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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Anti-Semitism Related to Funding of Columbus's Voyage in 1492

The Jewish community of Spain was the oldest and largest of any in Westren Europe. Jews had lived on the Iberian Peninsula continously from Roman times until banishment in 1492. For centuries the co-Nexisted with Muslim and Christians, playing a prominent role in commerce, administration and science as well as scholarship and lyric poetry.

Rising anti-semitism at the end of the fourteenth century had compelled vast numbers to submit to baptism. These were called conversos or New Christians, or marranos. Marranos was derogatory, meaning swine in Spanish, but history books have favored a neutral use of this term. The Jews referred to the converts as anussim, the forced ones, and distinguished between them and the genuine apostates in their mids. The Christian majority increasingly resented and mistrusted the New Christians, as much for their succes in society as their fear of them not taking Christianity seriously.

By the time of Ferdinand and Isabella in the late fifteenth century, religious tribunals of the Inquisition, promoted by the clergy and approved by the monarchs, were attacking some of the richest and most prominent New Christians families. Extreme physical and mental torture were used to extract confessions of secret judaizing.

Whether they had sincerely converted or not, the tribunals forced them to be Jews in order to convict them. Accusations were based on such activities as refusal to eat pork, eating kosher meat, etc. The confiscations of property of the victims, who were imprisoned or burned at the stake, enriched the royal treasury considerably. This was handy because the public funds were being depleted in the war against the Muslims.

The people were over-burdened with taxes. Even the clergy was being taxed. As soon as the first tribunal in 1480 was established, the order went out to transfer all the property of the condemned into cash.

Paradoxically however, Ferdinad and Isabella had surrounded themselves with New Christians. (Ferdinand himself was the great grandson of Paloma, from the Jewish community of Toledo). Ignoring church protest, the Christian kings had for a long time protected court Jews and used their services. Outstanding Jews who had submitted to baptism could officers, and leaders.
Columbus wrote in his journals that I have had constant relations with Jews and Moors.

On April 30, 1492, trumpets were sounded as it was announced everywhere that all unconverted Jews must leave Spain on pain of death by the end of July. After that date no Spaniard was to harbor a Jew or render any assistance. On the same day, Columbus was ordered to equip a fleet for voyage to the Indies. His contact granted him the title of admiral, and stipulated that he could keep one tenth of all the wealth he obtained. He was also granted governorship of all lands he might discover. The Jews meanwhile, under ban of expulsion, made preparations to leave. They tried to sell their property but only succeeded in very few cases. By the second of August, 300 000 to one million Jews migrated to Portugal or left for Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, or the Turkish Ottoman Empire. 

The movement towards Isabella's canonization was stopped. Fortunately so, since her sainthood being declared would be like declaring war on us Jews and Muslim all over again, in addition to sending a signal to the descendants of the indigenous peoples of the Americas that the catholic Church still think it was acceptable to devatse their way of life and decimate them through disease and war.