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THE ASSIMILATION OF ISRAEL
BY PAUL SCOTT MOWRER
And Haman said unto King Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces
of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from ity upon Jewish workmen than upon
all people; neither keep they the king's law.— ESTHER, III, 8.
THE revival of anti-Semitism in Europe since the close of the war, and its curious repercussion even in the United States, are phenomena that can no longer be ignored. The Jews, we are warned, are a secret organization, with branches in every land, whose aim is nothing less than world-domination. To attain their bold ends, they plan, on the one hand, to undermine society by sapping its foundations with revolutionary and anti-religious propaganda, and on the other, to crush it from above by attaining control of the great banking and industrial system on which the material power of present-day civilization immediately reposes. Taking advantage of the economic and political confusion following five years of war, they are even now, it is asserted, engaged in realizing this ambitious programme, at which, indeed, they have been quietly working for a century or more. As evidence of this alarming thesis, it is pointed out that there are already Jews among the leading financiers in every country; that there are Jews among the leading international revolutionaries; and, finally, that all Jews have a tendency to solidarity.
Of course, this ingenious fantasy will not bear analysis. The Jewish agitation is as much a menace to the Jewish cap
italist as to the Gentile; the Jewish employer is no less a burden of author
Christians; and from a vague feeling of solidarity to the contrivance of a vast and definite conspiracy is a far cry. Moreover, it is just at the two extremes of wealth and poverty that the racial apostasy of the emancipated Jew is
But the fact that his theories fall to pieces under scrutiny is of no consequence to the true anti-Semite.
In Germany, the anti-Jewish agitation is so vigorous that the Inter-Allied High Commission in the Rhineland recently felt obliged to order the troops of occupation to seize all copies discovered of a book called From the Reign of the Hohenzollerns to the Reign of the Jews.
In England, a writer in the sober Blackwood's protests that, if the Jews were to be given no part, either open or surreptitious, in the imperial government, the danger of revolution would be greatly diminished. Saint-Loe Strachey, writing in the Spectator, accuses the English Jews of being Jews first and English afterward. 'Of all the governments which have accepted the power in Great Britain,' declared Sir Lionel Rothschild, in a recent speech, 'none has shown so much sympathy for the projects and ideals of the Jews as the present government.' And the declaration is taken by Lloyd George's enemies to mean that Lloyd George is 'pro-Jewish.' Has he not appointed Sir Herbert Samuel to rule over Pales
tine? Did he not send Sir Stuart Samuel to 'investigate' the alleged pogroms in Poland? Is not Sir Eric Drummond, General Secretary of the League of Nations, Hebraic by origin? Are not Lord Reading and Lord Montagu, respectively Viceroy of India and Secretary of State for India, both of Jewish descent? And when it comes to that, was it not Mayer Amschel, under the better known name of Rothschild, who 'founded the dynasty of the secret emperors of Israel'? The Poles, it appears, are so afraid of the power of the English Jews, that they have actually appointed a Polish Jew, Professor Szimon Askenazy, as Ambassador to the Court of St. James's. And in their effort to prove that even the British labor movement is under Jewish control, the British anti-Semites, nothing daunted, assert that Smillie is merely a tool of the Jew, Emanuel Shinwell, who promoted the strikes in the Clyde shipyards during the war; that Thomas is a catspaw of the Jew, Abraham; that Williams is actually married to a Jewess, and that all three are closely associated with the 'Lansbury-Fels-Zangwill group.'
In France, the old anti-Dreyfusards of the Action Française have lately redoubled their 'exposures' of the 'Jewish peril.' 'Throughout Europe,' writes Charles Maurras, 'the Jew is the traveling-man of the revolution.' Yiddish is 'the Esperanto of revolutionists.' All Jews, we are assured, are anti-French and pro-German; they are Freemasons, and enemies of Roman Catholicism. Are not ninety-five per cent of the Soviet chieftains Jews? Is not Viennese Socialism Jewish and pro-German? Are not the Jews in Upper Silesia working exclusively for Germany? It was a telegram from the Jewish financiers of America, dated May 29, 1919, and signed by that 'high priest of Israel,' Jacob Schiff (born at Frankfort), which steeled Wilson to force concessions from
France on five vital points, Saar Basin, Upper Silesia, Dantzig, Fiume, and reparations, or, at least, so Maurras writes. This same Schiff, points out Roger Lambelin, founded the New York Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Semitic Museum at Harvard; and while he, in the interests of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., fostered proGerman sentiment during the war, his partner Otto Kahn (born at Mannheim) fostered pro-Ally sentiment; thus an iron was kept hot in both fires. As for 'the pro-Jew, Woodrow Wilson,' pursues Lambelin, instead of flaying the massacres instigated by Bela Kun, the threatened Russian invasion of Poland, and the eviction of innocent Moslems in Palestine, he contented himself, at the time of the Peace Conference, with writing a letter of sympathy for the Eastern European Jews to Rabbi Stephen Wise.
In Eastern Europe, the sentiment of anti-Semitism is not, as in Western Europe, confined chiefly to conservatives and chauvinists, but impregnates even the masses. The Magyar peasants are bitter against the town-dwelling communist' Jews; and in spite of all the Budapest police can do, bands of infuriated Magyars make a grim pastime of beating an occasional son of Israel whom they catch in the street after nightfall. In Poland, the Ukraine, and, to a less extent, in Roumania, the mediæval legend of the ritual murder, for which the Jews are supposed to take the blood of a Christian babe at each Passover, has been revived; and all Eastern European Jews are suspected, by their Christian neighbors, of Communism. The Ukrainian Nationalist bands have apparently been guilty of serious and repeated pogroms. The Poles are unanimous in their ardent and patriotic hostility to the four or five million Jews included within their frontiers. All Jews, they firmly believe, are
I repeat this welter of fantasy, stray fact, and superstition to indicate that anti-Semitism has, indeed, once more become a true movement of opinion, which, far from succumbing at the scoff of incredulity, is making converts almost daily, and demands from the student of social phenomena that careful analysis which alone can discover both its cause and its cure.
For there is a cause. There is really a Jewish problem, and it is as old as the dispersion of the Jews. Anti-Semitism is even older than the dispersion. It is as old as the captivities. Wherever the Jews have lived among other peoples, either perforce or of their own will, and whether before or after the Christian era, it has flourished. One may therefore well conclude, with that sincere and able Jewish scholar, Bernard Lazare, that an opinion of such enduring prevalence 'could not be the result of fancy and of a perpetual caprice,' but that 'there must be profound and serious reasons both for its beginning and its persistence.' The truth is that the antiSemitism of Berlin and Paris is of one piece with the anti-Semitism of Antioch and Alexandria; the angry alarm of Henry Ford concords strangely with the grim fury of the Hetman Chmielnicki; and if the outward form assumed by popular sentiment against the Jews varies somewhat in accordance with
differences of time and place, in its one essential cause it remains ever the same.
This cause is neither religious, as is often averred, nor economic, as many believe; it is political. It is based on the observation that the Jews, through innumerable transmutations of time and place, not only have kept their identity as a people, but have opposed a vigorous, if passive, resistance to most attempts at assimilation. The Jew, in short, is regarded as a foreigner, whose 'laws are diverse from all people'; and as such, he is considered to be an enemy to the state.
The underlying reason for Jewish exclusiveness is, perhaps, the law of Moses. The sole object of life, according to the teachings of the rabbis, is the knowledge and the practice of the law, for 'without the law, without Israel to practise it, the world would not be. God would resolve it into chaos. And the world will know happiness only when it submits to the universal empire of the law, that is to say, to the empire of the Jews. In consequence, the Jewish people is the people chosen by God as the depository of his will and his desires.' This strong and narrow spirit, instead of diminishing with the lapse of time, seemed only to increase; until, with the victory of the rabbis over the more liberal Jewish schismatists, in the fourteenth century, the doctors of the synagogue, says Bernard Lazare, 'had reached their end. They had cut off Israel from the community of peoples; they had made of it a being fierce and solitary, rebellious to all law, hostile to all fraternity, closed to all beautiful, noble or generous ideas; they had made of it a nation small and miserable, soured by isolation, stupefied by a narrow education, demoralized and corrupted by an unjustifiable pride.'
It is well to remember that, although the Jews of Western Europe and America have at present pretty well freed
themselves from these heavy intellectual and spiritual shackles, the Jews of Eastern Europe still live, for the most part, in strict accordance with the letter of the Thorah and the Talmud.
The law of Moses being not only theological and moral, but agrarian, civil, and hygienic as well, no sooner did the Jews begin to live abroad than it be came necessary for them, if they would avoid contamination, to draw together in intimate communities, and to beg from the authorities, in the name of their religion, certain exceptions and privileges, just as they are demanding them to-day, under the rubric of 'minority rights,' in Poland and Roumania. Thus, in Rome they could not be haled into court on a Saturday; in Alexandria they were not subject to the common municipal regulations, but had their own senate, courts, and mayors.
Antiquity was tolerant; but not so the Middle Ages. There came a time when, with the slow dissolution of feudalism, the various peoples of Europe, under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, began to cohere into nationalities. All over Europe the question of nationality was identified with the question of religion, as it still is in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. If you did not belong to the Church, you were necessarily an enemy of the State. Observing among them a people who dressed, spoke, and behaved differently from themselves, who claimed privileges and exemptions, and desired to live apart, the followers of the Church vindictively decreed that the Jews henceforth should be obliged to dress differently and to live apart; and instead of having privileges granted to them, they were placed under a régime of special restrictions. The Ghetto, which the Jews had formed of their own free will, was now imposed on them by force. From the eleventh to the sixteenth century, the Jews, like all heretical sects,
were persecuted, tortured, burned, killed, expelled; and in their bitter misery, drawing together more closely than ever, they gradually forged that profound sense of solidarity which is still, perhaps, their greatest source of strength.
The Protestants of the Reformation, after trying vainly to convert the Jews, turned angrily against them, 'The Jews are brutes,' cried Luther, in a passion. "Their synagogues are pig-styes; they must be burned, for Moses would do so if he came back to the world. They drag the divine word in the mud; they live by rapine and evil, they are wicked beasts who ought to be driven out like mad dogs.'
But the religious wars had now fairly begun, and in the heat of the struggle between Catholic and Protestant, the Jews, greatly to their good, were wellnigh forgotten. For them, the worst was over. In the seventeenth century, though a number of onerous restrictions were put back into effect by the Church, the return of the Jews within the Christian faith, so long desired, was confidently, though vainly, expected.
The eighteenth century, like antiquity, was tolerant. In Holland and England, no less than in Turkey itself, the Jews were happy and prosperous. In 1791, the French Constituent Assembly voted full rights of citizenship to the Jews. It was the first act of the emancipation, which was now to follow rapidly in Central as well as in Western Europe. Napoleon, at the head of his armies, freed the Jews of Italy and Germany. The Jewish cult was written into the French budget in 1830. The emancipation was completed in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Greece by the Revolution of 1848; it was completed in England in 1860, and in Hungary in 1867. The last Western European Ghetto was abolished in 1870, with the fall of the Pope's temporal power.
But though many Western European Jews have been more or less assimilated during the last hundred years, there are still many others who, though emancipated so far as external restrictions are concerned, have not desired, or have been unable, to shake off the clannishness, the peculiar mentality, inbred by twenty or thirty centuries of almost unbroken tradition; they may not go to synagogue, or even to the reformed tabernacle, but they would be repelled at the idea of marrying outside the race, and they preserve a special and seemingly ineradicable tenderness for their fellow Israelites, of no matter what social stratum, or what geographical subdivision. Their inner emancipation, their emancipation from the history and customs of Israel, is still to be effected. There can be no true assimilation so long as there is not free intermarriage; and until there is evidence of a rapidly increasing assimilation, the Jewish question, with its attendant fervor of anti-Semitism, will continue to occupy men's minds.
A sharp distinction must be drawn at the present time between this question as it presents itself in Western Europe and the United States, where the Jews are externally emancipated, and as it presents itself in Eastern Europe, where the Jews still live mediævally to themselves, and where there is a tendency on the part of the prevailing governments to restrict them in various ways. The cleavage is somewhat blurred by the fact that hordes of Eastern European Jews are still pouring annually into Western Europe; nevertheless, generally speaking, the distinction can be maintained. As the arguments which are brought against the Jews in the East include and elaborate those adduced in the West, it will simplify matters if the latter be considered first.
Of the serious arguments of Western anti-Semitism, two are political, and one the least important, but perhaps the commonest is economic. Briefly stated, the economic argument is that the Jew is congenitally a non-producer, a parasite, living only in the cities, trading and lending money, swelling the army of profit-devouring middlemen. Historically, this contention cannot be sustained. The tribesmen of Israel were, originally, not traders, but farmers and shepherds. As speculators and traders, they were far surpassed in antiquity, first by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, and later by the Greeks and Romans. It was only after the dispersion that their mercantile propensities began to develop. The sudden cessation of all their former activities as husbandmen was due in the beginning to their religion, which, on the one hand, forced them to gather in communities so as to be able to escape the contamination of foreign ways and peoples, and, on the other, taught them that they must keep themselves pure for the eventual return to Jerusalem, and that in ploughing any soil save that of Palestine, a Jew would defile himself. All exiled Jews were thus constrained to become city-dwellers, and city-dwellers or town-dwellers they have since remained, until they have indeed, at last, become almost total strangers to the life of the fields.
As city-dwellers, they were naturally forced into commerce, in order to live. At a time when other peoples were less well organized, the Jewish communities established in every considerable town of the Mediterranean countries, and in constant communication and sympathy, provided an unparalleled system of commercial agencies to the Jewish traders, who, in consequence, soon began to prosper greatly. It was only in the Middle Ages that the Jews began to specialize in money-lending and the gold