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.The favor of Saladin to the Jewish communities, first in Egypt,then in other parts of this expanding empire, was based not only on hisreal personal qualities of tolerance, charity and deep political wisdom,but equally on his rise to power as a rebellious commander ofmercenaries freshly arrived in Egypt and then as usurper of the powerof the dynasty which he and his father and uncle before him hadserved.But perhaps the best Islamic example is the state where the Jews"position was better than anywhere else in the East since the fall of theancient Persian empirethe Ottoman empire, particularly during itsheyday in the 16th century.[11] As is well known, the Ottoman regimewas based initially on the almost complete exclusion of the Turksthemselves (not to mention other Muslims by birth) from positions ofpolitical power and from the most important part of the army, theJanissary corps, both of which were manned by the sultan's Christian -born slaves, abducted in childhood and educated in special schools.Until the end of the 16th century no free- born Turk could become aJanissary or hold any important government office.In such a regime,the role of the Jews in their sphere was quite analogous to that of theJanissaries in theirs.Thus the position of the Jews was best under aregime which was politically most dissociated from the peoples it ruled.With the admission of the Turks themselves (as well as some otherMuslim peoples, such as the Albanians) to the ruling class of the Ottoman empire, the position of the Jews declines.However, thisdecline was not very sharp, because of the continuing arbitrariness andnon- national character of the Ottoman regime.This point is very important, in my opinion, because the relatively goodsituation of Jews under Islam in general, and under certain Islamicregimes in particular, is used by many Palestinian and other Arabpropagandists in a very ignorant, albeit perhaps well- meaning, way.First, they generalize and reduce serious questions of politics andhistory to mere slogans.Granted that the position of Jews was, onaverage, much better under Islam than under Christianitythe importantquestion to ask is, under what regimes was it better or worse? We haveseen where such an analysis leads.But, secondly and more importantly: in a pre- modern state, a "better"position of the Jewish community normally entailed a greater degree oftyranny exercised within this community by the rabbis against otherJews.To give one example: certainly, the figure of Saladin is one which,considering his period, inspires profound respect.But together withthis respect, I for one cannot forget that the enhanced privileges hegranted to the Jewish community in Egypt and his appointment ofMaimonides as their Chief (Nagid) immediately unleashed severereligious persecution of Jewish "sinners" by the rabbis.For instance,Jewish "priests" (supposed descendants of the ancient priests who hadserved in the Temple) are forbidden to marry not only prostitutes12 butalso divorcees.This latter prohibition, which has always causeddifficulties, was infringed during the anarchy under the last Fatimidrulers (circa 1130- 80) by such "priests" who, contrary to Jewishreligious law, were married to Jewish divorcees in Islamic courts (whichare nominally empowered to marry non- Muslims).The greatertolerance towards "the Jews" instituted by Saladin upon his accession topower enabled Maimonides to issue orders to the rabbinical courts inEgypt to seize all Jews who had gone through such forbidden marriagesand have them flogged until they "agreed" to divorce their wives.[13]Similarly, in the Ottoman empire the powers of the rabbinical courtswere very great and consequently most pernicious.Therefore theposition of Jews in Muslim countries in the past should never be usedas a political argument in contemporary (or future) contexts.Christian SpainI have left to the last a discussion of the two countries where theposition of the Jewish community and the internal development ofclassical Judaism were most important Christian Spain[14] (or ratherthe Iberian peninsula, including Portugal) and pre- 1795 Poland.Politically, the position of Jews in the Christian Spanish kingdoms wasthe highest ever attained by Jews in any country (except some of the ta'ifas and under the Fatimids) before the 19th century.Many Jewsserved officially as Treasurers General to the kings of Castile, regionaland general tax collectors, diplomats (representing their king in foreigncourts, both Muslim and Christian, even outside Spain), courtiers andadvisers to rulers and great noblemen.And in no other country exceptPoland did the Jewish community wield such great legal powers overthe Jews or used them so widely and publicly, including the power toinflict capital punishment.From the 11th century the persecution ofKaraites (a heretical Jewish sect) by flogging them to death ifunrepentant was common in Castile.Jewish women who cohabited withGentiles had their noses cut off by rabbis who explained that "in thisway she will lose her beauty and her non- Jewish lover will come to hateher." Jews who had the effrontery to attack a rabbinical judge had theirhands cut off.Adulterers were imprisoned, after being made to run thegauntlet through the Jewish quarter.In religious disputes, thosethought to be heretics had their tongues cut out.Historically, all this was associated with feudal anarchy and with theattempt of a few "strong" kings to rule through sheer force,disregarding the parliamentary institutions, the Cortes, which hadalready come into existence.In this struggle, not only the political andfinancial power of the Jews but also their military power (at least in themost important kingdom, Castile) was very significant.One examplewill suffice: both feudal misgovernment and Jewish political influencein Castile reached their peak under Pedro I, justly nick- named theCruel.The Jewish communities of Toledo, Burgos and many other citiesserved practically as his garrisons in the long civil war between him andhis half- brother, Henry of Trastamara, who after his victory becameHenry II (1369- 79).[15] The same Pedro I gave the Jews of Castile theright to establish a country- wide inquisition against Jewish religiousdeviantsmore than one hundred years before the establishment of themore famous Catholic Holy Inquisition.As in other western European countries, the gradual emergence ofnational consciousness around the monarchy, which began under thehouse of Trastamara and after ups and downs reached a culminationunder the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella, was accompanied firstby a decline in the position of the Jews, then by popular movementsand pressures against them and finally by their expulsion.On the wholethe Jews were defended by the nobility and upper clergy.It was themore plebeian sections of the church, particularly the mendicantorders, involved in the life of the lower classes, which were hostile tothem [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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