Jews The Jewish Question Possible reasons for anti semitism Jews

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					                                 The Jewish Question.



Possible reasons for anti-semitism:


- Jews forced into exile in large numbers; the first sizeable ethnic minority; convenient scapegoats.
- Jews held responsible for the death of Christ.
- Judaism based on strict moral codes of conduct.
- Oedipal relationship between Christianity and Judaism; Christianity, the son of Judaism, had to
defeat the father to reach maturity.


18th Century Enlightenment promoted human rights for all, but did not end anti-semitism.
Prejudice became racial instead of religious.
Jews denounced as distinct and inferior race. This backed up by pseudo-scientific studies, and rise
of nationalism in the 19th C.


Situation in Russia.
Annexations of Poland under Catherine the Great (second half of 18th C) brought large influx of
Jews into Russian empire.
Government fact-finding mission produced reports were hostile to Jews.
One, published 1773, described them as fraudsters and cheats, selling shoddy goods at high prices,
lending money at extortionate interest rates, producing and selling vodka.
- these might have reflected hostility on part of Russian merchants towards competitors [John
Morison].
- resulted in restrictions imposed on Jews by local officials.
Catherine the Great said that Jews should be treated 'without distinction of race or creed' - but still
condoned discriminatory legislation, e.g. 'Pale of Settlement' confining Jews to certain areas.


One reason for anti-semitism: Jews kept distinctive customs, appearance, schools, local self-
administration [the KAHUL] - but the new laws made assimilation even less likely.


1881 - assassination of Alexander II:
- one of the assassins was Jewish
- rumour that Jews were responsible
- sparked off Pogroms (mob attacks on Jews).
Encouraged by the Holy League (nationalist and anti-Semitic movement ) with support and
encouragement from government.
Thousands of Jews killed or fled into exile.
New anti-semitic measures, such as ban on 'new Jewish settlers' in certain areas
- if a Jew made a trip outside the area, could be labelled a 'new settler' on return, and not be allowed
home.


This even happened to Jewish soldiers returning from battle.


The Revolution.
Many Jews joined the revolutionary movement; hence opponents of communism insisted the
Revolution was a Jewish conspiracy.
After the Revolution Jewish persecution stopped - in theory; in fact the worst pogrom took place
during the Civil War, when around a quarter million Jews were killed.
Reds, Whites, peasant anarchists, Ukrainian nationalists took part;
accused Jews of being pro-German, pro-communist, pro-Russian, pro-capitalist, members of
international conspiracy.


After the Civil War, all restrictions on Jewish settlement lifted.
But scapegoating continued:
e.g. in 1920s, 'nepmen' accused of being Jewish.
1927, Jewish homeland created in remote area in the far east of Siberia: an 'autonomous republic'
called Birobidzhan.
Some 20,000 Jews settlers arrived, and not just Soviet Jews.
Very remote, little financial help, totally non-industrialised area (most Soviet Jews were city
people). During and after the Second World War, re-awaking of Jewish identity. Why?
(i)   creation of Israel 1948
(ii) influx of 'zapadniki': Jews from newly acquired territories, more aware of Jewish culture.
(iii) sense of shock and betrayal about fate of Jews during the war, compounded by virtual silence in
the Soviet press.
(iv) massacre of Jews at Babi Yar;    rumours of Ukrainian complicity;      Evgenii Yevtushenko's
1961 poem 'Babi Yar'.


Post-war campaign against Zionism, execution of Jewish leaders, closure of Yiddish schools and
theatres, disappearance of books in Yiddish or Hebrew, quota system limiting Jewish entry to some
Universities, campaign against 'cosmopolitanism' directly largely at Jews.
Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, set up during the war, disbanded and many members arrested.
'Doctor's Plot' in Moscow: Jewish doctors treating Stalin and other leaders accused of working for
U.S. Jewish organisation plotting to kill Soviet leaders.


1967, under Brezhnev, anti-semitism flared up again after the Arab-Israeli conflict; USSR took
pro-Arab line.
Officially this = anti-Zionism, not anti-semitism.
But 93% of children born to mixed marriages chose non-Jewish nationality for passport.


Jewish Emigration:
1970s, campaigns and demonstrations called for the right to emigrate to Israel.
Authorities agreed to some, but many became 'refuseniks'.
Two 'best' emigration years: 1973 (33,500) and 1979 (50,000).
Until the early 1970s, the Soviet Union had the second largest Jewish population in the world,
behind the US but ahead of Israel. By 1980s was in third place.


Why did the USSR permit Jewish emigration, when no other group of Soviet citizens could leave?
(i) gave the appearance that the country's human rights record was improving, without forcing it to
address human rights issues domestically.
(ii) initially those leaving were the least assimilated, most disgruntled, had strongest Jewish identity,
and came from republics with potential nationalist tendencies.


Later, when applications came from more Russified Jews, wanting to go to the USA rather than
Israel, and for economic rather than religious reasons, fewer received permission.


Growth in Russian nationalism and Anti-Semitism.


Greater freedom of speech under Gorbachev allowed expression of nationalism and anti-semitism.
New nationalist group Pamyat (memorial) - formed 1987, breakaway group from All Russian
Society for the Preservation of Historic and Cultural Monuments (VOOPIK) - led by Dmitri
Vailiev; wore black uniforms like Nazi SS; used Jews as scapegoats.
Resurrected 'zionist plot' thesis - Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.
Linked this to the Soviet Union: argued that
i) Marx had been a Jew
ii) disporoportionate no. of revolutionaries were Jews
iii) Lenin had a Jewish grandfather
iv) the Soviet Union's star symbol was variation on the Star of David
v) Moscow streets were laid out like six-pointed star.
vi) disproportionate number of Jews in the intelligentsia and the government; called for ban on
Jews entering higher education and standing in elections.


Broke up meeting of the Moscow Soviet Writers' Club January 1980 on grounds that most members
were Jewish.
Ring leader, Konstantin Smirnov-Ostashvili, arrested, subsequently jailed.
'Village writers' increasingly nationalistic.
Jews increasingly blamed for excesses of the cooperatives and private businesses; for corruption;
for promoting themselves at the expense of the Russians.
Fire-bombings of Jewish apartments, of a Jewish cooperative restaurant in Moscow, rumours of
forthcoming pogroms.
Record levels of Jewish emigration.
Gorbachev accused of doing nothing to stop this; as with nationality issue in general, responded to
events only when it was impossible not to do so.
Finally, criminal investigation into the activities of Pamyat' on grounds of inciting racial hatred.



Reasons for the upsurge of anti-semitism?
i) was already there, but glasnost has put it on the agenda.
ii) as people feel threatened by the uncertainties of the future, start casting around for scape-goats.
iii) the old stereotypes already exist in people's consciousness; can be brought out when needed. so:
Jews are self-interested business people, so must form majority of new entrepreneurs; private
businesses associated with corruption; hence Jews must be corrupt.
iv) In situation of flux, disorientation, concern about future, anti-Semitic groups can easily find
audience; and political leaders sometimes use their concerns for their own ends.

				
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