Among the many dark passages contained in Deuteronomy is the promise that “the Lord shall scatter (Jews) among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you.” Yet in Belonging, Schama makes a strong case that the scattering of Iberian Jews was in some ways a blessing for the Jewish people, as it allowed them to create a network of sanctuaries that could not all be destroyed at one blow: When Jews were oppressed in one place, they could escape to another. Such migrations have become a dominant theme in Jewish history.
No one could have predicted that, in 2017, it would not be Jews but Muslims who now roam desperately throughout the Mediterranean, westward across national borders, teeming in refugee camps and slums, escaping sectarian violence, poverty and bigotry. In a time when some demagogues are calling for new forms of Inquisition, Belonging helps put our moral duty to these migrants in perspective.No one could have predicted it? Tell that to, say, Bernard Lewis, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bat Ye'or and Samuel Huntington, among others.
And, you know me, I could not let that final paragraph, with its wealth of ahistorical claims, go unanswered. Hence this letter:
This is Netanyahu pere's book, and it's quite the doorstopper (I know because I read it when I returned from a trip to Spain last year).After detailing the Jewish people's many centuries of wandering and woe, Jonathan Kay draws entirely the wrong conclusion--that what's happening to Muslims in our time is similar to that benighted history.That is simply not so.The source of the Jews' suffering was the fact that they no longer had a sovereign land of their own, and were always an often reviled minority in other lands who were a convenient scapegoat for the majority's troubles, be they religious, financial or due to some unforeseen calamity, like the plague.The source of the Muslims' suffering is, well, the Muslims themselves, who lay claim to a total of 57 nations in the world; conveniently for them, but not, of course, for Israel, they comprise the UN's largest voting bloc.As for Kay's contention that these suffering hordes find themselves at the mercy of a modern day "Inquisition", that idea is as false as it is fatuous. Instead of Simon Schama's new book, I would draw Kay's attention to the work of the historian who's the foremost expert on the topic of the Spanish Inquisition and its impact on the Jewish people. His name is Benzion Netanyahu and, ironically enough, he is the father of Israel's current president.