Jewish Collaboration with Muslims During the Invasion of Spain

Islam Versus Europe
October 19, 2013

Almost everyone in the Counterjihad movement prefers to avert their eyes from these facts. I refuse to. Counterjihadists complain about the unwillingness of the mainstream media to acknowledge facts that challenge their preconceptions. Yet they themselves exhibit exactly the same tendencies when confronted with evidence that takes them out of their comfort zone.

It’s notable that many of the American websites that used to link to me often have stopped doing so since I first raised this topic for discussion. For some in the Counterjihad movement, there are clearly higher priorities than resisting Islam. Even intimidated Europeans prefer to avert their eyes. When a people is unwilling to assert and defend its own interests, it is already conquered. The actual occupation of their land by aliens, which will occur later, is simply the physical realisation of the condition that already exists in their minds.

Jews were now the only non-Catholic population of any significance after the regime’s formal renunciation of Arianism. The Jews had lived in Hispania before recorded history, but their numbers had made a quantum leap after the brutal reduction of Judea by the Roman legions in 70 CE. Tens of thousands of Jews were dispersed to Hispania after the razing of the Temple of Solomon, decimation of the population, and obliteration of the name Judea from the imperial map. Not only were the Jews not amenable to voluntary conversion, their religion exerted more than a negligible appeal among the kingdom’s common folk. Their existence outside what the Church fathers called the societas fidelium was both an affront to the consolidating exigencies of the monarchy and a troubling encouragement to recalcitrant Arian nobles, of whom there remained a considerable number after the Third Toledo Council. Since slaves provided a major source of wealth to the kingdom, the ownership of so many of them by Jewish landholders intensified official anti-Semitism. Jewish wealth in land and slaves meant relative independence, moreover: self-sufficiency vis-à-vis the Visigothic state and autonomy in religious matters. With the Catholic conversion of King Reccared, anti-Semitism became the official ideology of the regime, with the avaricious corollary of one monarch after another coveting the slaves and landed property of the Jewish communities in and around Toledo, Tarragona, Merida, and those long established in Baetica and Catalunya.

To King Sisibut, the existence of a large, prosperous Jewish population was utterly incompatible with the unitary Christian kingdom he was devoted to building. To that exalted purpose, he needed look only to Constantinople to find a well-tried formula for state-enforced religious conformity. How much influence Heraclius’s treaty negotiators may have exerted on Visigothic anti-Semitism is impossible now to know beyond circumstantial inference. That there was much similarity between the policies at Constantinople and Toledo is clear. St. Isidore of Seville condoned Sisibut’s conversion objectives on the canonical authority of Saints Paul and Augustine, though he was somewhat squeamish about the means, regretting that Sisibut “forced [the Jews] by power when he should have roused them by the doctrine of faith.” Tens of thousands of Jews converted to Catholicism under Sisibut’s terrible sanctions.

The bishops of the Catholic Church of Hispania both promoted and acceded to restrictions upon the liberties of the Jews that ranged from inconvenient to outrageous. The Sixth Toledo Council in 638 CE promulgated the Lex Visigothorum, stating that Jews, “whether baptized or not baptized,” were barred from giving testimony in court. Other councils followed, forbidding the celebration of Passover, observance of dietary laws, and the performance of marriage ceremonies. In addition to being disqualified from public service and the learned professions, they were even forbidden the ownership of Christian slaves or the hire of Christian servants. Still, enforcement of these and other such proscriptions was likely to have been inconsistently applied or widely ignored and evaded. Among the general population, unfriendly feelings toward Jews seem to have been casual rather than intense. The anti-Semitic resolve of the monarchy came to a feverish pitch, however, in the final two decades of Visigothic rule. A growing deference on the part of Hispanic prelates to the rites and prejudices of Greek orthodoxy contributed to the surge in extremism. Time frames for conversion or expulsion were announced.
King Egica’s (r. 687–702) anti-Semitic virulence was remarkable even for a Visigoth. At the Sixteenth Toledo Council in November 695, his demands that the high clergy assent to the imposition of draconian measures presented Jews with intolerable dilemmas: emigration; forced conversion; impoverishment; and worse. Some emigrated, more converted (temporarily), while some of their leaders reached out to their coreligionists in North Africa and Mesopotamia. In ways that now elude precision, it seems obvious that Jews appealed to Arabs for relief from the Visigothic “final solution.” “We can hardly doubt that the Jews of Spain looked upon the Arabs as liberators,” the distinguished medievalist Richard Fletcher concluded. A furious Egica had reached the same conclusion and promptly instigated the Seventeenth Toledo Council, at which grave charges of treasonous plottings within and without the realm were drawn up against Jews. Evidence was presented of secret Jewish appeals for help in undermining the monarchy—those secret contacts with Jewish communities in Egypt and with the Muslims who were just then adding North Africa to the Dar al-Islam. It was recalled that Jews had sided with Muslims during the second rashidun caliph’s siege of Jerusalem. The council’s decrees were pitiless. Barring conversion, all adult Jews were to be sold as slaves and their children distributed among Christian families.

So Jews probably reached out to Muslims to bring about the Arab invasion in the first place. As the excerpts below make clear, they also actively and eagerly collaborated with Muslims during the invasion itself. There are many accounts of fortified Spanish cities being mysteriously captured without a fight, as if an enemy within had opened the gates, otherwise facilitated entry or undermined the possibility of resistance.

The capture of Cordoba:

Based on the count’s advice, Tariq detached some seven hundred cavalry under the command of the Greek mawla (convert) Mughith al-Rumi (“the Roman”) for a lightning run north to occupy Cordoba before the Visigoths could reorganize to the rear of the Berber line of advance. As Tariq and the bulk of the Muslim army made their way eastward along the old Roman road through Jaén toward Toledo, Mughith reached the banks of the Guadalquivir. They were greeted there by an unnerving panorama on the other side of the river. Engirdling Cordoba, capital of the old imperial province of Hispania Ulterior, were some of the most formidable fortifications built during the Roman occupation.
Had those walls been in good repair and manned by a garrison two or three times larger than the four or five hundred defenders, the Cordovans might well have kept their badly provisioned attackers at bay until the harsh Andalusian winter. When Mughith’s men finally forced their way into the city through an old, unrepaired breach in the walls, they found themselves welcomed by a large portion of the populace, the Jews in particular. The Visigoth governor, along with the notables and the garrison, had fled the city. Catching up with them on the Toledo road, Berber cavalry slaughtered them to a man, setting an example for the native population that Muslims had followed elsewhere: generosity toward those who surrendered; death to those who resisted. More severed heads and finely wrought weaponry were collected for the caliph’s bulging Damascus consignment.

Returning to Cordoba immediately after the slaughter, Mughith established a precedent of historic political and religious impact. He assembled all of the Jews in the city and left them, “together with willing Christians and a small detachment of Muslims,” in charge of Cordoba’s defenses. Mughith’s precedent established the conditions for the vaunted Muslim-Judeo-Christian interdependence that was to distinguish Islam in Iberia for several centuries. His collaborative precedent was also, to be sure, an astute response to the numbers on the ground—a Muslim force of infinitesimal size pragmatically manufacturing auxiliaries from the local population. King Egica’s insensate proscriptions casting all unconverted Jews into slavery and confiscating their property had driven these people to save themselves by reaching out to the conquering Arabs. After so many years of living under the Damoclean sword of property expropriation, forced conversion, and expulsion, Jews throughout Hispania welcomed the Muslim invaders as deliverers.

The capture of Toledo:

…Toledo should have been an invading army’s nightmare. Recognizing the outstanding strategic advantages of the location, the Romans had turned the granite mountain heights arcing above the encircling Tagus River into an aerial citadel that became the iconic signature of Castile. For similar reasons, Visigoth monarchs from Leovigild onward had made Toletum their capital in the middle of the sixth century. The city loomed above its natural setting like a stone wreath fixed to the tip of an obelisk, a phenomenon both unreal and solid. The steepness of the approaches and the thickness of its stone defenses ought to have made the capital practically unconquerable by a few thousand cavalry without siege engines. Instead of finding a heavily defended bastion locked against an enemy, however, Tariq’s Berbers rode into a city largely deserted except for its Jews. To safeguard the holiest symbol of their Catholic faith, the Toledo churchmen, escorted by a small cohort of armed nobles, had fled with the cathedral’s high altar for a fortified place the Muslims would call Wadi al-Hijara (“river of stones)—Guadalajara—some three days’ ride from the capital and but a few miles from the village of Madrid.

Tariq’s cavalry raced out of Toledo onto the long Roman road running northeast across the peninsula. The Muslims had stopped long enough to water their horses and broker an arrangement with the city’s leading Jews.

The capture of Seville:

The second wave of some twenty cavalry units, each under its own regimental raya (flag), thundered into Cadiz province. A rendezvous at Toledo with Tariq was the ultimate objective, but reduction of Sevilla, the principal city of Roman Hispania, was a paramount priority. The Muslim army appears to have encountered about three months of stiff resistance from remnants of the Visigoth army, although accounts of the intensity vary. Once the city finally capitulated, sometime during the winter of 712–13, the invaders followed Mughith al-Rumi’s precedent at Cordoba. Musa left the Jews to run Sevilla with the help of a small detachment of muqatila.

In contrast to the amirate’s often-demeaning treatment of its Berber population, a paradox was discernible in ‘Abd al-Rahman’s continuation of liberality to the Jews. Their strategic value in the consolidation of Muslim rule had been enormous. From the first moment of contact, the Jews of Sefarad (Spain) had collaborated with the Arab conquerors. In places where their numbers were significant, such as Cordoba, Merida, Ecija, Jaén, Toledo, and Cuenca, that collaboration had sometimes been crucial to Muslim success. Entire regions of the newly conquered realm were later secured by wholesale relocation of Jews to sparsely populated places along the Mediterranean coast (Malaga, Granada, Almeria, Alicante) and to urban centers whose Catholic character they diluted by their numbers (Murcia, Pamplona, Guadalajara, Salamanca, Zaragoza).

In close contact with other Jewish communities thriving in the Mesopotamian watershed, distributed across North Africa, and positioned along the Mediterranean littoral, Andalusian Jews possessed unique assets for their Muslim conquerors. Indeed, the quintessentially urban Jews contributed more than loyalty, wealth, and numbers to the amirate; they showed the Muslims how to run it—so competently, indeed, that as time passed, several would rise to the high office of vizir and, in at least one spectacular instance, hajib (chancellor) of an Andalusian principality. The Arabs—desert warriors to whom the minutiae of governing had initially been less than congenial—found Jews to be indispensable as scribes, clerks, physicians, and court officials. Berbers fought like tigers, but their administrative skills were almost nonexistent.

…The amir was served by a well-run cadre led by Umayyad relatives and staffed by Syrians, muwalladun, Jews, and Mozarabs who penetrated the farthest towns and cities in stealthy enforcement of Cordoba’s authority. White slaves (saqaliba) supplied by the network of Jewish merchants, made up the bulk of the professional army.4 The shurta, a highly disciplined black African police force, guaranteed the Falcon’s personal safety as well as the security of the denizens of one of the world’s greatest and often-volatile cities.

Source: God’s Crucible by David Levering Lewis

So the Jews in Spain were enslaving European Christians. This provoked the irritation of other European Christians, who then took measures against the Jews. This caused the Jews to reach out to their fellow Jews abroad and to the Arabs, urging them to invade Spain and bring this Christian oppression to an end. When they did so, the Jews eagerly collaborated with the Muslims, acting as administrators for the conquered cities and realm.

The parallels with our own time are striking, with Jewish intellectuals having paved the way for the modern Muslim conquest by pushing the benefits of immigration, diversity, tolerance, special minority protection, etc., denigrating nationalism and wielding the Nazi stick forcefully against anyone bold enough to dissent.

It’s interesting that different people could look at this same set of facts, however, and see them as confirming their own, completely distinct, points of view. A multicultist or a Jew could look at them and conclude that these are the misfortunes that deservedly befall the intolerant: Europeans did bad things to Jews therefore their lands were invaded.

A nationalist like me looks at them, however, and sees confirmation of the core principle of nationalism, namely that different peoples should live in different lands. When you violate that principle, bad things start to happen.

Of course it all ended catastrophically for the Jews the first time around, too. The Muslims eventually oppressed them and the Christians ultimately took their country back and expelled them. This, too, then would be comparable to the modern experience, in which multiculturalism and diversity hasn’t worked out too well for the Jews in practice.

Maimonides, the great Jewish sage of the Middle Ages, was born in Cordoba but driven out of the city by Mohammedans, possibly after having been forced to convert to Islam to save his life. When I visited the Jewish museum in Cordoba a few months ago, I was surprised to find that Maimonides had developed a doctrine similar to the Muslim doctrine of Taqqiyah, arguing that Jews should be allowed to dissimulate their religion in times of adversity. Most likely, this was in response to his own direct experience of Muslim “convivencia”.

Maimonides said this of the Mohammedans:

“You know, my brethren, that on account of our sins God has cast us into the midst of this people, the nation of Ishmael [Muslims], who persecute us severely, and who devise ways to harm us and to debase us… No nation has ever done more harm to Israel. None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have… We have borne their imposed degradation, their lies, and absurdities, which are beyond human power to bear.”

The empathy gap between different peoples inevitably causes them to treat others differently than they treat their own kind. This differential treatment gives rise to antagonisms and conflicts of interest. These antagonisms and conflicts of interest ultimately express themselves in the form of violence and oppression. The way to solve this problem is not to strive for some utopian, unrealisable ideal of tolerance. It is to grant distinct peoples their own lands where they can live under their own governments in their own space among their own kind; to minimise diversity; to block immigration; to maximise homogeneity. Those are the practical steps that will create the conditions in which unpleasant things are least likely to happen.

Unfortunately, the ideology of our ruling caste demands the exact opposite.

Part 2

Here are some extracts from History of the Conquest of Spain by the Arab-Moors, Volume 1 by Henry Coppée, published in 1881. You often find an unusual amount of truth in these old books written before the era of political correctness set in.

I have already spoken of one important constituent in the combinations of Ilyan [traitor general of the Goths, also known as Julian], upon which, as it has asserted itself in all periods of Spanish history, it seems proper to dwell a little more of more at length: I refer to the Jews. Nothing is sadder, while nothing is more unique, more entirely sui generis, in the history of the world than the separate and peculiar existence, of this injured and everywhere persecuted people, who have been — especially since the Christian era, which their blind and cruel act of unbelief inaugurated — despised, trodden down, hunted, exiled, tortured, and killed. And yet quite as striking is the moral power which they have wielded over their persecutors. While the Christians were slothful in business, slack in industry, and wasted what they had, the Jew gained and hoarded; “accommodated” the spendthrifts with usurious loans, and appealed for precedent to Jacob’s stratagem, —
The attitude of the Jews.

“This was the way to thrive, and he was blessed; And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.”

It was only thus that they could revenge themselves on their oppressors. They were thus brought into relations, which must now be considered, at once with the Christians in Spain and with the Arab-Moors in Africa, and out of a combination of these relations
they emerge to view as a potent element in the Arabian conquest and after dominion in the Peninsula

Of their first coming thither there is no certain record. We may believe that when the fleets of Solomon made their voyages to Tharshish, — “for the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold and silver, ivory, and apes and peacocks,” — a few of the adventurous Israelites remained in the Peninsula, and formed a nucleus for others who, when Judea was overrun by hostile armies from time to time, left their country, and wandering along the northern coast of Africa, and hearing tidings of their brethren in Spain, joined them there. We know that when the Romans conquered the Peninsula they found a considerable number of Israelites domiciled there. When, after the terrible siege of Jerusalem, by Vespasian and Titus, “one stone was not left upon another” of the city of their love and pride, crowds of exiles wandered westward to swell these numbers. Spain was a quiet Roman province, and there by their industry, frugality, and skill in business, the Jews made themselves useful members of society.

There were many who remained in northern Africa, and who were in constant and cordial intercourse with their brethren in Spain. There they might have fondly hoped that their wanderings were at an end: not so; fierce persecutions were in store for them there as elsewhere.

When Heraclius became emperor of the East, and determined to punish the Jews in his dominion, his ambassadors made a treaty with the Gothic monarch, “Sisebuto”, one of the articles of which required that all recusant Jews should be driven out of Spain. This article was also embodied in the Visigothic Code. By its terms one year was given to them in which to decide whether they would confess Christ and be baptized, or be shaved and scourged, their property confiscated, and themselves forced to leave the country. In such a fearful contingency the majority became hypocrites. Ninety thousand are said to have submitted to baptism; but the enforced Christian rite was but a mask for the circumcision which was still secretly active, and they were thus transformed from quiet and orderly subjects into concealed and intriguing foes. But even those who patiently submitted were not, as we have seen, secure from humiliation and new indignity;they were despised for their apostasy, which was but a new proof to their tormentors of their sordid character.

The fourth council of Toledo, held in the year 633, indeed revoked the former decree requiring them to be baptized; but this apparent clemency was neutralized by the cruel requirements that the children of those who had accepted Christianity should be taken from their parents to be more fully educated in the Christian faith, and that those Jews who had married Christian women should either embrace the religion of their wives, or be separated from them. It was further decreed by the council that, in a judicial trial, no Jew could give evidence against a Christian.

This placed the Jews at a fearful disadvantage. The rigor increased. The sixth Toledan council,in 638, was more outspoken, and not much more cruel when it enacted “that Judaism would not be tolerated in the realm;” the eighth council prescribed new rigors against them. These enactments produced in part the desired effect; large numbers banished themselves, taking refuge in Africa from Christian baptism and persecution; there too they were ready to join any respectable conspiracy aginst the government and the people who had so constantly oppressed them. For this scarcely concealed purpose at least they received full credit; and when Egica ascended the throne in the year 687, they were under special surveillance, as it was averred that the Jews in Spain and Africa had entered into a special agreement to aid in the destruction of the Gothic monarchy. Thus, while to hate and persecute the Jews was considered an undoubted part of Christian duty in the abstract, their reported conspiracy added fuel to the flame. We may therefore fancy the astonishment of the Gothic nation and of the Christian world when Witiza, to serve his own ends as it was believed, removed the anathema and disabilities, and restored them partially at least to a condition of security and ease.

This apparent clemency disgusted his subjects, not so much because he set aside ecclesiastical canons and secular laws as because he dared to run counter to the universal and unrelenting prejudice which ignorantly based itself upon the claims of Him who had forgiven His enemies upon the cross.

Let us turn for a moment to see how they were regarded by the Arab-Moors. Their early relations to the creed of Mohammed have already been presented. We have seen that they had been powerful in Arabia before the advent of the prophet. Princes had embraced the Law of Moses, and the efforts of Mohammed were strenuous to convert them. When he found this a very difficult task, by the general claims of Islam, he asked for, and received, special revelations denouncing them: in numerous passages of the Koran their unbelief is rebuked and their fate declared. Notwithstanding this, they do not seem to have been regarded with the same disfavor as other unbelievers: they were among the first people allowed to compound for tribute; and, if still despised, were permitted to live in peace.

But now, in northwestern Africa, they had risen in importance. What rendered them dangerous to the Gothic Christians gave them new value in the eyes of the Arab-Moors, who were making ready to invade the Peninsula. These disaffected and confederate Jews formed a band of intelligent and useful auxiliaries in the scheme of the Moslem conquest. The martial sounds of the Moslem hosts made pleasant music in their ears. National allegiance they had none. They had the warrant of history that the change of masters would ameliorate their condition: they would aid and serve the kindest. Mohammedan Spain would be better than Christian Spain, because it would be more tolerant. For the Christian Messiah and for the prophet of Islam they had equal disregard; and thus the readers of later Spanish history will find that, in troublous times, they often, like soldiers of fortune, changed sides, and not unfrequently held the balance of power through the influence of their unity and their wealth. As a single illustration: When the Moslems began to persecute them for their money they turned to the Christians and brought to the throne Alfonso VI., of Castile and Leon, in the year 1085.

As we read of their checkered fortunes, we are struck with the fact that the important part they have played has been purposely ignored or belittled by both parties to the struggle; but it is not difficult to discover the truth, in spite of the reluctant mention or intentional silence of both Spanish and Arabian historians, — the former prompted by religious rancor, and the latter by a pride of conquest which would not share the glory with such humble agents. It seems certain that, in concerting his plans for the conquest, Musa had early taken the Jews into his counsels: he received valuable information and gained important statistics from them which they had learned in the way of trade.

It is also wetted that after Count Ilyan had been in communication with certain disaffected Goths in Spain, he also sought the aid of the Jews, as an important element in carrying out his purpose. They gladly listened to both commanders, and probably supplied money, which their sagacity assured them was as safe and profitable an investment as in those turbulent times they could make.

We may now return for a moment to Roderik and the impending invasion as it actually took shape before his eyes. His newly acquired power seemed well established; his kingdom was a fair show. He could still defy “malice domestic and “foreign levy.” He had indeed his suspicions of Gothic disaffection, and every day brought stronger corroboration of the presumptuous purpose of the Arab-Moors; he knew that the children of Israel were secretly leagued against him, but thus far he had no doubt of his ability to withstand all these united enemies, and place the Gothic power upon an eminence of authority and glory which it had never yet attained. If he had entertained misgivings as to the fidelity of Ilyan, he seems to have dismissed them.

…The final reduction of Cordova left Mugheyth free to employ his troops, in conjunction with those of Tarik, in such a manner as his chief should direct. It was now the end of August, 711. He placed, as had been done elsewhere, the local authority in the hands of the Jews of the town, the only people he could trust, and fortified his control by taking hostages from among the principal men. He made the palace his head-quarters, thus inaugurating its future grandeur and power. Retaining around him a sufficient garrison, he then spread the remainder of his troops through the Comarca, awaiting the orders of Tarik. From this time Cordova remained in Moorish hands, continually growing in power and splendor, until, with the Moorish dominion, it began to decline in the early years of the eleventh century.

…The advance of Tarik had been necessarily slow and cautious; but the case seemed hopeless. The fame of his victories had struck terror into all hearts. The chief nobles and warriors upon whom. the people might have relied in their extremity had fallen on the field. Those who had fled into Toledo only thought of further flight. And every day brought new testimony to the valor and number of the Moslems, and the ubiquity of their light and fleet horsemen. There were in the city no munitions of war: the paralyzed inhabitants had collected no store of provisions. There could be no hope of succor from without, and while, in the last resort, the Christians were going in sad procession to invoke the assistance of St. Leocadia in their great exigency, the vanguard of Tarik appeared before the town. If the Christians were in despair, the Jews, who had dissembled their joy, scarcely waited for his summons to counsel an immediate surrender.

(Gayangos further quotes, “that the Jews opened the gates of the city to the Moslems.”)

…Meanwhile, the second division under Zeyd Ibn Kassed, had proceeded, without delay, to conquer Malaga and overrun its Comarca. He met with little resistance, and was soon able to send or take a strong detachment to Gharnatta, the Medina or capital of the district of Al-Birah. they found no opposition; and here, also, they found a large number of Jews, well advised of their coming and their purpose, ready to welcome the invader, and glad to find in the Berber ranks many of their brethren, who, although converted to Islam, retained the instincts of consanguineous blood. Into their hands, Zeyd gave the government of Gharnattah, assured of their energetic co-operation in the Moslem schemes. The number of Jews in that town and the power reposed in their hands, caused the place to be called, in all its earlier history, Gharnatta- al-Yahood, Granada of the Jews.

Source: History of the Conquest of Spain by the Arab-Moors, Volume 1 by Henry Coppée, 1881

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