Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Observations: 1938

One thing I've noticed in web and real time discussions with people of all walks of life is the disturbing Jewish conspiracy theories. I've heard these theories from two types of people: those that are simply ideologically/ethnically opposed to Jews and those with a conspicuous lack of historical knowledge.

The first group of people are the people that have existed through out history. European and Russian pogroms were based on rumors and finding scape goats. It's been this way since the first Jew stepped foot on European soil. The Jews allegedly brought the plague. The Jews, lending money to unfrugal monarchs for everything from crusades, to inter-state war, to just plain spendthrifts throwing lavish parties, giving "gifts" to favorites or just buying the latest jewelry/fashion/horse flesh, etc, etc, etc.

King John and King Henry III of England both instituted pogroms against the Jews. Why? Because they both owed Jewish moneylenders large sums of money. Even King Richard the Lion Hearted had a love hate relationship with the Jewish money lenders. From my historical readings, I'd have to say that being a Jewish money lender in those days had to be the epitome of high risk investment. Monarchs come and go. They have the power of life and death over you so even if they are bad risks for repayment (which most of them were), it was usually an offer you couldn't refuse. Even if the king or queen was good enough to give land or jewels as security, since the monarch technically owned all the land, he could arbitrarily take it away. The Czars and Czarina's of Russia were the same.

Owe the Jewish moneylenders money? Got civil unrest or an unexplained plague? Got Jews? Let's have a pogrom. Drive them from the land. Burn them at the stake. Confiscate their property.

Got a new war you want to prosecute? Need to update the crown jewels? Excuse me, Mr. Jewish Money Lender, got gold? Give it up. Don't make me call a pogrom on you.

I guess I always found it interesting that the Jews were blamed for the bad money management of kings. It's not the monarchs and lords that were bad, it's the evil Jewish moneylenders. Of course, the medieval church was part of that, insisting that the Jews were evil because they "killed Jesus". At least that gave the wealthy and the royalty a cover for defaulting on their loans and an outlet for their people to take their anger over their crappy condition out on somebody.

Life hasn't changed that much either.

In modern history, you have three kinds of people with three ideas about the holocaust: 1) the Jews deserved whatever they got and it wasn't as catastrophic as people say it was, the Jews are the real nazis; 2) the holocaust happened in a vaccuum, a one off episode rendered by a one off mad man and whatever happened doesn't have a thing to do with Jews and Israel today; 3) the holocaust was the culmination of centuries of hate and the way the world still behaves today, it could esily happen again.

I'm a number three.

Reading history, whenever I think of the Balfour Declaration that finally led to the creation of Israel, I never took it as a distinctly philanthropic undertaking by the European states that supported it. Frankly, it always reminds me of the post civil war effort to send the "Africans back to Africa" which was largely meant to satisfy post bellum discrimination. In the case of the Balfour Declaration, it was a post bellum/pre-holocaust concept that seemed bent on sending the Jews back to "where they belonged". Of course, there were Jewish Zionists who believed the Jews should have their own homeland and Europe wasn't exactly a friendly place to be if you were Jewish even before the holocaust.

And, while I am not so historically challenged that I don't know about the beginnings of the Haganah militia and other groups or their activities, I can grasp that both the Arabs and the Jews were betrayed by European realpolitics and the final gasps of colonialism.

The simplistic "holocaust in a vaccuum" idea of WWII Europe is a nice fantasy. It's just not historically accurate. I remember in high school when we were learning about World War II, we did learn a little bit about the collaboration of the French Vichy government with the Germans. However, it wasn't until many years later that I found out that there were plenty of citizens in France who were quite willing to round up the Jewish citizens and send them off to the camps. That went for a number of other European states. Then there were the states (including the US) that refused entry to those who tried to escape.

So, here we are, centuries and decades later and I hear rumblings that repeat every folly, regurgitating foolish conspiracy theories and for what? For the same reason that they've always been repeated: a convenient scapegoat that is weak comparatively speaking. Approximately 15 million Jews, 1.2 billion Christians and 1.5 billion Muslims and some how, the Jews control our fate.

The Jews own the banks, the media and the US and British government. The war in Iraq, both of them, were allegedly to protect Israel. Don't forget that the Mossad apparently perpetrated 9/11 and all the Jews knew to stay home that day. Don't forget that some of the hijackers allegedley had Israeli passports (they were Iraq passports but who pays attention apparently). Kind of sickening really. And, some of it is repeated by people that swear they aren't bigots, just pacifists or anti-war or support the "Palestenian Cause" or those that just wish we weren't at war or should have just stayed in Afghanistan to capture OBL as if he was the only terrorist that mattered. While it's true that Israel's security is vastly improved without Saddam in power and threatening to lob scuds with nerve gas at them whenever he gets pissed at the Americans, it was hardly a primary concern. Just like oil existed there and Saddam's existence threatened the security of the region, but hardly rates as the pimary reason for invasion.

Whenever I hear those comments, I usually roll my eyes and shrug "so, what's your point?".

You get those comments from the idealogues and demogogues, but you also get them from the historically challenged who like to make believe that the Middle East would be one fuzzy friendly land of brotherly love if Israel didn't exist or we weren't in Iraq. The Egyptians, Persians, Assyrians, the Turks and various other groups were busy conquering each other for millenia. Then came Mohammed that united many groups, but upon his death left divided ethnic and sectarian rivalries that continue today. Even the Ottomans couldn't keep them all under control. No better or worse than the Europeans incessent wars or other ancient or recent wars of conquest and they certainly needed very little outside provocation. Frankly, such commentary betrays the inner bigot.

Today, the British Universities disassociate themselves from Israeli Universities; the British and American Churches have gone through a purge of of their investments; the American and European Universities are rife with anti-Israel groups; newo-nazis are once again getting press time and damaging synogogues, cemetaries and businesses; Jewish students are harassed; and the historically uneducated or the short term memory folks or those who are inherently bigotted go on and on about the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. All the while, a fascist ideology percolates and vows to take over the world under the pretext of righteous grievances, destroying the Jews as a primary step towards that goal.

To paraphrase another blogger, I get the feeling that it's 1938.

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