The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Did Islam save the Jews?

On 24 May 2012, the Jewish Chronicle site published David J Wasserstein's "JC Essay" asking So, what did the Muslims do for the Jews? Someone called Bramble has been spamming this essay in unfortunately-relevant Youtube, in the comments; last year, he was doing this at fellowshipoftheminds, henrymakow (deleted, but preserved in politicsnproverbs), several others. Vox Day has promoted the youtube on Vox Populi. Since Bramble shows no sign of stopping, I guess someone will have to address his comment. Mostly his basis Wasserstein's.

(Bramble goes further, that the Jews invented Islam to screw over the Christians. I wonder if Bramble has been reading too much Dune. I'd read that too, and in 2010 or so I was musing whether Emperor Heraclius, the Monothelete, was inventor of Islam - in his case, to rally eastern Semites and to put an end to the Persians. Neither theory explains the Koran, given the Christian subtext throughout. But I have never mistaken the Koran for a Muhammadan text. Which brings us back to Islamic origins, perhaps Rahmanist. This is as far as we should go to meet Bramble.)

For background on seventh-century Judaism, you have to understand that everyone was going crazy in the Near East. It is fair to disclose that Jews in the Near East did not always treat Christians well. Dhu Nuwas in Yemen is the usual contemporary case in point, given the enormity in Najran. We may bring up also the Jewish massacres against the Christians under Khusro II Aparwez. Khusro was himself pro-Christian, and inasmuch as he sided with the Dyotheletes I'd argue he was a better Christian than Heraclius. But where Heraclius' armies abandoned the field, angry Jews went after the Melkites. (And I concede they might not be too particular over torching only this church and not those over there.)

So, when Heraclius returned, the local Jews faced a problem. Also, the tradition of historiography in Judaism was entering a decline. Wasserstein claims the very Jewish faith was headed to "oblivion".

The first thing to note of Wasserstein is that he doesn't care about the Orient. For a start it is unlikely any Jew in the pre-Islamic Near East worried about forgetting Aramaic; its descendant Syriac was known from Alexandria to Khuzistan, dominant in several provinces. Also I doubt the Judaism capable of the Bavli Talmud, in this "World Without Islam", would have descended into just another oriental cult (I think he has in mind the Mandaeans). Wasserstein also doesn't care that Christianity isn't an Imperial faith. It bears a "dyothelete" strain that sustains the Church separately from the state. Dyotheletism was already dominant in the Eastern Church and it was about to win the west, too, under the name "Catholicism".

In a "World Without Islam", I expect dissident Christianity in the East would have retained its dyothelete character - like Catholicism in the West has retained it. The Church there would have treated the Jews like the Church here. That is, it would have protected Jews from the village idiots, where possible.

To sum up: if Judaism is so vulnerable to the whims of state then it is already "just a cult". Wasserstein's argument is self-defeating. Fortunately, it is also ignorant.


posted by Zimri on 10:52 | link | 0 comments

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