Crusaders were well established and licensed two Jewish dyers, brothers, to live there]. However, Muslim tolerance was relative. Muslim officials and local Arab notables displayed a predatory, exploitative attitude towards the Jewish population in Jerusalem going beyond the precepts of Islamic law, both before and after the Crusades. For the pre-Crusades period we know this from documents that Moshe Gil and other scholars have uncovered in the Cairo Geniza and other sources. These documents tell of the oppression of Jews here. Not only did they have to pay the standard taxes, jizya and kharaj, imposed on non-Muslims (dhimmis) throughout the Islamic domain, but they also suffered the extortion of all sorts of irregular taxes, levies, fines, and bribes.

One Jerusalem Jew, Abraham ben Shlomo ben Yehudah, wrote to a friend in Egypt,
"They eat us alive . . . there are dues imposed on them [the Jews in Jerusalem]. . . and the punishment that they [local Muslim rulers] impose . . . [moneys paid to the governor] of the city and all his functionaries . . . because they are placated [by monetary placating],"
referring to all these exactions. The phrase "placated by monetary placating" is a play on words between Psalms 68:31 and an Arabic phrase somewhat similar in sound and in spelling when the Arabic is written in Hebrew letters.

Another Jew wrote,
"The sons of Kedar [Muslim officials] in Jerusalem and the Land of the Hart [Israel] ... harass a great deal," he complained, "and they grovel for monetary placating . . . Their throats are like an open grave," waiting for money to fall in.
These phrases too echo verses in Psalms (5:10 & 68:31).

The Karaite Jewish author, Salmon ben Yeruhim (middle of 10th century), also complains:
"Groveling for monetary placating, that means that he, Israel, who is (caught up ) among these nations, is downtrodden by monetary placating. He brings the head tax [jizya] and a special tax [that may be required] at any time. And some say: monetary placating means crushed by money . . . that is, crushed by the taking of their money."
About the year 1060, thirty-nine years before the Crusader invasion, a scribe at the Jerusalem yeshiva (Jewish academy), wrote:
"And the regular portions [taxes] and the `onashim [punishments, irregular taxes, exactions] . . . "

Sometimes the Jewish community did not have enough money to pay the amount of taxes demanded. Another Jew wrote about this:
"And when they [Jewish communal officials] gathered it [the tax and other monetary exactions, from the Jews], it wasn't enough to meet the tax that we are obliged to [pay] every year, and we had to borrow the difference . . . "
Yet another letter from Jerusalem Jews written to Jews in Fustat (old Cairo), complained:
"The tax collectors (demanded) one hundred and twenty gold pieces extra . . . And in this year, there was still a difference of thirty gold pieces that we were still obliged to pay . . . And we had to take those gold pieces at interest . . . and when our emissaries came back empty-handed [because they couldn't borrow the money], the creditors (came) and asked to sell the holy utensils. . . " [ כלי קדושה ]
Bear in mind that the manuscripts in which these quotations were found are very old, and sometimes in poor condition. Some words may be unclear or missing.

Note the similarity to the ordeal that NeoPhytos described that was undergone by the Greek Orthodox in Jerusalem in the 1820s (albeit the political situation was different). Even some of the words used are similar. A Jew complains before the Crusades that the Muslim officials' "throats are like an open grave" waiting for money. NeoPhytos writes that the Greek Orthodox in Jerusalem "stuffed their mouths" [of the Muslim notables and officials] with money.

Jacob Barnai has studied account ledgers of the Jewish community in Jerusalem from the second half of the eighteenth century. Here again, despite the passage of time, the picture is similar. The ledgers record, in addition to regular taxes, all sorts of unofficial compulsory payments to Arab-Muslim notables, some of whose descendants are still active as local Arab leaders today. As a sign of their rapacity, Arab creditors burnt down a Jerusalem synagogue in 1720 when a Jewish congregation was unable to pay its debts, driving the congregants from the city. Christians too were, as dhimmis, sometimes subject to similar treatment. We will come back to Barnai's article in a subsequent post.

Sources: The quotes used here all come from Moshe Gil's article, listed below in both Hebrew original and English translation. Note that we have not always used the published English version, sometimes preferring to make our own translation instead directly from the Hebrew. We also list Barnai's article.

Jacob Barnai, "The Jerusalem Jewish Community, Ottoman Authorities, and Arab Population in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century," in Jewish Political Studies Review, Fall 1994.

Moshe Gil, "HaShiltonot vehaOklusiya haMeqomit," in Sefer Yerushalayim: HaTequfa haMuslimit haQeduma (Jerusalem: Ben Zvi, 1987), p. 85 n.12, 13
Moshe Gil, "The Authorities and the Local Population," in The History of Jerusalem: The Early Muslim Period, 638-1099 (Jerusalem: Ben Zvi; New York: New York University Press, 1996), p 107, n. 12, 13.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jews as the Ultimate Underdog in Arab-Muslim Society -- Part 2

Previous posts have shown that the Jews in Jerusalem were at the bottom of the social ladder, low man on the totem pole. The post before this one showed that the Muslim population in the Ottoman Empire generally was unhappy with the Tanzimat reforms that made the non-Muslim [dhimmi] population almost equal in rights to the Muslims. It also showed that some in the Greek Orthodox Church were unhappy with their equality since it also meant that the Jews, previously lower in rank than themselves, were brought up to equality with them. This supports the argument that the Jews were the ultimate underdog in Ottoman society.

Egypt too was part of the Ottoman Empire, although the central government's hand was weaker there than in places closer to Constantinople, the Ottoman capital. Here is testimony from Egypt that the Muslims there hated and humiliated the Jews even more than the Christians.

The Jews, even more demeaned than the Christians, and few in number besides, are counted for almost nothing. [Tableau de l'Egypte pendant le sejour de l'Armee francaise, par A.G...D, membre de la Commission des Sciences et Arts, seant au Kaire, an XI, 1800, vol. I, p 14.]
Les Juifs, encore plus avilis que les Chretiens, et d'ailleurs en petit nombre, sont a peu pres comptes pour rien
The testimony above is from 1800, by a member of the scientific delegation that accompanied Napoleon and left so much important documentation about the Egypt of their time, and about the remains of ancient Egypt, which were far more numerous and in better condition then than today. The main written record of their research is La Description de l'Egypte in 25 volumes, of incalculable value for knowledge of all sorts of aspects of that country.

Here is the testimony of Edward Lane, a British observer who lived in Egypt for several years in the 1830s. The excerpt below has been translated back into English from a French translation [by Bat Yeor]. Readers are invited to check Lane's original.

In general, the Muslims feel towards them [the Jews] the most profound hatred and contempt, and accuse them of hating the Muslims and the Muslim religion more than any other people . . . Consequently, one cannot be surprised if the Jews are detested by the Muslims much more than the Christians. Not long ago they were often shoved in the streets of Cairo and sometimes beaten for merely having passed on the right side of a Muslim. Presently, they are less oppressed [Muhammad Ali eased the oppression of dhimmis generally], but they still hardly dare protest when they are insulted or unjustly struck by the most miserable Arab or Turk, since often a Jew has been put to death under the false and malicious accusation of having murmured words disrespectful of the Qur'an or the Prophet [Muhammad]. . . A Jew has often been sacrificed [by a court] in order to save a Muslim. . ." [E. Lane, The Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, 2 vol., London 1836]
Hence, the extreme, vicious hatred for Jews expressed in Egypt and other Arab countries --and by the PLO and its satellites-- has old roots, not imported from Europe and not because of anything that Israel may have done.

The quotations in this post were found in Yahudiya Masriya, Les Juifs en Egypte (Geneva: Editions de l'Avenir, 1971). Yahudiya Masriya [= Egyptian Jewess, in Arabic] is a pen name for a woman scholar now known as Bat Yeor [= daughter of the Nile, in Hebrew] who no doubt has a justified fear of using her legal name when writing critically of Arabs or Islam.
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More on the bottom-of-the-ladder status of Jews in Arab lands coming up.
Also, exploitation of Jews in Jerusalem both before and after the Crusades.