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Jewish Tours Argentina

Jewish Nationalism and Emancipation (1897-1899)


Jews in the Modern World

If the cause of anti-Semitism is the existence of the Jews as a nationality, its effect is to make this nationality more tangible for the Jews, to make them more aware of the fact that they are a people.

It is because the Jews are a nation that anti-Semitism exists. Granted-rand this cannot be too much emphasized-that religious prejudice lies at the root of the hatred of Israel, yet this religious prejudice at the same time implies the existence of the Jewish people upon which for nineteen hundred years have fallen the anathemas of the Church. Assume that Christianity had never existed and yet that the Diaspora had come into existence the Jews, a nation without territory, a people scattered among the peoples, would all the same have provoked anti-Judaism. It would probably have been less violent, and yet even that is not certain; for Judaism would with equal readiness have come into conflict with other religious principles, just as took place in Alexandria and in Rome. This conflict would have lacked the element of deicide, nothing more.

If the cause of anti-Semitism is the existence of the Jews as a nationality, its effect is to make this nationality more tangible for the Jews, to make them more aware of the fact that they are a people.

Some thirty years ago the worlds Jews were divided into emancipated Jews and Jews subject to discriminatory laws. A great part of the Jews suffering under the system of persecution had as their ideal the status of the emancipated Jews, and the greater part of the emancipated Jews ,.ere inclined to cast off their Jewishness, to cut themselves off from the Jewish mass still in servitude, with which these emancipated Jews pretended to have no other bonds than those required by the claims of humanity.

This situation is already a thing of the past. A hundred years ago in France, more recently still in Germany, in Austria and in England the Jews of the west were freed. The material barriers which separated them from Christian society were destroyed; they were permitted to exercise their rights as men. There followed a golden age for the Jews, an age when every dream soared all dreams, all ambitions, all appetites. What happened was that a small section, the propertied section of the Jews impetuously rushed to the conquest of pleasures from which it had been cut off for so many centuries. It got rotten through contact with the Christian world which had upon it the same dissolving effect as civilized man has upon the savages to whom he brings alcoholism, syphilis, and tuberculosis. It is obvious that the so-called upper class among western Jews and especially among French Jews, is in an advanced state of decay. It is no longer Jewish, it is not Christian, and it is incapable of substituting a philosophy even less a free morality, for the creed it no longer owns. Whereas the Christian bourgeoisie holds itself upright thanks to the corset of its dogmas, traditions, morality, and of its conventional principles, the Jewish bourgeoisie, deprived of its age-old stays, poisons the Jewish nation with its rottenness and it will poison the other nations if it does not make up its mind--and this is something we cannot too strongly urge upon it--to adhere to the Christianity of the ruling classes so that Judaism may get rid of it.

Now, while this category of Jews thought only of the acquisition of fortunes, dignities, honors, decorations, and high positions, while the lesser Jewish bourgeoisie developed intellectually, the ancient ghetto was already being rebuilt. According to economic and political circumstances anti-Semitism was being born but these circumstances were only, it should be clearly noted, the immediate causes suited to reawaken ancient prejudices. Anti-Semitism aimed at the restoration of the old legislation against Israel; but this self-assumed purpose was an ideal purpose. What real and practical purpose has it achieved? It has not succeeded and will probably not succeed in France, Austria and Germany, in again erecting separate dwelling quarters, or in enclosing the Jews in a special area, as is the case in Russia; but thanks to anti-Semitism a moral ghetto has very nearly been re-established. No longer are Jews cloistered in the West; no longer are chains stretched at the ends of the streets on which they dwell, but around them has been created a hostile atmosphere, an atmosphere of distrust, of latent hatreds, of unavowed--and thus all the more powerful--prejudices, a ghetto more terrible than one whence you might escape by rebellion or exile. Even when this animosity is dissembled, the intelligent Jew is a1vare of it; henceforward he feels a resistance, he has the impression of a wall erected bet1veen him and those in whose midst he lives.

What at the present moment, can you show the Jew of Eastern Europe, who so keenly desired to attain the position of his western brothers? You can show him the Jew pariah. Is that not a beautiful ideal for him to achieve? And what shall we say to him if he quite simply declares, "My position is abominable; I have obligations and I have no rights; I am reduced to a frightful degree of wretchedness and degradation. What remedy do you suggest for me? It will afford me a social situation which will allow me to refine myself; thanks to this I shall acquire new capacities for feeling, and consequently I shall find it more difficult to suffering it will develop within me a greater sensibility and withal it will not cause to disappear the things which wound that sensibility--quite the opposite. Out of a wretch sometimes benumbed by his wretchedness, it will make a sensitive being who will doubly feel every pinprick and whose existence will consequently become a thousand times less tolerable. Out of an unconscious pariah it will make a conscious pariah. What advantages shall I gain. from this changed position? None. And so I am through with your emancipation; it offers neither a guarantee, nor an assurance, nor an improvement."

This is why we must not, as do the emancipated Jews, look upon ourselves solely with an eye to anti-Semitism, this is why we must not seek what the peoples among whom we dwell might expect of us; we must seek what we can extract from ourselves and to this end we must not Christianize Judaism but, on the contrary, Judaize the Jew, teach him to live for, and to be himself. This is why we should answer those who tell us, "You should labor for humanity?" by saying: "Yes but our ambition is to work for mankind in other fashion than do those dungheaps which by their decay bring forth new flowers and new fruits. We are through with being eternally exploited by all. Peoples, a troop of cattle and of serfs, the butt of every lash, a flock to which men even deny a stable, a horde of people denying themselves the right to have a free soil or to live and die in liberty. We do not want to bow our backs and we will gladly let our rich men--without brains, without force, without will, without brotherhood, and without pity,-supplicate those around them and say, "See how much like you we are; we have all your vices and even all your virtues we forego our own thoughts, our ideals, we have the same abject souls, the same fears, and the same cruelties." We stand up and we say to them: We are ever the ancient stiff-necked people, the unruly and rebel nation; we want to be ourselves and we shall know well how to conquer the right which is ours, not only to be men but also to be Jews." And who are we? We, the intellectuals, the proletarians, and the poor people of Israel. Is not this enough? When Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Palestine there came back to Jerusalem only forty thousand men. They were the proletarians, the wretched, the righteous of the Psalms, the revolutionary prophets; the rich remained in Babylon. They must still remain there for it is the poor who make nations; the rich do not know how to create, they do not even know how to give.

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