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Did any slaves with Jewish owners ever adopt Judaism?

Did any slaves with Jewish owners ever adopt Judaism?

In a separate question, it was suggested that because Jews tend not to proselytize, there would not, in contrast to slaves who became Christians, be many Blacks who became Jewish even though their owners followed that religion. But has there been any records of this ever happening?

There seem to be two parts to your question: did slaves owned by Jewish masters ever adopt the Jewish religion, and has it happened in recent years that African slaves owned by North American Jews became Jewish.

The answer to the first part of your question is an unequivocal yes. A close reading of the Pentateuch's slave regulations would suggest two different types of slaves: Jewish and "Canaanite". Jewish slaves are effectively indentured servants. They worked for the length of time that it takes to pay off a debt or make good on theft, and either go free automatically at the end of seven years or with the arrival of the jubilee year (the fiftieth year of the fifty-year agricultural cycle) - whichever comes first.

Canaanite slaves, on the other hand, were property. When their owner died, they were inherited along with the rest of his property, and only went free if they were deliberately released. It's pretty ugly, but was very much a reality of the time (in fact, it was only relatively recently in Jewish history that people stopped thinking of slavery as a natural human condition - around the same time that people stopped thinking of it this way in general human society).

I mention all this because it is a clear precept of the early rabbinic literature that non-Jewish slaves ("Canaanite slaves") who are owned by Jews are to be considered Jewish to the extent that they are partially bound by Jewish law (such slaves are often classed together with women and minors in this regard) and that if they go free they are to be considered entirely Jewish, and are entirely bound by Jewish law. Where the early rabbinic literature speaks of freed slaves, it is referring to people who were not Jewish by birth, since Jews cannot be owned by Jews and remain fully bound by Jewish law even as indentured servants.

In more recent years, there were some cases of Jewish slave ownership in North America, but assessing its prevalence is complicated. Jews were primarily concentrated in the north of the country, and their voices feature prominently amongst abolitionists, but there were at least some southern slave owners who were Jewish. This Wikipedia article contains some good information, as does this review of a rather controversial book.

As to the number of former slaves who became Jewish after their emancipation, I do not know of any studies. Somewhat anecdotally, there are some African American Jews with Hebrew surnames or with Ashkenazi customs, who can trace their Jewish heritage back to the 19th century. Whether or not this is because their ancestors had been "owned" by Jews (as deplorable as that verb sounds), I do not know.

Slavery in Spain

Slavery in Spain can be traced to the times of the Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans. In the 9th century the Muslim Moorish rulers and local Jewish merchants traded in Spanish and Eastern European Christian slaves. Spain began to trade slaves in the 15th century and this trade reached its peak in the 16th century. The history of Spanish enslavement of Africans began with Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão in 1441. The first large group of African slaves, made up of 235 slaves, came with Lançarote de Freitas three years later. [1] In 1462, Portuguese slave traders began to operate in Seville, Spain. During the 1470s, Spanish merchants began to trade large numbers of slaves. Slaves were auctioned at market at a cathedral, and subsequently were transported to cities all over Imperial Spain. This led to the spread of Moorish, African, and Christian slavery in Spain. By the 16th century, 7.4 percent of the population in Seville, Spain were slaves. Many historians have concluded that Renaissance and early-modern Spain had the highest amount of African slaves in Europe. [2]

After the discovery of the New World, the Spanish colonialists decided to use it for commercial production and mining because of the absence of trading networks. [3] The native Native American population was used for this labor but they died in large numbers as a result of war, diseases, exploitation and social disruptions. [3] Meanwhile, the need for labor expanded, such as for the production of sugarcane. [3] The problem of the justness of Indian slavery was a key issue for the Spanish Crown. Bartolomé de las Casas was concerned about the fate of the natives and argued in 1516 that white and black slaves should be imported to the Indies to replace the Amerindians. [3] African slaves did have certain advantages over native slaves as being resistant to European diseases and more familiarity with agricultural techniques. [3] This preference led to the development of the Atlantic Slave Trade. [3]

It was Charles V who gave a definite answer to this complicated and delicate matter. To that end, on November 25, 1542, the Emperor abolished the enslavement of natives by decree in his Leyes Nuevas New Laws. This bill was based on the arguments given by the best Spanish theologists and jurists who were unanimous in the condemnation of such slavery as unjust they declared it illegitimate and outlawed it from America—not just the slavery of Spaniards over Indians—but also the type of slavery practiced among the Indians themselves. [4] The labor system of Encomienda was also abolished in 1550. [3] However these laws did not end the practice of slavery or forced labor immediately and a new system of forced native Indian labor began to be used repartimiento and mita in Peru. Eventually this system too was abolished due to abuses. [3] By the 17th century, forced indigenous labor continued illegally and black slave labor legally. [3]

Were the Jews Slaves in Egypt?

The Torah devotes more than four books to the proposition that the Israelites came to Canaan after having been subjugated in Egypt for generations, and yet there is no archaeological evidence to support that they were ever in Egypt. A prolonged Egyptian stay should have left Egyptian elements in the material culture, such as the pottery found in the early Israelite settlements in Canaan, but there are none.

In short, the traditions of servitude in Egypt, the tales of the Israelites wandering in the desert, and the stories of the conquest of the promised land all appear to be fictitious.

This means that the biblical traditions are allegories invented deliberately to obscure the fact that the Israelites were native to Canaan. But why should Israelite writers have invented traditions of foreignness when these would seem to undercut their claims to the land in which they lived? When were such traditions invented, and by whom?

Whereas foreignness traditions appear in the text of the eighth-century prophet Micah-"For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam" (Micah 6:4)-and the prophet Amos-"Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?" (Amos 9:7)-there is no mention of it in one of the earliest extant biblical texts-a long, premonarchic poem preserved in Deuteronomy 33 and set in the southern region of Israel in the period of the nation's origins. Nor is it highlighted in the account of the eighth-century Judahite prophet Isaiah.

Biblical historian Robert Carroll has explained the discrepancy by pointing to a "northern tradition of the Exodus," which was virtually unknown in the south. Between 920 and 720 B.C.E., the land of Israel was divided into two separate kingdoms, Judah in the south with its capital at Jerusalem, and Israel in the north with its capital at Samaria. With the fall of Samaria to the Assyrian rulers of Northern Iraq in 720 B.C.E., many northern Israelites found refuge in Judah, bringing with them their native literature and traditions, among them the traditions of the Exodus, which depicted the Israelite people as foreigners invading from Egypt.

Why, then, did this tradition of foreignness arise in the north? Why does the Torah tell us that the priesthood, the sacrificial cult, the tabernacle, the festivals, most of the covenant traditions to serve Yahweh exclusively, and the laws governing most of life's activities originated outside the promised land? What explains this recounting in Leviticus 18:1-5: "Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: I am Yahweh your god. You shall not emulate the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelled, nor shall you emulate the practices of the land of Canaan where I am taking you. Not their statutes shall you follow but my norms you shall observe and you shall take care to follow my statutes. I am Yahweh, your god?"

The reason, I believe, was to enable the Israelites to assert their distinctiveness.

During this period, the Israelites were not unique in believing that a "fear of god" or what we now call "ethics" and "morals" was divinely commanded. The Ugaritians of ancient Syria, part of Canaanite culture, praised the legendary King Daniel for "getting justice for the widow, and adjudicating the case of the fatherless."

The Israelites were also not alone in linking moral law and ritual law. About the same time that the prophet Amos condemned his people for trampling the heads of the poor into the dust (Amos 2:7) and equally for giving wine to the Nazirites (Amos 2:12), the author of the Babylonian work Shurpu cataloged the Mesopotamian sins, which included cheating on weights and measures, omitting the name of God from an incense offering, disarranging an altar, marking boundaries falsely, and eating the taboo food of a city.

Given so many commonalities, the Torah's repeated denial of Israel's Canaanite heritage and its assertion that Israel's most important religious institutions had originated in the desert-the "no-man's land" (Jer. 2:6) where Yahweh found the people (Deut 32:10)-strengthens the claim of Israelite distinctiveness.

In other words, the biblical authors were attempting to foster Israelite religious, social, and political solidarity. As long as the Israelites were conscious of their foreignness, they would be able to maintain their alleged religious and moral superiority. As foreigners with no roots in Canaan or Egypt, they would find it easier to heed the admonitions of the authors of the Torah to reject Canaanite and Egyptian practices.

We must then ask: Why does the Bible make reference to the Israelites' 430 years of servitude in Egypt (Exod 14:30)? The 430-year figure fits remarkably well with the chronology of the eighteenth Egyptian dynasty. The overthrow of the Hyksos by Ahmose (1570-1546) in about 1560 B.C.E. was followed by extensive Egyptian military campaigning in Syria-Palestine, and Ahmose's successors continued his policy. After Thutmose III (1504-1450) won a decisive victory at the Battle of Megiddo (in the north of present-day Israel), he established an administrative system in Canaan that survived until the end of the Late Bronze Age. Only with the invasions of the sea peoples did the old order begin to break down.

I believe the 430-year figure reflects the duration of Egypt's empire in Asia from a Canaanite perspective. The group that became first-millennium Israel had indeed been subjugated by the pharaohs, but in their native land, not in Egypt.

We can glean some of the truth from a report (called El Amarna letter 365) written by Biridiya, ruler of the large Canaanite city of Megiddo, to the king of Egypt. It reads in part: "May the king, my lord, be apprised concerning his servant and concerning his city. Now, I alone am cultivating in Shunem and I alone am bringing mas-people [involuntary laborers]. But see! The city rulers who are with me do not do as I. They are not cultivating Shunem, and they are not bringing mas-people.

In other words, the pharaoh required Birdidiya to round up the inhabitants of Canaan to cultivate the fields in shunem. If these people were cultivating royal land, they had good reasons for resentment, because they could not work their own fields, which would have required cultivation at the same time.

This was not the only highly unpopular institution of forced labor that ancient near eastern rulers demanded of the local populace. The royal governor Kibri-Dagan wrote in Syria in the 18 th century B.C.E.: "My lord ordered me to assemble male and female minors into the fortress…. When I sent to the towns of the Jaminites, the sheik of Dumeti answered… 'Let the enemy [that is,"you the governor, or the king himself"] come here and pull us out of our towns!' At harvest time in the towns of the Jaminites, there is no one to help me."

Thus, when Exodus 1:11 says, "So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor," the passage is not describing the subjugation of Israelites in Egypt, but the subjugation of the larger populace-Israelites included-to serve the needs of outside rulers.

Why then was the slave tradition introduced? I believe it served an important theological purpose: If divine action could free the Israelites from slavery, then God was entitled to exclusive worship by them. As written in Exodus 20:2: "I the Eternal am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from that slave barracks. You shall have no other God besides me" (my translation).

In short, the biblical writers invented the idea that the Israelites lived in Egypt in order to impel them to maintain their distinctiveness in Canaan. And the story of servitude in Egypt is an allegory of servitude to Egypt. Our ancestors, among others, did perform forced labor for Egyptian taskmasters, but they were never slaves in Egypt.

This article was adapted with permission from The Original Torah: The Political Intent of the Bible's Writers , published by New York University Press, 1998.


The Hebrew word "'ebed" really means "slave" but the English Bible renders it "servant" (a) where the word is used figuratively, pious men being "servants of the Lord" (Isa. xx. 3), and courtiers "servants of the king" (Jer. xxxvii. 2) and (b) in passages which refer to Hebrew bondmen, whose condition is far above that of slavery (Ex. xxi. 2-7). Where real slaves are referred to, the English versions generally use "bondman" for "'ebed," and "bondwoman" or "bondmaid" for the corresponding feminines (Lev. xxv. 49).

The duty of treating the Hebrew servant and handmaid otherwise than as slaves, and above all their retention in service for a limited time only, was deemed by the lawgiver of such importance that the subject was put next to the Decalogue at the very head of civil legislation (Ex. xxi. 2-11). It is treated in its legal bearings also (Lev. xxv. 39-54 Deut. xv. 12-18). The prophet Jeremiah (Jer. xxxiv. 8-24) denounces the permanent enslavement of Hebrew men and women by their masters as the gravest of national sins, for which the kingdom of Judah forfeits all claim to God's mercy, and justly sinks into ruin and exile. While the above-cited passages breathe a common spirit of humanity and brotherhood, they seem to conflict with one another in several points which the sages of the Mishnah contrive to reconcile.

The only cause mentioned in the Pentateuch for selling a man into bondage without his consent is his inability to make due restoration for goods stolen (Ex. xxii. 2) but from II Kings iv. 1-7 it is seen that in the kingdom of Israel the sons of an insolvent deceased debtor were sold for the father's debts, and from Isa. iv. 1 that in the kingdom of Judah the debtor was forced to sell his children to appease his creditors. This usage was not supported by the Law, unless the passage in Leviticus which speaks of "thy brother," when he "waxes poor" and "is sold to thee," refers to a sale for debt or unless the critics are right in ascribing to the laws as now found a later origin than that of Elisha, or even of Deutero-Isaiah.

The following account is drawn mainly from Maimonides' Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah:

The Hebrew servant referred to in the Torah is of two classes: (1) he whom the court has sold without his consent and (2) he who has willingly sold himself. The court may sell a man for theft only, as noted above. A man may sell himself (Lev. xxv. 39) because of extreme poverty, after all his means are exhausted he should not sell himself as long as any means are left to him. He should not sell himself to a woman, nor to a convert, nor to a Gentile. Should he do so, however, even if he sells himself to a heathen temple, the sale is valid but it then becomes the duty not only of his kinsmen, but of all Israelites, to redeem him, lest he become "swallowed up" in heathendom. The sale of a Hebrew into bondage should be made privately, not from an auction-block, nor even from the sidewalk, where other slaves are sold.

The Hebrew servant, Scripture says (Lev. xxv. 43), must not be treated with rigor. This was held to mean that no needless work must be imposed on him for the purpose of keeping him under discipline nor, as Maimonides thinks, any unlimited task such as might be imposed by the command: "Work on till I come!" Nor must he be put to bondman's work (ib. verse 39), i.e., to any humiliating task, such as only slaves perform and if practicable, he should be set to the same trade in which he was engaged while a freeman.

Whether sold under judgment of a court or voluntarily, the Hebrew servant, if he runs away and is recaptured, must make good the time of his absence, unless the jubilee supervenes, when underany circumstances he is released. When he becomes sick, and thus unable to work, if the time lost is altogether less than four years, none of the time of sickness is charged against the servant but, if it is more than four years, he must make it up. If the sickness does not disable him for light work (such as work with the needle), even if he is sick for the whole six years of the term of a sold servant, it counts toward his freedom. However, if the Hebrew servant will not do his duty, as a good hireling would do it, he may, by way of discipline, be put to servile work. The master of a Hebrew bondman (or a bondmaid) must place him on an equality with himself in meat and drink, in lodging and in bed-clothes, and must act toward him in a brotherly manner for Scripture always speaks of him as "thy brother." Hence it was said (Ḳid. 20a): "Whoever buys a Hebrew servant buys a master for himself."

Either kind of servant is entitled to redeem himself by paying his master a portion of the original purchase price proportionate to the number of years still unexpired thus if he was bought for ninety shekels for a term of six years, the master must allow him to go upon the payment of fifteen shekels for every year still remaining of this term.

In estimating this proportion a reduction is to be made if the servant shall have become sickly or weakened in body so as to be worth less than at first, but no increase if in the meantime he shall have become stronger or more skilful. When the man has sold himself to a Gentile, however, it is his duty to buy himself free in halves, so to speak. If he succeeds in redeeming the first half of himself at a reduction, and then becomes healthy and strong, the redemption price of the second half must be estimated on the basis of the original price (Ḳid. 20b).

While the man sold into service is bound for a term of six years, the man who sells himself voluntarily binds himself for a term longer than six years, generally ten or twenty. While the former may not be sold to a non-Israelite (not even to a convert), the latter may sell himself to an Israelite, to a convert, to a denizen ("ger toshab"), or even to the "root of the family of a stranger," that is, to a Gentile (see above). But under all circumstances, if within the power of Israel's laws, he becomes free, like every other Hebrew servant, in the year of jubilee.

The man sold by the court may live with a Canaanite bondwoman whom his master assigns to him (Ex. xxi. 4) but the self-sold servant may not. The former may extend the period of his servitude by having his right ear pierced by his master at the door or door-post, after which he must serve "forever," that is, to the jubilee the latter may not extend his term of service, and his ear is not pierced. The former, after his ear is pierced, has another possibility of freedom. The text says "he shall serve him" (his master): by taking this literally, he "acquires himself" or becomes free by the death of his master (see Ḳid. i. 2 Baraita, ib. 14b).

Within the six years, or within the time for which a man has sold himself, the Hebrew servant is not freed by the death of the master (if an Israelite) if the latter leaves a son, but need not serve a daughter or other surviving heirs. When a man is sold by the court, the master is bound to furnish such a servant's wife with food he having, it seems, the right to her services, which hitherto belonged to her husband (Ḳid. 22a).

According to tradition, a Hebrew female may not be sold by the court for theft, nor may she sell herself she may be sold for a bondmaid ("amah") only in the one way shown in Ex. xxi. 7: "When a man sells his daughter for a bondmaid" (A. V. "maid servant"). The father has this power over his daughter only while she is a minor, that is, less than twelve years of age, or at least while she does not bear the signs of puberty and he should use his right only in the extreme of poverty, and then as the last resort before selling himself. The sale becomes complete by the delivery of money or money's worth, or through a deed ("sheṭar") written in the father's name. The girl remains in service at most six years, like a man servant. If the jubilee arrives before the expiration of this term she is discharged by virture of that fact or if the master dies, though he leaves a son, she goes free. She may also obtain her freedom by redemption at a reduced price, as explained above, or by a deed of emancipation given to her by her master. All this is implied in the words of the text (Deut. xv., Hebr.), "Thou shalt do likewise to thy bondmaid." But over and above all these paths to liberty she has another: as soon as her signs of puberty appear the master must marry her or must betroth her to his son, or must send her free. In case of marriage she stands as a wife on the same footing as any freewoman in Israel. By the very words of the text in Exodus the master is forbidden to sell her to an outsider (lit. "to a foreign people"), either as a worker or as a wife.

In conclusion, it may be said of Hebrew man servants and bondmaids that, unlike Canaanite servants, they do not become free by reason of an assault on the part of the master which results in the loss of an eye or a tooth but, as shown under Assault and Battery, in such a case the master is liable to them in an action for damages.

According to Deut. xv., whoever dismisses his Hebrew man servant or maid servant must not send either of them away empty-handed, but must provide a parting gift. This law, however, does not apply to the following: a man who has sold himself a servant sold by the court, who hastens his freedom by redeeming himself at a price reduced by lapse of time one who has run away from his master, and who while at large has become free through the jubilee. A baraita (Ḳid. 17a) fixes the value of the gift at thirty shekels (this being the average value of three cited in as many opinions) and it should be made "from thy flock, thy thrashing-floor, and thy wine-press," i.e., in products, the visible blessing of God, not in money or in clothing. The literal meaning of the verb usedin reference to this parting gift in the text seems to be "to hang round the neck."

The Israelite is permitted by Lev. xxv. 44-46 to buy bondmen and bondwomen (in the true sense of the word) from among the surrounding nations, or from the strangers dwelling in his land, and from the descendants of these born in the land the "indwelling" stranger being distinguished from the stranger who lives under the same law as the Israelite. Such bondmen or bondwomen become a possession, and are inherited by children like other property. But the law limits the absolute power of the master. If he strikes his bondman or bondwoman so as to cause the loss of an eye or a tooth, he or she goes free. If he smites him or her so as to cause death on the same day, the deed is avenged as a murder but not when death ensues on a subsequent day (Ex. xxi. 20, 21, 26, 27). Another alleviation of bondage is the law (Deut. xxiii. 16, 17) forbidding the return of a fugitive slave to his master by those among whom he seeks shelter. The religious status of bondmen owned by Israelites is well defined by the Scriptures, which make them an integral part of the community. The males, though of foreign blood, whether bought for money, or "born in the house," are to be circumcised (Gen. xvii. 27 Ex. xii. 44), and when circumcised are to be admitted to eat of the Passover meal (ib.). Likewise the bondmen or bondwomen of a priest may eat of his holy meats (Lev. xxii. 11). Neither bondmen nor bondwomen are to be required to work on the Sabbath (Ex. xx. 10) indeed, the opportunity for the "son of thy handmaid" to have a "breathing-space" (A. V. "may be refreshed") is mentioned as one of the great motives for the institution of the Sabbath (Ex. xxiii. 12).

In the Mishnah the bondman and bondwoman not of Hebrew blood are called briefly "Canaanites." They are said to be bound, like women, by all the negative commandments, and by affirmative commandments not applying to stated times only. In the marriage laws, of course, they occupy a wholly different position from Israelites proper. Yet they are at least a subordinate part of the Jewish community and not only are the males circumcised, but both males and females are received into the fold. Hence it is forbidden to sell a bondman or bondwoman to a Gentile (Giṭ. iv. 6), as he or she might thereby be driven into apostasy but a transfer of the bondman's services for a short time, or with a reservation of Sabbaths and festivals, is perhaps lawful (Giṭ. 46b). If a sale not thus restricted is carried into effect, the master will be compelled to redeem the slave even at tenfold the price received and to manumit him and if a master borrows from a Gentile and offers his slave as a pledge which is to be forfeited to the lender in the case of non-payment at a specified time, the slave becomes free at once (Giṭ. 42a).

Manumission of a Slave, Dated Cairo, 1087. (From the Cairo genizah.)

It is unlawful to carry or to sell a Canaanite bondman from the Holy Land to another country (ib. iv. 6) and a man who acquires a slave in violation of this prohibition must manumit him. A difficult question once arose as the result of the marriage of a man residing in Babylonia to a Palestinian woman owning bondmen whom they took to his house (ib. 44b), there being doubt as to whom the penalty of the manumission of the bondmen should fall. "Syria" and even Acre (Acco) in Philistia were, as regards the prohibition, considered as outside of the Holy Land and a Samaritan was considered a Gentile. The law in Deuteronomy against delivering up a fugitive slave is construed as applying to one who flees from a place outside of the Holy Land into it (Giṭ. 45a), which construction fits invery well with the words of the text. But the servant should give to the master a bond for his value. Should the master refuse to manumit the fugitive by deed, the court would simply protect the former bondman in his refusal to serve him.

As under other systems of law in which slavery is recognized, the bondman or bondwoman may not acquire or own any property. What he finds or what is given to him by others (except to serve as price for his manumission) becomes at once the property of his master and if he is injured in body, the damages must be paid to the master. He may not marry an Israelite woman, nor may a slave woman be married to a free Israelite hence the rule adopted at the instance of the school of Shammai, that the master of a half-emancipated slave is compelled to manumit him (taking his bond for the other half) otherwise the man might not lawfully enter into any marriage (Giṭ. iv. 5).

The law as to eye and tooth is extended to all "main limbs that do not come back," e.g., ears, fingers, toes, nose, or male genitals but is limited by some technical exceptions, as where the bondman belongs to part-owners, or to a husband in right of his wife. As the manumission works as a penalty on the master, it may be imposed by a court of ordained judges only, and upon the testimony of witnesses—not upon admission or confession, says Maimonides but his glossarist (Joseph Caro, in "Kesef Mishneh") points out that if the bondman is able, even for a moment, to justify his freedom, no court will take it from him. The child of a Canaanite bondwoman by an Israelite, even by her master, is a bondman or bondwoman. When manumitted, a Canaanite bondman or bondwoman becomes a "convert of righteousness," and as such undergoes a second "baptism."

Where the master gives a freewoman in marriage to his bondman, or puts phylacteries on him, or causes him to read three verses from the Torah in public, his action is understood as freeing him, and he should give him a deed of manumission. According to the majority opinion, however, if the master goes through a form of betrothal with a bondwoman, the ceremony is of no significance unless he has previously manumitted her (Giṭ. 40a).

Maimonides, at the close of his section on bondmen, declares that the Israelite should treat his slaves humanely, following the rules which Job imposed upon himself (Job xxxi. 12, 14) and he claims that cruelty is found only among idolatrous nations, not among the seed of Abraham.

According to the strict words of the text (Lev. xxv. 46), an Israelite should transmit his foreign bondmen as a heritage to his children. Though recognizing this principle (so thinks Maimonides), the sages approved manumissions made for any religious purpose, even so slight a one as that of completing the number of ten men required for the celebration of public worship ("Yad" 'Abadim, ix. 6) and they decided almost every doubt in favor of freedom.

A Canaanite bondman (or bondwoman) "acquires himself" (Ḳid. i. 3) either by money—which money he may pay himself to the master, but which must be given him by others for the purpose—or through a deed of manumission, even at the instance of others for, according to the better opinion, freedom is deemed to be a boon, and may be conferred upon him without his consent. When he becomes free by loss of "eye or tooth," the master is compelled to write a deed of manumission. The necessity for a document is drawn from the words "her freedom has not been given to her" (Lev. xix. 20, Hebr.), i.e., given in a tangible form. Still where the master says by word of mouth that he has freed his bondman, he is not allowed to repudiate his own words, but is compelled to execute a deed (Giṭ. 40b).

When the master delivers to a third person a deed of manumission, declaring "hereby N. N. becomes free," it becomes effective at once but if he hands the deed to another with the request to deliver it to the bondman, it does not take effect unless it is delivered within the master's lifetime.

What is said above of money is true of money's worth which the master accepts from another as the price of the bondman's freedom but words (except as an admission of a past act) are ineffectual.

The deed of manumission must sever the relation of master and bondman entirely: if it reserves any of the master's rights it is invalid. But where the bondman's freedom is bought with money, he will become half free when only half the price agreed upon has been paid. Words in the future tense, e.g., "I shall manumit," are ineffectual. As far as the deed effects the bondman's freedom, its mere production by him is prima facie proof but in order to operate upon property given to him by the master, it must be established by the subscribing witnesses. Where the bondman denies the master's assertion that he has given him a deed of manumission (a thing within the bondman's knowledge), he does not go free. But where the master says in general terms "I have manumitted him," the bondman's denial is immaterial for the manumission might have been executed in his absence (Giṭ. 40b).

A will or gift "mortis causa" does not of itself work a manumission but the heirs will be compelled to carry out in a formal deed the testator's or donor's wishes. Likewise, if a dying man expresses a desire that his bondwoman shall have "a good time" (lit. "a cool spirit"), the heirs will be held to treat her accordingly. For these regulations Maimonides and his followers give no Talmudic authority.

The Shulḥan 'Aruk, being of a later date, and having been written rather for practise than for theory, shows more fully than Maimonides' code how the old law on the subject of bondmen and bond women had fallen into decay. There must be no Hebrew servant, except in times when a jubilee is lawfully kept ('Ar. 29a) for he is entitled to its benefit. But where a Gentile government demands a tribute from all Israelites, and subjects those who are delinquent to servitude under those who pay their share, an Israelite may thus acquire the services of a fellow Israelite and similarly with Jewish prisoners of war, though as to these the duty of ransoming exists. At the first acquisition of an adult Gentile bondman by an Israeliteowner, the Talmud teaches that the bondman should be consulted with respect to becoming circumcised. and that, if he persistently refuses during a space of twelve months to undergo the rite, the owner should return him to the Gentile owner. It seems that to circumcise and convert him against his will is of no avail. But later authorities (especially in Christian countries see ReMA's gloss on Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 267, 4) assert that the Israelite, in purchasing the bondman, may specially contract not to introduce him into Judaism and that "now and here" such a contract would be presumed in all cases, because Jews are not permitted to make converts. In the same spirit it has been said that where a man owns a bondwoman who is not yet converted into Judaism, nobody must convert her without the owner's consent for to do so is an injury, first, because he can not thereafter sell her to a Gentile, and, secondly, because she may not do any work for him on the Sabbath.

Ever since the Diaspora wealthy Jews have owned non-Jewish slaves wherever slavery was recognized by law. As soon as it became optional whether bondmen or bondwomen should be circumcised and converted into Jewish bondage, generally they were not thus received. Under older decisions ("Yad," 'Abadim, v. 5) the Biblical rule that the bondman or bondwoman becomes free by the loss of "eye or tooth" is applied only to those received into the Jewish fold hence though the lack of witnesses and of ordained judges might be overcome, this path to freedom was shut off by the absence of bondmen and bondwomen to whom it applied.

The position is taken by the later authorities that in buying a slave under a Gentile government, the Israelite acquires only the services, but not the body, unless the law of the kingdom permits him to buy the latter also. The Hebrew servant not being an object for trade, nothing can be said about the sale or gift of such a person. How title to a Canaanite bondman passes has been shown under Alienation that the sale of bondmen does not fall under the rules of "ona'ah" has been indicated under Ona'ah. See also Derelicts for ownerless bondmen.

In the Bible instances of the freeing of slaves of both sexes are found and the word "ḥofshi" with its derivatives is there used (Ex. xxi. 5 Lev. xix. 20). The incident at the close of the period of the First Temple, mentioned by Jeremiah (xxxiv. 9), has some significance (see above).

Not until the Greek and Roman period, however, does the emancipation of slaves attain, as an institution, any importance for the Jews. According to a not wholly reliable authority, most of the Jews captured by Ptolemy I., Lagi (322-307 B.C. ), were taken to Egypt, where they were ransomed by his son, Ptolemy II., Philadelphus (285-247), for a considerable sum and set free (Aristeas Letter, ed. Wendland, § 22). Josephus remarks that the slaves' fidelity to their masters was especially appreciated ("Ant." xii. 1, § 1). Indeed, that may always have been a reason for freeing the Jewish slave, since as a freedman he could be the more useful to his former master and to the country he dwelt in. Philo gives another reason: Speaking of the Jews settled in Rome, who came there mostly as prisoners of war, he says they were set free because, owing to their unwillingness to break the laws of their fathers, they were unserviceable ("Legatio ad Caium," § 23 [ed. Mangey, ii. 568]). Most of them were probably freed by Julius Cæsar, who was specially friendly to the Jews (comp. Tacitus, "Annales," ii. 85 Suetonius, "Tiberius," § 36). Cæsar owed money to a freedman (Suetonius, "Cæsar," § 2) and this freedman was in all probability a Jew (Hild, in "R. E. J." viii. 33, note 1). The historian Josephus was also a freedman.

In Rome, as may be seen from the tombstone inscriptions, a great many Jews had Gentile names of aristocratic families, from which it may be concluded that they were freedmen of those families. Among them were Claudius Aster, a freedman of the Claudius family (see Jew. Encyc. ix. 475b, s.v. Paleography), and Claudius Jose. The names of emperors borne by Jewish freedmen in Rome included Julius Flavius, Ulpius, Ælius, Antoninus, Aurelius, Severus, Constantius, Julianus, Domitianus, Faustinus, and Valerius. The names of noble families used by these freedmen include: Æmilius, Lucretius, Marcellus, Marcius, Quintilius, Sempronius, Tullius (Vogelstein and Rieger, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," i. 60). Still, many who bore these names may have been born Romans, since Jews, even without being slaves, frequently assumed names of noble families for instance, the Alabarchs assumed the name of the Julii. The proselyte Clement of Rome is supposed to have been a freedman, or a son of Flavius Clemens, a freedman (Light-foot, "Clement of Rome," p. 61). Names of Jewish freedmen in Delphi also are known (Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 27).

The Synagogue of the Libertines in Jerusalem is referred to in Acts vi. 9. Since, however, four synagogues named after cities and countries are mentioned in the same sentence, it has been thought that the fifth also was probably named after a place and Blass, in consequence, reads Λιβυστίνων instead of Λιβερτίνων. But even in modern times John Patrick (in Hastings, "Dict. Bible," iii. 110) holds that the Libertines were freedmen in the Roman sense of the term, and that they were mainly descendants of those Jews who had been taken as prisoners to Rome by Pompey in 63 B. C. and there sold as slaves. On the other hand, it was long ago pointed out that had the author of the Acts of the Apostles really intended to speak of freedmen he would have used the Greek instead of the Latin word. Accordingly, "Libertines" would seem to be only the name of a people (Gerdes, "De Synagoga Libertinorum," 1738). The Hellenistic Diaspora numbered among its members the rhetorician Cæcilius of Calacte and the chronographer Thallus, a Samaritan, who were both freedmen. Instances of Jews freeing their slaves are also met with. Rufina, directress of the synagogue in Smyrna, built a tomb for her freedmen ("R. E. J."vii. 161-166). Several inscriptions on the Bosporus and in Pontus show that the freeing of slaves was a religious duty on the part of the Jews (Levy, in "Jahrbuch für Geschichte der Juden," ii. 223).

The Rabbis often speak of freed slaves, meaning heathen, of course. The prayer at the offering of the first-fruits might not be recited by freedmen (Ma'as. Sh. v. 14). Documents concerning the freeing of slaves are often mentioned ("sheṭar shiḥrur"). If such documents were drawn up by heathen magistrates, they were recognized (Tosef., Giṭ. i. 4). A certain Bati b. Tobiah was too proud to accept a patent of freedom (Ḳid. 70b). Halakic questions arose in connection with the freedwoman Karkemit ('Eduy. v. 6) and with Tobi, R. Gamaliel's freedman. In the Talmud, moreover, the freeing of slaves according to the Roman law is discussed ("Masseket 'Abadim," ed. Kirchheim, iii. 30 see Krauss, "Lehnwörter," i. 267).

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Here's a question for you: what do actor Charlton Heston, DreamWorks animation studios and Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin all have in common? Well, they've all, at one time or another, perpetuated the myth that the Jews built the pyramids. And it is a myth, make no mistake. Even if we take the earliest possible date for Jewish slavery that the Bible suggests, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt a good three hundred years after the 1750 B.C. completion date of the pyramids. That is, of course, if they were ever slaves in Egypt at all.

We are so quick to point out the obvious lies about Jews and Israel that come out in Egypt – the Sinai Governors claims that the Mossad released a shark into the Red Sea to kill Egyptians, or, as I once read in a newspaper whilst on holiday in Cairo, the tale of the magnetic belt buckles that Jews were selling cheap in Egypt that would sterilize men on contact – yet we so rarely examine our own misconceptions about the nature of our history with the Egyptian nation.

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We tend, in the midst of our disdain for Egyptian, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, to overlook the fact that one of the biggest events of the Jewish calendar is predicated upon reminding the next generation every year of how the Egyptians were our cruel slave-masters, in a bondage that likely never happened. Is this really so different from Jaws the Mossad agent?

The reality is that there is no evidence whatsoever that the Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt. Yes, there's the story contained within the bible itself, but that's not a remotely historically admissible source. I'm talking about real proof archeological evidence, state records and primary sources. Of these, nothing exists.

It is hard to believe that 600,000 families (which would mean about two million people) crossed the entire Sinai without leaving one shard of pottery (the archeologist's best friend) with Hebrew writing on it. It is remarkable that Egyptian records make no mention of the sudden migration of what would have been nearly a quarter of their population, nor has any evidence been found for any of the expected effects of such an exodus such as economic downturn or labor shortages. Furthermore, there is no evidence in Israel that shows a sudden influx of people from another culture at that time. No rapid departure from traditional pottery has been seen, no record or story of a surge in population.

In fact, there's absolutely no more evidence to suggest that the story is true than there is in support of any of the Arab world's conspiracy theories and tall tales about Jews.

So, as we come to Passover 2012 when, thanks to the “Arab Spring,” our relations with Egypt are at a nearly 40 year low, let us enjoy our Seder and read the story by all means, but also remind those at the table who may forget that it is just a metaphor, and that there is no ancient animosity between Israelites and Egyptians. Because, if we want to re-establish that elusive peace with Egypt that so many worked so hard to build, we're all going to have to let go of our prejudices.

Josh Mintz is completing his degree in International Relations and Middle Eastern studies and is the communications director at Friend a Soldier, an NGO that encourages dialogue with IDF soldiers.

Religious orders owning slaves isn’t new—black Catholics have emphasized this history for years

A photo of the late Benedictine Father Cyprian Davis, a renowned chronicler of black Catholic history, is seen July 31 in the center of the altar at St. Katharine Drexel Chapel of Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans surrounded by pictures of four candidates for sainthood. (CNS photo/Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald)

Recent stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post have once again turned the spotlight on the Catholic Church’s long and largely unreconciled history of slavery in the United States. This time, the focus has shifted to the nation’s communities of nuns.

Over the past few years, an increasing number of Catholic orders with roots in the pre–Civil War United States have begun to take concrete steps to confront and atone for their complicity and agency in the history of chattel slavery. In fact, their efforts represent a larger story of white orders reckoning with their longstanding histories of anti-black racism.

As a historian, I am always happy when more Americans, especially Catholics, become aware of the church’s history as the first and largest corporate slaveholder in the Americas. I suspect minds will be blown again when more people become aware of Pope Nicholas V’s 1452 papal bull “Dum Diversas,” which authorized the European invasion of Africa, Asia and the Americas, and sanctioned perpetual enslavement.

An increasing number of Catholic orders with roots in the pre–Civil War United States have begun to take concrete steps to confront and atone for their complicity and agency in the history of chattel slavery.

However, I am deeply concerned about the current conversation and its erasure of the decades-long struggle waged by black Catholics and scholars of the black Catholic experience to bring the church’s painful history of slavery and segregation to light.

The evidence of slaveholding among nuns is not new knowledge to historians of slavery and the American church—and it is not new to many black Catholics.

For decades, black Catholics have been at the forefront of the fight calling for the church to confront its racist past. Descendants of the church’s enslaved communities who remained Catholic have led the way. Over the years, they and others have published hundreds of articles, including in the pages of America, and delivered even more talks to Catholic audiences in a clear and concerted effort to ensure that the foundational presence of black people in the church is not erased or forgotten.

The Black Catholic Theological Symposium, the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana and several black Catholic archives also have been instrumental in the preservation of this history and the establishment of the field of black Catholic studies. These institutions have supported the pioneering scholarship of Father Cyprian Davis, Diane Batts Morrow, Bryan Massingale and many other scholars of the black Catholic experience.

Unsurprisingly, an essential part of the more recent black Catholic struggle for justice has been calling upon Catholic leaders, especially religious orders of men and women, to grant access to sealed archival records that document the church’s history of slavery and segregation.

The evidence of slaveholding among nuns is not new knowledge to historians of slavery and the American church—and it is not new to many black Catholics.

For decades, black Catholics with roots in New Orleans asked the archdiocese to make the baptismal and confirmation records of their enslaved ancestors accessible so they could conduct genealogical work. The archdiocese had previously published 17 volumes of its sacramental records for free people. However, it had not published those for persons recorded without surnames—i.e., thousands of the church’s enslaved people. In a historic move in 2011, under the direction of Archbishop Gregory Aymond, the archdiocese digitized thousands of the church’s early sacramental records in an effort to begin to right this wrong.

Black Catholics also have been at the forefront of the push to get the Vatican to confront the church’s racist past and present. In 1987, Pope John Paul II famously assailed American racism and the economic plight of black Americans following a special meeting with black Catholics during his visit to the United States. In 2016, many of the same black Catholics and others formally called upon Pope Francis to apologize for slavery. They are also leading the push to have five black American Catholics, including three black nuns and one ex-slave priest, Augustus Tolton, canonized in the church. Just two months ago, the sainthood cause for Father Tolton, who was the first black U.S. priest, advanced in Rome with Pope Francis elevating him to the status of “venerable.” Born into Catholic slavery in Missouri, Tolton is one of the scores of black pioneering priests and sisters in the United States who can trace their lineage to the earliest days of the American church and the enslaved people who built it.

Three white Catholic orders of nuns in Kentucky formally apologized for their slaveholding pasts and began taking steps to atone for it 16 years before The New York Times story about Georgetown broke.

There are also many black Catholics who can trace their lineage to the nation’s founding slaveholding European Catholic families. These include the Carrolls of Maryland, who gave the nation its only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and first Catholic bishop the Spaldings of Kentucky, who gave the U.S. church two of its pioneer bishops in Maryland and Kentucky and women congregational leaders in Kentucky and the Pintados, who surveyed much of the land area of Spanish Florida and Louisiana.

I do not deny that there are many black Catholics, like most people, who are unaware of the church’s history of slavery and segregation. I was certainly one of them before I entered graduate school. However, it is deeply disappointing that the Times and Post articles omitted, or simply overlooked, the political and intellectual work of black Catholics and other scholars of the black Catholic experience. This history, as well as reporting on related activism, is a Google search away. Moreover, scholars like Matthew Cressler have been directing public conversations on the history of black Catholics in the United States on Twitter for the past several years.

Indeed, one of the most frustrating aspects of this entire episode is the fact that so much misinformation is now being spread online because the work of black Catholic history is simply not being consulted. One tweet responding to the Washington Post story, which has received over 1,000 shares, for example, is filled with historical inaccuracies about the nation’s second successful community of African-American nuns.

Because so much of this history has been suppressed or misrepresented, accuracy is essential in these kinds of conversations. So, for the record, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the nation’s and the modern world’s first successful Roman Catholic order of black nuns, are the only non-slaveholding U.S. order of sisters known to have educated enslaved people. Unlike their white counterparts and the historically Afro-Creole Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans, the Oblates never employed any admission restrictions based on race, color, class, ethnicity or previous status. Prior to the Civil War, the Oblates admitted at least 10 formerly enslaved women into their ranks. In the case of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the order (which briefly owned a small number of enslaved persons prior to the Civil War) did educate enslaved children. But they educated them on a segregated basis with free Afro-Creole children. The Holy Family sisters also briefly split apart after the admission of the order’s first formerly enslaved member in 1867, with the majority of the Afro-Creole sisters voting against her entry. This information is published and available.

It also is important to note that three white Catholic orders of nuns in Kentucky formally apologized for their slaveholding pasts and began taking steps to atone for it 16 years before The New York Times story about Georgetown broke. So, while the current reckoning among other orders is important, it is not without significant precedent.

If this nation is ever going to fully confront, let alone make reparation, for its foundational sin of anti-black racism and slavery, the reckoning currently underway in the Catholic Church is a necessary step forward. As such, I pray that it not only continues but also expands to every corner of the church. It is equally imperative, however, that we remember that the current moment is not the result of one archivist’s or one journalist’s discovery of this shameful history a few years ago. It is the result of a persistent and costly struggle that has been waged by the descendants of the enslaved people who built the church, and a host of archivists and scholars of the black Catholic experience, who have been fighting to preserve and disseminate this history for decades.

Dr. Shannen Dee Williams is the Albert LePage Assistant Professor of History at Villanova University. She is completing her first book, Subversive Habits: The Untold Story of Black Catholic Nuns in the United States, under contract with Duke University Press. In 2018, Dr. Williams received the inaugural Sister Christine Schenk Award for Young Catholic Leadership from FutureChurch for using history to foster racial justice and reconciliation in religious congregations of women.

The Church had a policy of suppression of humans for centuries not just slaves but their own people wherever they were. It was called the “Great Chain of Being.” This policy was essentially how the whole world not just Catholics lived for most of history. We get on our high horses these days and lecture how everyone should have lived in the past.

This all changed in England and Holland due to religious wars starting in the late 1500’s and eventually after a hundred and fifty years the common man in these countries became free. It took longer for the rest of the world but happened as they saw common people in England and Holland becoming prosperous.

Even the English and Dutch had slaves but they were instrumental in ridding the policy from most of the world.

Anxiously awaiting Dr. Williams new book!
In the meantime,

As a historian, the author should know that Pope Nicholas V’s 1452 papal bull “Dum Diversas,” was addressing the threat posed by Muslim expansion into and invasion of Europe, more exactly, of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal). Reading and interpreting texts out of contexts is dangerous business . especially if done by a professional.

In reasoning people sometimes use the fallacy of Tu quoque to either discredit, water down or dilute the argument of the other person. The fallacy is that “oh you are guilty of the same thing, or everyone is guilty of the thing you are accusing someone of therefore you are wrong.” This is nothing but fallacious reasoning, a dubious and morally problematic intellectual move.

Since some of our racist politicians have enabled racism in the country, some have tried to divert attention, water down, dilute and discredit the argument of those who call our attention to this historic evil. Dr. Williams raised the historic fact of some Catholic religious orders owning slaves who were of African descent and how black Catholics have emphasized this evil. In a fallacious move, to water down Dr. Williams’ point some jumped up and asserted that slavery is part of human history! Is that the point in Dr. Williams’ essay? No! That is not the point.

I am a Catholic and Dr. Williams is correct in centering the fact that Black Catholics had always documented the fact that the Catholic Church and religious orders within the Church owned enslaved blacks. Therefore, it is hypocritical, fallacious and intellectually dubious and un-ethical to use the fallacy of tu quoque to divert our attention by restating that slavery has always been part of human history. It is a failure to accept Dr. Williams’ point. It is a failure to discuss it. It is a failure to confront the evil of transatlantic slavery, the effect (racism) which still lingers in the country today. This failure is understandable -after all some of our politicians are racists who have enabled the recent racist killings in El Paso Texas where about 21 people died. The cause of the deaths in Dayton Ohio is yet to be established.

It is intellectually dubious and un-ethical to water down, dilute or divert from Dr. Williams’ point. However, I understand the diversion. Our racist politicians do the same to cover, normalize and legitimize their racism.

Your discussion of “Tu quoque” is a bridge too far . There is nothing in that phrase which implies or concludes as you do in your words..”. therefore you are wrong “ .
A Tu Quoque argument does not deny or contradict anything. What it does do, and is intended to do, is to diminish the importance or the impact of the stated position. On this single aspect you are correct. The balance of your discussion/argument is just a proverbial Strawman to allow an extended rant on the racism you see around you.

I am not shocked that religious orders owned or held or indentured servants and slaves but very interested in the little known existence of all black religious orders. The Church’s checkered history of its approval and disapproval of the treatment of indigenous people by colonial powers and the use of slaves is hardly a secret. I also willingly concede that the details of such treatment is underreported.
The best that can be said for the Church’s historic position is that it believed non Christians were people who required both civilizing and conversion and that conquest and slavery could be an acceptable and a beneficent method of achieving these goals.
I look forward to reading Dr Williams’ book.

Stuart Meisenzahl,
Thanks for your post. I am happy that you saw how the fallacious reasoning called tu quoque can be used, and is being used to "diminish the importance or the impact of the stated position." And we all know the stated position in this regard. It is the evil of transatlantic slave trade, the evil of racism and Dr. Williams' book and essay on this evil. Stuart Meisenzahl, you may need to go further and inform readers on the impact and consequences (economic, political, social and cultural) of "diminishing the importance of the stated position"-which are the historic evil of transatlantic slave trade, the evil of racism and Dr. Williams' book and essay on this evil.

Now here is what is not clear in your post. You alluded to "extended rant on racism." I am not sure that victims and survivors of the evil of transatlantic slavery and its enduring residue called racism, will agree with you that centering the racism in our society, and calling attention to it is a "rant." Neither do I think that other witnesses of conscience to the evils of transatlantic slave trade and racism will take the centering of the evil of racism and calling attention to it in our society as a "rant." For example, if centering the evil of transatlantic slave trade and racism are "rants" is centering the evil of the Nazi holocaust of the good Jewish people in Hitler's Germany also a "rant"? Or will centering the evil of rape of women in our society qualify as a "rant." Do you really think the survivors of rape will see the centering of the evil of rape in our society in order to eradicate it as "extended rant?"

So, Stuart Meisenzahl, while your point about how people such as politicians and commentators use the fallacious reasoning called tu quoque to diminish stated position is clear, your allusion to "extended rant on racism" is not clear. Can you make it clearer please? God Bless you.

I refer to your “extended rant” precisely because the readers of this Article by Dr Williams already are fully aware of the evil of transatlantic slavery and indeed all slavery. Your reference to the Tu Quoque is used by you as an excuse to tell the readers what they already understand. I believe the part of the TuQuoque argument that you fail to grasp/ignore is that while Tu Quoque diminishes the impact of a stated fact,( slavery) it also points out that individuals involved with such a fact (slavery) did not necessarily understand it to be a great wrong.
You might note that the Church teaches that there is no sin where a person does not know/understand that an act is prohibited.. Similarly under Tu Quoque the facts are affirmed as still true but the implied guilt is tempered by a different understanding of the nature of the wrong.

I am happy you responded. Please keep responding. This exercise will help us expose all the nuances of the discourse of the evil of plantation and transatlantic slavery and the evil of the lingering racism spawned by plantation and transatlantic slavery. This is something which is often hidden and deliberately ignored as an event of the past, or seen as any other form of inhumanity or slavery-a move designed to diminish the impact of the evil.

Now here we go. I am quoting you. “I refer to your “extended rant” precisely because the readers of this Article by Dr Williams already are fully aware of the evil of transatlantic slavery and indeed all slavery.” Question and observation. So you, know ALL the readers! What gave you the warrant to speak for others-ALL the readers? This is an online platform, so do you know all the readers-including those who read and post and those who read and do not post? This is not rightwing media such as Fox News, Breitbart, OAN where the right wing audience simply fall in line behind whatever is aired on their right wing media. This is America Magazine -open, critical, self reflective, cosmopolitan, inclusive, non-racist where serious conversation takes place. So why will you speak for others? How did you know? You cannot lay claim to know without telling us how. Also, even if we should take you seriously, there is a false assumption in your claim. And here it. It is false to assume that only those who respond to essays and posts in a journal read a journal. So does it mean you also know those who read and do not respond? You cannot assume that only those who respond to essays in a journal read such essays. You know this. But to do that is to act like the ostrich who dips its head and eyes in the sand and because it does not see anyone, it concludes that no one can see it.

Now let us go to other issues.

1. To refer to centering the evil of racism and transatlantic slavery as “extended rant” diminishes (your phrase) the impact of the stated position -which are the evil of transatlantic slavery and racism.

2. Some people read Dr. Williams essay, ignored the central claim in the essay and rushed to talk about how slavery is a general human issue in history. Does that intellectually dubious move not “diminish the impact” of the specific plantation slavery, transatlantic slavery and the racism spawned here in the US by this evil that Dr. Williams is talking about? It is tu quoque to fail to address the unique and specific plantation slavery, transatlantic slavery and the racism and its residue and continued racist impact right here in the United States America and proceed to talk about how slavery is part of human history. It is intellectually and morally dubious. To do that is to DODGE the evil of racism (a continuation of the plantation slavery, transatlantic slavery and the racism) in the United States today, racism which the godfather of racism promotes in his rallies right here in the country. See what I mean.

3. There are politicians who said that those who do not look like them are invaders, rats, s-hole, vermin who live in communities where no human beings will live. Such view is precisely the definition of the residue of transatlantic slavery and lingering racism in the United States of America spawned by the transatlantic and plantation slavery. There is a politician who tweeted that American Congress women who do not look like him should be sent back to “their” countries. Such view is precisely the definition of the residue of transatlantic slavery, and lingering racism in the United States of America spawned by the transatlantic and plantation slavery. The same politician with frenzy worked his audience up describing those who do not look like him and members of his rally and audience as invaders. Such view is precisely the definition of the residue of transatlantic slavery, and lingering racism in the United States of America spawned by the transatlantic and plantation slavery. What happened at that frenzied rally? The audience of the politician said the invaders-should be shot and sent back-Yes they said it. Such view is precisely the definition of the residue of transatlantic slavery, and lingering racism in the United States of America spawned by the transatlantic and plantation slavery. Months later El Paso, Texas happened August 4, 2019. The racist and domestic terrorist shot and killed about 21 people who this domestic terrorist and racist called invaders. The same language of "invasion" and "invaders" to describe fellow human beings was used by the racist and domestic terrorist who killed about 21 people in El Paso, Texas, the racist godfather in his rallies, and members of the audience of the racist godfather. This is precisely the definition of the residue of transatlantic slavery, and lingering racism in the United States of America spawned by the transatlantic and plantation slavery.

4. Based on 3 above here are my observations and questions. (i) You need to do some more study because the transatlantic slavery and the plantation slavery and the racism they spawned are unique, well targeted, and specific. Based on the brutal economic, racial and cultural calculations that underpin the plantation slavery, transatlantic slavery and the racism they spawned, this is one form of evil that has a unique nature like no other. No two pogroms are the same. No two mass murders are the same. No two evils are the same even when they are evil. (ii) You have heard the silly and ignorant statement “Oh I have one black friend, so I am not a racist.” See how a serious issue is reduced to nothing and trivialized? What does that tell you? Whoever said this (and it is commonly said among racists ) is intellectually, morally dubious and fundamentally ignorant of plantation slavery, transatlantic slavery and the racism they spawned. So, given such fundamental ignorance it is important to center the evil of plantation slavery, transatlantic slavery and the racism they produced. (iii) Recall the godfather of racism often says “there is no racist bone in my bone!” Yet this racist godfather grinned in acknowledgement when his raucous audience chanted “shoot the invaders” and “send them back” - the “invaders” and the “them” being those who do not look racially like the racist godfather and his audience. (iv) Remember when the racist godfather said about the Charlottesville killing caused by racists, bigots, fascists, anti-semites, and people chanting “Jews Shall not replace us” that “there are good people on both sides.” If there are good people on both sides as the racist godfather claimed what follows? It means for the racist godfather racists, anti-semites, bigots, fascists and those who want to kill and shoot “invaders” i.e. people who do not look like them (the racist godfather and his audience) are “good” people. So racism is "good", fascism is "good" Killing people who do not look like the racist godfather is "good" according to the racist godfather's claim. Do you think such people know, understand or even accept that the plantation slavery, transatlantic slavery and the racism they spawned are evil?

You said and I quote you Tu quoque "diminish the importance or the impact of the stated position." Now the stated position is the evil of plantation and transatlantic slavery and the evil of the lingering racism spawned by plantation and transatlantic slavery. Given 1-4 above, to call centering the evil of plantation and transatlantic slavery and the evil of the lingering racism spawned by plantation and transatlantic slavery “extended rant” diminishes the importance or the impact of the stated position”(Your exact phrase). What do you think Stuart?

Again I thank the living God, the Christian God, and America Magazine for the opportunity being given us to draw out the evil of plantation and transatlantic slavery and the evil of the lingering racism spawned by plantation and transatlantic slavery-an evil people pretend is just one of those things, an evil all people of moral conscience are historically, intellectually, spiritually and morally bound to expose and continue to expose.

I think that :
Once again you feel compelled to build a boundless word trampoline on which we could all bounce for eternity
Continued lengthy regurgitation of your original argument does not strengthen it, nor does your adding a recitation of current events.

You simply ignore that while the Tu Quoque form of argument “diminishes the importance of stated position”, it does so BY PROVIDING CONTEXT. In this case THE CONTEXT is simply that on an historical basis huge swaths of humanity did not consider various forms slavery to be evil and wrong.
I have assumed that on a Catholic Magazine site the readers are fully educated enough not to need your tutoring on the existence and evil of slavery. transatlantic,European, Pan Arabian, African, etc.

Stuart Meisenzahl,
Let me remind you of something that happened in this country a short while ago, You must know Mr. Donald Trump-right? I presume that you must also know Frederick Douglass-right? When Mr. Donald Trump was asked a simple question about the transatlantic slavery and those who fought it. He was compelled to refer to Frederick Douglass. But how did Mr. Trump talk about Frederick Douglass? Mr. Trump referred to Frederick Douglass as if he was still living today somewhere in an American city! That is the tragic, deliberate and self inflicted lack of knowledge of a racist who refused to be educated about the evil of the transatlantic and plantation slavery and the lingering racism it has spawned and being perpetuated right here in the United States America today under the administration of the racist god father.

Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist was born (February 1818-February 20, 1895) Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. Yet, Mr. Donald Trump talked as if Frederick Douglass was still alive and living somewhere in an American city. This is the deliberate and self inflicted ignorance which racism produces. You cannot solve a problem you do not know, and which you refuse to know. Intellectual humility and modesty require that one concedes to one's ignorance even if one is going to hold on to one's racism. If a whole Mr. Donald Trump displayed such a horrible ignorance about a foundational issue about this country-plantation slavery, the transatlantic slave trade, the racism it spawned and one of the main abolitionists-Frederick Douglass, then to say centering the nature of racism in this country is "extended rant" amounts to "diminishing the impact and the importance of the stated position."(your phrase). And the stated position is the evil of transatlantic slave trade, plantation slavery and the lingering racism it spawned in this country and which is being perpetuated by the racist god father.

Thank you Mr. Stuart Meisenzahl. Next time please be mindful of the experiences, historical witness, and long memory of the survivors and victims (dead and alive) of the evil called plantation and transatlantic slavery, of the evil of racism before you describe the centering of racism as it affects the body politic of the country with your flawed phrase "extended rant." May God Bless you.

The above Essay by Dr Williams concerns The Catholic Church/Religious Orders/ownership of Slaves. no mention is made of Trump. Yet you seem incapable of discussing anything without reducing it to an exposition of your views of Trump. There is no issue raised which seemingly does not compel you to go on a rant about what you perceive as Trump's racism.
So while you are constantly referring to “the historical record” , I take this opportunity to refer you to your own “historic record” on this site respecting your “Obsessive Trump Racism Disorder”. with an advance apology for using a psycho-babble phrase.
“I am mindful”..that this responsive comment of mine will unfortunately but inevitably cause you to simply repeat all that you have already set forth. I leave it to you to pick through and re-toss your own “word salad” to your hearts content without my future involvement

Stuart Meisenzahl,
There is something called atomism in thinking and reasoning. When someone's thinking is atomistic, she/he isolates, she/he does not see connection. And racists do that when it comes to talk about the evil of transatlantic slavery, and the lingering racism it spawned and being perpetuated under the administration of the racist godfather today.

As usual we are on historical ground, and our conversation about transatlantic slavery and the complicit of institutions such as the Church falls within a historical context-which means the past, the present and the future, which makes us look at the past, the present and the future. So? A holistic thinking (non-atomistic thinking) centers the past, the present and the future in the discourse-do you understand Mr. Stuart Meisenzahl? Atomistic thinking allows those who deploy it to DODGE.

So here is the rub. When a whole Mr. Trump talked as if Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) is still alive, and the same Mr. Trump with his mouth asked fellow American Congress women who do not look like him-Mr. Trump -to be sent back to where they came from and his audience -who look like Mr. Trump and who do not look like the four American Congress women echoed "send them back" , what do you call that Mr. Stuart Meisenzahl? Do you call that knowledge or self inflicted ignorance? Do you call that literacy about the issue- slavery and racism or illiteracy about the issue- slavery and racism? Do you call that love or hatred, racism or non-racism, bigotry or inclusion, evil or good? And the same Mr. Trump said there is no racist bone in his bone! And you have a section of Christians voting for Mr. Trump while evoking God in voting for him! Can you see the connection between what the Church did in the past- the support for slavery of people of African descent, and what a section of Christians who voted for Mr. Trump (falsely using Christian faith and God as a justification) and his racism is doing today? Think holistically and historically Mr. Stuart Meisenzahl.

With all these, it follows that when you-Mr. Stuart Meisenzahl - called centering racism "extended rant" you (your words) are "diminishing the impact and the importance of the stated position."(your phrase). And the stated position is the evil of transatlantic slave trade, plantation slavery and the lingering racism it spawned in this country and which is being perpetuated by the racist god father. When a thinker looks into the past from the present, she/he centers the present and looks into the future. That is the historical connection. It is holistic thinking. It is thinking historically. Stop atomistic thinking. Be holistic in your thinking if you want to join the solution to the racism of the past and which is being orchestrated and accentuated today by Mr. Trump so that when the history of today will be written in future, you will not appeal to ignorance as an excuse.

May God be merciful to you. Please remember those who died as a result of racism and domestic terrorism in your prayers. Also, remember Pope Francis in your prayers for he -in line with our Christian faith- asks us to stand up for the vulnerable, the marginalized and the invisible in our society and walk with them as Jesus Christ did. God Bless.


A SMALL storm has been swirling -- in the media, in academia, but mostly in the frictional world of ethnocentric politics -- around the involvement of Jews in the African slave trade. It has been a tempest of hot rhetoric, factual confusion and moral recrimination. It has revealed the willingness of some black public figures -- Louis Farrakhan and Leonard Jeffries in particular -- to use historical caricature as a blunt instrument in their political battles with present-day Jews. It has also revealed the historical ignorance of some well-respected critics of black antisemitism. The passions driving the debate on both sides have thwarted any calm understanding of the past.

The controversy kicked up two years ago when Jeffries, an Afrocentric faculty member at the City College of New York, made a notorious speech in Albany, N.Y., cataloging the supposed crimes of Jews against black people. One of the things he said was, "Everyone knows rich Jews helped finance the slave trade." Some commentators treated this not as demagogic simplification, but as a flat-out historical lie.

In late 1991, Farrakhan's Nation of Islam published "The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews," quoting from the extensive research of Jewish historians to indict, in effect, today's Jews for everything from the ownership of South American sugar plantations three centuries ago to Jewish participation in the Confederate war effort. When a black professor at Wellesley College assigned the book to his introductory African-American history class, Jewish students protested and four national Jewish groups recommended the professor's job status be reviewed. Both the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith have published rebuttals comparing "The Secret Relationship" to the most infamous works of antisemitic propaganda in the 20th century.

Some observers acknowledge that certain communities of Jews participated directly in black slavery -- but in far smaller numbers than non-Jews among the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, than Arabs, or than Africans themselves. To focus on the role of Jews, they say, is gratuitous at best, antisemitic at worst. But to a few critics, even mentioning Jews and the slave trade is hateful and bigoted. Jews were not significantly involved, they claim -- contrary to the scholarly record, much of it compiled by historians who are Jewish.

"There wouldn't have been any slave trade at all," syndicated columnist Nat Hentoff told me, "if it had not been for the middlemen, the chiefs of certain African tribes, who had captured people from other tribes and enslaved them. It's important to say Africans have sold Africans. It's important to know that."

It is indeed important to understand all aspects of the history of slavery. For African-American people seeking to understand their place in the world, the history of slavery is as important as the history of the Holocaust for Jews. No element of a great tragedy is too small to be explored, particularly if it has been generally ignored.

Isn't it also important, I asked Hentoff, to know that Jews bought and sold Africans?

"If it's indeed the case, of course," Hentoff said, acknowledging that he is not a scholar on the subject. "If you can nail that down, of course it would be important to know that."

Most Americans, used to imagining slavery in terms of cotton fields and the Old South, don't realize that the transatlantic slave trade sent Africans primarily to South America and the islands of the West Indies. According to one well-regarded census, 9.6 million Africans arrived alive in the so-called "New World" from the 16th century through the 19th century. Of these, less than 5 percent, 427,000, were brought to what is now the United States. Nearly 4 million went to Brazil, the largest single devourer of African labor. There, the average life span of a slave was a few years.

Most Americans don't realize either that the transatlantic slave trade was driven by the sugar trade. Sugar cane was a scarce medicinal plant in medieval Europe. But when white colonizers started cultivating sugar in the fertile tropics of the Americas, it rapidly became a staple -- and a great source of wealth for Europe's shipping and trading powers. This New World economy of sugar and slaves -- of vast, labor-intensive plantations -- began in earnest in Brazil during the 1500s, according to historians. The involvement of Jews in black slavery began there also.

* Brazil. The Portuguese were the first to colonize Brazil, and Sephardic Jews from Portugal were among these early settlers. "In its early years," writes Seymour B. Liebman in "New World Jewry, 1493-1825," "Brazil was built by Negro slaves (400,000 between 1570 and 1670) and the acumen, hard work and calculating perseverance of the Jews."

Some background is essential. The Sephardim -- that is, the Jews of Spain and Portugal -- had flourished for centuries in the Iberian peninsula. By 1497, they made up an estimated 20 percent of Portugal's population of 1 million. But that year, the king of Portugal compelled the Jews to convert to Christianity. (Spain had similarly forced its Jews to convert or flee five years earlier.) While many Jews left Portugal, others indeed were baptized and became "New Christians." Despite the church's persecution, some continued to practice Judaism in secret they came to be known as "Marranos."

New Christians were drawn to Brazil, in part because it was far from the seat of the Inquisition, but also because the South American colony was a place where the Sephardim could apply their established expertise in trade and sugar cultivation. Soon a Sephardic community thrived in Brazil's pivotal port city of Recife. When the Dutch -- then unique in Europe for their religious tolerance -- took control of Brazil in 1630, the Marranos there were able to practice Judaism openly again.

During this time in Brazil, Jews owned a small percentage of the sugar plantations but were the predominant retailers of slaves in the colony, according to Arnold Wiznitzer's "Jews in Colonial Brazil." The shipping of Africans to Brazil was monopolized by the Dutch West India Company, which sold them "at public auctions against cash payment," Wiznitzer writes. "The buyers who appeared at the auctions were almost always Jews." These brokers then sold slaves to plantation owners on credit. More than 23,000 Africans were shipped to Brazil between 1636 to 1645, Wiznitzer says, a period when perhaps half of the 3,000 white civilians living there were Jews.

* The British and French West Indies. In 1654, the Portuguese recaptured Brazil, chasing the Dutch and the Sephardim out -- an event that would affect the destiny of Jews and Africans in the New World.

While many of Brazil's Jews headed for the freedom of the Netherlands, some Sephardic traders were "eager to remain in the West Indies," according to a history of colonial Jewry by Jacob Rader Marcus, longtime director of the American Jewish Archives. Some "fled to French Martinique and Guadeloupe, others to Jamaica and to English Barbados, where they furthered the sugar industry and the Negro slave economy which it created," Marcus writes.

The Jewish refugees from Brazil, as University of Kansas economic historian Richard B. Sheridan has pointed out, "were masters of sugar technology and taught the English the art of sugar making." The sugar colonies of Barbados and Jamaica grew to become jewels of the British empire during the 1700s. An estimated 1.1 million Africans were shipped to these islands over the entire course of the slave trade.

The Jewish traders were not the main beneficiaries of this economic boom, however. One British historian notes: "Most Jews in Barbados and Jamaica in the 18th century were small men, shopkeepers . . . . The sugar trade became increasingly concentrated in the hands of the sugar-planters' agents in London, a restricted and confined circle. did not participate." The role of Jewish traders was apparently limited, during the early 1700s, to the sale of "great numbers of 'refuse' Negroes (sickly slaves)," according to Stephen Alexander Fortune's "Merchants and Jews: The Struggle for British West Indian Commerce, 1650-1750." These Africans, bought cheaply, were resold "at considerable profit" once healthy.

The role of Jewish merchants in the slave economy of Martinique and Guadeloupe was eventually restricted as well. Initially, "the Sephardi emigres from Brazil . . . engage both in plantation agriculture and trade, exporting sugar and tobacco to Europe and importing slaves and cloth," according to Jonathan Israel's history, "European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550-1750." The Catholic French, however, ordered the expulsion of all Jews from these islands in 1685, thus virtually ending their role in the trade.

* The Dutch Colonies. The Jewish and Dutch refugees from Brazil also landed in Suriname in the late 17th century, establishing it as a sugar colony. This small piece of South America, as Harvard University historian Eugene Genovese has noted, would be the one and only place where Jews constituted a substantial planter class. Genovese cited one scholar's finding that 115 of Suriname's 400 sugar estates in 1730 were owned by Jews.

The island of Curac ao, a pivotal Dutch distribution center off the coast of Venezuela, was the site of the largest Jewish settlement in the New World. The Sephardic community there numbered almost 2,000 by the mid-1700s, constituting about half of the white population. Curac ao's Jews "prospered early through shipping and slave-trading," writes David Lowenthal in "West Indian Societies." Isaac S. and Suzanne A. Emmanuel, historians of Curac aoan Jewry, report that "lmost every Jew bought from one to nine slaves for his personal use or for eventual resale." Later, Curac aoan Jews became, as Stephen Fortune writes, "the predominant insurance underwriters for ships plying the Caribbean" -- including slave ships.

Under the auspices of the Dutch, Sephardic Jews also had a direct hand in wholesale slaving. As Arnold Wiznitzer has pointed out, Jews in Amsterdam owned as much as 10 percent of the stock in the Dutch West India Company, the great slave-shipping enterprise that helped launch the Netherlands to international commercial prominence during the 1600s. But the French and English monopoly trading companies, which eventually dominated the shipping of Africans to New World colonies, excluded Jews from that level of the trade.

* Colonial North America. The far-flung Sephardic "trade diaspora" in the Caribbean led ultimately to the founding of Jewish communities in North America. Before the Revolutionary War, the largest settlement of Jews in the colonies -- perhaps as many as 1,000 by 1760 -- was in the bustling port city of Newport, R.I. Aaron Lopez, formerly a Marrano in Portugal, laid the first cornerstone of the Newport congregation's synagogue in 1759. (The building is now a historic site, the oldest synagogue in the United States.) Lopez later became a shipper of legendary prosperity. Black slaves were among his cargoes, as his biographer, Stanley F. Chyet, has noted.

Gentiles, however, overwhelmingly controlled the slaving business in colonial America. Rhode Island's Sephardic merchant-shippers were known mainly for their prominence in the business of selling oil from sperm whales used in candlemaking. So the real history of the participation of Jewish merchants in the slave trade is a lot more complex than Leonard Jeffries suggested with his line, "Everyone knows rich Jews helped finance the slave trade." Jeffries is clearly misusing historical facts to serve his animus against Jews today.

At the same time, a number of Jeffries' harsh critics have assumed that Jews had nothing to do with black slavery, or next to nothing. They said so publicly, and without qualification, during the Jeffries controversy.

Jonathan Yardley wrote in The Washington Post that Jeffries, on this point, had "turned history upside down." When I asked him what part Jews did have in trafficking Africans, Yardley (a self-described WASP) didn't know but said it would have been "relatively minor."

A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times wrote that Jeffries "says in a public forum that the Jews financed the slave trade. That is not quite the equivalent of Christ-killer, but coming close, make no mistake." I asked Rosenthal too what actual role Jews played in black slavery. "There was none," he replied. "Except for the most peripheral way. If at all."

Jim Sleeper of the New York Daily News said he talked to four scholars before concluding, as he wrote in a critique of Jeffries for the Nation, that Jews merely had a "marginal" involvement in the slave trade.

How about in Brazil? I asked him.

"They would have had an extremely marginal, extremely minor role," Sleeper told me. Did Jews own sugar plantations? "I don't know." Sleeper finally acknowledged, "I don't know anything about Brazil."

Why are so many people ignorant of such a well-documented point of history? One reason is that popular histories of New World slavery tend to omit any mention of Sephardic Jews while cataloging the activities of many other ethnic communities. In "The Rise and Fall of Black Slavery," C. Duncan Rice mentions the "Dutch refugees" who established the sugar industry in Barbados, and the "planters of Dutch Surinam" who, "with characteristic Flemish practicality," started up a sugar colony with a full force of black slaves. But he does not mention the Portuguese Jews among these Dutch. James A. Rawley's "The Transatlantic Slave Trade" has not a single mention over the course of 452 pages of the involvement of Sephardic Jews.

The holes in the popular record have led to misunderstanding. In a 1991 article in the Jewish monthly Midstream, headlined "An Old/New Libel: Jews in the Slave Trade," historian Saul Friedman noted that "Jews are remarkably absent from major texts" on New World slavery and cited seven history books by name. For Friedman, this constitutes proof that the role of Jews was negligible. Actually, he merely demonstrates the inadequacies of such "major texts."

It is necessary to consider this vacuum of common knowledge when analyzing how some blacks are trying to make political hay out of this complex history. If the popular record weren't incomplete -- that is, if everyone already knew that Sephardic merchants and planters had played a small but significant role in the New World slave trade -- there would be no "secret" relationship for Leonard Jeffries and Louis Farrakhan to exploit.

Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade

In the wake of the civil rights movement, a great divide has opened up between African American and Jewish communities. What was historically a harmonious and supportive relationship has suffered from a powerful and oft-repeated legend, that Jews controlled and masterminded the slave trade and owned slaves on a large scale, well in excess of their own proportion in the population.
In this groundbreaking book, likely to stand as the definitive word on the subject, Eli Faber cuts through this cloud of mystification to recapture an important chapter in both Jewish and African diasporic history.
Focusing on the British empire, Faber assesses the extent to which Jews participated in the institution of slavery through investment in slave trading companies, ownership of slave ships, commercial activity as merchants who sold slaves upon their arrival from Africa, and direct ownership of slaves. His unprecedented original research utilizing shipping and tax records, stock-transfer ledgers, censuses, slave registers, and synagogue records reveals, once and for all, the minimal nature of Jews' involvement in the subjugation of Africans in the Americas.
A crucial corrective, Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade lays to rest one of the most contested historical controversies of our time.

Eli Faber is Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York, and author of A Time for Planting: The First Migration, 1654-1828, the first volume in the five-volume The Jewish People in America.

Did any slaves with Jewish owners ever adopt Judaism? - History

1. It was in the year 411, Ch. Era, when the German barbaric tribes, the Suevi, Vandals, Alans, and Silingi, finally took possession of the Pyrenean peninsula, after plundering and devastating it for a space of two years, and settled themselves in the once paradise-like, but now desolate country, having become tired of a nomadic life. The quiet which this peninsula had enjoyed since the reign of Augustus, as a Roman province, was disturbed by the irruption of the barbarians about the year 409 the prosperity and wealth consequent on the long peace, were annihilated through the outrages of the savage immigrants <<420>> and in this desolate condition, the peninsula ceased to be a Roman province in the year 411. The Suevi settled in Gallicia, in the north‑western portion of the Peninsula, the Vandals in the centre of the country, the Alans in Lusitania and Carthagena, and the Silingi in Andalusia (Boetica) and the Romans maintained themselves only in the present Catalonia, Arragon, and Navarre.* In the latter part of the year 414 these barbarians were yet farther joined by Ataulph, King of the Visigoths, who came to Spain from Narbonne, in Gaul, with a large army of Goths, and this one was the first Visigothic King on Iberian soil who brought the Goths to Spain and founded a kingdom in that country which lasted nearly three hundred years.†

* Idatius in his Chronicon, in Du Chesne’s “Script. rer. Galliear.” I. p. 186.
† Orosiis VII., 43.

This new swarm of barbarians already professed Christianity. But the Gothic dominion lasted, in the first instance, but five years, (414-19,) since Wallia, the second in secession after Ataulph, surrendered nearly the whole of conquered Spain to the Romans, and was content to select as the residence of his hosts the country of Septimania (a territory of seven districts on the Garonne extending to the sea), which he had received as a present from the Roman Emperor. It was in Septimania that the Visigothic state of Tolosa sprung up, whilst the Roman dominion maintained its existence in Spain under many trials and contests till 481 and the first King of the Visigoths with whom commenced the uninterrupted rule of the Goths in Spain, was Eurich, who already gave written laws. The Jews were then already in the country. From the year 481 till 531, was the Visigothic kingdom at Spain united with that of Tolosa the centre of the Visigothic power was in Gaul, and the laws which may have been made in respect to the Jews must therefore be sought for in the older history of the Visigoths in Gaul. It was only as late as in the reign of Theudas (531), that Spain was separated from Gaul as a special kingdom, and he chose Barcelona as the seat of his government.

2. The Spanish histories and the ancient chronicles furnish fabulous accounts concerning the immigration of the Jews it is said that in the time of the first, in the time of the second temple, previous and subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, Jews in numerous bodies should have sought a new home in Iberia. But all these reports which we prefer to pass by here with entire silence, are only disjointed legends put in circulation at a late period, and the only result which we can adduce in the entire absence of any positive data, is that the Palestine <<421>> refugees must have travelled with the Romans to Spain, since they experienced, together with the Romans, the weight of the iron hand of barbarism, at the irruption of the barbarians, about the year 409. The Jewish historian, Josephus,* has a report of Jews in Spain through the Romans Suetonius† and Tacitus,‡ speak of a transportation of Jews to that country and though we cannot absolutely maintain the literal historical truth of the report of the Spanish historian Juan Vasaeus,§ that Hadrian had in the first half of the second century sent to Spain numerous Jewish prisoners of war on the occasion of his terrible war against the Jews, it nevertheless must be admitted to bear the stamp of probability.

* Book xviii. † Chap. xxxvi. ‡ Ann. ii., c. viii. § Chronicon Hispaniae, 517.

At all events, the Jews were in Spain together with the Romans before 409 and about a century later, when there was but one Visigothic kingdom in Spain, the Jews were there, distributed through the country in numerous congregations, as an antithesis to the Christian barbarians, celebrating their own Sabbaths and festivals, circumcising their children, solemnizing marriage after the Jewish custom, and strictly observing the dietetic laws, and even occasionally converting heathen slaves to Judaism. In such a state of Jewish isolation, towards which heathen Rome was perfectly indifferent, were they found by the Christian Visigothic barbarians and what history has omitted to record, we now, for the first time, learn from the tenor of the bloody laws which were enacted at the time of which we are speaking.

In the contests with the Romans, which lasted seventy-two years (409-481), it was but natural that the Visigoths could not think of the Jews, and they hence suffered only from the inflictions of the devastating war. In the succeeding fifty years (481-531), in which Spain appears more as an appendage of the Tolosanian kingdom in Gaul, they were, so to say, outside the enemy’s horizon and it is well known that the Jews at Arles, when it already belonged to the Visigoths, at the commencement of the sixth century, still possessed the right of Roman citizenship. But scarcely had the Spanish Visigothic kingdom acquired an independent position and organization (531), when religious hatred was sufficiently strong and violent to inflict such deep wounds on the congregations of Spain, that their existence after three centuries so full of horrors (411-711) must fill the coldest and the simple severe historian with shuddering and admiration.

Recared I. (586-601). This Visigothic King of Spain promulgated a series of laws against the Jews (Leges Visigothorum xii. tit. 11, <<422>> Lex 4-12. Canciani iv. pp. 185-187). He prohibited baptized Jews, to offend against the Christian faith, through words or deeds, or to withdraw themselves from its confession through flight from the country. Those who remained Jews in despite of all their sufferings, he interdicted the celebration of the Passover, the Sabbaths, and other festivals in the customary manner the solemnization of marriage, after the custom of the Jews the circumcision of the children, and the making of any distinction between clean and unclean food. He deprived them of the right to testify against Christians in a court of justice, or to cite a Christian before a judge, and all this under penalty of being burnt at the stake or stoned to death. In case the king should grant their life to guilty Jews, they should still become slaves and lose their property. He further ordained that no Jew should have a Christian servant and if a Jew should dare to circumcise his Christian slave, then should the servant be free, and the property of the Jew should be forfeited to the king’s exchequer so also Jewish servants, whether male or female, should obtain their freedom if they would become converted.

Liuva (601-603). This son and successor of Recared did not ameliorate these laws. He was murdered by his successor, Witteric (603).

Witteric (603-610). Under this king, who was the enemy of the Catholic clergy, the Jews breathed more freely, as they were forgotten amidst the contest of Catholicism against the doctrines of Arius. He was murdered (610).

Gundemar (610-612). This king was again an instrument of the clergy, and the misfortune of the Jews would have already commenced at this period, had not his reign been so brief. The more sorrowful became their lot under his successor Sisebut.

Sisebut (612-620). Rendered fanatical through means of the clergy, and possessing an iron-like stubbornness of character, this king became the terror of the Spanish Jews. Sisebut confirmed the cruel ordinances of Recared,* and proceeded in this way with indescribable tyranny. He ordained (614), that every Jew who would abstain from having himself or his children and servants baptized for more than one year, should be punished with a hundred blows, be banished from the country and deprived of his possessions.† He went still farther. Through murder, the rack, and fearful severity, he compelled 90,000 to be bap <<423>> tized, and the most obstinate were maltreated in the most cruel manner, and deprived of their property and with their bare life even they were not permitted to escape from the country, since the barbarian caused the frontiers to be strictly watched, so that not a Jew should escape him.‡

* Leges Visigothorum l. c. lex 13.
† Ibid. titul. iii. lex 3 Canciani, l. c. p. 191 b. Baronius has proved, ad annum 614, No. 46, from an old MS., that this law proceeded from Sisebut, although as usual, it has no name of a king in the beginning.
‡ See Aschbach, History of the Visigoths p. 259.

To enhance yet more these persecutions, he promulgated a law that all his successors should swear at the commencement of their reign, to maintain these measures against the Jews, and in his fanatic zeal he placed before his more humanely inclined successors the prospect of the flames of hell-fire at the last judgment.* The cruelty of Sisebut against the Jews excited such a horror, that even many among the fanatical clergy disapproved of it. The celebrated Isidore, Archbishop of Seville, although himself a fanatic, says in his history of the Goths,† “Sisebut had, in his persecution of the Jews, displayed, it is true, zeal for the Cause of God, but not a wise one, because he employed violence, whereas conviction could only be justified by good reasons.” But fanaticism paid no attention to this. It is true, that Isidore succeeded in the fourth Synod of Toledo, where he presided, to have a canon law passed‡ that in future no Jew should be any more compelled to be baptized but the comparatively mild canon law was not regarded.

* Leges Visigothorom, tit iii. lex 14 to the end.
† Op. Isidori ed. Areval, vol. vii. p. 126. ‡ Canon 57, Manso x. 633.

Recared II. (620), Sisebut’s son, reigned but a few months, and could exercise no influence on the condition of the Jews. It was only under his successor that the rigour was relaxed.

Swinthila (620-631). Under this Visigothic king, who, in lessening the power of the clergy, had to contend against them as well as the nobles, the Jews could breathe again in some slight degree. When the clergy did not rule, the Jews had at least some little peace.

Sisenand (631-636). After the expulsion of Swinthila, Sisenand ascended the throne, protected and sustained by the clergy. The fate of the Jews would have been mournful indeed, had not the already Archbishop Isidore, of Seville, who was mildly disposed towards them, possessed the highest consideration and influence. He enforced a milder treatment of the Jews and at the Synod, called at Toledo in the year 633, at which sixty-nine bishops appeared, the rights of the Jews were likewise regulated under the presiding of Isidore, among the seventy-four enactments there passed.|| It is true that Isidore was a zealous, fanatical Catholic, and even wrote a work concerning the conver <<424>> sion of the Jews* but he only recommends mild measures. Isidore died in the same year with the king (636).

|| Manso x.
* The name of this work is: De fide catholica ex veteri et novo testamento contra Judaeos libri duo, in the Arevaloan edit. vol. vi. p. 3 et. seq.

Chinthila (636-640). The next successor, Chinthila, also a tool of the clergy, immediately promulgated a decree (637), that all the Jews, without exception, should quit the kingdom, because Isidore no longer lived to induce the clergy to adopt a milder course of proceedings. At a Synod held in 638, was this decree, together with all the prior resolves of the councils, solemnly confirmed, and yet farther extended, so that in future every king, before ascending the throne, should obligate himself by an oath to sustain, in full rigour, the decrees of Chinthila against the Jews.† The just-mentioned Synod also held up in prospect the curse of Heaven and everlasting hell-fire, should ever any one of the successors to the throne be bold enough to act contrary to this ordinance.

Abraham Lincoln's Jewish Ancestors from Lincoln, England

Our 16th American president had Jewish roots, as was found by Professor Elizabeth Hirschman of Rutgers University. She wrote an extensive research paper who studied this topic and found beyond any reasonable doubt, that Abe Lincoln was Jewish. She checked out his ancestry and went back to his hometown where she did years of work on this topic.

For starters, February 12, 1809 was the birthdate of Abe Lincoln. His mother, illiterate from Virginia, was Nancy Hanks married to Thomas Lincoln, whose family came from the Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia. Abe really was born in a log cabin built along the banks of the south fork of Nolin Creek near what is now, Hodgenville, Kentucky.

He was the only American president that didn't say he was a member of any particular religious faith. He wasn't raised in a church and never belonged to a church. His grandfather was said by the researcher to be Mordechai Lincoln and his name was Abraham, two very Jewish biblical names used by Jews. I believe he could have been a great-grandfather as his grandfather Lincoln was listed as Abraham.

Abe's ancestors probably came from Lincoln, England which has a Jewish history. The Normans came with William I in 1066, though were probably there also in Roman times. They had built Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle. In 1159 a Jewish community was created in Lincoln which later became 5 important Jewish communities. During the crusader riots, the sheriff of Lincoln saved the Jews by giving them official protection. St. Hugh, the great bishop of Lincoln, taught love of Jews to his parishioners. The Jews of Lincoln mourned when he died. Rabbi Joseph of Lincoln, a scholar, was mentioned in the Talmud. Aaron of Lincoln was a finanacier whose operations extended all over the country.

There was the Jew's House which lies below the Jew's Court. Anti-Semitic hysteria by 1255 caused Lincoln's Jews to be accused of ritual murder, causing 91 to be sent to London for trial which ended with 18 executed. In 1290 the Jews of Lincoln were expelled by edict. It's possible that some remained and were like the secret Jews of Spain who were expulsed in 1492. They could have been practicing Judaism in secret and passed it on in each generation, following Abe Lincoln to Kentucky.

In researching "Lincoln" on ancestry.com , I found the first Lincoln immigrants to be several Thomases and a Stephen Lincoln born in the 1600's. One was a husbandman and the other a miller.

Jews reacted to Lincoln's death in 1865 by sitting shivah and rabbis all over the USA eulogized President Lincoln. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, creater of Reform Judaism, started the eulogy with "Brethren, the lamented Abraham Lincoln believed himself to be bone from our bone and flesh from our flesh. He supposed himself to be a descendant of Hebrew parentage. He said so in my presence."

When asked about his theology, he quoted from the book of Exodus that he recommended that every American study, learn and follow, the Ten Commandments.

Though he may have been part of the Jewish community of Lincoln, England, Judaism follows from the inheritance of a Jewish mother. He has roots, but would not be called "Jewish." He would have had to go through a conversion to be Jewish. Perhaps those Jewish genes were part of his philosophy of life, though.

What I know: (Added more ancestors to on 1/14/13)
1. Mordecai Lincoln b: June 14, 1657 Hingham, Plymouth, Mass. spouse: Sarah Jones. Great-great grandfather
2 Mordecai Lincoln b: April 24, 1686 Hingham, Plymouth, Massachusetts d: December 1736 Amity, Berks, Pennsylvania . Spouse: Hannah Salter. I did find born 1750 in Massachusetts with son Isaac born October 18, 1749, Sarah, Jane, Nanne, Pegge, George and Lucene Lincoln, all in Massachusetts:
3. John Lincoln b: May 3, 1716, sp: Rebecca Flowers
4. Captain Abraham Lincoln b: May 13, 1744 in Berks PA, d: May 1786 Jefferson, Kentucky, GRANDFATHER
married Bathsheba Herring (1746-1836) of Virginia GRANDMOTHER
5. son was Thomas Lincoln b: January 20, 1780 FATHER d: 1851 Farmington, Illinois
married Nancy Hanks June 12, 1806 ( February 5, 1784-October 5, 1818) 1806 MOTHER (Parents were James Hanks and Lucy Shipley)
4. Abraham Lincoln b:February 12, 1809 d: April 15, 1865
married Mary Todd November 4, 1842 (well educated woman from Kentucky)
5. Robert Todd Lincoln b: August 1, 1843 d: July 26, 1926, Lawyer, Secretary of War
married Mary Eunice Harlan
6 Abraham Lincoln II August 14, 1873 d: March 5, 1890
5. Edward "Eddie" Baker Lincoln b: March 10, 1846 died February 1, 1850 of TB.
5. William "Willie" Wallace Lincoln b: December 21, 1850 d: February 20, 1862 of Typhoid Fever
5. Thomas "Tad" Lincoln b: April 4, 1853 d: July 15, 1871 of TB.
They had 4 children. Robert was the only one to survive to adulthood.
Abe had an older sister, Sarah, and a younger brother, Thomas. His mother, Nancy, died at age 34 when he was 9 years old. His father remarried Sarah Bush Johnston who had 3 children she brought to the marriage. The family had moved from Kentucky over a land dispute to Indiana. He didn't care for his father as he had no ambition. Neither parents could read or write.

Robert became Harvard educated and married Mary Eunice Harlan. They had 2 daughters and a son, 6th generation Abraham Lincoln II whom they called Jack. He was born August 14, 1873 and died March 5, 1890 at age 17 from blood poisoning and unmarried. Thus ended the Lincoln line. It's too bad there weren't any descendants to do dna testing. It would have been interesting to see what Y haplogroup our former president would have had.

"Lincoln's son Robert later denied the admission of Hebrew ancestry. He told IsaacMarkens, author, that he had "never before heard that his father supposed he had any Jewish ancestry." Markens dismissed the exchange between Lincoln and the rabbi as a "pleasantry."

"Pleasantry or not, the rumor seems to reflect historical truth. "The Lincoln material in my book traces his family's arrival from England into the New Hingham Colony in Massachusetts and their migration down to the Appalachian area," Elizabeth Hirschman told the curator of the Lincoln Collection, James M. Cornelius, who contacted her in September. "I use genealogies, marriage practices, wills and cemetery inscriptions to build the case for his Jewish--and likely Sephardic--ancestry." She had written that the Lincolns were part of the Melungeons from his mother, Nancy Hanks.

Understanding the Sheikh Jarrah property dispute

(May 11, 2021 / JNS) The current dispute in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood involves several properties with tenants whose leases have expired and, in a few cases, squatters with no tenancy rights at all, against owner-landlords who have successfully won court orders evicting the squatters and overstaying tenants. The litigation has taken several years, and the owners have won at every step. The squatters and overstaying tenants have appealed against the eviction orders to the Supreme Court. The only decision that stands before the Israeli government is whether to honor the courts’ decisions and enforce the eviction orders if affirmed by the Supreme Court, or whether to defy court orders and deny the property owners their legal rights.

Critics claim that the Israeli government should (or even that international law requires it to) deny the owners their property rights, but these claims are not based on any credible legal argument. They focus on the fact that the owners in the disputed cases are Jew, while the squatters and overstaying tenants are Arabs. The critics demand that Israel discriminate against and disregard the property owners’ lawful property rights due to their Jewish ethnicity. It’s obvious that critics of Israel would pay no notice to the dispute if the owners were Palestinian and the squatters and overstaying tenants were Palestinian.

Likewise, it’s clear that critics of Israel would demand rather than oppose Israeli enforcement of the courts’ judgments if the owners were Palestinian and the squatters and overstaying tenants Jewish.

Critics of Israel, in this case, have adopted the bigoted position that property rights should depend on ethnicity and that Jewish ethnicity should be the grounds for denying legal property rights. In doing so they have distorted the facts, perverted international law and attempted to intimidate Israel’s courts and law-enforcement officials into adopting the critics’ bigotry.

The legal basis of the parties’ property rights

The legal rights of the parties themselves were resolved decades ago, in favor of the property owners. The owners in these disputes acquired their rights through an uninterrupted chain of transactions from predecessors in title in the 19th century. These legal rights were acquired under Ottoman law, and remained good through all different government regimes since then (British Mandatory, Jordanian occupation and purported annexation, and Israeli). No one seriously disputes the validity of the transactions through which the current owners acquired rights from their predecessors in title.

The tenants in these disputes acquired their leasehold rights through a chain from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property in the 1950s. Their rights as leaseholders (not owners) were reaffirmed in several court rulings culminating in 1982, when Israel’s civil courts issued rulings adopting settlement agreements between the leaseholders’ predecessors in title and the owners. The rulings and settlement agreements established that the tenants had “protected leaseholds” under Israeli law (a status superior to ordinary leaseholds under Israeli, Jordanian and British law) but that the owners still had good title ownership. The tenants enjoyed and continue to enjoy the benefits of the protected tenancies until today this is why their leaseholds continued uninterrupted for more than half a century, until the recent expiration of the leases (in some cases due to serious breaches of the terms of the lease, in others due to the natural expiration of the lease rights). The squatters, of course, possess no legal rights at all.

The only break in the owners’ uninterrupted chain is the sequestration of the properties from 1948 to 1967 by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. Jordan, which had illegally occupied eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank during its illegal invasion of Israel in 1948, denied Jews the right to exercise any property rights over land in the Kingdom during the entirety of its 19-year occupation (Jordan has continued this discriminatory practice to date).

Having expelled all Jews from the lands it occupied, Jordan transferred custody over all Jewish-owned property to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. In accordance with the British legislation on enemy property on which the Jordanian law was based, Jordan’s sequestration of enemy property only extinguished owners’ rights completely if the state seized title by eminent domain or if the Custodian transferred title to someone else. Importantly, in the case of the Sheikh Jarrah properties, the Jordanian Custodian did not purport to transfer ownership of the properties to anyone else. Instead, the Custodian leased some of the properties to Palestinian Arabs (the predecessors in title to the current overstaying tenants).

After the Six-Day War of 1967 ended Jordan’s occupation of eastern Jerusalem, Israel adopted legislation that vindicated the private property rights of persons of all ethnicities. The 1970 Law and Administrative Arrangements Law (Consolidated Version) preserved the rights of private parties who received the title from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property, notwithstanding the illegality of Jordan’s occupation. (Persons who received rights from the Jordanian Custodian were all Arabs since Jordanian law denied property rights to Jews.) Where the Jordanian Custodian had held custody over the sequestered properties through 1967, the 1970 law assigned custody to the Israeli Administrator General and Official Receiver with instruction to release custody to the property owners. And where Jordan had seized the property by eminent domain for public use, the 1970 law assigned ownership of the property to the state of Israel for the continuation of the public use.

Ironically, if the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property had assigned title to the predecessors of the current Palestinian Arab holdover tenants over the lands it seized from Jewish owners, Israeli law would have respected the resulting title. The reason the holdover tenants in Sheikh Jarrah lack ownership today is not because the state of Israel has denied the Palestinian Arabs any rights they acquired, but, rather, because the government of Jordan declined to give the Palestinian Arabs title to the land Jordan had seized.

Media distortions of the dispute

Many of the media accounts of the recent court judgments regarding the properties in Sheikh Jarrah have distorted the facts. Contrary to claims in some media accounts, Israel did not grant anyone ownership to any of the affected properties on the basis of ethnicity. Israeli law respects and upholds the property rights of persons of all ethnicities. Israel has even respected the property rights created by prior regimes that explicitly discriminated against Jews in their property laws—the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate of Palestine, and the Jordanian occupation regime.

Contrary to claims in some media accounts, Israel has not created different rules for “enemy property” based on ethnicity. The ethnic dimension to the current-day property disputes is historic discrimination against Jews by a country other than Israel: Jordan denied Jews all ability to exercise property rights during its illegal occupation of eastern Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967. Israel has declined to continue Jordan’s discriminatory practice, but it has respected the legal results of Jordan’s actions. Ironically, Israel has been so respectful of the private property rights of Palestinian Arabs that it continues to uphold private Palestinian Arab property rights that are based on Jordanian discrimination against Jews.

Contrary to claims in some media accounts, the Israeli government has not decided to evict anyone in the current disputes. It is private parties, rather than the government of Israel, that have brought their claims to court. Landowners have done what they do throughout the civilized world—they have exercised their private rights to evict holdover tenants by going to court and winning an eviction order. The landowners rightly expect that Israeli police and enforcement authorities will respect the law and carry out eviction orders. Contrary to claims by pro-Palestinian advocates, the state of Israel has not issued any eviction orders against Palestinians in these disputes.

Contrary to the impression created by some media accounts, there has been no recent adjustment of the parties’ property rights in favor of Jews or to the disadvantage of Palestinian Arabs. The parties’ rights were established by voluntary transactions over many years and reaffirmed in a legal compromise and court rulings many decades ago. The Palestinian Arab litigants in these cases are now attempting to overturn more than a century of property transactions and overturn long-settled law in order to prevent the Jewish owners from exercising their lawful rights. The only involuntary transaction in the chain is the Jordanian 1948-1967 sequestration of Jewish property that is the source of the Palestinian Arab lease rights that have been upheld by the courts.

Contrary to the impression created by some media accounts, the property disputes do not involve any exotic or unusual Israeli laws. The leasehold and trespass legal issues at stake are similar to those found throughout the world, other than the unusually strong rent control and tenant protections given to the protected tenants (Palestinian Arabs in this dispute). The ownership laws at issue are likewise similar to those found throughout the world, and simply follow the chain of voluntary transactions. The only exotic element in the case is Jordan’s 19-year sequestration of all Jewish-owned properties as “enemy property,” which has been respected to the detriment of the Jewish property owners.

Contrary to the statements in some media accounts, none of the properties in the current dispute has been seized by the state of Israel. None of the property disputes turns on Israeli laws of land use or land planning or absentee property.

Contrary to the statements in some media accounts, the question in the land disputes is not whether “Jews owned the property prior to 1948.” The ethnicity of the owners is not legally relevant to the dispute and does not serve as the basis of any legal rights in this case. The historical ownership is relevant only because it is part of the chain of title leading to the current owners’ title. What has been litigated is the current rights of property owners.

Official distortions of international law

Likewise, many critics of Israel have fabricated provisions of international law to insist that Israel is required to discriminate against Jews in eastern Jerusalem because, in the critics’ view, eastern Jerusalem is territory belligerently occupied by Israel. These claims are not only without foundation in international law, they also undermine international legal authority by creating a fake international law intended to be used in a bigoted fashion.

Contrary to the claims of the critics, nothing in the law of belligerent occupation, or any other provision of international law, requires Israel to adopt and enforce the racial and ethnic land discrimination that is part of Jordanian law. In fact, Israel would violate international law (such as provisions in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) were it to continue the Jordanian ethnic discrimination or adopt the distorted views of international law proposed by critics of Israel.

Contrary to the claims of the critics, there is nothing in the Geneva Conventions or any other part of the laws of belligerent occupation that forbids Israel to carry out court orders enforcing private property rights of landlords to evict their overstaying tenants. The claim that the property rights of Jews must be disregarded while other property rights must be upheld or even enhanced has no basis in the law and is morally offensive.

Contrary to the claims of critics, international law does not require or even permit ethnically based denials of the legal rights of property owners due to alleged flaws in other Israeli laws. Some critics have claimed that Israel’s land planning laws, land use regulations and 1950 Absentee Property Law are problematic or biased. Whatever the merits of such claims, the claims of the parties in the current Sheikh Jarrah disputes have nothing to do with Israel’s land planning laws, land use regulations or the 1950 Absentee Property Law. Nothing in international law permits Israel to deny individual Jewish landowners their legal rights as punishment for the alleged guilt of their polity in adopting other, unrelated laws.

Contrary to the claims of the critics, permitting private Jewish landowners to exercise their rights in court does not constitute “illegal settlement activity.” No reasonable interpretation of the various provisions of the Geneva Conventions and other treaties cited with respect to the legal dispute on “settlements” could possibly lead to the conclusion that international law requires stripping Jews of all private property rights in land in areas that critics of Israel call “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” While critics of Israel like to pretend that international law forbids Jews to reside in any lands claimed as part of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” that claim has no foundation in international law.

Avi Bell is a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and at Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law.

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