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Emet m'Tsiyon

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Karl Marx on the Treatment of the Jewish Majority in Jerusalem

Believe it or not, Karl Marx, often considered the arch-socialist, the enemy of capital, the scourge of filthy lucre, wanted to make a living like most other folk. For this purpose, Marx wrote a column every few weeks for the New York Daily Tribune, edited by the famous Horace Greeley. This gave our nemesis of capitalism a chance to make a few Yankee greenbacks, while spreading his own opinions.
Marx' column of 15 April 1854 discussed the background to the Crimean War, first of all the rivalries of Christian powers focussed on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher through their own national churches. He also discussed the social situation in Jerusalem, such as how Muslims treated non-Muslims in general and how Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem treated the Jews in Jerusalem, who were already a majority in the city in Marx's time, not only according to Marx but to his French contemporary, Gerardy Santine, and to more recent authorities, such as Tudor Parfitt.
This blog entry will consider
1) the numbers of various groups in Jerusalem, which Marx took from other contemporary writers who had been in Jerusalem;
2) how the Muslim government and population, and the Christian churches and population in the city treated the Jews.

Population: A Jewish Majority in 1854
"Jerusalem and the [Christian] Holy Places are inhabited by nations professing different religions [that is, Christian sects]: the Latins, the Greeks, the Armenians, Copts, Abyssinians, and Syrians... 3,490 [Christians in toto]... The three prevailing religious nationalities at the Holy Places are the Greeks, the Latins, and the Armenians."

"... the sedentary population of Jerusalem numbers about 15,500 souls, of whom 4,000 are Mussulmans [= Muslims] and 8,000 are Jews. The Mussulmans, forming about a fourth part of the whole, and consisting of Turks, Arabs, and Moors, are, of course, the masters in every respect, as they are in no way affected by the weakness of their Government at Constantinople."

To sum up:
8,000 Jews
4,000 Muslims
3,490 Christians
15,490 total population

Oppression of Jews by Muslims and Christians
"Nothing equals the misery and the suffering of the Jews at Jerusalem, inhabiting the most filthy quarter of the town, called hareth-el-yahoud, in the quarter of dirt, between the Zion and the Moriah, where their synagogues are situated -- the constant objects of Mussulman oppression and intolerance, insulted by the Greeks, persecuted by the Latins, and living only on the scanty alms transmitted by their European brethren."

In Marx's day, local Arab notables took part in local government as officials of the Ottoman Empire, while European influence was already beginning to be felt since France and Britain supported the Ottoman state against the Russian Empire, and fought to defend it in the Crimean War.
Marx is known as a fanatic Judeophobe, but here we see a different Marx, a journalist faithfully reporting what various 19th century travelers to Jerusalem had seen with their own eyes, such as Chateaubriand, Gérardy Santine, César Famin, etc. Famin's book on the religious-political situation at Jerusalem seems to have been Marx's main source.

1) the Jews were already a majority in the city in Marx's day, although they were much oppressed by the Muslim government and population and by the Christian churches and population;
2) Marx uses the term "religious nationalities." Many observers have pointed out that under Islam, religious groups are perceived as tantamount to nationalities. The Muslims in particular view themselves as an ummah, that is, a nation. Sometimes they claim that all unbelievers form a counter-ummah. The same word ummah may be used for the Arab nation (The word ummah is the usual Hebrew word for nation from which the Arabic word may derive). Marx uses the name Greek to refer to Greek Orthodox which includes Russians, Greeks of course, most of the Arab Christians in the country, Georgians, etc. Latins means Roman Catholics, including French, Italian, Spanish, Irish, etc.
3) the Muslims are "the masters in every respect," although they are only one quarter of the population.

[Marx's article on the background of the Crimean War appears in Shlomo Avineri, ed., Karl Marx on Colonialism and Modernization (New York: Doubleday, 1969), pp 142-151. Marx's major source seems to have been C. Famin's book, Histoire de la rivalite et du protectorat des eglises chretiennes en Orient (Paris 1853)]
Coming: Marx's exposition of the Ottoman/Muslim system of government and its treatment of non-Muslims. Does Marx's description fit in with that of Bat Yeor, Rafi Israeli, David Bukay, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Joel Mowbray, Andrew Bostom, etc.?


  • Glad I happened to view your site which I find most interesting. This about Marx is particularly striking as it contributes to seeing Islam as the brutal and intolerant social system it is. If even Marx had to acknowledge it... Thank you for very impressive contribution. Wish you the audience it merits.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:24 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:07 AM  

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