Hat tip to Gates of Vienna.
If an appreciable portion of your party's platform consists of complaining about Jews, then the revelation that your grandparents on your mother's side were Jewish can put a small dent in your political career. Note that according to Jewish tradition, Jewish ancestry is traced through the maternal line. This of course does not force someone to be Jewish, but it certainly doesn't sit well with one's anti-Semitic colleagues.
"BUDAPEST, HUNGARY — As a rising star in Hungary's far-right Jobbik Party, Csanad Szegedi was notorious for his incendiary comments on Jews: He accused them of "buying up" the country, railed about the "Jewishness" of the political elite and claimed Jews were desecrating national symbols.
Since then, the 30-year-old has become a pariah in Jobbik and his political career is on the brink of collapse. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
At the root of the drama is an audio tape of a 2010 meeting between Szegedi and a convicted felon. Szegedi acknowledges that the meeting took place but contends the tape was altered in unspecified ways; Jobbik considers it real.
Under pressure, Szegedi resigned last month from all party positions and gave up his Jobbik membership. That wasn't good enough for the party: Last week it asked him to give up his seat in the European Parliament as well. Jobbik says its issue is the suspected bribery, not his Jewish roots."
Anti-Semitism has been alive in Europe for far too long. Jews have been a part of the fabric of European societies for since the days of the Western Roman Empire. Their presence there goes back as far as the late Republic.This is not to say that any group without roots going back that far should be persecuted, but it does illustrate how ridiculous it is to target a group that has been around that long. The Jews often became businessmen in Europe because they were denied the right to own property. if they could not be freeholding farmers or be part of the nobility, then business was all that was left if they wanted to earn a living.
When people became indebted to Jewish bankers, it was almost always due to the disastrous spending by the nobility. The seignorial class routinely went bankrupt, sometimes in one generation. While Italians bankers paid the price of their debtor's lavish lifestyles by being fined, the Jews did so by being subjected to pogroms.
Emmet Scott in Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited makes a strong argument that the particularly vicious anti-Semitism of the Middle Ages was learned from extended contacts with the Muslim dynasties that bordered Christian Europe, such as those of Spain and Portugal:
"One of the most deplored characteristics of medieval Europe was its virulent and frequently violent anti-Semitism. Yet the extreme form of anti-Semitism encountered in Europe during the Middle Ages did not predate the eleventh century. Indeed, the first massacres of Jews in Europe were carried out in Spain by Muslim mobs early in the eleventh century; in 1011 (in Cordoba) and 1066 (in Granada). It is true of course that Christians had a long history of antagonism towards the Jews, one that preceded the appearance of Islam. The antagonism was mutual, and Jewish leaders were in the early centuries as vociferous in their condemnation of Christianity as Christians were of Judaism. Serious violence between the two groups was however uncommon; and the first real pogrom launched by Christians against the Jews in Europe did not happen until the beginning of the First Crusade, in 1096, that is, thirty years after the massacre in Granada. And it seems a virtual certainty that the German mobs who carried out the 1096 massacres learned their hatred in Spain.
From Roman and perhaps even pre-Roman times Spain was home to a very large Jewish community. Following the Islamic conquest of that land in 711, the Jews came under the domination of a faith that was from its inception virulently and violently anti-Jewish. For Muslims the lead was given by none other than their founder, the Prophet Muhammad. It would be superfluous to enumerate the anti-Jewish pronouncements in the Koran and the Haditha, where the Hebrews are portrayed as the craftiest, most persistent and most implacable enemies of Allah…
It is a widely-held fiction that, aside from the Prophet’s persecution of the Jews of Arabia, Muslims in general and Islam as a rule was historically tolerant to this People of the Book, who were generally granted dhimmi (“protected”) status in the Islamic Umma, or community. But dhimmi status, also accorded to Christians, did not, as Bat Ye’or has demonstrated at great length, imply equal rights with Muslims. On the contrary, dhimmis were subject, even at the best of times, to a whole series of discriminatory and humiliating laws and to relentless exploitation. At the worst of times, they could be murdered in the streets without any hope of legal redress. One of the most noxious measures directed against them was the requirement to wear an item or color of clothing by which they could be easily identified: identified for easy exploitation and abuse. Bat Ye’or has shown that this law was enforced in Islam right from the beginning. The violence was not continuous, but the exploitation was, and the pattern of abuse initiated by Muhammad in Arabia in the seventh century was to be repeated throughout history. The first massacres of Jews in Europe, carried out by Muslim mobs in Spain, were preceded by other massacres carried out in North Africa, and clearly formed a continuum with Muhammad’s massacres of that people in Arabia.
There was, however, at times, a semblance of tolerance for both Jews and Christians. It could not have been otherwise. When the Arabs conquered the vast territories of Mesopotamia, Syria, and North Africa during the seventh century, they found themselves a small minority ruling over enormous populations comprising mainly Christians and, to a lesser degree, Jews. As such, they needed to proceed with caution. Like all conquerors, the Arabs were quick to exploit any internal conflicts; and it was in their interests, above all, to divide the Christians from the Jews. This was particularly the case in Spain, where the Jewish population was very large. A united Jewish and Christian front could have proved extremely dangerous, and it was entirely in the interest of the conquerors to sow mistrust and suspicion between these communities. In the words of Bat Ye’or, “The [Arab] invaders knew how to take advantage of the dissensions between local groups in order to impose their own authority, favoring first one and then another, with the intention of weakening and ruining them all through a policy of ‘divide and rule.’”
Jewish communities, both in Spain and elsewhere, tended to be both educated and prosperous. Jewish doctors, scientists and merchants could be usefully employed by any ruling group. And employed they were by the Arabs. Some, such as Ibn Naghrela, rose to positions of great prominence. The international connections of the Jews and their mastery of languages proved invaluable to the new rulers. The Jews frequently found themselves in the role of intermediaries between Muslims and Christians. Yet such favors as the Jews enjoyed was transitory and uncertain. There was never any real security, as the massacres of 1011 and 1066 illustrate only too well. On the other hand, it was entirely in the interests of the Muslims that the Christians believed the Jews were favored. And part of that myth was the notion that “the Jews” had actually assisted the Muslims in their conquest of the country.
The likelihood that this story was true is vanishingly small, especially when we consider the massacres of Jews carried out in Arabia by Muhammad himself just a few decades earlier. No people had better international links than the Jews, a nation of merchants par excellence, and those of Spain would have been very much aware of Muhammad’s behavior long before the first Muslim armies landed on Spanish soil. Nonetheless, the story got out that the Jews had helped the Muslims. There can be little doubt that this story was fostered by the Muslim invaders themselves, as part of the policy of divide and conquer; of sowing mistrust between the two vanquished communities.
All during the tenth and eleventh centuries, the war for possession of the Iberian Peninsula raged between Christians and Muslims. This conflict was to grow into a real clash of civilizations, as Christians and Muslims called in the assistance of co-religionists from far and wide. The Shrine of Santiago de Compostela became a rallying symbol for the Christians of the north and for those of France and Germany, who crossed the Pyrenees to join the struggle against Islam. Their Christian allies in Spain already had the conviction that the Jews were secret allies of the Muslims — a belief encouraged by the Muslims. They were convinced that the Jews had assisted the Muslims in their conquest of the country; and they came into contact with Muslim antisemitic attitudes — attitudes which the Christians began to imbibe. It is an acknowledged fact that it was in Spain that the warriors who later joined the First Crusade learnt to persecute the Jews. In the words of Steven Runciman, “Already in the Spanish wars there had been some inclination on the part of Christian armies to maltreat the Jews.” Runciman notes that at the time of the expedition to Barbastro, in the mid-eleventh century, Pope Alexander II had written to the bishops of Spain to remind them that there was all the difference in the world between Muslims and Jews. The former were irreconcilable enemies of the Christians, but the latter were ready to work for them. However, in Spain “the Jews had enjoyed such favour from the hands of the Moslems that the Christian conquerors could not bring themselves to trust them.” This lack of trust is confirmed by more than one document of the period, several of which are listed by Runciman.
Just over a decade after the Christian knights of France and Germany had helped their co-religionists in Spain to retake the city of Toledo from the Muslims, some of them prepared to set out on the First (official) Crusade. Before they did so, a few of them took part in the mass murder of several thousand Jews in Germany and Bohemia — an atrocity unprecedented in European history."
"In view of the fact that these pogroms were committed by warriors some of whom had learned their trade in Spain, and in view of the fact that such atrocities were hitherto unknown in Europe, we may state that there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that the Christians had been influenced by Islamic ideas.
To conclude, I am not trying to argue that antisemitism did not exist among Christians before the rise of Islam. Obviously it did. Yet the influence of Islam, and the terrible struggle between the two intolerant ideologies of Christianity and Islam which began in the seventh century, had a profoundly detrimental effect upon the Jews; and it was then, and only then, that the virulent and murderous antisemitism so characteristic of the Middle Ages entered European life."