Let me start with the Roman Empire. The Flavian emperors conducted a brutal war against the rebellious Judeans at the beginning of the common Era, culminating in the destruction of the Temple, the expulsion of much of the population and the voluntary migration of others who wanted to get away from War. By all rights, the Romans should have further repressed the Jews to prevent another rebellion...yet they were granted special dispensation from worshipping the Emperor, given special privileges (especially in Alexandria) and made pretty much the equals of Roman citizens...How come?
It would be nice to believe that Roman authorities saw the light and applying sensibilities very much like our own, decided that it was the best way to integrate the Jews into the Empire...except that the Romans continued to wage brutal wars against all other rebellious groups in the Empire, be it in Gaul or Germania or Tracia. Furthermore, the Judean revolt of the year 66-70 CE was followed by rebellions of Jews in Crete, Cirenaica, Egypt, and the Bar Kochba rebellion and his defeat in 132 CE. Revolt against Roman rule in Jewish communities continued even after that. Yet Jews were treated differently...why?
Josephus Flavius (Yosef Ben Mattityahu) wrote in his book "The Jewish Wars" about the intense lobbying activity ( as we would call it today) of the members of the Judean Royal Family and their close relationship with the Flavian dinasty. This explains part of it. The rebellions themselves explain another part of it. The Roman authorities realized that Jews were not going to recognize the Emperor as a God, so the next best thing was to get them to recognize at least the Emperor's authority. By granting them special privileges they made them dependent on the Emperor's power!
Fast Forward...in 1492 the Jews are expelled from Spain and according to traditional history books they made their way to Northern Africa and Turkey. After that, the main focus of Jewish history goes to Ashkenaz and about 140 years after the expulsion from Spain Jews attain civil equality in the Netherlands, starting a long process that we now call "Emancipation". The general view is that the progress of Enlightment in Europe led European societies to recognize the need to emancipate its Jews. In an alternative interpretation, the advent of the Reformation made discrimination against Jews ludicrous, so Europeans accepted Jews. Except that for the following three hundred years, Jews continued to be discriminated, persecuted and even killed all over Europe! Obviously "European society" was not accepting Jews so readily...so why did the Netherlands grant its Jews civil rights?
One of the Sephardic families expelled from Spain was the Palache family, a Rabbinical dinasty that settled in Tetuan in Morocco. One of its members, Samuel Palache, became a well known Pirate in the service of the Turkish Sultan and an adventurer on the level of James Bond. He was a spy for Turkey in Spain, a double agent for the Turks while working for the Spaniards and a soldier of fortune enrolled in the cause of Dutch Independence from Spain. Later he would become an agent for the British crown, and some of his relatives a couple of generations later would become agents for Oliver Cromwell. I submit to you that the granting of civil rights to Jews in the Netherlands was a recognition of the role played by Palache during the Dutch war of Independence, and a recognition of the key role played by the conversos who flooded into the Netherlands.
We know very well that Peter Stuyvesant was not very happy to accept the 24 Sephardic Jews who arrived in New York in 1654. It was only under pressure from the Dutch West Indies Company that he relented. And Jews played an important role in the company because of all the connections they had with their fellow Sephardim and Conversos in the Caribbean...
So why do I mention all this? Next September, as I mentioned in a previous blog, we will witness what recently Israeli officials called a "political Tsunami", and what I called before a "diplomatic Lynching of Israel". Most Jews in the American Jewish Community appear to believe that the issue "will just go away" or that "the US will veto". The truth is that there is no veto power in the General Assembly and that the issue will not go away. The use of the "Uniting for Peace" mechanism introduced at the behest of the US after the Korean War could be used to bypass the Security Council and obtain a General Assembly Resolution that would greatly damage Israel's international standing. I encourage you to read the two following documents:
Jerusalem Council for Public Affairs
We would be well advised to learn from our history, especially the "hidden chapters", and realize that our people never receive anything "free". We fought for it every inch of the way, and unless we stand up today for the right of the Jewish people to self-determination we might become accomplices in the Lynching. Never mind if we agree or disagree with the policies of the current Israeli Administration...what is at stake is the very legitimacy of the Jewish State.
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