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No. Cyrus was alleged to have given the Hebrews exiled in Babylonthe option of returning to Judah, which some did, the remainderopting to stay in the comfort of Babylon.

It was King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon destroyed the JewishTemple 70 years earlier. He also deported the majority of theJewish aristocracy to Babylon during this period. Some haveinterpreted this a persecution since one ethnicity acted againstthe interests of a weaker ethnicity under its control. Others seeit as a typical post-war maneuver in the Ancient Period that waspracticed by the Babylonians and other Middle Eastern societies onnumerous occasions to defeated enemies.

Views on the term “Persecuted”

View 1: The Term “Persecuted” isInappropriate

The phrase ‘persecuted’ not appropriate, being more propaganda thanfact. When Babylon took over Judah, it deported the upper classback to Babylon and imported a new foreign ruling class to Judah tokeep the remaining population quiet. This was usual practice withconquering powers – it had already happened in Israel in the northwhen it was taken over by Assyria.

The people of Judah were not ‘persecuted’ they were kept under firmcontrol by the imported aristocracy. And the deported upper classin Babylon was not persecuted – they were used similarly to keepcontrol of lower classes in Mesopotamia. Which is why many of themrefused to return to uncertainty in Judah, preferring their newposition in Babylon.

So no one was ‘persecuted’ – there were shifts in population – anexchange of ruling classes. If people didn’t revolt and causedisruption, they were encouraged to live peaceful and prosperouslives by the successive empires – Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian andlater by Macedonian, Roman and Muslim conquerors.

View 2: The Term “Persecuted” isAppropriate

If deporting an entire ruling class of people and forciblysubjugating a previously independent people in an attempt tohomogenize their culture is not persecution, then you should say asmuch about modern states that engage in the same practice (such asthe colonial period in most Western colonies). Yes, it was truethat the Jews in Babylon were given a certain status to assist inthe bureaucracy but there was a concerted attempt to whittle awaytheir unique features.

Additionally, the Assyrian Empire’s activities, such as flayingopen enemy combatants post-mortem, engaging in excessive tortureand numerous similar activities are far closer to the modern ideaof genocide than they are to simple persecution. The PersianEmpire, Macedonian Empire, Roman Empire, and Islamic Empires didnot engage in population movement unless the population causedissues after subjugation. This is markedly different from theBabylonians who did the Jewish deportations immediately uponconquest.

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