Manfred and Anne Lehmann Foundation

Africans Were Enslaved by Arabs—And Freed by Jews

An important development has taken place in response to the reckless charges by black demagogues. These demagogues are repeating again and again the lie slavery was carried on and financed by Jews. In reaction to this fiction, black Christian leaders from the Sudan, Mauritania and other Moslem dominated countries have publicized the slave trade still carried on today by Moslem Arabs. Black newspapers have given these revelations much space, while followers of demagogues are stonewalling these reports.

Here are two instances which totally refute the anti-Jewish charges. Slavery was abolished, not supported, by Jews! In 1807, the British Parliament passed an Emancipation Bill to abolish slavery in the British Empire. But slave owners paid no attention—freeing slaves would cause them economic losses. But then, lo and behold, two prominent Jews came to the slaves' rescue. Nathan Rothschild and his brother-in-law Moses Montifiore agreed in 1835 to extend a loan for the huge amount of Pounds Sterling 15,000,000 to be used to compensate slave owners for their losses in freeing their slaves. It was this loan which made the abolition of slavery in the British Empire possible. Emancipation of American slaves by Abraham Lincoln followed a few decades later.

In the Diaries of Montifiore I found some moving passages as to his personal feelings when he signed the loan agreement. It happened to take place on the eve of Tisha b'Av, the day when the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple is commemorated. Immediately after finishing the meeting for the loan to abolish slavery, Montifiore proceeded to his synagogue to start the fast. An observer had this to say: "Few financiers perhaps would feel inclined, after all the excitement incidental to the successful contracting of a loan for Pounds Sterling 15,000,000 to comply with so exacting a religious observance as a fast of 24 hours duration. Nevertheless, Montifiore would not on this occasion, any more than on any other, allow worldly interest to prevail over religious duties. The loan for the abolition of slavery reminded him of the words of the Prophet Isaiah, and attuned his mind to reflection on the former glory of Zion and its present state of sorrow." In other words, freeing of slaves was the fulfillment of a Jewish concept of freedom for all men! Which other nation brought such noble thoughts to the problem of slavery?

Another anti-Semitic charge concerns Aaron Lopez, the great patriot of the American Revolution, whom the demagogues single out as "proof" of Jewish slave traders. True, Lopez did use some of his ships to transport slaves. But who was Aaron Lopez? He was a Christian who came direct from Portugal to this country in the mid-1700s. He had been a merchant in his native country. Only after he was here did he convert to Judaism. As all former Christians of the Iberian Peninsula, he practiced what his Christian ancestors had practiced for centuries. These were not Jewish practices. In fact, 90% of all European Jews languished in ghettos during the slave trade period and did not have access to any trade, let alone slave trade.

Even if demagogues are not interested in facts, we should certainly educate ourselves to the historical truth, especially our young people who are exposed to hate propaganda over the airwaves and on college campuses.

 

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