Professor Netanyahu’s lessons

May 11, 2012

Caroline Glick..
11 May ’12..
In all of our many conversations that took place over the better part of the past decade, I never asked Prof. Benzion Netanyahu what led him to become an historian. Certainly it was a function of his concern for his nation and his recognition that our very existence hung in the balance. Certainly, too, it was a function of his insatiable intellectual curiosity.
I don’t know whether his decision was the function of a specific event or simply a natural progression of his life’s path. But through the lessons that he taught me both directly, and through the books he wrote, I can understand why once he embarked on his journey into Jewish history, the path he eventually took became inevitable.
Netanyahu died last week, at the age of 102.
A good place to begin a study of his long life and its impact on his actions is with his first major work, his biography of Don Issac Abravanel, the leader of the Jews of Spain at the time of Spain’s final expulsion of the community in 1492. Abravanel was an extraordinary scholar of philosophy and Jewish teachings as well as a financial genius. The former brought him renown among his people. The latter attracted the monarchs of Portugal and Spain and the leaders of Italian city states.
One of the shocking aspects of the tragic end of the Jewish community is Spain is that Abravanel, and his fellow communal leaders failed to anticipate the expulsion order. For all of his proximity to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Abravanel had no idea that they were planning to expel the Jews and so was unable to either cancel the expulsion decree or to make preparations for the community to move to another land.

In his biography, Netanyahu described the exiled Jews of Spain as they sought and were denied refuge in port after port.
In his words (translated from the Hebrew edition): “On 24 August 1492 nine caravel ships arrived in the Port of Napoli bearing expelled Jews from Spain. The journey from Spain was one of continuous suffering. The ship owners were unsympathetic, cruel and greedy. The ships were overloaded and lacked sufficient food. The sanitary conditions invited disease, and the plague quickly spread among the passengers. All these conditions left the expelled in a state of abject penury after weeks of suffering. The historian Genovani, who saw some of these exiles when their ship passed through his town’s port, wrote, ‘It was possible to mistake them for ghosts; they were so hollow; their looks were so frigid, their eyes so sunken in their sockets. They looked just like the dead, aside from the fact that with great difficulty, they were still able to move.'”
Netanyahu proceeded to do the only thing he could, when faced with this description. He made the comparison between the plight of the expelled Jews from Spain, and the Jews of Europe during and after the Holocaust. And from this direct line of suffering, one can begin to understand not only the continuity of the form of Jewish suffering – but the continuity the persecution of the Jews over the course of the long exile that began in 70 CE with the destruction of the Second Temple.
NETANYAHU’S RESEARCH into the life of Abravanel led him to his most important historical discovery. While working in one of the libraries in Spain, he came across the writings of Jewish leaders in Spain from the years leading up to the Inquisition and expulsion in 1492. He discovered that in the early and mid-15th century, the Jewish community hated and feared the former Jews who were forcibly converted en masse to Christianity during the first state offensive against the Jews in 1391.
Until Netanyahu came across these writings, he shared the popular view that the so-called Conversos were heroes who led a double life. On the outside, they were Christian, but they remained Jews in secret.
What he discovered was that this heroic posture lasted at most one generation. The children of the Conversos were enthusiastic Catholics. Many rose to power in the Catholic Church.
Whereas the Jews who remained in Spain after 1391 were by and large a pitiful, impoverished remnant of what had once been a magnificent community, the Conversos quickly became the leaders of Spain, and in so doing, angered their fellow Catholic Spaniards who envied their success.
Netanyahu’s findings led to his revolutionary conclusion that the Spanish Inquisition did not target the Jews as a religion, but the Jews as a race. Most of those who died by Torquemada’s sword were loyal Catholics whose only crime was their possession of Jewish blood. The real Jews were not killed. They were expelled. His conclusion from his finding was that there was nothing unique or new about the Nazis’ racial and genocidal hatred of the Jews.
Netanyahu’s intellectual journey shaped and sharpened his perception of the Jewish condition. It fortified his conviction that Zionism is the only means of securing the lives of Jews as individuals and the existence of the Jewish nation.
Netanyahu’s Zionism was not a hyphenated one. It was not Labor Zionism, like the Zionism of David Ben-Gurion and his socialist followers. It was not religious Zionism, like that of the Lovers of Zion movement which formed the core of the initial modern Jewish settlement drive in the Land of Israel.
He learned from the early Zionist leader Yehuda Pinsker’s seminal pamphlet, Auto-Emancipation, that Zionism rejects utopianism. Netanyahu’s own lesson from the Spanish Inquisition is that for Jews, assimilation is as much of a utopian path as socialism. As Pinsker, and later Theodor Herzl made clear, the only way for Jews to be redeemed is by doing it themselves.
In his study of Pinkser from 1944, Netanyahu wrote, “Pinsker thought that normal relations between national groupings are not based on mutual affection but on mutual respect.”
According to Pinsker, what distinguished exile Jews from all other nations was the Jews’ failure to understand this basic truth. For the Zionist movement to succeed in liberating the Jews, its leaders needed to demand and command the respect – not the sympathy – of other nations.
AS NETANYAHU showed in his 1937 article on Herzl’s Zionist doctrine, Herzl, the man who built the diplomatic and legal edifice upon which the State of Israel was created, believed that Zionism rested on two essential foundations: international recognition of the Jews’ right to sovereignty over the Land of Israel; and Jewish military capacity to defend those sovereign rights.
Until his death in 1904, Herzl worked feverishly to build international recognition of the Jewish people’s right to the Land of Israel in its maximalist borders – from the Nile Delta to the Euphrates River. As Herzl understood, it is much harder to secure international recognition of sovereign rights than it is to give them up, and once they are renounced, they are all but impossible to regain.
What Herzl found was that it was much easier to secure international recognition of the rights of the Jewish people than it is to convince the Jews to muster the courage to demand, seize and defend those rights.
Netanyahu wrote his study of Herzl at the same time as the Zionist leadership in pre-state Israel was debating Britain’s Peel Commission’s partition plan. Although it provided for the establishment of a tiny, indefensible Jewish statelet, the plan involved Jewish renunciation of their sovereign rights to the overwhelming majority of the land they had lawfully received sovereign title to under the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. That sovereign title included all of present day Israel as well as Judea and Samaria, and arguably present-day Jordan as well.
Netanyahu argued that the tragedy of Zionism is that the leaders who took over after Herzl’s death – first and foremost Ahad Ha’am and Chaim Weizmann – lacked the courage to demand the rights of their nation, preferring to be loved than respected.
Lamenting this failure of will and what it was liable to mean for the future of the Jews as the drums of the next war grew ever stronger, Netanyahu wrote that the one thing that Herzl worked towards but failed to achieve was to change “the character of the nation.”
“This change,” he wrote, “which Herzl believed was critical, was not manifested in the spirit of its leaders, or more precisely, in the spirit of those, who conducted negotiations in the name of the Jewish people, and afterwards managed its affairs. When it was necessary to demonstrate the courage of a sovereign, which Herzl spoke of, when it was necessary to dare and demand from the world the Jewish State and sovereignty over that state, the nation’s representatives issued no such demand.”
In the end, despite Netanyahu’s reiteration of Herzl’s warning, the Zionist leadership accepted the Peel Commission’s partition plan, just as 10 years later they accepted the UN Partition Plan.
Fortunately for their ill-served nation, their willingness to renounce the Jews’ sovereign rights under the League of Nations Mandate was never binding, because the Arabs rejected the plans and so rendered them null and void. The Jewish nation’s sovereign rights to the Land of Israel remain in force today.
In 2005, Netanyahu republished his profiles of Pinsker and Herzl, as well as profiles on Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, which were written between 1937 and 1981, as one collection. He called this book of essays The Founding Fathers of Zionism.
In his introduction to the collection, Netanyahu wrote, “The articles included in this book were written decades ago. They are published here as first written because I saw no reason to correct them….”
And he was right.
Zangwill once wrote, “The past is for inspiration, not imitation, for continuation, not repetition.”
The challenges the world Netanyahu departed last week present to the Jews bear striking similarities to those that faced the Jews throughout our history, and certainly since the dawn of modern Zionism. Unlike the options Abravanel had to weigh, since the dawn of modern Zionism, our leaders have had the option of demanding and commanding the respect of the nations of the world and so securing the lives of the Jews and nationhood of the Jewish people in our land.
Today the heirs of the failed utopian movements of the last century have joined forces with the jihadist heirs of the Mufti of Jerusalem to deny the Jewish people our sovereign rights to our land. If they succeed they will finally and irrevocably destroy Herzl’s greatest achievement.
The most ardent hope that comes through clearly in Netanyahu’s life work is that the Jews find a leader of Herzl’s stature, capable of demanding and commanding the world’s recognition and respect for our rights, and the ability to finish Herzl’s work by convincing the Jewish people that it is our right and our duty to assert and secure our destiny in our land.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

Summary: Christian Europe hated Jews for their Blood. Hitler may of not been a real Christian, but the Christians in Catholic Spain were. It is important to not look to Christians for a helping hand. Often we Jews lack the courage to demand the rights of a nation and we prefer to be loved rather than respected.  Let’s hope his son Bibi really understands this.


Absurd Lies about Cordoba Spain – Islamic Inquisition

March 15, 2011

Jonathan David Carson

Readers of the American Thinker have no doubt heard numerous instances of the following disinformation about Cordoba, this version coming from Whitney S. Bowman in the Austin American-Statesman:

“The name ‘Cordoba House’ is significant.  It is named after the famed medieval Spanish city of Cordoba where philosophers, mystics, artisans and poets–Muslim, Christian and Jewish–lived and shared together.

“Its libraries were vast, and the translations of Arabic works into Latin changed Europe and Christianity forever.  Among the resident luminaries were Maimonides, a noted Jewish intellectual, the poet Ibn Hazm, and Averroes, the Muslim philosopher and mystic.  A Saxon nun of the time called Cordoba ‘the brilliant ornament of the world.’  With the coming of the Inquisition and Christian exclusivism, the brilliance of Cordoba faded, but its significance endures as a vibrant, inter-religious community.”

The idea that Muslims, Christians, and Jews “lived and shared together” in medieval Cordoba could perhaps be dismissed as a rhetorical flight of fancy, but the idea that Christianity and the Inquisition ended the brilliance of Cordoba is a deliberate lie.

According to The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides, “the fundamentalist Almohad movement,” which “fought to restore the pristine faith of Islam, based on the Quran and the Sunna, and to enforce the precepts of the sacred law” (sound familiar?), conquered Cordoba in 1148 and drove out the ten-year-old Moses Maimonides and his family.  They hid from the Almohads in Andalusia for ten years, then emigrated to Morocco, where Maimonides wrote his Epistle on Forced Conversion to console his Jewish brethren forced to choose between conversion to Islam and death.  Later he moved to Cairo, where he achieved safety by acting as a physician to the Muslim rulers.  Obviously, the great works of Moses Maimonides were not written in Cordoba, and Christian exclusivism and the Inquisition had nothing to do with his departure.

Though born in Cordoba and not a Jew, Averroes also suffered Almohad oppression, and “his teachings [were] condemned and his philosophical works torched as dangerous to religious faith,” according to the Cambridge Companion.  

For the record, Averroes died in 1198, Maimonides died in 1204, and Cordoba was conquered by Christians in 1236.  As for the translations, more hokum  has been said on that subject than just about any other.
Update. Andrew Bostom adds:

More on Cordoban “Ecumenism”

Reinhart Dozy  (1820-1883), the great Orientalist scholar and Islamophile, wrote a four volume magnum opus (published in 1861 and translated into English by Francis Griffin Stokes in 1913), Histoire des Musselmans d’Espagne (A History of the Muslims in Spain). Here is Dozy’s historical account of the mid-8th century “conversion” of a Cordovan cathedral to a mosque:

All the churches in that city [Cordova] had been destroyed except the cathedral, dedicated to Saint Vincent, but the possession of this fane [church or temple] had been guaranteed by treaty. For several years the treaty was observed; but when the population of Cordova was increased by the arrival of Syrian Arabs [i.e., Muslims], the mosques did not provide sufficient accommodation for the newcomers, and the Syrians considered it would be well for them to adopt the plan which had been carried out at Damascus, Emesa [Homs], and other towns in their own country, of appropriating half of the cathedral and using it as a mosque. The [Muslim] Government having approved of the scheme, the Christians were compelled to hand over half of the edifice. This was clearly an act of spoliation, as well as an infraction of the treaty. Some years later, Abd-er Rahman I requested the Christians to sell him the other half. This they firmly refused to do, pointing out that if they did so they would not possess a single place of worship. Abd-er Rahman, however, insisted, and a bargain was struck by which the Christians ceded their cathedral….

Indeed by the end of the eighth century, the brutal Muslim jihad conquest of North Africa and of Andalusia had imposed rigorous Maliki jurisprudence as the predominant school of Muslim law. Thus, as Evariste Lévi-Provençal (1894-1956)-the greatest modern scholar of Muslim Spain whose Histoire de l’Espagne Musulmane remains a defining work-observed three quarters of a century ago:

The Muslim Andalusian state thus appears from its earliest origins as the defender and champion of a jealous orthodoxy, more and more ossified in a blind respect for a rigid doctrine, suspecting and condemning in advance the least effort of rational speculation.

For example, the contemporary scholar J.M. Safran discusses an early codification of the rules of the marketplace (where Muslims and non-Muslims would be most likely to interact), written by al-Kinani (d. 901), a student of the Cordovan jurist Ibn Habib (d. 853), “…known as the scholar of Spain par excellence,” who was also one of the most ardent proponents of Maliki doctrine in Muslim Spain:

…the problem arises of “the Jew or Christian who is discovered trying to blend with the Muslims by not wearing the riqā [cloth patch, which might be required to have an emblem of an ape for a Jew, or a pig for a Christian] or zunnār [belt].” Kinani’s insistence that Jews and Christians wear the distinguishing piece of cloth or belt required of them is an instance of a legally defined sartorial differentiation being reconfirmed…His insistence may have had as much to do with concerns for ritual purity and food prohibitions as for the visible representation of social and political hierarchy, and it reinforced limits of intercommunal relations

Moroever Ibn Hazm was not merely a Muslim “poet,” and hardly a paragon of ecumenism. He was a viciously bigoted Antisemitic Muslim theologian, whose inflammatory writings helped incite the massive pogrom against the Jews of Granada which killed 4000, and destroyed the entire community in 1066. And Averroes, despite his “philosophical studies,” was also a traditionally bigoted Maliki jurist who rendered strong anti-infidel Sharia- rulings and endorsed classical jihadism for the very same Almohads who eventually turned upon him. 

Finally, what Maimonides escaped in the 12th century-disguised as a Muslim-was nothing less than a full-blown Muslim Inquisition under the Almohads. The jihad depredations of the Almohads (1130-1232) wreaked enormous destruction on both the Jewish and Christian populations in Spain and North Africa. This devastation-massacre, captivity, and forced conversion-was described by the Jewish chronicler Abraham Ibn Daud, and the poet Abraham Ibn Ezra. Suspicious of the sincerity of the Jewish converts to Islam, Muslim “inquisitors”, i.e., antedating their Christian Spanish counterparts by three centuries, removed the children from such families, placing them in the care of Muslim educators. Ibn Aqnin (d. 1220), a renowned philosopher and commentator, who was born in Barcelona in 1150, also fled the Almohad persecutions with his family, escaping, like Maimonides, to Fez. Living there as a crypto-Jew, he met Maimonides and recorded his own poignant writings about the sufferings of the Jews under Almohad rule. Ibn Aqnin wrote during the reign of Abu Yusuf al-Mansur (r. 1184-1199), four decades after the onset of the Almohad persecutions in 1140. Thus the Jews forcibly converted to Islam were already third generation Muslims. Despite this, al-Mansur continued to impose restrictions upon them, which Ibn Aqnin chronicles.

…a part of history they don’t teach in schools in the United States or anywhere