Saturday, 17 October 2015

The topic of "refugees" came up on the most recent episode of Question Time. On the panel was Jewish historian Simon Schama who, predictably enough, spoke in favour of offering a generous welcome to the "refugees".

Speaking in the 21st minute, Schama claimed that his family came to Britain fleeing pogroms in the 1880s.
This was exactly what was said about Jews, not just in the 1930s, but actually in the 1890s. What you've said would have actually prevented me from being here because my grandfather wouldn't have qualified. They were fleeing Russian pogroms in the 1880s and 1970s.
I've become aware recently, of various falsehoods routinely propagated by Jews about the "Tsarist pogroms" as they often put it. The first is that they weren't Tsarist pogroms. There is no evidence that the Tsars organised or approved of pogroms. This is simply a falsehood that decades of malignant Jewish bias have successfully established in the public mind. The second is that their extent is vastly overestimated. Essentially any Jew whose family used to live in the Russian empire then left it tends to attribute this emigration to the need to flee pogroms. But the truth is that many, perhaps most, of these Jews, like the modern "refugees" streaming across Europe's borders, were simply people seeking a better standard of living, not fleeing persecution.

Schama's claims piqued my curiosity so I got googling. His father's family came had come from Turkey so he must have been referring to his mother's side of the family in his reference to Russia. This article provides some information about her origins.

Simon, who grew up in Golders Green and Westcliffe-on-Sea, came from a mixed marriage -that of a Sephardi to an Ashkenazi. 
His mother's Steinberg or Steinbach family came to London in the 1890s from Kovno, in Lithuania.

So his family came in the 1890s, not the 1880s as he claimed, and from Lithuania, not Russia.

Furthermore, the incidence of anti-Jewish violence in Lithuania was very low. A scholarly article about the phenomenon says this:
Yet in the late nineteenth – early twentieth century Lithuanian provinces were an area with relatively low levels of anti-Semitic violence.13 In Lithuania there were several pogroms in 1882, 1900 and 1905.14 Yet their numbers, intensity and geographical distribution pale in comparison with the waves of anti-Semitic violence that swept Congress Poland, Moldova and the Ukraine in 1881–1882, 1903 and 1905–1906 (Mendelsohn, 1981: 21).

Schama's claim that his family were fleeing pogroms in the Lithuania of the 1890s is therefore simply not credible. His family, like the modern "refugees" he is defending, were economic migrants masquerading as refugees. Schama derisively quotes the British patriots of the early 1900s who warned of the "threat" of Jewish emigration. But his activism and that of other Jews in favour of dehemogenising Britain and Europe only prove that those fears were well-founded.

This is interesting because there were no significant pogroms in the 1890s. The pogroms occurred between the years 1881 and 1884 following the death of Tsar Alexander II. After that, they didn't re-emerge until the 1900s. As the article makes clear, the real cause of Jewish emigration from Lithuania was economic concerns arising from a rapidly expanding population:

According to Jacob Lestchinsky, between 1825 and 1900, in Lithuania and Belarus, the Jewish population grew from 0.55 to 1.45 million at a rate higher than that of the total population (Kuznets, 1975: 61).

Schama uttered other falsehoods in the program, such as this one:
The United Nations has identified refugees as those fleeing from areas of war and persecution.
This is a falsehood the Left has assiduously cultivated, the idea that anyone living in a war or conflict zone has a right to claim asylum. This is simply not true. The prospective refugee must be a member of a distinct group that has been singled out for persecution. It is not enough to be a mere resident of a war zone.

Here is a clip from the same program with Schama turning on the emotional bluster against Rod Liddle who was attempting to be the voice of reason.


Douglas Murray wrote a piece worth reading about it too (here). Although he hints at the "rootless cosmopolitanism" of Schama, he makes no mention of the Jewish aspect. He wouldn't want to lose his next pay cheque after all.


  1. Schama wrote and presented a BBC series, The Story of the Jews, a couple of years ago. I didn’t see it but I’m guessing that accuracy and impartiality didn’t get much screen time.

    1. Didn't see the documentary but I bought a Kindle version of the book. Haven't got very far into it, though. I actually don't like his pretentious writing style, full of irrelevant historical factoids, showing off pointless erudition. I suppose I'll force my way through it gradually over time. Maybe I'll post a review later if I do.

  2. The website, The Occidental Observer, did an excellent 3-part exposition on the history of the 'pogroms' in Russia in the 19th century (part 3, from which one can access the two earlier parts, is at:

    The pogroms were, to a great extent, a political manifestation, both of Jewish power and influence, and of native peoples' resentment at the usurious conditions and injustices, as well as business monopolies, which resulted from such control by a hostile, and certainly not 'downtrodden' alien ethnic group. In fact, the Russian government appears to have expended considerable effort to try and genuinely integrate the Jews more into Russian society (as once the English kings had tried before the expulsion of the Jews in the 13th century.

  3. As for Schama, he is quite shameless! Re that programme, at one point he described Jewish parents supposedly being forced to kill their own children (going into considerable lurid detail) in order to prevent the children from being forcibly converted by Christians. He merely quoted, as if it were gospel, some Jewish tracts from old stories and neglected to inform his listeners that the order for what we would term (with Islam in mind, which derives from Talmudic Judaism) "family honour killings" actually derives from Deuteronomy's call that anyone who sought to lead the people from the true belief was to be slain by his nearest family member and that, thereafter, all the community were to join in ritually killing him (obviously, attacking and desecrating the already murdered person). We would understand this as a form of enforcing adherence to the ideology, and its tribal system, on pain of death, on all its members, but Schama uses it (without the explanatory theological details) to place blame for these honour killings on the outside group, the Christians.

  4. "In Lithuania there were several pogroms in 1882, 1900 and 1905.14" So there were anti-semitc progroms...saying one pretended to be part of one is a bit of a lie.