Bostom tries to dispel what he calls 'whitewashed apologetics concocted to promote dubious geo-political strategies.' Ottoman Muslim benevolence toward Jews is a myth: the sultans of the Ottoman empire forcibly exiled Jews, among others, in surgun, forced population transfers. At the same time they were pragmatic enough to waive some of the 'dhimmi' handicaps and strictures on their Jewish and Christian populations in return for hefty bribes.
Bostom claims that Jews who found refuge in the Ottoman empire from the Spanish Inquisition numbered no more than 50,000.
He believes that for all modern Turkey's secular nature Kemal Ataturk's regime manifested its own discriminatory attitudes towards non-Muslims, including outbursts of antisemitic persecution - most notably the Thracian pogroms of July 1934. Since Ataturk's death in 1950, increasing Turkish Islamic antisemitism 'does not bode well for the dhimmified vestigial' Jewish community.
Those who romanticise the tolerant Ottoman empire often cite examples of court Jews who found favour with the regime and prospered. One such example was Hayim Farhi, adviser to the sultan in the early 19th century. Bostom quotes the writings of Moshe Maoz, who claims that Farhi was unusual:
"Moshe Maoz describes the fate of the Jew Hayim Farhi, who became treasury manager and administrative advisor to Ahmad Pasha al Jezzar, vali (governor) of the Pashalik (territory) of
"As Maoz, explains, however, Farhi’s prominent position in
"That the position of Hayim Farhi was very precarious was even more evident under Sulyaman’s successor, ‘Abdallah Pasha (1819-1831). At the beginning of his rule, Farhi’s influence was at its peak and the Pasha was allegedly “unable to do anything without Hayim’s consent.” But a short time later, in 1820, Farhi was executed and his property confiscated upon ‘Abdallah’s orders.
"It is evident that such a case was by no means uncommon regards Jews or Christians during the period of the Pashas’ rule. J.L. Burkhardt, the perceptive Swiss traveler, noted in 1811: “…there is scarcely an instance in the modern history of
"The case of the notable Hayim Farhi (and his family) illustrates the tenuous status of the Jewish community in Syro-Palestine. The unstable position of the Farhis in Acre and
" In certain circumstance—under tolerant rulers such as Sulayman Pasha, and in certain places—such as Aleppo, Jews enjoyed a certain degree of personal safety and religious freedom, and a few of them also acquired economic prosperity as well as social status. These circumstances, however, were rare or limited. Sulayman al-Adil (“The Wise”) was unique; more typical rulers were Ahmad al-Jezzar (the Butcher) and ‘Abdallah Pasha. They conducted a tyrannical and oppressive regime which affected large sections of the local population, particularly the Jews and Christians. (...)
"A number of Jewish families, mostly foreign proteges who belonged to those communities, were indeed relatively secure and prosperous. But many other local Jews, ordinary Ottoman subjects, were occasionally subject to violence and oppression from various quarters. If that was the case in tolerant
"One of the major sources of their oppression was the local governors, public officials, soldiers and policemen, who maltreated Jews and extorted money from them in various ways. It is true that Muslim townsmen were occasionally oppressed and squeezed by tyrannical rulers and greedy soldiers. But many Muslims were nevertheless able to protect themselves against their oppressors with the help of the influential religious notables, or by placing themselves under the protection of local powerful leaders and military groups. It was also not very infrequent that Muslim masses would revolt against oppressive rulers and expel them from the town, or even kill them. The Jewish population obviously did not dare and was unable to oppose its oppressors; and in places where they managed to acquire protection of influential local notables they had to pay high sums for that protection."
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