Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Monday 29 August 2011

Some Called Them A Pogrom: The Welsh Riots 100 Years Ago

The recent spate of rioting in London and other British cities was in some respects similar to riots in Wales that, coincidentally, took place in August 1911, an exact century earlier almost to the very week.  Like the August 2011 riots they broke out suddenly, on a Saturday evening in a single location, and were renewed the following day.  They then, over the following few days, spread to other locations.  They involved youths who smashed shop windows and looted premises. At first the police were outnumbered and overwhelmed.

A Jewish shop boarded up in the aftermath of the violence of 1911
But unlike the recent riots, the stores that were targeted in Tredegar, the town where the riots began with no readily discernible precipitating cause, were all owned by Jews, and because Jewish shops were also targeted elsewhere (though not exclusively) in the region, some described the unrest as a "pogrom".  Jewish leaders in Wales scorned such talk, and a lively debate still rages among historians as to whether in fact antisemitism was the most important factor underlying the riots.

"The trouble began shortly before midnight, when crowds of people were to be seen in the streets discussing the railwaymen's strike," reported the Western Mail.
"There was, apparently nothing to provoke disorder.
Suddenly a commotion was heard in a bye-street, and there emerged into Castle Street a band of about 200 young men, singing, shouting, and making hideous noises.  It soon transpired that this gang had attacked the residence of a Jew in Salisbury Street, smashing the windows and greatly terrifying the occupants, although no personal violence was attempted.
From Castle Street the mob marched into Commercial Street, and halting opposite a shop kept by a Jew, became very demonstrative and threatening.  By this time the streets had become thronged with people attracted by the general pandemonium, the smashing of glass being frequently heard above the din.  Only a small number of police were available, and they were quite unable to quell the riot. 
A section of the marauders, bent on further mischief, rushed into Church Street, where there are a number of shops kept by Jews.  Halting opposite one of those establishments, they aimed a fusillade of stones at the windows, smashing the glass to atoms.  The hooligans then swarmed round the windows and took possession of everything they could lay their hands upon, including a considerable quantity of jewellery.
A move was then made to the nearest shop kept by a Jew, and this was similarly attacked and looted.  The same fate befell five other shops kept by Jews in the street.  The police authorities exerted themselves as far as possible in preventing the destruction but their efforts were unavailing, the crowd numbering several thousands.
The mob, who had become absolutely out of control, returned to Commercial Street, and of the seven shops kept by Jews in that thoroughfare at which considerable business is carried on - only one escaped complete destruction.  The next locality visited was Bridge Street, where volleys of stones demolished the windows of the shops kept by Jews in that thoroughfare, everything within reach being stolen.
During the hostile demonstration in front of one of the shops, the occupant of which had resided in Tredegar for about fifty years, a number of prominent townsmen placed themselves in front of the premises and appealed to the mob to desist from such madness.
The only response was the hurling of stones, one of which narrowly missed the head of a gentleman who had made a special appeal to the mob.  Almost every shop in the street kept by Jews was wrecked.  Another business establishment in Queen Victoria Street, kept by a Jew, who has always been prominent in the public life of the town, was attacked with great determintion and completely wrecked.  In all eighteen shops, the proprietors of which were Jews, were wrecked and looted.
An exciting incident occurred in front of one of the shops.  A rioter rolled up a large bundle of paper, which he had collected and was about to set it into the shops, where there was a large quantity of inflammable [sic] goods.  His object was foreseen, and what might have been a serious feature in the general pandemonium was frustrated by some bystanders.
Looters could be seen in all directions laden with spoil.  One man was observed carrying his bowler hat half filled with watches.  Another was seen carrying away a bedstead on his back, while others played concertinas, accordions, and other musical instruments taken from the wrecked premises. The crowd were mad with excitement and most threatening in their demeanour.
This wild rioting continued for several hours, the police being quite unable to cope with the disorder.  Eventually police reinforcements arrived in a conveyance from Ebbw Vale.  These were drawn across the main entrance to the town, to prevent the incursion of masses of people who had been attracted by the row, and, after stern measures had been resorted to, the streets were cleared about four o'clock on Sunday morning.
At a meeting of the Tredegar magistrates held at the police station on Sunday afternoon it was decided to requisition the Home Office for 150 troops to be sent to Tredegar, in view of further trouble.
Fifty of the North Lancashire regiment and fifty of the Somersetshires left Cardiff on Sunday night for Tredegar.
The rioting ... broke out afresh on Sunday evening ..."
For a list of articles pertaining to the riots (those in the Welsh History Review seem to be available online) see:

An  historian who downplays the antisemitic aspect of the riots reminds us that:
"The riots were condemned without exception by all opinion-leaders throughout the area, and editorially in newspapers. The Western Mail (28 August 1911) published a cartoon entitled 'Wales Disgraced' in which Dame Wales, holding a copy of the Western Mail headlined 'Riots in Wales/Attacks Upon Jewish Tradesmen', is shaking hands with a Jewish shopkeeper. Dame Wales says 'Well, indeed, now, you have my sincere sympathy. Of all the shocking things that have happened lately, I am most ashamed, look you, of the cowardly attack upon the Jews. The hooligans that did it cannot be Welshmen, no indeed.'
 At Rhymney a special meeting of the local council unanimously condemned the riots.  Very notably, the meeting was attended by many local clergymen, including three Welsh Baptist ministers. The motion condemning the riots was moved by a Welsh Baptist minister, the Revd Thomas M. Evans, who pointedly praised both the local Jewish community and the 'Jewish race'.  'Although they were true to their own Jewish faith', local Jews 'were always ready to help a Christian church', he observed.
At Tredegar, a 'crowded' protest meeting convened by the chairman of the local council also deplored the riots, while the chairman 'expressed his deepest sympathy with the Jewish people who had been victims of this disgraceful outrage'.  Here, the resolution was moved and seconded by two local clergymen and supported by several others, as well as by the local Miners' Federation leader. The meeting also 'decided to form a Defence League' to deal with any future incidents.100 Resolutions protesting the riots    were passed by other local Welsh bodies, ranging from the Bargoed Chamber of Trade to the Cardiff Central Ward Conservative Association.
At Brynmawr, a local newspaper reported that the 'outside hooliganism' of'stone-throwing by a gang of youths and men, the majority of whom had never been near Brynmawr before'was 'prompt [ly] suppressed'. There, 'the Jew is respected and his Gentile friends and neighbours were determined that his liberty should not be interfered with'." Welsh History Review : Cylchgrawn Hanes Cymru  -  Vol. 18, nos. 1-4 - 1996-97
The anti-Jewish riots of 1911 in South Wales: a re-examination.

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