Ibn Warraq: Jews and the Crusades (Part 5)
Posted by Robert on January 31, 2013 8:21 AM
2.2 Explanations of the Massacres of 1096.
Nonetheless, even if we discount the details to be found in these chronicles, “general corroboration exists in the contemporary Latin and later Hebrew sources that riots occurred and that some Jews killed their families and themselves”. 
The Jews were the first people to suffer as the first band of crusaders wound their way to the East through the Rhineland, which was the center of intellectual life of Ashkenazic [Northern European] Jewry, with its two great, vibrant communities of Mainz and Worms. In general, the Jewish communities in Northern Europe had seen great growth during the tenth and eleventh century but Jews were never considered the equals of Christians, and were constantly reminded of the official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church that they were in error though they had once “possessed the truth of revelation, misread it, and thereby forfeited their covenantal relationship with the Deity”.  And of course, the Jews were held responsible for the Crucifixion of Christ, the Savior they should have accepted. These negative attitudes were embodied in the central rituals of the Church, and were passed onto large parts of the Christian populace. The Church did call for the toleration of Jews in their midst, where they were allowed to practice their religion, as long the Christians authorities assessed and ruled that the Jews were not a threat to Christians and Christianity.
There seem to also have been political, social and economic reasons for the persecution of the Jews in Europe. However, reading historians’ accounts of the “reasons” for, and “causes” of, Christian antisemitism leaves one with an uneasy feeling that somehow Christians were being excused since there were “good reasons” for their antipathies towards Jews, and that the Jews somehow “had it coming to them”. Though I should emphasize that no respectable Western historian ever explicitly states anything like this, and has never used terms like “had it coming to them”, or that there were “good reasons” for the Christians’ hatred. However, all rationalizing explanations of antisemitism engender such misgivings. Here are two rationalizing explanations of the rise of Christian antisemitism at the time of the First Crusade. Sir Steven Runciman wrote, “The prohibition of usury in western Christian countries and its strict control in Byzantium left them [the Jews] an open field for the establishment of money-lending houses throughout Christendom. Their technical skill and long traditions made them pre-eminent also in the practice of medicine. Except long ago in Visigothic Spain they had never undergone serious persecution in the West. They had no civic rights; but both lay and ecclesiastical authorities were pleased to give special protection to such useful members of the community. The kings of France and Germany had always befriended them; and they were shown particular favour by the archbishops of the great cities of the Rhineland. But the peasants and poorer townsmen increasingly in need of money as a cash economy replaced the older economy of services, fell more and more into their debt and in consequence felt more and more resentment against them; while the Jews, lacking legal security, charged high rates of interest and extracted exorbitant profits wherever the benevolence of the local ruler supported them.
 Robert Chazan, op.cit., p.28.
To be continued.
Article printed from Jihad Watch: http://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/01/ibn-warraq-jews-and-the-crusades-part-5.htmlURLs in this post: