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Emet m'Tsiyon

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Arab/Muslim Pecuniary Exploitation of Jews in Jerusalem

In the West, many "Leftists," "rightists," and "Liberals" have a romantic notion of the Arabs as poverty stricken folk or idealists, fanatics perhaps, but devoted to religious ideals, and certainly not interested in mere money, in filthy lucre. Although "Leftists" supposedly oppose economic exploitation, few of them want to acknowledge the economic oppression perpetrated by Muslims, starting with the Arabs in their conquered [occupied] territories, over non-Muslims (called dhimmis in Arabic) over the centuries. The Qur'an calls on Muslims to make war on unbelievers until they are humiliated and agree to pay tribute (Qur'an IX:29). According to Muslim law, dhimmis are supposed to pay the jizya, a per head tax on men (women weren't counted) and the kharaj, a tax on agricultural land, to the Muslim rulers. In practice, the economic exploitation of dhimmis went much further. An article by Elliott A Green in Jewish Affairs of Johannesburg [Winter 1996] describes the pecuniary oppression of Jews in Jerusalem. The relevant excerpt follows below, plus a link at the bottom to the article:

Muslim officials and local Arab notables displayed a predatory, exploitative attitude towards the Jewish population in Jerusalem both before and after the Crusades. For the pre-Crusades period we know this from documents that Moshe Gil [historian] 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 wrote to a friend in Egypt, "They eat us alive," referring to all these exactions. Another Jew wrote,"Their throats are like open graves," waiting for money (a paraphrase of Psalms 5:10). "The sons of Kedar [Muslim officials] in Jerusalem... harass a great deal," he complained.

Jacob Barnai [historian] 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.

The neglect of the historical facts by "Leftists," who for scores of years ostensibly championed the economically oppressed, the poor, the exploited, is significant because it shows us that in fact economic oppression and exploitation, much less religious discrimination and oppression, do not bother them. And their accounts of Middle Eastern history or Arab and Muslim history overlook this religiously ordained oppression, thereby making those accounts patently defective, that is, obviously false. On the other hand, an Austrian socialist, Joseph Schumpeter, writing before WW2, wrote a book called Imperialism which did frankly call Arab imperialism by its right name, imperialism. Paradoxically, Karl Marx, usually a Judeophobe himself in the tradition of German philosophers Kant, Hegel, and Fichte, wrote an article about Jerusalem at the time of the Crimean War in which Marx himself pointed to oppression of Jews by Muslims in the Holy City, and even pointed to a Jewish majority population in the city at that time [New York Daily Tribune, 15 April 1854]. We will bring excerpts from that article soon.


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