Politics of the Jewish community of Salonika in the inter-war years : party ideologies and party competition
Throughout four centuries of Ottoman domination, Salonika Jews had managed to preserve their particular ethnic identity and to occupy an important position in the economic life of the city. In 1912 Salonika was annexed to the Greek nation-state, and only decades later various sources of the early 1930s were emphasising the economic and social degradation of the Jewish community. Existing bibliography has tended to underline almost exclusively the role of Greek politics and Greek society as the major explanatory factor of the community's decline. This thesis challenges this approach and argues that intra-communal politics within the inter-war years had a significant share of responsibility for the crisis which threatened Salonika Jews in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Indeed, Jewish political elites were deeply split over issues of fundamental importance for the community, resulting in political deadlock. Consequently, the community was caught up in fierce ideological debates and was deprived of a solid communal leadership able to steer them through unsettled waters. In order to account for this explanation, the thesis reassesses as a first step Greek majority policies and argues that notwithstanding the numerous constraints which they imposed on the status of the Jews, the latter were left significant room in which to influence their own affairs. Secondly, this thesis explores the ways in which communal political leaders responded to and made use of their 'power'. By analysing the four major Jewish political parties in the inter-war years - the Zionists, the Assimilationists- Moderates, the Radicals (Mizrahi-Revisionists) and the Communists - on the basis of party competition and party ideologies which set 'Jewishness' at the centre of political discourse, it is shown that their constant ideological struggles over this issue rendered them unable to build up constructive political coalitions and find answers to the pressing economic and social needs faced by the community.