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The Diaspora is
‘The Jews or Jewish communities scattered “in exile” outside Judea/Palestine
or present-day Israel.  

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A History
of the Jews

Paul Johnson 1988

South Africa


Historic Sephardi Communities

Paul Johnson 1988, pp560-574

(After the Holocaust)  ..exterminated to evil’s greater glory, and on which so much else was consumed: the divine images of so many human beings, many people's faith in the God of justice and compassion, and much of the secret .and power of attachment to the Bible bred and cherished in the hearts ill men for nearly 2,000 years.’71 Why had it happened? The new Zion began with an unanswered, perhaps unanswerable, question.


The Jewish national state had been established. That did not end the Exile of course. How could it? The Exile, as Arthur Cohen observed, was not an accident of history corrected by creation ol a secular, national state; it was, rather, a metaphysical concept, ‘the historical coefficient of being unredeemed’.72 Most of Jewry remained outside the state. That had been so ever since the Babylonian Exile, The Third Commonwealth, like the Second, contained only about a quarter of all Jews. There was no sign, as Israel completed its fourth decade, of a fundamental change in this proportion. All the same, realization of a secular Zion gave to world Jewry a living, beating heart it had not possessed for two millennia. It provided a focus for the global community which the old pious settlements and the idea ol Return, however cherished, had not supplied. The building of Israel was the twentieth-century equivalent of rebuilding the Temple. Like the Temple under Herod the Great, it had unsatisfactory aspects. But it was there. The very fact that it existed, and could be visited and shared, gave a completely new dimension to the diaspora. It was a constant source of concern, sometimes of anxiety, often of pride. Once Israel had been established and proved it could defend and justify itself, no member of the diaspora ever had to feel ashamed of being a Jew again.

This was important because even near the close of the twentieth century the diaspora continued to maintain its characteristics of extremes of wealth and poverty and baffling variety. Total JEWISH POPULATION had been nearly 18 million at the end of the 1930s. By the mid-1980s it had by no means recovered the Holocaust losses. Of a total of 13.5 million Jews, about 3.5 million lived in Israel. By far the largest Jewish community was in the United States (5,750,000) and this, combined with important Jewish communities in Canada (310,000), Argentina (250,000), Brazil (130,000) and Mexico (40,000), and a dozen smaller groups, meant that nearly half world Jewry (6.6 million) was now in the Americas. The next largest Jewish community, after the US and Israel, was Soviet Russia’s, with about 1,750,000. There were still sizeable communities in Hungary (75,000) and Rumania (30,000), and a total of 130,000 in Marxist eastern Europe. In western Europe there were a little over 1,250,000 Jews, the principal communities being in France (670,000), Britain (360,000), West Germany (42,000), Belgium (41,000), Italy (35,000), the Netherlands (28,000) and Switzerland (21,000). In Africa, outside the South African Republic (105,000), there were now few Jews except in the diminished communities of Morocco (17,000) and Ethiopia (perhaps 5,000). In Asia there were still about 35,000 Jews in Persia and 21,,000 in Turkey. The Australian and New Zealand communities together added a further 75,000.73

The history, composition and origin of some of these communities were of great complexity. In INDIA, for instance, there were about 26,000 Jews in the late 1940s, composed of three principal types. About 13,000 formed the so-called Bene (Children of) Israel, living in and around Bombay on the west coast. These Jews had lost their records and books but retained a tenacious oral history of their migration, put into written form as recently as 1937.74 Their story was that they had fled from Galilee during the persecution of Antiochus Eppiphanes (175-163 bc). Their ship was wrecked on the coast about 30 miles south of Bombay, and only seven families survived. Though they had no religious texts and soon forgot Hebrew, they continued to honour the Sabbath and some Jewish holidays, practised circumcision and Jewish diet and remembered the Shetna. They spoke Marathi and adopted Indian caste practices, dividing themselves into Goa (whites) and Kala (blacks), which suggests there may have been two waves of settlement. Then there were the Cochin Jews, about 2,500 at one time, living 650 miles further south down the west coast. They had a foundation document of a kind, two copper plates engraved in old Tamil, recording privileges and now dated between 974 and 1020 ad. There were certainly several layers of settlement in this case, the Black Cochin Jews being the earliest, joined by whiter-skinned Jews from Spain, Portugal and possibly other parts of Europe (as well as the Middle East) in the early sixteenth century. Both black and white Cochin Jews had sub-divisions and there was a third main group, the Meshuararim, who were low-caste descendants of unions between Jews and slave-concubines. None of the three main Cochin groups worshipped together. In addition, there were about 2,000 Sephardi Jews from Baghdad, who arrived in India during the decade 1820-30, and a final wave of European refugee Jews who came in the 1930s. These two last categories associated with each other for religious (not social) purposes, but neither would attend the same synagogues as the Bene Israel or Cochin Jews. All the white-skinned Jews and many of the blacks spoke English, and they flourished under British rule serving with distinction in the army, becoming civil servants, trades men, shopkeepers and craftsmen, attending Bombay University studying Hebrew, translating the Jewish classics into Marathi and graduating as engineers, lawyers, teachers and scientists. One of them became Mayor of Bombay, the centre of all Jewish groups of India in 1937. But independent India was less congenial to them and with the creation of Israel most chose to migrate, so that by the 1980s there were not much over 15,000 Bene Israel and only 250 Jews on the Cochin coast.75

CHINA That such groups should survive at all testified not to the proselytizing power of Judaism but to its tenacious adaptability even in the most adverse circumstances. But it cannot be denied that the cataclysmic events of the twentieth century virtually destroyed dozens of Jewish communities, many of them ancient. The post war Communist regime in China, for instance, imposed its own final solution on China’s Jewish population, much of it a refugee exodus from Soviet Russia and Hitler’s Europe, but including descendant of Jews who had been in China from the eighth century onwards. All fled or were driven out, Hong Kong alone, with about 1,000 Jews and Singapore with 400, constituting lonely outposts in the Far East.

Throughout the Arab world, during the late 1940s and 1950s, the HISTORIC SEPHARDI COMMUNITIES were reduced to a fraction of their prewar size or eliminated altogether. In large parts of Europe, the Jew who survived or returned after the ravages of the Holocaust were winnowed further by emigration, especially to Israel. Salonika Ladino-speaking population, 60,000 strong in 1939, was a mere 1,500 in the 1980s. Vienna’s vast and fertile Jewry, perhaps the most gifted of all, shrank from 200,000 to less than 8,000, and even the mortal remains of Herzl himself, buried in the city’s Doebling cemetery, left for reinterment in Jerusalem in 1949. Amsterdam Jewry, nearly 70,000 in the 1930s, was scarcely 12,000 forty years later.  The Jews of Antwerp, who had made it the diamond centre of the West continued to work in the trade but the city’s Jewry had fallen from 55,000 to about 13,500 in the 1980s. The ancient Frankfurt Jewry, once so famous in finance, fell from 26,158 in 1933 to 4,350 in the 1970s. In Berlin where, in the 1920s, nearly 175,000 Jews had made it the cultural capital of the world, there were in the 1970s only about 5,500  (plus another 850 in East Berlin). The most desolate vacuum of all was in Poland, where by the 1980s a pre-war Jewish population of 3,300,000 had dropped to about 5,000. Scores of towns there, one rich in synagogues and libraries, knew the Jew no more.

Yet there was continuity too and even growth. ITALIAN JEWRY survived the Nazi era with remarkable tenacity. The 29,000 left at the end of the German occupation rose slowly in the post-war period to 32,000; but this was due to emigrants reaching Italy from the north and east. A study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1965 showed that the Italian community, like many others in the advanced communities, had a vulnerable demographic profile. The birth rate for Italian Jews was only 11.4 per 1,000 compared to 18.3 for the population as a whole. Fertility and marriage rates were also much lower; only the mortality rate and the average age (forty-one against thirty three) were higher.76 In Rome, the core of the Jewish community still lived in what, until 1880, had been the old ghetto area in Transrevere where Jews had eked out a precarious existence, as rag-pickers and pedlars, since the time of the old kings of Rome. Here, rich lived virtually next door to the very poorest, as they always had done. The thirty chief families, the Scuola Tempio, could trace their ancestry back to the time of the Emperor Titus 1,900 years ago, when they had been brought to Rome in chains after the destruction of the Temple. The Roman Jews had lived in the shadow of the majestic church that had in turn exploited, persecuted and protected them, They had sought both to defy and to blend with it, so that their principal synagogue, in the Lungotevere Cenci, just outside the old ghetto gates, was a spectacular exercise in Italian church baroque.  There, in April 1986, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to attend a synagogue service, taking turns with the Chief Rabbi of Rome to lead the psalms. He told the Jewish congregation: ‘You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a way you are our elder brothers.’ The intention was good, the stress on ‘elder’ a little too apposite.

In FRANCE, the post-war period saw undeniable growth, in both numbers and intensity. The Nazis and their Vichy allies had killed 90.000 of France’s pre-war Jewish population of 340,000, and the tragedy had been envenomed by the knowledge that France’s established and highly assimilated native community had in some ways collaborated in deporting the refugee element. But this loss was more than made good by a huge influx of Sephardi immigrants from the Moslem world in the three decades after the war: 25,000 from Egypt, 65,000 from Morocco, 80,000 from Tunisia and 120,000 from Algeria, as well as smaller but substantial numbers from Syria, the Lehanon and Turkey. As a result, French Jewry more than doubled to over 670,000, and became the fourth largest in the world.

This huge demographic expansion was accompanied by a profound cultural change. French Jewry had always been the most assimilationist of all, especially since the French Revolution had allowed it to identify almost completely with republican institutions. The vicious behaviour of many Frenchmen under Vichy had produced some loss of confidence, and one index of it was that six times as many French Jews changed their names in the twelve years 1945-57 as in the entire period 1803-1942.77 Even so, the number was small, and ultra assimilation remained the distinguishing characteristic of French Jewry even in the post-war period. Writers like Raymond Aron stood at the very centre of contemporary French culture and the quiet unostentatious, highly sophisticated Jewish upper-middle class provided notable prime ministers, such as Rene Mayer and Pierre Mendes-France under the Fourth Republic, and Michel Debre and Laurent Fabius under the Fifth. Nevertheless, the influx of Sephardi, from Africa greatly intensified the Jewishness of French Jews Francophone most of them might be, but a high proportion of them read Hebrew. French Jews of the nineteenth century had a theory of three generations’: ‘The grandfather believes, the father doubts, the son denies. The grandfather prays in Hebrew, the father reads the prayers in French, the son does not pray at all. The grandfather observes all the holidays, the father Yom Kippur, the son no holidays at all. The grandfather has remained Jewish, the father has been assimilated, and the son has become a mere deist ... if he has not become an atheist, a Fourierist or a Saint-Simonian.’78 In post-war France this theory no longer worked. The son was now just as likely to return to the religion of his grandfather, leaving the father isolated in his agnosticism. In the south, the influx of Algerian Jews resurrected the dead or dying communities of the Middle Ages. In 1970, for instance, the celebrated composer Darius Milhaud laid the foundation-stone of a new synagogue in Aix-en-Provence — the old one having been sold in the war and turned into a Protestant church.” Nor were new synagogues the only sign of a revived Jewishness which was both religious and secular. In the 1960s and 1970s the leaders of the old Alliance Israelite Universelle tended to be practising Jews with militant attitudes to Jewish causes at home and abroad. A much higher percentage of Jews observed the Law and learned Hebrew. The continuing existence of a residual anti-Semitic movement in France though weaker than in the 1930s, tended to reinforce Jewish militancy. When it found parliamentary form, as with the Poujadists in the 1950s or the National Front in the 1980s, Jewish organizations reacted vigorously and asserted their Jewish convictions. The bomb attack on the Liberal synagogue on the Rue Copernic on 3 October 1980, one of several at that time, served to stimulate Le Renouveau Juif as it was called. French Jewry, even as enlarged by immigration from Africa, remained strikingly resistant to Zionism as such: French Jews would not actually go to Israel to live in any numbers. But they identified themselves with the survival of Israel in 1956, 1967, 1973 and again in the early 1980s. They reacted strongly against French government policies which were inimical to Jewish and Israeli interests as they saw them. They constituted, for the first time, a Jewish lobby in France, and in the 1981 elections the Jewish vote was an important element in replacing the Gaullist rightwing regime which had governed France for twenty-three years. A new and far more vigorous and visible Jewish establishment was emerging in France, conscious of its numerical strength and youth, and likely to play in the 1990s a more significant role in forming opinion throughout the diaspora.

A strong French voice in the diaspora could be welcome, particularly since the German voice was virtually silenced as a result of the Hitler age. Necessarily in recent decades, and particularly with the decline of Yiddish, the voice of the diaspora has been English. Indeed, it is some measure of the importance of the return of the Jews to England in 1646 that more than half of the world’s Jews now speak English, 850,000 in the countries of the British Commonwealth (plus South Africa) and nearly six million in the United States. The real British moment in the history of the Jews came and went with the birth of modern Zionism, the Balfour Declaration and the mandate. BRITISH JEWRY became and remained the most stable and contented and the least threatened of the major Jewries. It took in 90,000 refugees in the 1930s, to its great enrichment, and expanded from about 300,000 just before the First World War to well over 400,000 at the end of the Second. But, like Italian Jewry, it developed demographic weaknesses which became progressively more marked in the 1960s and 1970s. In the years 1961-5, for instance, the English synagogue marriage rate was an average of 4.0 per thousand compared to a national average of 7.5. The total number of Jews slipped from 410,000 in 1967 to below 400,000 in the 1970s and probably to below 350,000 in the second half of the 1980s. There was no lack of energy in modern British Jewry. Jewish enterprise was active in finance, as always, and it was of critical importance in entertainment, property, clothing, footware and the retail trade. It created national institutions like Granada TV. The Sieff dynasty turned the successful firm of Marks & Spencer into the most enduring (and popular) triumph of post-war British business, and Lord Weinstock transformed General Electric into the largest of all British companies. The Jews were vigorous in the publishing of books and newspapers. They produced the best of all diaspora journals, the Jewish Chronicle. In growing numbers they adorned only occasionally) the benches of the House of Lords. There with time, in the mid-1980s, when no fewer than five Jews sat in the Brilish cabinet. But this impressive energy did not take philoprogenic forms. Nor was it collectively exerted to constitute a leading influence within the diaspora or on the Zionist state. In this respect British Jews behaved, and perhaps was obliged to behave, like Britain herself: it handed over the torch to America.

The expansion and consolidation of UNITED STATES JEWRY in the  nineteenth and twentieth centuries was as important in Jewish history as the creation of Israel itself; in some ways more important. For, if fulfilment of Zionism gave the harassed diaspora an ever-open refuge with sovereign rights to determine and defend its destiny, the growth of US Jewry was an accession of power of an altogether different order, which gave Jews an important, legitimate and permanent place in shaping the policies of the greatest state on earth. This was not fragile Hofjuden influence but the consequences of democratic persuasion and demographic facts. At the end of the 1970s the Jewish population of the United States was 5,780,960. This was only 2.7% cent of total US population but it was disproportionately concentrated in urban areas, particularly big cities, which notoriously exert more cultural, social, economic and indeed political influence than small towns, villages and rural districts. Towards the end of the twentieth century the Jews were still big-city dwellers. There were 394,000 in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, over 300,000 in Paris, 285,000 in Moscow, 280,000 in Greater London, 272,000 in Jerusalem, 210,000 in Kiev, 165,000 in Leningrad, 115,000 in Montreal and 115,000 in Toronto. But the most impressive urban concentration was in the United States Metropolitan New York, with 1,998,000 Jews, was by far the largest Jewish city on earth. The second largest was Los Angeles with 455,000. Then followed Philadelphia (295,000), Chicago (253,000) Miami (225,000), Boston (17000) and Washington DC (160,000) Altogether there were sixty-nine American cities with a Jewish population of over 10,000. There was also a demographic concentration in  key states. In New York State 2,143,485 Jews constituted 12 per cent of the population. They formed 6 per cent in New Jersey 4.6 per cent in Florida, 4.5 per cent in Maryland, 4.4 per cent in Massachusetts, 3.6 per cent in Pennsylvania, 3.1 per cent in California and 2.4 per cent in Illinois. Of all the great American ethnic votes, the Jewish vote was the best organized, the most responsive to guidance by its leaders and the most likely to exert itself effectively.

However, it was possible to exaggerate the direct political impact of Jewish voters however well schooled. Since 1932 the Jews had voted overwhelmingly Democratic, sometimes by as high a proportion as 85-90 per cent. There was no clear evidence that Jewish influence on Democratic presidents or policy was proportionately decisive. In fact during the 1960s and 1970s the continuing fidelity of the Jewish voter to the Democratic Party appeared to be based increasingly on emotional historic grounds rather than on a community of interests. In the 1980s most Jews, somewhat to the surprise of psephologists, still voted Democrat, though the majority fell to around 60 percent. In the 1984 election they were the only religious group (apart from atheists) to give the Democratic candidate majority support, and the only ethnic group (apart from blacks). The Jews voted as they did not for communal economic or foreign policy reasons but from a residual sympathy for the poor and the underdog.80 By the last quarter of the twentieth century, the notion of the 'Jewish lobby’ in American politics had  become to some extent a myth.

What had happened, in the relationship of Jewish citizens to America as a whole, was something quite different and much more important: the transformation of the Jewish minority into a core element of American society. Throughout the twentieth century American Jews continued to take the fullest advantage of the opportunities America opened to them, to attend universities, to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, professional men and women of all kinds, politicians and public servants, as well as to thrive in finance and business, as they always had. They were particularly strong in the private enterprise sector, in press, publishing, broadcasting and entertainment, and in intellectual life generally. There were certain fields, such as the writing of fiction, where they were dominant. But they were numerous and successful everywhere. Slowly, then, during the second half of the century, this aristocracy of success became as ubiquitous and pervasive in its cultural influence as the earlier elite, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Jews ceased to be a lobby in American society. They became part of the natural organism itself, a limb, and a powerful one. They began to operate not from without the American body inwards, but from within it outwards. With their historic traditions of democracy, tolerance and liberalism, they assumed to some extent the same role in America as the Whigs had once played in England: an elite seeking moral justification for its privileges by rendering enlightened service to those less fortunate. In short, they were no longer a minority seeking rights but part of the majority conferring them; their political activity switched imperceptibly from influencing leadership to exercising it.

Hence it became hard to distinguish specifically Jewish element in American culture. They had become an integral and harmonious part of it. It was still harder to identify American policies which were in response to supposed Jewish interests. Such interests tended to become increasingly coterminous with America’s as a whole. This principle operated forcibly in the case of Israel. It was no longer needful to argue America’s leaders into guaranteeing Israel’s right to survive. That was taken for granted. Israel was a lonely outpost of liberal democracy upholding the rule of law and civilized standards of behaviour in an area where such values were generally disregarded. It was natural and inevitable that Israel should receive America’s support and the only argument was about how that support could be most judiciously provided. By the 1980s the realities of the world were such that Israel would have remained America’s most reliable ally in the Middle East and America her most trustworthy friend, even if the American Jewish community had not existed.

Yet that community did exist and it had achieved a unique status in the diaspora not merely by its size but by its character. It was a totally assimilated community which still retained its Jewish consciousness Its members thought of themselves as wholly American but as Jewish too. Such a phenomenon had never existed before in Jewish history, It was made possible by the peculiar circumstances of America’s growth and composition. The Jews, the eternal ‘strangers and sojourners’, at last found permanent rest in a country where all came as strangers Because all were strangers all had comparable right of residence until the point was reached when all, with equal justice, could call it home Then too, America was the first place in which the Jews had settled where they found their religion, and their religious observance, an advantage, because all religions which inculcated civic virtue were1 honoured. Not only that: America also, and above all, honoured the umbrella religion of its own, what might be called the Law of Democracy, a secular Torah which Jews were outstandingly well equipped to observe. For all these reasons it became perhaps misleading to see the American Jewish community as part of  the diaspora at all. Jews in America felt themselves more American than Jews in Israel felt themselves Israeli. It was necessary to coin a new word to define their condition, for American Jews came to form, along with the Jews of Israel and the Jews of the diaspora proper, the third leg of a new Jewish tripod, on which the safety and future of the whole people equally depended. There was the diaspora Jew, there was the ingathered Jew and, in America, there was the possessing Jew.   (This article was written in 1988.    The question becomes ‘Why?’.  One answer is here How American Jews Became Israeli Settlers   Politics, Michael Schulson, May 30, 2017)

American Jewry formed the mirror-image of RUSSIAN Jewry. In America a Jew helped to own his country; in Russia he was owned by it.  The Soviet Jew was possessed, a property of the state, as he had been in the Middle Ages. One of the lessons we learn from studying Jewish history is that anti-Semitism corrupts the people and the societies possessed by it. It corrupted a Dominican friar as effectively as it corrupted a greedy king. It turned the Nazi state into a heaving mass of corruption. But nowhere were its corrosive effects more apparent than in Russia. The ubiquitous petty corruption engendered by the Tsarist laws against the Jews has already been noted. More important in the long run was its moral corruption of state authority. For in harassing the Jews, the Tsarist Russian state became habituated to a close, oppressive and highly bureaucratic system of control. It controlled internal movements and residence of the Jews, their right to go to school or university and what they studied there, to enter professions or institutes, to sell their labour, to start businesses or form companies, in worship, to belong to organizations and to engage in an endless list of other activities. This system exercised monstrous, all-pervading control of the lives of an unpopular and underprivileged minority and a ruthless invasion of their homes and families. As such, it became a bureaucratic model, and when the Tsars were replaced first by Lenin, and then by Stalin, the control of the Jews was extended to the control of the entire population, and the model became the whole. In this system, in which all were harried and all underprivileged, the Jews were further depressed to form a sump or sub-class in which the degree of state control was deliberately intense.

Stalin’s use of anti-Semitism in the leadership struggles of the 1920s and the purges of the 1930s was characteristic of him. His wartime creation of

the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and publication of the Yiddish magazine Aynikayt (‘Unity’) were merely tactical moves, Stalin's daughter Svetlana has described his personal connections with Jews. He had some Jews in his household, including the foreign ministry official Solomon Lozowsky. When Svetlana, then seventeen, fell in love with a Jewish scriptwriter, Stalin had him deported. Later she succeeded in marrying a Jew, Gregory Morozov. Her father accused him of evading military service: ‘People are getting shot and look at him - he’s sitting it out at home.’ Stalin’s oldest son Yakov also married a Jewish wife and, when he was taken prisoner, Stalin claimed she had betrayed him. ‘He never liked Jews,’ Svetlana wrote, ‘though in those days he wasn’t yet as blatant about expressing his hatred for them as he was after the war.’81

There was really no pause in Soviet anti-Semitism, even during the war. It was very marked in the Red Army. ‘Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union’, a former army captain stated, ‘is rampant to an extent that is impossible for anyone never having lived in that accursed country to imagine.’82 Towards the end of the war, some government departments notably the Foreign Ministry, were largely cleared of Jews and no more Jews were accepted as trainees. The post-war attack, which the murder of Mikhoels in January 1948 was a foretaste, began the same year in September. It was signalled by an Ilya Ehrenburg article in Pravda — Stalin often made Non-Jewish Jews the agents of his anti-Semitism, rather as the SS used the Sonderskommandos denouncing Israel as a bourgeois tool of American capitalism.  The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee was disbanded, Aynikayt closed and the Yiddish schools shut down. Then began a systematic attack on Jews, especially writers, painters, musicians and intellectuals of all kinds, using terms of abuse (‘rootless cosmopolitanism’) identical with Nazi demonology. Thousands of Jewish intellectuals, including the Yiddish writers Perez Markish, Itzik Fefer and David Bergelson, were murdered, as was any Jew who happened to catch Stalin’s eye, such as Lozowsky. The campaign was extended to Czechoslovakia, where on 20 November 1952 Rudolf Slansky, the Czech party general secretary and thirteen other leading Communist bosses, eleven of them Jews were accused of a Troskyite—Titoist—Zionist conspiracy, convicted and executed. Supplying arms to Israel in 1948 (actually on Stalin's own orders) formed an important element in the ‘proof’.83 The climax came early in 1953 when nine doctors, six of them Jews, were accused of seeking to poison Stalin in conjunction with British, US and Zionist agents. This show-trial was to have been a prelude to the mass deportation of Jews to Siberia, as part of a Stalinist ‘Final Solution’,

Stalin died before the doctors came to trial and the proceedings were quashed by his successors. The plan for a mass deportation came to  nothing. But it was significant that anti-Semitism was not one of the aspects of Stalin’s behaviour Nikita Khrushchev denounced in his famous Secret Session speech. As first secretary in the Ukraine he shared the endemic anti-Semitism there and, immediately after the war, had stopped returning Jewish refugees from claiming their old homes. ‘It is not in our interests’, he stated, ‘that the Ukrainians should associate the return of Soviet power with the return of the Jews. Indeed there were several post-war Ukrainian pogroms under Khrushchev’s rule. Once in power, he switched the thrust of anti- Jewish propaganda from spying to ‘economic criminality’, large numbers of Jews, their names prominently displayed, being convicted and sentenced to death in nine show-trials. He closed down many synagogues, their total falling during his rule from 450 to sixty. He permitted the publication, by the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, of the notorious anti-Semitic tract, Judaism Without Embellishment, by the Communist Rosenberg, Trofim Kychko.  The Khrushchev era witnessed an outbreak of blood libels, anti-Semitic riots and synagogue burning.

There was a brief respite for Soviet Jewry after Khrushchev’s fall in 1964.  But, following the Six Day War in 1967, the campaign was openly resumed and intensified. In some respects Soviet anti-Semitism was very traditional. The Soviet rulers, like early medieval societies, like the Spaniards until the late fourteenth century, employed Jews in the economy until sufficient non-Jews had acquired the skills to replace them. The top Jewish Bolsheviks were nearly all murdered in the 1920s and 1930s. Thereafter Jews remained over-represented in the bureaucratic elites but never at the top political level: like the court Jews, they were allowed to help but never to rule. Even in the 1970s a few occasionally got as far as the Party Congress — there were four in 1971 and five in 1976 - and it was not unknown for a Jew to be on the Central Committee. But such men had to earn their jobs by violent anti- Zionism. In 1966 Jews accounted for 7.8 per cent of academics, 4.7 per cent of doctors, 8.5 per cent of writers and journalists, 10.4 per cent of judges and lawyers and 7.7 per cent of actors, musicians and artists. But in every case the percentage was being pushed down by party and bureaucratic action. Thus Jews provided 18 per cent of Soviet scientific workers in 1947, only 7 per cent by 1970. As under the Tsars, the squeeze was applied particularly at the university level. The number of Jewish students declined in absolute terms, from 111,900 in 1968 - 9 to 66,900 in 1975 - 6, and still more heavily relative to the population as a whole. In 1977 - 8 not a single Jew was admitted to Moscow University.86

Soviet anti-Jewish policy, like Tsarist - and even Nazi policy in the 1930s - showed some confusions and contradictions. There were conflicting desires to use and exploit the Jews, to keep them prisoners, and also to expel them, the common factor in both cases being an anxiety to humiliate. Thus in 1971 Brezhnev decided to open the gates, and during the next decade 250,000 Jews were allowed to escape. But with every increase in emigration there was a sharp rise in trials of Jews, and the actual exit visa procedure itself was made as complex, difficult and shameful as possible. The need for a character-reference from the applicant’s place of work often led to a sort of show-trial there, in which the Jew was publicly discussed, condemned and then dismissed. So he was often jobless, penniless and liable to be gaoled for 'parasitism’ long before the visa was granted.87

The exit procedures became more onerous in the 1980s, recalling the labyrinthine complexities of Tsarist legislation. Fewer visas were granted and it became common for a family to wait five or even by years for permission to leave. The procedure could be summarized as follows. The applicant had first to get a visov, a legally attested invitation from a near-relative living in Israel, with an Israeli government guarantee to issue an entry visa. The visov entitled him to go to the Emigration Office and be issued with two questionnaires for each adult member of the family. The applicant filled these in, then added the following: an autobiography, six photographs, copies of university versity or other diplomas, a birth certificate for each member of its family, a marriage certificate if married, and, where parents, wife or husband were dead, the appropriate death certificates; a certificate showing possession of a legal residence; an officially certificated letter from any member of the family being left behind; a certificate from their place of work or, if not working, from the House Management Office of their place of residence; and a fee of 40 roubles (about $60 When all these had been handed in, the decision whether or not to grant a visa took several months. If a visa were granted (but not yet issued), the applicant had then to resign from work (if not already dismissed); get an official estimate of the cost of repairing his flat; pay the estimate; pay 500 roubles a head ($750) as a penalty for giving up Soviet citizenship; surrender his passport, Army Registration Card, employment record book and his flat-clearance certificate; and pay a further 200 roubles ($300) for the visa itself. Applicants refused a visa had the right to apply again at six-month intervals.88

The Soviet campaign against the Jews, after 1967 a permanent feature of the system, was itself conducted under the code-name of anti-Zionism, which became a cover for every variety of antisemitism Soviet anti-Zionism, a product of internal divisions within the east European Jewish left, was in turn grafted on to Leninist anti- imperialism. At this point we need to retrace our steps a little, in order to show that the Leninist theory of imperialism, like Marx’s theory of capitalism, had its roots in anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

The theory arose from the development of SOUTH AFRICA from the 1860s onwards, the outstanding example of the application of large scale capital to transform a primitive into a modern economy. South Africa had been a rural backwater until the discovery of the diamond fields of Kimberley in the 1860s, followed by the goldfields of the Rand twenty years later, opened up its interior and mineral wealth. What made South Africa different was the use of a new institution, the mining finance house, to concentrate claims and to raise and deploy enormous capital sums in high-technology deep mining. The institution itself was invented by an Englishman, Cecil Rhodes. But Jews had always been involved in precious stones (especially diamonds) and bullion, and they played a notable part both in the South African deep level mines and in the financial system which raised the capital to sink them.89 Such men as Alfred Beit, Barney Barnato, Louis Cohen, Lionel Phillips, Julius Wehrner, Solly Joel, Adolf Goertz, George Albu and Abe Bailey turned South Africa into the world’s largest and richest mining economy. A second generation of mining financiers, led by Ernest Oppenheimer, consolidated and expanded the achievement.90 The rapid fortunes made (and sometimes lost) on the Rand by Jews aroused great jealousy and resentment. Among their critics was the left-wing polemicist J. A. Hobson, who went out to South Africa to cover the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 for the Manchester Guardian.. Hobson regarded the Jew as ‘almost devoid of social morality possessing a ‘superior calculating intellect, which is a national heritage’ allowing him ‘to take advantage of every weakness, folly and vice of the society in which he lives’.91 In South Africa he was shocked and angered by what he saw as the ubiquitous activity of Jews. The official figures, he wrote, stated there were only 7,000 Jews in Johannesburg but ‘The shop fronts and business houses, the market place, the saloons, the “stoops” of the smart suburban houses are sufficient to convince one of the large presence of the chosen people.’ He was particularly disgusted to find that the stock exchange was closed on the Day of Atonement. In 1900 he published a book, The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Effects, which blamed the war on a small group of international financiers, chiefly German in origin and Jewish by race’. British troops were fighting and dying ‘in order to place a small international oligarchy of mine-owners and speculators in power in Pretoria’. ‘Not Hamburg,’ he wrote in disgust, ‘not Vienna, not Frankfurt but Johannesburg is the new Jerusalem.’92

Hobson’s explanation of the origin of the war was false. The lighting, as was foreseeable, was disastrous for the mine-owners. As lor the Jews, the whole of modern history proved them strongly pacific by inclination and interest, especially in their capacity as financiers. But Hobson, like other conspiracy theorists, was not interested in facts hut in the beauty of his concept. Two years later he expanded his theory into a famous book, Imperialism: A Study, which revealed international finance capital as the chief force behind colonies and wars. His chapter, ‘Economic Parasites of Imperialism’, the heart of his theory, contained this key passage:

'’Those great businesses — banking, brokering, bill discounting, loan floating, company promoting — form the central ganglion of international capitalism. United by the strongest bonds of organization, always in cclose and quickest touch with one another, situated in the very heart of the business capital of every state, controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, chiefly by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries financial experience, they are in a unique position to control the policy nations. No great quick direction of capital is possible save by their consent and through their agency. Does anyone seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European state, or a great state loan subscribed if the house of Rothschild and its connections set their face against it?'