The Tragic End of an 18th-Century Court Jew

Sept. 29 2017

Produced at the behest of Joseph Goebbels, the 1940 film Jud Süss expressed Nazi anti-Semitism at its most vulgar. It was a distorted version of the true story of Joseph Süss Oppenheimer, who served as a “court Jew” to Duke Carl Alexander of Württemberg and was arrested immediately after the duke’s death and then executed. Yair Mintzker’s recent The Many Deaths of Jew Süss explores the conflicting accounts of Oppenheimer’s trial and last days. In his review, Jonathan Karp explains the often misunderstood role of the court Jew:

[The] phenomenon of the court Jew . . . had its roots in the 16th century and flowered in the period following the Thirty Years War. The proliferation of large and small states [in what is now Germany] after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, along with the war’s decimation of population and property, created an urgent need on the part of Central Europe’s new rulers for capital and credit. Jews, who had been excluded from most of Central Europe, . . . were now invited in small numbers to come back as creditors, financiers, ministers, crown merchants, and military suppliers.

They weren’t popular, which isn’t surprising given that they were now stigmatized both as aliens and as willing tools of new absolutist states which were seeking to bypass the fiscal authority of estates, guilds, and other traditional institutions. This made the court Jew and his retinue entirely dependent on the ruler’s protection—and uncertain continued favor. . . .

But Joseph Süss . . . stood out even in comparison [with his] wealthier and more powerful predecessors. . . . For one thing, during his rise [he] all but failed to pay the kind of lip service to traditional Jewish observance that the Jewish community expected of court Jews. Worse still, his aristocratic pretensions, numerous reported affairs, and overt political interventions threatened the fragile security of Württemberg’s fledgling Jewish population. In spite of these things, Oppenheimer’s refusal to renounce Judaism on the eve of his execution turned him into a genuine if unlikely martyr for some contemporary Jews.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, German Jewry, History & Ideas, Nazism

The Riots on the Gaza Border are Carefully Coordinated Attacks on Israel, and Should Be Treated as Such

Jan. 16 2019

On Friday, the weekly riots at the Gaza security fence resumed in full force: 13,000 people participated, and a Palestinian woman was apparently killed by Israeli gunfire. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) had established a commission of inquiry in May, not long after these riots began, “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 20, 2018.” In a report to the commission, Richard Kemp, a retired senior British officer, concludes, after investigating the situation at the Gaza border, that there is no evidence whatsoever of Israeli wrongdoing, and that the commission is operating under faulty assumptions:

The terms of [the commission’s] mandate are self-evidently biased against the state of Israel and the IDF. The context cited—“the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests”—make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which it is not. . . .

[T]he so-called “civilian protests” in reality were, and continue to be, a deliberate military operation, orchestrated and controlled by Hamas, [a] terrorist group that has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for many years. Their intention was and remains to kill and wound IDF soldiers, to break through the border fence, to murder and maim innocent civilians, to destroy property, and to compel the IDF to take defensive action resulting in the death of Gaza civilians for exploitation in the international arena. [Israel’s] “military assaults” were not what was implied by this prejudicial mandate. They were in fact lawful, proportionate, and restrained defensive actions. . . .

Suggestions that these demonstrations are [protests] against Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip are demonstrably false and easily refuted by cursory viewing of Hamas and other public statements made at the time of the events. . . . Further, it is clear that Hamas intended this violence to continue its long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation, and criminalization of the state of Israel and its officials. . . .

[T]he starkest indication that these events were entirely under Hamas control is the simple fact that, when it suited Hamas’s political interests, the [demonstrations] occurred and were of a violent nature, and when such actions did not serve Hamas’s interests, the border was quiet. As the most recent example of this, in November 2018, Qatar began to make large cash payments to Hamas in Gaza. The most recent payment of $15 million was handed over in December 2018. These payments are reportedly part of an agreement with Hamas to diminish violence along the Gaza border. [After] the first payment, the border violence [was] reduced [and the] demonstrations [became] far more restrained.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Colonel Richard Kemp

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, UNHRC