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Saturday, December 18, 2010

"The Present State of the Jews": Muslim anti-semitism in 1676

I just found this gem in Google Books: "The Present State of the Jews," by Lancelot Addison, written in 1676:

He starts off with a description of how the Jews live in the Barbary States:

When I looked into the great number of Jews in Barbary, and saw how they were lorded over by the imperious and haughty Moor, I could not but resent their Condition, and wish their Deliverance from that direful imprecation, His Blood be upon us and our Children. One effect whereof may be seen in their present Condition under the Moresco Government, which is no other than a better sort of Slavery. For even in those places where they have permission to inhabit, they are not only Tributary, but upon every small disgust, in danger of Ejectment. Insomuch that they cannot promise to themselves either any durable Settlement or Security. Indeed their calmest state is sufficiently stormy, and when they seem to enjoy the greatest peace, they are vilely Hector'd by the Moors, against whom they dare.not move a finger, or wag a tongue in their own defence and vindication , but with a Stoical Patience support all the Injuries and Contumelies to which they are dayly exposed. For in the midst of the greatest abuses, you shall never see a Jew with an angry countenance, or appearing concerned, which cannot be imputed to any Heroick Temper in this People, but rather to their customary suffering, being born and Educated in this kind of Slavery. By reason whereof, they were never acquainted wich the Sentiments of an ingenuous and manly Usage. It is very common with the Morisco-Boys to rally together, and by way of pastime and divertisement, to beat the Jewish Children: which later, though they should far exceed the former in numbers and age, yet dare not give them the least resistance or opposition.
Addison is hardly philosemitic, as he describes the Jews harshly for not accepting Christianity. He claims that their methods of defending their religion in disputations forced upon them by Christians is flawed and that the Rabbinic tradition has skewed their understanding of the Bible.

He then goes into detail on Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith, viewing it as not much more than an attempt to impugn Christianity. This is followed by a lengthy, and relatively comprehensive, look at Jewish customs and laws.

The author then concludes with practical advice on how to convert Jews to Christianity.