Tax Resistance from the Historical Jewish Press Archives

I’ve just learned about the Historical Jewish Press archives that are available on-line. Naturally, I went hunting through the English-language papers in the archives for anything worth posting here. Alas the site seems to have gone down in the middle of my hunt, but here’s what I’ve dug up so far:

The Palestine Post of included an op-ed by Vera Brittain titled “Can the Women of the World Stop War?” that contains this remarkable passage:

I sometimes feel that what the women’s peace campaign really needs is the sudden uprising of a movement as swift and dramatic as that of the militant suffragists, which would adopt expedients similar to theirs, such as the refusal to pay income tax for war purposes, or the interruption of military pageants, or the tattoos with protests still more vehement than those already attempted by Dr. Maude Royden and her supporters.

The magazine The Occident and American Jewish Advocate for contained an article on “Jewish Subjects of the Czar” that included this tax resistance anecdote:

In , when the Grand-duchy of Warsaw was constituted, equality before the law was proclaimed for all citizens, and the Jews among the rest; but this liberal constitution remained a dead letter under the rule of the house of Saxony, and the Jews continued to be burdened with exceptional taxes, administrative decrees depriving them of the rights which the organic law accorded to them. All attempts to transform the Jews into Polish citizens were abandoned, and except that the additional hardship of performing military service was added to their other burdens, they remained what they had been for centuries. To relieve themselves from this to them most hateful service, they offered to pay an annual sum of 700,000 Polish florins to the Government, and under pretext of raising this sum, a tax called kosher, was imposed in on all meat consumed by the Jews. This odious and vexatious tax, which weighs most heavily on the poor, is farmed out every year (for the Russian government most unjustly continues the tax, though the exemption from military service, for which it was a commutation, has been withdrawn) to the highest bidder; and it is but too often Jewish speculators who come forward to bid, in the hope of enriching themselves by the oppression of their brethren. However, the extraordinary tenacity and perseverance of the Hebrew character has frequently been exhibited in resistance to this tax, whole communities having for six months together abstained from eating meat, thus reducing to bankruptcy the heartless farmer of the tax.

I’ve noted before examples of Jewish tax resistance in British-occupied Palestine, but I think this is the first example that’s come to my attention of such resistance from Arab Muslims. From the Palestine Bulletin:

Jamaal’s Threats

“The situation in Palestine is quite serious…[” said Jamal al-Husayni of the Palestine Arab Executive and of the Supreme Moslem Council of Palestine. “]It has now been unanimously resolved at a conference of 700 representatives of all the Arab classes that, unless our case is favourably settled after the return of the Commission [of Inquiry], we shall refuse to pay taxes, on the English principle of ‘no taxation without representations.’”

The article “The Jews in America: An Interesting Sketch of Their History” by David Philipson, from the Chicago Sentinel, includes this note:

The first Jewish arrivals did not secure the permission to settle in New Amsterdam without difficulty. Governor Peter Stuyvesant was much opposed to them and desired to expel them, and it was only after the directors of the Dutch East India Company in Holland espoused the cause of the new comers that he receded from his position.

The most masterful of these first settlers was Asser Levy. He made the first fight for the rights of citizenship. In an ordinance was passed that no Jews be permitted to serve in the militia, but that in lieu of this they be taxed sixty-five stivers each month. Asser Levy refused to pay this tax and petitioned the council for permission to perform military duty like all the other citizens of the colony, or else to be relieved from paying the tax. His petition was rejected. He seems then to have appealed to the authorities in Holland and they appear to have granted his petition, for we find that he did perform guard duty like other citizens.

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