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The BBC's Take on Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries:

The BBC reports on a conference of Jewish organizations trying to call attention to the injustices perpetrated on Jews from Arab countries after the creation of Israel. [Note: My father-in-law, late mother-in-law, and their families fled Iraq with the clothes on their back and little else in 1950. My wife's great-grandfather was murdered by an Arab mob in Baghdad in the late 1930s.]

While the BBC does briefly summarize the focus of the conference, the report discusses in detail the views of only one individual. Not an organizer or attendee of the conference, not an expert (such as Bernard Lewis) on the history of Jews in Arab countries, but "the BBC's Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi."

He states, among other things,

the subject is highly controversial as the numbers of Jews who left, and the conditions under which they left, are disputed. He says one undisputed fact is that Jews were part of Arab societies for centuries, where they were fully integrated in their societies, until Israel was established.

In fact, there is no controversy over the numbers. Moreover, not only is it not "undisputed" that Jews were "fully integrated" in Arab societies "for centuries," it's an absurd statement. At best, one can say that in the more cosmoplitan cities of the Arab world such as Baghdad and Cairo, Jews became increasingly integrated in Arab societies starting in the late 19th century, often under the protection of European colonial governments.

(As a sidenote, Jews settled in Iraq, Egypt, and other parts of the Arab world long before the Muslim conquest and before the inhabitants would have been considered "Arabs." A more accurate summary is that Jews lived in various countries in the Middle East for over 2,000 years, their status their had its ups and downs, including during Arab rule, but was never secure. Jews fled in the latter half of the twentieth century because a combination of anti-Israel sentiment, intolerant Arab nationalism, growing Islamism, and the use of anti-Semitism by governing elites to distract the masses from their incompetent, dictatorial rule, made Jewish life increasingly precarious, while the existence of Israel and liberal French immigration for its former colonies made building a life elsewhere possible.)

Paul Milligan (mail):
Magdi Abdelhadi. Wonderful. They have on outspoken Muslim as their source of information on Jews.

Makes as much sense as havng that idiot El Baradei on the IAEA passing judgements ( and wind ) about Muslim countries. He only has one position "All Muslim countries are innocent of eerything, and mean old nasty America should not do anything bad to them'. WHere does this guy, who is supposed to be a FACT COLLECTOR ONLY, get off making ANY comments about American foreign policy, anyway ???? Who the hell elected him ? Just another UN appointee and career public leech overflowing his own britches.
6.23.2008 6:57pm
byomtov (mail):
I am unable to locate any information that tells me why Abdelhabi ought to be considered knowledgeable about this. Google provides mostly links to his reports.

Does he have any actual expertise, or is he just another opinionated media bloviator?

Wait. Let me guess.
6.23.2008 7:09pm
Sobre:
The BBC is in no way a paragon of pro-jewish sentiment. To the contrary, its not, but you are not giving this article a fair shake, as you cite only one bit of it. The other two relevant portions, which you neglect, are as follows:

"The American-based group says around 850,000 Jews lived in Arab nations before Israel was founded in 1948.

It says most were forced to flee due to hostility when Israel was created"

Here, we see the author contending that the american-jewish group contends that most if not all of jews in muslim countries left because they were chased out by hostility.

And here:

"Some left because they were Zionists, others because of growing hostility towards them after the Arab-Israeli wars in 1948 and 1967, and there were also those who were encouraged to leave by the new Israeli state, our analyst adds."

We have the BBC's expert indicating that some left because of zionist sentiment, some left because of hostility, and some were encouraged to leave. This is not a controversial proposition. Its well known the Israeli government agitated for jews to make aaliyah, including by blowing up things in Iraq in 1950-51. Elsewhere, as in Egypt, or Morocco, many came because of muslim hostility. But what appears to be the main point of the so-called expert that it wasn't just muslim hostility that lead to the large-scale aaliyah.

Its fair to say that just as with the jewish refugees, the issue of palestinian refugees is equally not monolithic in its causes.
6.23.2008 7:23pm
blah:
yeah but, the Palestinians! They're being killed by the Jooz!
6.23.2008 7:25pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Its fair to say that just as with the jewish refugees, the issue of palestinian refugees is equally not monolithic in its causes.

Perhaps, but when >>90% have left, as in Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and Syria, It is reasonable to conclude that those who did not leave voluntarily were subjected to tremendous pressure to leave, or considered themselves to be in dire straits.

If, as Abduhadi said, "they were fully integrated in their societies, until Israel was established," these Jews would not all have left.

Most people would rather face the devil they know than the devil they don't. If, as
6.23.2008 8:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The beeb. Covering itself with glory--or something--once again.
6.23.2008 8:33pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
It is routine for Arabs to cover up the history of Jews in what are now Arab countries. Until recently the Wikipedia article on the History of the Jews in Saudi Arabia stated that
"most Jewish community chose to migrate to northern parts of the Middle East", when in fact Muhammad exterminated most of them and forcibly expelled the others.
6.23.2008 9:10pm
Pitman (mail) (www):
I put in a plug for my former teacher Norman Stillman's two-volume collection of primary sources, Jews in Arab Lands.
6.23.2008 10:11pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
People can get really worked up about old history. My attitude is that of John Derbyshire.
6.23.2008 10:20pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

I put in a plug for my former teacher Norman Stillman's two-volume collection of primary sources, Jews in Arab Lands.


There is now also the slightly slimmer (~750 pages) The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism edited by Andrew G. Bostom.
6.23.2008 10:21pm
SANE (mail):
Prof Bernstein:

The truth is that Muslim Jew Hatred has a long and ignominious history. Indeed, as an institutional Shariah-based treatment, it was worse than the Christian variety. I would recommend Dr. Bostom's treatment which is not the glad-handing analysis by Bernard Lewis but a serious examination of mostly Muslim sources reporting on the events themselves. See here. For a solid book review comparing Bostom's analysis and Lewis', I'd recommend this.
6.23.2008 10:23pm
Hoosier:
To borrow from Sarah Silverman: As a Jew, you must find this story very upsetting. Because it means your control of the world media is slipping.
6.23.2008 10:24pm
klev:
notice the way the article is set up. the headline doesn't read something like "jews meet, to highlight being forced out of arab countries." it says "...left their homes...after israel was founded." then the meat of the article is trying to disprove what the jewish groups say by way of their arab correspondent. it's amazing that they quote their OWN EMPLOYEE as a resource. is that journalism? what they're effectively doing is saying: "the jewish group says X, but we, the BBC, don't think they're right." clearly the article is entirely designed to leave the reader thinking: "jews left mostly tolerant arab communities because they got their own country, and now they want money." it's skillfully deployed anti semitism - classic BBC.
6.23.2008 11:46pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Jews were hardly integrated in much of European society as well. Reflecting on "Life in the Shtetl," Holocaust survivor Leon Weliczer Wells recalls: We were strangers to the neighboring gentiles because of our religion, language, behavior, dress, and daily values. Poland was the only country where a nation lived within a nation. ... In Poland the Jew dressed completely different from others, had beards and peyes (side curls), spoke a different language (Yiddish), went to separate religious schools, and sometimes even to different public schools, where they had Saturday off and went to school on Sunday.

... The Jews had their food stores which only sold kosher food, owned by a proprietor who could be trusted with kashruth. Since every meal on Sabbath and holidays started with the blessing of the wine, there was no possibility of a pious Jew sharing a festive meal with a gentile because the wine, once opened, became nonkosher if a gentile merely looked at it. The laws of kashruth prevented a Jew from eating at a gentile's nonkosher table. Thus, there was very little social interaction between Jews and non-Jews. We never spoke Polish at home, only Yiddish. Polish was negatively called goish. When we spoke Polish we had a Yiddish accent. The newspapers and books in our homes were in Yiddish. ... We lived in a strictly self-imposed ghetto, and it suited our requirements and wishes.
6.24.2008 1:54am
Alex Bensky (mail):
It is true that the number of Jews who left Arab lands is not in question and, coincidentally, it's about the same as the number of Arabs who left--for various reasons--what became Israel. None of the Jews are in refugee camps today and most of the Arabs are.

My sympathies for the Arab refugees is about as much as my sympathies for the Sudeten Germans, eastern Poles...or for that matter Ionian Greeks who left Turkey in the early 1020's. Between World War II and Indian Paritition the number of refugees was well over forty million and not one of them is in a camp today except for the Arabs from Palestine.

If the world were to begin reflection on why this is, we might be on the way to a genuine solution to the problem.
6.24.2008 7:42am
JB:
The Jews had their food stores which only sold kosher food, owned by a proprietor who could be trusted with kashruth. Since every meal on Sabbath and holidays started with the blessing of the wine, there was no possibility of a pious Jew sharing a festive meal with a gentile because the wine, once opened, became nonkosher if a gentile merely looked at it. The laws of kashruth prevented a Jew from eating at a gentile's nonkosher table.

There's something to be said for assimilating enough to a society that you can engage in the most basic of niceties with the rest of it, especially if you want to claim its protection.

That's not to say that the isolation of the Jews in Eastern Europe wasn't heavily due to the prejudices of the Gentiles, but it was very much a 2-way street.
6.24.2008 8:10am
Michael B (mail):
"He states, among other things,"
the subject is highly controversial as the numbers of Jews who left, and the conditions under which they left, are disputed. He says one undisputed fact is that Jews were part of Arab societies for centuries, where they were fully integrated in their societies, until Israel was established.


Here's fully integrated.

The BBC is positively pathetic in so many areas. In the case of Israel and the M.E. the Beeb is rife with what at least arguably is malice and a deep-seated cancer on the body of news and information that stems from that part of the globe.
6.24.2008 8:52am
Eli Rabett (www):
There was both a push and a pull on Jews in Arab countries. As in many such issues, each side only sees one side. The push was obviously sharpening of anti-Semitism in the arab countries after Israel was founded and the pull was the willingness of Israel and western countries (US/France) to welcome them.

As to the integration of Jews into other countries, I guess it depends where. Less so in Poland, more so in France for example.
6.24.2008 10:07am
byomtov (mail):
There's something to be said for assimilating enough to a society that you can engage in the most basic of niceties with the rest of it, especially if you want to claim its protection.

Why is it necessary to assimilate in order to claim the protections of the society? Surely any law-abiding individual is entitled to the protections of society, even if they dress funny or follow an unusual diet.
6.24.2008 11:40am
davidbernstein (mail):
FWIW, Wells is describing the minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Poland, and would apply almost equally well to certain ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in Israel, the US, and other countries today. There was a segment of the Orthodox community that reacted to modernity by shunning it and society at large, but Wells is wrong to attribute this to "Jews" in general.

Even my grandmother, who left Poland in 1921 and was from a very religious family, didn't live in anything resembling such isolated circumstances in her shtetl. She attended public school, had non-Jewish friends, her mother ran a store which had non-Jewish customers and clients, etc. If you Google "Fay Jozefson" you can find her autobiography, along with much else about her town, including pictures of residents before WWII that show that even in rural Poland, most Jews didn't dress or look different than their neighbors.
6.24.2008 12:13pm
sjalterego (mail):
Why is it necessary to assimilate in order to claim the protections of the society? Surely any law-abiding individual is entitled to the protections of society, even if they dress funny or follow an unusual diet.


I don't think he meant that a "law abiding individual" must assimilate in order to be morally or legally entitled to the protections of society. Rather I think the OP meant that it is likely to enhance your ability to claim and enforce your "rights" if you make some efforts to integrate or at least willingly engage in the larger society. I will let the OP speak for himself however.

Of course that still requires your "native" neighbors to deal with you in good faith.

Moreover nationality and citizenship are obviously more problematic differences than purely individual ideosyncracies which is what your post seems to imply.

Nation states the world over and from time immemorial have struggled with how to treat immigrant groups, particularly groups that attempted to retain a distinct nationality or identity and could potentially pose a threat to the status quo.
6.24.2008 12:13pm
davidbernstein (mail):
That said, it's not exactly news that Jewish integration into Europe wasn't ultimately successful, given the Holocaust. But everyone acknowledges that Christian Europe historically didn't treat Jews well, while Arab propagandists falsely claim that Jews and Arabs got along swimmingly until the "Zionists" ruined it.
6.24.2008 12:14pm
byomtov (mail):
Wells is describing the minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Poland,

Maybe, but a fairly large minority by comparison with the ultra-orthodox community in the US. It is true that Jews had business, if not social, contact with non-Jews.

Still, it is clear that Jews were not regarded by their neighbors as part of Polish society. Anti-Semitism was not only tolerated, it was a part of political life. There were anti-Semitic laws, and political parties included overt anti-Semitic policies in their platforms. Roman Dmowski, second only to Pilsudski as a political figure in early 20th century Poland, was emphatically anti-Semitic.

It is both a joke and a tragedy that in the 30's, with Stalin to the east and Hitler to the west, the Polish government worried about the threat from the Jews.
6.24.2008 12:30pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
David @6.24.2008 11:14am -- Gotcha. Thanks.
6.24.2008 1:41pm
JB:
byomtov: Why is it necessary to assimilate in order to claim the protections of the society? Surely any law-abiding individual is entitled to the protections of society, even if they dress funny or follow an unusual diet.

Thanks, sjalterego.

I'm not putting this forth as a requisite to claiming a legal right, but as a practical measure. If you so isolate yourself, and keep your ways so secret, inevitably people will not feel close to you and come to believe ill of you. Nearly every society places great stress on breaking bread with people as a means of establishing relationships, and it has been borne out by history that people defend those they have relationships with first.

The history of the Jews shows that defending yourself by law will only kill you later and swiftly; defending yourself by taking action to forestall harm and obtain allies is the only path to survival.

davidbernstein: FWIW, Wells is describing the minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Poland, and would apply almost equally well to certain ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in Israel, the US, and other countries today.

My family was Rumanian Jews, and they were more assimilated than this. I don't and didn't mean to paint with a brush that covered all Polish Jews; that said, I think that the actions of the ultra-Orthodox in that and other societies in sealing themselves off so is and was bad for them and "Bad For The Jews"(tm) in that it fostered isolation and rumor.

But everyone acknowledges that Christian Europe historically didn't treat Jews well, while Arab propagandists falsely claim that Jews and Arabs got along swimmingly until the "Zionists" ruined it.

Arabs and Jews got along swimmingly (not taking into account the Jews of Medina and Khaybar, whose expulsions were pretty much political expulsions of tribal enemies) until the fact that the latter were more or less physically protected second-class citizens no longer qualified as "swimmingly." Just like the peasants and landlords got along swimmingly until the former started demanding basic rights--rising expectations on both sides caused problems long before things got objectively worse. This did happen well before Zionism--I'd date it to the emergence of national mobilization and the Tanzimat efforts to impose uniform tax rates on everyone in the 1840s (at least that's when Muslim/Christian relations in the Ottoman Empire went south).
6.24.2008 2:18pm
LM (mail):
Eli Rabett:

There was both a push and a pull on Jews in Arab countries. As in many such issues, each side only sees one side. The push was obviously sharpening of anti-Semitism in the arab countries after Israel was founded and the pull was the willingness of Israel and western countries (US/France) to welcome them.

And there was a similar push-pull on the arabs in what's now Israel in 1948. The issue isn't whether each side argues the details of those events. They do. It's that two such similar stories of similar scale could develop in such close geographical and temporal proximity, yet by and large only one of them is known.

You have to give the Arabs credit for one thing. They may have lost every military war with Israel and mismanaged their own countries into a persistent state of political and economic decay, but they beat Israel silly at the public relations war. Everyone, first and foremost Israel, could see that the Arabs (including the Palestinian leadership, with much help from the UN), were using the Palestinian refugees as political pawns. Yet it worked, and far better I'll bet than even the Arabs dreamed.

Has anyone done any significant polling on public awareness of these parallel refugee narratives? Because I'm guessing that in most of the world the results would look something like what you'd get if you asked Kenyans if they've heard of Barack Obama and Bob Barr.
6.24.2008 2:46pm
sbron:

Jews were hardly integrated in much of European society as well.


As several noted above, this was only true for those referred to at the time as "shtetl Jews".

There was a bitter saying before WWII in Germany, "The Jews had become more German than the Germans." Both sides of my family, in Poland and Germany hardly lived isolated lives, and noone spoke Yiddish. They attended public schools (albeit with difficulty and eventual expulsion in the late 30s) and knew far more about European culture than most immigrants to the U.S. today know about American culture.

It is indeed Karma that most European nations (the Baltic states should get a special place in hell for their forgetfulness of their role) enthusiastically purged themselves of the Jews. Now they must deal with large Muslim populations whose level of assimilation is negligible compared to the Jews of Europe.
6.24.2008 3:36pm
ys:

Arabs and Jews got along swimmingly until the fact that the latter were more or less physically protected second-class citizens no longer qualified as "swimmingly."
...
This did happen well before Zionism--I'd date it to the emergence of national mobilization and the Tanzimat efforts to impose uniform tax rates on everyone in the 1840s (at least that's when Muslim/Christian relations in the Ottoman Empire went south).


Apparently there were problems at some earlier dates as well.


Maimonides was born in 1135 in Córdoba, Spain. His year of birth is disputed, with Shlomo Pines suggesting that he was born in 1138. He was born during what some scholars consider to be the end of the golden age of Jewish culture in Spain, after the first centuries of the Moorish rule.
...
The Almohades from Africa conquered Córdoba in 1148, and threatened the Jewish community with the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile.[7] Maimonides' family, along with most other Jews, chose exile.
6.24.2008 3:39pm
byomtov (mail):
But everyone acknowledges that Christian Europe historically didn't treat Jews well, while Arab propagandists falsely claim that Jews and Arabs got along swimmingly until the "Zionists" ruined it.

They didn't get along "swimmingly," of course, especially not in Palestine, but the belief that Jews historically often fared well under Islamic rule is widespread, and has more than a germ of truth. IIRC, Bernard Lewis has written that, at its best, the condition of Jews under Islam was not as good as it was at its best under Christian rule, and at its worst is was not as bad.

JB,

Sorry I misunderstood. Still, I don't totally agree with you. The relatively secular Jews in Eastern Europe suffered just as much from anti-Semitism as the more Orthodox ones. laws restricting university attendance, and entry into professions, for example, covered all Jews. Nor were even the less orthodox types well-integrated into society at large. A Jew in Poland was simply not a "Pole" in the sense that Jew in the US is an American.
6.24.2008 3:55pm
Lovernios:
"A Jew in Poland was simply not a "Pole" in the sense that Jew in the US is an American."

I'm not sure this is a good analogy given that the modern US is a nation vastly different in conception than an ethic state such as Poland. How were other ethnic minorities viewed in Poland? Russians? Roma? Lithuanians? I'm sure they weren't regarded as Poles.
6.24.2008 4:12pm
byomtov (mail):
I'm not sure this is a good analogy given that the modern US is a nation vastly different in conception than an ethic state such as Poland. How were other ethnic minorities viewed in Poland? Russians? Roma? Lithuanians? I'm sure they weren't regarded as Poles.

Yes, but this goes to the point that Jews were not well-integrated into Polish, or many other European countries. I don't want to claim too much knowledge of Polish history, but my understanding is that there was (is?) always a conflict between those who saw Poland as essentially an ethnic state and those who sought a broader definition. (Of course this conflict is not unique to Poland.) Among the latter was Pilsudski, who was himself born in Lithuania. For those who considered ethnicity paramount, other ethnicities were probably not considered Poles, but were not subject to the discrimination incurred by Jews.

Religion was quite important here. Poland is fiercely Catholic and, to put things in the mildest possible terms, the Church was not, at the time, favorably disposed towards Jews.
6.24.2008 4:44pm
Justthisguy (mail) (www):
I blame the Romans for all of the pro-Jew/anti-Jew craziness and violence we've all had to put up with, for the last two thousand years, or so.

I remember reading a book about the history of taxation (sorry, don't remember title nor name of author) which posited that the Jews first took up arms against the Romans in resistance to taxation. They got their asses kicked, as did my ancestors, and evverbody else who went up against the Romans.

Unlike my ancestors, and evverbody else who went up against the Romans, the Jews refused to admit that they were licked, and picked a fight again with the Romans, which resulted in a very very thorough ass-kicking.

The surviving Jews, not being dummies, decided to go with the flow, and hang out around the important kingly people.

This worked OK for a while, pogroms etc. excepted, until the Nazis got nasty.

What I'm trying to say here, I reckon, is that the Jews were truculent enough to go up against the Romans twice, the rest of us having quit after one attempt, but having been licked twice in combat, decided that was a mug's game and went for more intellectual ways of getting over on people.

That worked Ok until about the middle of the twentieth century, as we all know.

Sometimes, violence is the right thing, at least when it comes to resisting against violence
6.24.2008 5:51pm
yankev (mail):
Justthisguy, I think there were three revolts against the Romans (in 70, 145 and I forget) but taxes were not nearly as big an issue as autonomy and especially religious autonomy.

The Roman policy was "3 strikes and you're out" -- literally. 1/3 of the Jews were killed, 1/3 exiled as slaves, and remaining 1/3 reduced to exile status within their own lands.

Abandonment of martial means was not because the Jews "wised up" but because their new circumstances made armed revolt impossible.
6.24.2008 6:34pm
Michael B (mail):
"They didn't get along "swimmingly," of course, especially not in Palestine, but the belief that Jews historically often fared well under Islamic rule is widespread, and has more than a germ of truth. IIRC, Bernard Lewis has written that, at its best, the condition of Jews under Islam was not as good as it was at its best under Christian rule, and at its worst is was not as bad." byomtov

I suggest you check Andrew Bostom's latest, previously linked in this thread. He amply refutes much of what Lewis has to say on this particular score.

"The relatively secular Jews in Eastern Europe suffered just as much from anti-Semitism as the more Orthodox ones. laws restricting university attendance, and entry into professions, for example, covered all Jews. Nor were even the less orthodox types well-integrated into society at large. A Jew in Poland was simply not a "Pole" in the sense that Jew in the US is an American."

You are vastly oversimplifying here. The pressures were varied and intense, and they included national vs. internationalist pressures, the latter largely represented by Leninist/Stalinist and Trotskyist interests, including the interest of empire, conquest and plunder.

I'm as responsibly philoSemitic as anyone I know, even passionately so at times, but I'm not mindlessly or unthinkingly so. The world didn't exist in a vacuum, the existential dynamics were intense, for a country like Poland, bordered by both Germany and Russia, especially so. If you can't appreciate, at least to some notable degree, why Poles might seem to be xenophobic at times in their history, you are not thinking. One or two examples, essentially copying from a comment at another blog:

When the Russians invaded Poland from the east (one month after the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact was executed), many leftist, secularist oriented Polish Jews positively and enthusiastically welcomed the Soviet Russian invaders. Those Soviet invaders transported well over a million Poles to Russian prisons and gulags, they exterminated many, many Poles, they in fact committed the Katyn massacre and similar acts (Kalinin, others), including similar acts on Russian territory among those million-plus Poles who were transported.

There is the additional fact that Poles are represented in Vad Yashim more than are any other national group.

None of that serves to apologize for or deflect relevant criticism. None of it.

Life, not for Jews, not for non-Jews, doesn't occur in a vacuum.
6.24.2008 9:20pm
JB:
ys,
The Almohads were a 12th-century, North African version of the Taliban. They were significantly more radical than any regime until the Saudis.

This is not to say that Jews were not oppressed. But before around 1840 non-ruling classes were routinely oppressed, and had basically one expectation of their rulers: that they would not be summarily murdered and pillaged. The Muslims fulfilled that bargain significantly better than the Christians. It's when that bargain stopped being sufficient that real friction arose.
6.25.2008 3:18am
byomtov (mail):
Michael B.,

The pressures were varied and intense, and they included national vs. internationalist pressures, the latter largely represented by Leninist/Stalinist and Trotskyist interests, including the interest of empire, conquest and plunder.

I don't understand your point. Are you arguing that concern over Russina expansionism justified Polish anti-Semitism? Are you saying that it was an unfortunate byproduct of Endek nationalism? Neither of those propositions make sense to me, and they certainly ignore other issues, such as the religious basis of anti-Semitism, and the fact that it was amply present even when Poland was part of the czarist empire, and well before the rise of Hitler. Even if external pressures might cause some amount of xenophobia, I don't see why that xenophobia ought to have been directed at Jews, who had lived in Poland for centuries.

When the Russians invaded Poland from the east (one month after the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact was executed), many leftist, secularist oriented Polish Jews positively and enthusiastically welcomed the Soviet Russian invaders. Those Soviet invaders transported well over a million Poles to Russian prisons and gulags,

You might have welcomed them too, secularist or not, if the alternative was the Nazis.
6.25.2008 9:38am
Michael B (mail):
No, I'm not justifying antiSemitism, why would you even imagine I was since I explicitly indicated otherwise?

But this. I "might have welcomed" the Soviets, who were even more murderous than the Nazis, albeit under a different banner? If I'm a Pole, why would I have positively "welcomed" either of them? I might have put up with them, I might have not had a choice at some point, but I like to think I would have resisted both murderous regimes. To paraphrase your own rejoinder:

Are you arguing that concern over Nazi expansionism justified the Soviet's murderous and oppressive regime? Are you saying that it was merely an unfortunate byproduct of Soviet internationalist expansionism?
6.25.2008 11:41am
LM (mail):
Michael,

If I'm a Pole, faced with either, but not both, of the Nazis and the Soviets, then yes, I'd resist. But facing both, and knowing I'm powerless against either, I'd choose the lesser evil. Which, if I'm a Polish Jew, is the Soviets.
6.25.2008 2:54pm
Justthisguy (mail) (www):
Umm, Yankev? I think that adaptation to new circumstances counts as wising up. Those guys sucked up to their conquerors enough to survive, but survive they did, along with their traditions and writings, which I am glad we still have.

I was thinking, maybe, that the mental habit, the consciousness of being a more-or-less wanted guest in another person's country, may not be good for one's head.

Wait, I'm starting to sound like a Zionist!
6.25.2008 4:18pm
Michael B (mail):
It's not at all that simple, which in large part is the point being made. For example, what would constitute the "lesser of two evils" for a Pole? And why? Likewise, I wasn't addressing Polish Jews, I was addressing those Polish Jews who were decidedly leftist/secularist and who positively and enthusiastically welcomed the Soviet imperialists, who in turn committed the Katyn and similar massacres, who in turn transported over a million Poles to Soviet gulags and prisons, etc.
6.25.2008 4:30pm
LM (mail):
Michael,

You pointed out that Poles were properly xenophobic. You also suggested their xenophobia extended to Polish Jews, some of whom showed ill-founded enthusiasm for the Soviets. You seemed to imply it was understandable this would lead to anti-Semitism, which you condemn, but not without some sympathy for those who embraced it under the circumstances. Maybe I'm wrong about that, in which case I don't understand what your point was.

My point (barely implied) was that the preference some Polish Jews showed for Soviets over Nazis, whether expressed with ideological pom-poms or grudging resignation, adds nothing to my sympathy for the Poles. For one thing, the Poles had no lesser evil to choose. Katyn notwithstanding, the Nazis proved themselves fully capable of matching the Russian low regard for Polish life, so it's not as if sympathy for the Soviets came at the expense of a better alternative.

More significantly, Jews did have a clear choice, and if some acted on it in unalloyed self-interest, Poles had only themselves to blame. Convince people they have as much security as you'll give them for as long as you choose to give it, and they tend to keep their loyalty portable. If the Poles had signaled any intention that when the worst came they would stand with the Jews as each other, some understanding for their resentment toward Jewish Communists might be in order. But as history has borne out (with notable, brave exceptions), Jews who counted on no Polish help were well-advised, and only even a handful of them survived.
6.25.2008 8:06pm
JB:
Byomtov,

Sorry I misunderstood. Still, I don't totally agree with you. The relatively secular Jews in Eastern Europe suffered just as much from anti-Semitism as the more Orthodox ones. laws restricting university attendance, and entry into professions, for example, covered all Jews. Nor were even the less orthodox types well-integrated into society at large. A Jew in Poland was simply not a "Pole" in the sense that Jew in the US is an American.


I'm not saying that either. In fact, I would argue that the orthodox Jews, being more visible, increased anti-semitism overall, thus making life harder for their assimilationist brethren (much as obnoxious troglodyte College Republicans make it difficult for moderate conservatives on college campuses). We shouldn't blame them for it--the fault for the anti-semitism lies with the anti-semites--but it does show either a lack of theory of mind/indifference to other people's likely reactions, or an active hostility to assimilationist Jews and Gentiles alike.
6.25.2008 8:10pm
Michael B (mail):
LM, yes, you misunderstand, you misunderstand and misconceive a great deal. In filling in and pointedly emphasizing a piece of the puzzle that is not often mentioned, much less pointedly emphasized, here's what I'm doing: I'm filling in and pointedly emphasizing a piece of the puzzle.

No more.

No less.

What you impute to me is fundamentally wrong and misconceived.

Oh, and "Katyn notwithstanding"? Yea. A million-plus Poles transported across the Soviet frontier, into gulags and prisons and mass executions - notwithstanding. Two to three million Poles variously killed during the course of WWII - notwithstanding. Ho hum. And "they only had themselves to blame"? Bordered as they have been by Russia and Germany, among others, throughout their history, not to mention Sept. 1939 most notably? But no, I wasn't painting a hagiographic picture of Poles or Poland either.
6.25.2008 10:19pm
byomtov (mail):
I would argue that the orthodox Jews, being more visible, increased anti-semitism overall, thus making life harder for their assimilationist brethren

JB,

I'm dubious. There may have been some effect of this sort, but I suspect it was small. I'm far from convinced that the Poles were anywhere near ready to treat Jews as equals even if there had been nothing but the relatively secular types. German Jews were very secular, for example, yet it hardly saved them, and pre-Nazi German attitudes towards Jews were arguably more positive than Polish attitudes. Jews actually fared reasonably well during the German occupation of Poland in WWI. (Sadly, this experience led some Polish Jews to discount early stories of Nazi atrocities).

Polish anti-Semitism had deep roots, very much attributable to the Church (for those offended, get over it. It's true.) and I don't think that shaving off your beard exempted you from charges of deicide.

Michael B.,

If I'm a Pole, why would I have positively "welcomed" either of them?

If you were a Polish Jew in late 1939, with the western half of the country already under Nazi rule you would have welcomed the Soviets because the alternative was not Polish independence but coming under Nazi rule yourself.

Are you arguing that concern over Nazi expansionism justified the Soviet's murderous and oppressive regime?

No. I am saying that concern over Nazi genocide justified a preference on the part of their intended victims for Soviet rule. That doesn't seem hard to justify. And while you're criticizing Jews for welcoming the Soviets, don't overlook the fact that may Poles welcomed the Nazis, often specifically because of their treatment of Jews. It is well-documented that a fair number of Poles collaborated with the Nazi genocide, not under duress but enthusiastically. They even tried to continue after the war. You say Katyn, I say Kielce.

Am I sympathetic to the Poles sent off to the gulag? Of course. But you seem to want to blame the Jews for it. That's absurd.
6.25.2008 11:07pm
JB:
German Jews were very secular, for example, yet it hardly saved them, and pre-Nazi German attitudes towards Jews were arguably more positive than Polish attitudes.

So it saved them until the emergence of a seriously anomalous insane movement. There's no way to be perfectly safe as a minority*, just like there's no way to be perfectly safe from floods, but that's not an argument for dispensing with building codes.

I'd argue that if the German Jews were as unassimilated as the Polish ones, German antisemitism would have been as bad as Polish. The causation might run either way or both, but the correlation would be there.

*To change the subject yet again, that's the other great lesson from Jewish history: Eventually, the Jews will lose authentic-citizenship contests, so they'd best not help them start. That's why anti-immigrant sentiment sets off my Jewish Danger Radar--although assimilated white Jews are certainly higher on Tom Tancredo's list than poor Mexicans, I doubt I'm anywhere near the top.
6.25.2008 11:27pm
LM (mail):
Michael B,

I'm filling in and pointedly emphasizing a piece of the puzzle.

OK, but to be clear, the puzzle you were filling in was byomtov's description of anti-Semitism in pre-war Poland, which you said he vastly oversimplified. Here's some more of what you said:

I'm as responsibly philoSemitic as anyone I know, even passionately so at times, but I'm not mindlessly or unthinkingly so. The world didn't exist in a vacuum, the existential dynamics were intense, for a country like Poland, bordered by both Germany and Russia, especially so. If you can't appreciate, at least to some notable degree, why Poles might seem to be xenophobic at times in their history, you are not thinking. One or two examples, essentially copying from a comment at another blog:

When the Russians invaded Poland from the east (one month after the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact was executed), many leftist, secularist oriented Polish Jews positively and enthusiastically welcomed the Soviet Russian invaders. Those Soviet invaders transported well over a million Poles to Russian prisons and gulags, they exterminated many, many Poles, they in fact committed the Katyn massacre and similar acts (Kalinin, others), including similar acts on Russian territory among those million-plus Poles who were transported.

How does that fill in a portrait of Polish anti-Semitism if it isn't suggesting reasons for its existence? And what's the significance of qualifying your philoSemitism if not to imply you're saying something here you consider less than flattering to Jews?

I take your word that you're philoSemitic -- that was my impression long before this thread -- and I take your word that you intended no apologies for anti-Semitism in your comment. Finally, I take your word that "What [I] impute[d] to [you] is fundamentally wrong and misconceived," even though byomtov seems to have gotten some of the same impression I did. All I ask is that you answer the questions in my previous paragraph. In so doing you'll save us both another round of my misconceived speculation.

Oh, and "Katyn notwithstanding"? Yea. A million-plus Poles transported across the Soviet frontier, into gulags and prisons and mass executions - notwithstanding. Two to three million Poles variously killed during the course of WWII - notwithstanding. Ho hum.

Michael, what are you talking about? Here's what I actually said:

Katyn notwithstanding, the Nazis proved themselves fully capable of matching the Russian low regard for Polish life, so it's not as if sympathy for the Soviets came at the expense of a better alternative.

By no rational reading does that diminish what the Russians put the Poles through. It only says the Nazis were just as bad. Do you really disagree either with that reading of my comment or with the historical fact?

And "they only had themselves to blame"? Bordered as they have been by Russia and Germany, among others, throughout their history, not to mention Sept. 1939 most notably?

Again, this is a ridiculously scurrilous mischaracterization. What I said, in context, was:

Jews did have a clear choice [i.e., to favor Soviets over Nazis], and if some acted on it in unalloyed self-interest, Poles had only themselves to blame. Convince people they have as much security as you'll give them for as long as you choose to give it, and they tend to keep their loyalty portable.

In other words, what Poles had only themselves to blame for was that the Jews would dare think about who was more intent on killing the Jews, rather than think solely about the well-being of Poland, which gave not a second thought to the well-being of Jews. I neither said, implied nor believe that the Poles bear any blame for their suffering at anyone's hands.
6.26.2008 2:56am
Michael B (mail):
Oh good grief.

"If you were a Polish Jew in late 1939, with the western half of the country already under Nazi rule you would have welcomed the Soviets because the alternative was not Polish independence but coming under Nazi rule yourself." byomtov

Yes, and that specific aspect of the motivation is entirely understandable, but those are not the specific people or motivations I'm recalling. And depending on what date you're thinking of, I'm not sure half the country was already under Nazi rule. The Soviet invasion of Poland was right on the heels of the Nazi invasion - and both invasions took place in the immediate wake of the Molotov/Ribbentrop pact. (The contingent of Polish Jews I'm referring to are those who were positively and enthusiastically, on ideological grounds, welcoming the Soviets.)

"Am I sympathetic to the Poles sent off to the gulag? Of course. But you seem to want to blame the Jews for it. That's absurd."

Firstly, I find it audacious that you're stating I seem to want to blame "the Jews". Absolutely bare minimum, unless you're out to brand me in some fashion, I plainly qualified and limited my comment to leftist/secularist Jews who positively and enthusiastically welcomed the Soviets. What I failed to state more explicitly was the positive ideological basis for that enthusiasm. So don't talk to me about how I'm attempting to blame "the Jooos" in some categorical, conspiratorial sense. In taking note of a historical fact, that's precisely what I'm doing.

LM,

No, the piece of the puzzle I was filling in was an historical piece, it did not serve as any type of apologetic for antiSemitism per se. You're the one who read that into my comment. In taking into account all the complexities, the existential dynamics, etc. and throwing a light on it that is what I'm doing, no more, no less.

Otoh, I see I did misconstrue the comments you take note of in the latter half of your more recent comment. My apologies for that much, but it certainly was not consciously "scurrilous".
6.26.2008 8:53am
yankev (mail):

For example, what would constitute the "lesser of two evils" for a Pole?
Clearly the Nazis, who allowed the Poles to continue their of pogroms and persecutions, which predated Marxism and the Soviets by centuries, and which was more a function of the Church's Teaching of Contempt than of generic xenophobia.

And how curious that the symapthies of secularies leftist Jews -- who themselves had no use for Orthodox Jews or any other religious believers -- were used to justify persecution of the Orthodox?

Anyone who doubts that the ther Soviets were not welcomed by religious Jews needs to read the autobiography "Go My Son" by Chaim Shapiro, which details his survival as an Ortthodox yeshiva student in Poland who fled first to Lithuania and then to the USSR. You will find no sympathy for the Soviets, and a detailed account of the oppression that the Soviets imposed on religious Jews after the Soviet invasion of Lithuania. (Besides, it's a gripping book and he tells his story vividly.)
6.26.2008 9:43am
yankev (mail):

In fact, I would argue that the orthodox Jews, being more visible, increased anti-semitism overall, thus making life harder for their assimilationist brethren

That was the argument of the Reform movement from its earliest days in Germany. Yet most of Germany's Jewish population were highly assimilated Reform Jews who, as pointed out earlier, were "more German than the Germans." Germany's Orthodox commmunity spoke German and dressed like gentile Germans. Few German Jews survived (nor did even Christians who were ethnically Jewish but whose family had been Christian for generations), despite the absence of visibly Orthodox Jews.
6.26.2008 9:49am
Michael B (mail):
"Clearly the Nazis, who allowed the Poles to continue their of pogroms and persecutions, which predated Marxism and the Soviets by centuries, and which was more a function of the Church's Teaching of Contempt than of generic xenophobia." yankev

Bullshit. The church's teaching, and what they failed to teach at times in a more positive sense, was deplorable, yes, that is not disputed. But the notion Poles as a group preferred the Nazis is b.s. If so, why did they resist Hitler in Sept., 1939? The point made is that neither were welcome, neither the Soviets nor Hitler's forces.

"And how curious that the symapthies of secularies leftist Jews -- who themselves had no use for Orthodox Jews or any other religious believers -- were used to justify persecution of the Orthodox?"

I'll assume you're not imputing that to me. But yes, to the extent that occurred, that would be deplorable as well. Still, the larger point being is that that history didn't occur in a vacuum, there were other absolutely critical factors, existential and ideological factors and other factors still at play.
6.26.2008 11:28am
LM (mail):
Michael,

Explanation noted and apology accepted.
6.26.2008 10:14pm