Reparations From A Jewish Perspective

Moses parting the Red Sea as the Pharoah’s army drowns, after Raphael’s Stanza di Eliodoro, from a series of 15 plates, depicting Raphael’s works for the Vatican stanze and the Sistine Chapel tapestries

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Over the past few years, the calls for slavery reparations have grown louder.  On February 17th, 2021 House Democrats leading the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H.R. 40.  Titled “Exploring the Pathway to Reparative Justice in America”.  Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) is the bill’s sponsor, and it authorizes Congress to establish a commission that “shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.” More than 170 representatives have signed on as co-sponsors.

Few would argue that former slaves and possibly their children would be due reparations for slavery, but last known slave died in 1972.  Peter Mills was born in 1862 and was a young child when slavery was abolished.  No doubt he would have deserved some form of reparations. Two other men, Daniel and Abe Smith were born to a former slave who married at aged 70 and had children.  They are still alive, aged 88 and 92, but they are likely a rarity given the circumstances.  They arguably should be eligible for some form of reparations, as studies about Jewish Holocaust survivors indicate that the trauma could be passed down one generation.  The studies are not conclusive but let us give them the benefit of doubt.

As to the moral obligation of distributing reparations to former slaves and immediate offspring, there is precedent from the 20th century.  In 1951, West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer authorized the payment of reparations to survivors of the Holocaust.  The Article 2 Fund authorized in 1990 after the reunification of Germany because they were the successor to this commitment and they have paid over $90 billion.  

The US Government has paid similar reparations to Japanese and Native Americans.  The $1.6 billion fund was paid Japanese who were interned during World War Two, but no subsequent payments were made to generations beyond those initially wronged.  If the argument for reparations is to be made multigenerational, then perhaps the case of Native Americans fits.  They received $1.3 billion between 1946 and 1978.  They certainly were not the original wronged people, but the ongoing harm due to their relegation to reservations warranted compensation.

This brings us to the case of African Americans.  There is no question the slaves of the period were wronged.  We fought a Civil War that cost the lives of 750 thousand soldiers due to the issue of slavery.  As previously stated, they and potentially their children deserve reparations, but there are likely are only a handful that would qualify.  So, what is the basis for paying these reparations?  Is it reparations for post-slavery injustices?  Would we limit those reparations to individuals born before the 1964 Civil Rights Act?  Are these reparations for Democratic Party led welfare policies which resulted in the disintegration of the black family unit?  Are we paying for the Clinton-Biden led crime bill which resulted in the incarcerated thousands of black “predators”?  We cannot pay for undefined offenses because we cannot define those who will benefit and those who will pay.

Assuming we all agree that all African Americans deserve reparations for any or all the aforementioned offenses, who qualifies?  Do bi-racial children of African Americans and Caucasians qualify?  Do they get 50% if 50% of their DNA is from non-African countries?  What about blacks who immigrated from Africa in the 20th or 21st centuries? The American concept of the melting pot has made these questions even more difficult to answer.  But as difficult as those questions, the more difficult is who must pay?  Whatever the answer it is guaranteed to cause more political division moving forward.

Given continued immigration from the post-Civil War, it hardly seems fair that Americans whose families arrived after 1865 or 1964 or 1994, depending on the charges being brought, should pay.  And if they are married to Americans predating those periods, but share household income, should there be a discount?  Even more absurd, what about Jewish American survivors of the Holocaust.  They receive reparations from Germany for actual crimes committed on their person.  Do they have to in turn give their payments for blacks for offenses they nor their families perpetrated?  You see it is rather complicated the whole idea of reparations.  

If we are going to go back for generations unlimited, perhaps the Jewish People should demand reparations from Egypt enslaving our people to build the Pyramids.  We could even collect a portion of the tourist receipts to fund it.  And what about the descendants of the Persians who sacked the First Temple and enslaved Jews for over 400 years?  I think we should get a cut of the oil profits at a minimum.  And we cannot forget the Romans.  Italy should be forced to rebuild our Temple in Jerusalem.  That seems fair.  And if all that is too ancient, how about the Arab world’s continual attacks on Israel since before the founding of the State of Israel.  The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem sided with Hitler in the extermination of Jews.  After UN recognition of the state, Arab Armies and Palestinian collaborators attacked a nearly defenseless Israel defended in good part by survivors of the Holocaust.  Should not the Arab states and Palestinians be forced to compensate us for the 17,000 dead over the years?  Let us not forget the terrorist attacks.  Thousands of Israelis and Jews have suffered at the hands of Palestinian terror.

The whole idea of looking backward and not forward is the real issue.  Rather than compensate financially for wrongs committed, why do we not focus on building a better future, both for Black Americans and Jews/Israelis alike?  Israel is always looking to build better.  The created a tech powerhouse from nothing.  We should do the same in America for our poor, whether black, brown or white.  We should invest in education, vocational training, family, and entrepreneurship.  We should build communities that support one another rather than rely on government handouts.  The reason we do not though is all to clear.  Democrats rely on division to stay in power.  RINO Republicans are not much better.  Donald Trump came along preaching a different message and he was attacked on both sides.  They need us pitted against each other.  It is time reclaim our true heritage, the vision of a free nation that our Founding Fathers dreamed of.  The “shining city on a hill” envisioned by Reagan.

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Liz February 24, 2021 at 6:28 am

It’s been a long time since I’ve read an article of persuasion. Well done, your point was clearly and concisely made. I hope many people on the sliding scale of viewpoints gets to read this objectively. Thank you.

jerry snaper February 24, 2021 at 7:27 am

We are looking at slavery in America in the wrong light. All those who claim to be African-Americans can thank the lord that their ancestors were the lucky ones to be sent to America when the alternative was to be sold to the Arab slave masters where they would have been worked to death and no prodigy permitted. Certainly the American slaves had hard work but also families, religion and eventually high positions in government and industry. Americas greatest crime against people of color is the welfare system. The new slaves are the American workers paying for this.

pc_PHAGE February 26, 2021 at 4:21 pm

Reparations is a canard.
[is that the proper use of the word?]

mackykam March 1, 2021 at 11:55 am

How much more of an investment in ‘education’ where education isn’t valued? Zuckerberg gave $100 million to the Newark, NJ school system…with absolutely nothing to show for it.
Being educated means ‘acting white.’


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