Typos p. 74: Mr. C. M. Salaman [= Mr. C. K. Salaman]
Character of the Jews
"We find Semites in the land [Babylonia] and in possession of considerable power almost as early as we can get back . . . . When history commences, the inhabitants of Babylon were already civilized." 1
This passage from the anthropologist A. H. Keane is really the key to the mystery, if there is such a thing as a mystery, of the Jews.
Abraham and the Aramæan ancestors of the Israelites were in the district of Ur of the Chaldees about 2350 B.C. The whole of the area, including this place and west of it, was throughout antiquity and from the earliest times to within living memory not only the strategic connecting link between three continents, but also the isthmus of land across which the trade routes of three continents lay. Thus the ancestors of the Jews, as also probably all the Semitic stocks with which they mingled and which, after the fall of the Sumerians, settled in that area, have now been continuously in touch with civilization of a kind, with city life of a kind, and with trade of every imaginable variety, for probably 4,500 years.
This, apart from the Near Eastern Alpine and the Oriental Mediterranean strains in their blood, which differentiate them distinctly from Western European stocks, would of itself suffice to mark them out as a people fundamentally different from ourselves. When therefore Keane, speaking of the characteristics of the Semites, also says, "their whole mental outlook, their mode of thought, their religion and organization, indicate their derivation from a desert people", 2 he says something probably less significant than the first paragraph quote above, and refers to a period in their history too distant to have left upon them the mark of more than or two stubborn and primitive traits.
Before dismissing Keane, however, it may be interesting to consider his statement, for it may be that it is precisely these few stubborn and primitive desert traits in the Jews which have
1. Keane, p. 491.
2. Ibid., p. 489.
What are the traits of the desert people the primitive Semites or Bedouins from whom the Jews ultimately derive?
According to Dr. S. A. Cook, they are energy, enthusiasm, aggressiveness. "Courageous, furious in attack, contemptuous of death, the Semites are better in skirmishes and raids than in prolonged attack; they are soon discouraged, and . . . organising power is rare . . . . But they can meet defeat and misfortune with resignation, await a proverbial forty years for revenge, and they pass easily from extremes of optimism and confidence to pessimism and despair. They have been called superficial, vain, aristocratic and swift to feel humiliation. The heroic virtues of the various warriors were group-loyalty, self-sacrifice, defiance of the strong foe and protection of the weak kinsman. Tribal or family pride readily conquers civic or national loyalty, and is a disintegrating factor when nomads take to settled life. The personal or tribal interest is all-compelling; but the bravest deeds are often isolated, or of no social value . . . . Personal feeling is the source of action, not common sense, or plan, or morality. A personal claim is recognized, and there is admiration for any manifestation of personal power and ability as distinct from its ethical value or its consequences. Ideas of leadership, power and control have a fascination, and here again ethical distinctions are secondary." 1
Further on Dr. Cook writes: in the desert "there is much to feed fancy, little to encourage discursive thought . . . . But life is a fight; one must be heedful, and everything is ominous. So there can be no repose, and the self-control of the Bedouin is apt to be an affectation, a truce, or a prelude to some sudden explosion . . . . Moreover, desert life does not promote social stability." 2
Discussing the Bedouins of to-day, who are probably the equivalent of the earliest Semites, the "Encyclopædia Britannica" says: "They are shepherds and herdsmen, reduced to an open-air, roving life, partly by the nature of their occupations, partly by the social characteristics of the countries in which they dwell. For . . . the prolonged drought of summer renders considerable portions of it [their land] unfit for pasturage, and thus continually obliges the herdsmen to migrate from one spot to another in search for sufficient herbage and water for their beasts . . . . Descent has something to do with rank, but not much, as every individual of
1. "Cambridge Ancient History." Vol. I., pp. 194195.
2. Ibid., p. 197.
This gives a more or less complete picture, and is all the more valuable for coming, as it does, from wholly impartial sources.
We see a people hardened and sharpened by the merciless life of the desert; recognizing no differences of rank among themselves, intolerant of dominion, disinclined to obey, independent, not given to manual labour, and scorning laws that are not based on their customs and religion. But a people fitted by millenniums of privation, uncertainty and simple living to become formidable in any close struggle for existence with a type less hard and less hardened; and a people accustomed to wait, to endure, and to be masters of their own destiny.
But the above, although important, are really less significant for the history of the Jews than are certain other equally strong characteristics which may be inferred from them. We refer to that complex of mental habits, emotions, gifts and tastes which necessarily forms in the nomad State such, for instance, as the inability to become, or to feel, rooted to any territory, hence the lack of appreciation and capacity for a territorial national's attachment to a particular soil and environment. Such also is the ready ability to become adapted to new surroundings and to a new soil, provided it offers opportunities for a livelihood which are not too offensive to Bedouin or nomad taste. Such, too, is the inability to recognize any obligation to any other man or to any community, in respect of property possessed in fact, the inability to understand property as a privilege involving responsibilities and duties. The nomad is essentially a particularist who is by nature, as it were, born into the philosophy of the Manchester School, whether this came after or before him. Not only is it difficult for him to recognize mutuality in the institution of property, but he is also quite incapable of building up a society in which the relations of the various classes and of their members are based on mutuality. He knows only personal property, and when he packs up his household goods and his tent, and moves to a fresh pasture, driving his herd before him, he feels an obligation to no man. He moves, moreover, not merely because he is a rover by nature, but also because he tends, by his congenital disinclination towards productive labour, to exhaust the land on which he establishes his
1. Ed., 1911. Vol. III., p. 623.
Nor, if there is any accuracy in the accounts of the modern Bedouins with their persistent raids on each other's areas and property, their constant need of migrating in search of sufficient herbage and water for their beasts, and their incessant quarrels with one another, 1 can there be anything strange in those early mass movements which led to the gradual invasion of Mesopotamia, the overthrow of the Sumerian dominion, the absorption of the Sumerian civilization, and the formation of the city states of Babylon and Assyria, and ultimately, of course, of Judah, etc., followed by persistent cousin-warfare between all the Mesopotamian and Palestinian Semites. 2
What can now be deduced in the form of characteristics from this description? An ardent friend of the Jews, Ernest Renan, says: "The character of the Semite is, generally speaking, hard, narrow and self-seeking." 3 Again, discussing the same subject, Renan says: "The Semitic genius is essentially dry and hard." 4
Accepting for the present the epithets "narrow" and self-seeking" as probably not unfair for this is the last thing Renan would willingly have been to the Jews what evidence is there in support of the charge of hardness and dryness?
Hardness is of two kinds. People can be hard only on others and soft towards themselves; they can be prepared to make things as difficult as possible for others and as easy as possible for themselves. Such people are usually effete and degenerate. This is clearly not what Renan meant. For the Jew is not soft towards himself. His history proves that he is capable of imposing the greatest hardships on himself and capable of the greatest bravery. In his three greatest feats the conquest of Palestine after the sojourn in Egypt, the Maccabæan revolt, and the clash with Rome there stand revealed his indomitable courage and his exceptional powers of endurance. Besides, after the Great Dispersion, when all Europe began persecuting and martyrising him, his behaviour was in most cases exemplary. It is said that the way in which many of the Jews, condemned by the Inquisition to be burnt alive, went to their death, so much stirred the onlookers that the Church often dreaded a revulsion of feeling among the populace.
1. A profoundly interesting light in shed on this aspect of the Bedouin's life-habits and on his character as a whole in Chapters II. and III. of the Introduction to Lawrence's "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom".
2. Even when unity was most vitally important for the success of the Jewish revolt against the Romans, just before the Great Dispersion, the Jews remained divided until the end.
3. "De la Part des Peuples Sémitiques dans l'Histoire de la Civilisation", by Ernest Renan (Paris, 1862), p. 18.
4. Ibid., p. 26. See also the last paragraph on p. 15 of Lawrence's "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom", and the first twelve lines of p. 16.
This does not mean that Renan was necessarily wrong, or that the above account exhausts all the kinds of hardness of which man is capable. It is possible to be hard both on oneself and on one's neighbour. This is nobler than hardness only on the neighbour; but it can be just as formidable. 2
It may explain the callousness necessary to the type who can persevere in methods which mean ruin or at least distress to the neighbour. It may explain the ruthlessness of the Jews as climbers where a society provides the opportunity to climb by ruthless means. It may explain the resolute and single-minded self-assertion of the Jews which is so often displayed in the Old Testament.
The question is whether this is more essentially Jewish than non-Jewish. Gibbon emphasizes the cruelty of the Jews. He says: "Humanity is shocked at the recital of the horrid cruelties which they committed in the cities of Egypt, Cyprus and Cyrene." 3 He then adds: "In Cyrene they massacred 220,000 Greeks; in Cyprus 240,000; in Egypt a very great multitude. Many of these unhappy victims were sawn asunder, according to a precedent to which David had given the sanction of his example. The victorious Jews devoured the flesh, licked the blood, and twisted the entrails like a girdle round their bodies." 4 He also speaks of their "irreconcilable hatred of mankind". 5
Whatever may be the truth of the last two statements, the fact remains that no matter what the Jews did, their worst acts of brutality could easily be paralleled by those of any other people, particularly those who have been the empire builders of history.
It has been said, moreover, that the peculiar cruelties of the Russian Revolution, particularly in its early days, were largely due to Jewish influence. The fact that the Jews feel themselves different, and standing aloof from mankind, may possibly be a factor in making their native hardness merge insensibly into cruelty when they find members of the "rest of mankind" in their power. But it does not seem either rational or fair to
1. This is alleged by the Jewish writer, Simon Wolf ("The Influence of the Jews on the Progress of the World", Washington, 1888, p. 39), but we have been unable to confirm the statement in regard to Ney. We do not, however, claim to have consulted all possible sources.
2. For a description of the Bedouin's hardness towards himself, see Chap. III. of Introduction in "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom".
3. Gibbon. Vol. II., p. 222.
4. Ibid. (footnote).
5. Ibid., Vol. II., p. 223.
More convincing as proof of their native hardness is perhaps their proneness for the calling of usury, which for its successful pursuit presupposes ability to contemplate unmoved the distress of an insolvent debtor. This hardness was displayed long before the conditions of mediæval Europe drove them, as some allege, to practise usury almost exclusively. Listen to the account given by a modern Jewish historian of what happened in Judea after the return of the first batch of Babylonian exiles: "During the fifty years of exile the ground had been neglected and had run to waste. Out of the frugal returns it made, contributions in kind had to be handed over for the support of numbers of priests and Levites, tributes had to be paid to the Persian governor, and any surplus had to be devoted to the building of houses. It was only the very few who succeeded in meeting all these charges . . . . It was for this reason that the consequences of the state of economic decay were, in the present instance, particularly hard. There sprang up overnight, as it were, side by side with the respected families with old traditions, a new capitalist class who were in a position to lend the needy money for house building, the purchase of seed, and the payment of taxes, and accepted the arable land, the vineyards, and even the debtors themselves and their children as security for the debt. And if the loan was not repaid, they seized the property together with the owner and his family and made them slaves. Thus this young community which had set out to rebuild the Temple merely succeeded in creating a plutocracy. Deprived of the symbol of the idea that was their inspiration, economically oppressed, and divided into a plutocracy and a band of paupers, even the question of administration could not be settled." 1
1. Kastein, p. 73. For Nehemiah's own account of this, see Nehemiah, v., 112: "And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live. Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards. And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them. And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer. Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the approach of the heathen our enemies? I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you let us leave off this usury. Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive-yards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them. Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so we will do as thou sayest."
History also records the early association of the Jews with the slave trade in Europe, and some may ask: Who could do it? Who could pursue this calling who did not set gain above all things? As regards usury, we may wonder whether the kings of France and England to mention only these would have found such ready instruments of indirect extortion to hand if the Jews had not shown a native capacity and a native taste for the rôle. As a question of Sombart's suggests, would Eskimos or Laplanders have fallen so perfectly into the part, had they been similarly situated? 2
On the other hand, other peoples have been successful slave-traders the English above all and Christians in ever-increasing numbers have practised usury ever since the Middle Ages.
Whether Renan meant by the hardness of the Jews that quality which makes them singularly suited to follow such professions as those just mentioned, it is difficult to say, as he does not amplify his statement. On the whole, however, it seems probable that he did, and with it the dryness he mentions is really implied.
Turning now to other qualities which seem steadfast in the Jews, to which most historians bear witness, and which may well derive from the desert, it has been said that they turn instinctively from manual labour and prefer those means of gaining a livelihood which ensure a sedentary, or at least an urban, existence free from toil.
Henry Ford charges them with this peculiarity, 3 as does also the famous political economist, Friedrich List, who goes so far as to say that "the Jew has never been content with the returns yielded by agriculture. They are too slow and too
1. Kastein, p. 77.
2. "The Jews and Modern Capitalism", by Werner Sombart (London, 1913).
3. "International Jews." Quoted in Wolfgang Diewerge's "Kairoer Juden-Prozess" (Munich, 1935, p. 38).
Thus Dr. Cunningham, than whom none could be more impartial, commenting on the congenital dislike of hard work always manifested by the Jews, writes: "For centuries they [the Jews in the East] continued to live habitually by sordid callings. In the days of their great King foreign labourers had been required to build their temple, and their prophets in their highest moments of inspiration (Isaiah lxi., 4) rejoiced in the thought that the Gentiles were to do all the work while the Jew would idly enjoy the fruit. The contemptuous estimate of honest labour as compared with cultured leisure in Ecclesiasticus (xxxviii., 33) brings this side of the national character into fuller relief, while the ingenuity of the Talmudists was devoted to the elaboration of a code of dealing by which they might continue to spoil the peoples among whom they sojourned." 3
The Talmud certainly offers some confirmation of Dr. Cunningham's point of view, for long before any Christian or anti-Jewish legislation could be blamed for the Jews taking to callings which did not demand hard work, we find Rabbi Meir giving the following advice to his people: "Always teach your son a clean and easy profession." 4 And later in the same chapter we read: "The world cannot do without perfumers and tanners; but blessed is he whose business is perfumery, and woe unto him whose business is tanning!" 5
Even Dr. Arthur Ruppin, himself a Jew, says: "The kind of occupations favoured by Jews, as compared with non-Jews, reveals a world-wide sameness to this extent, that the percentage of Jews employed in agriculture is everywhere extraordinarily small, while on the other hand the percentage of Jews active in commerce is extraordinarily high." 6
1. "Gesammelte Schriften", Bd. 6., p. 27.
2. Milman. Vol. III., p. 258.
3. Cunningham. Vol. I., pp. 202, 203 (footnote). See also Sombart (p. 331): "We never find these wandering Jews, be their origin Judea or Palestine, establishing agricultural colonies or independent settlements of any sort, as most other emigrants did. But what do we find? That Jewish settlers scattered themselves in all corners of the inhabited globe among foreign nations, preferably in large towns, where they sought their livelihood."
4. Qiddusin IV., XIV., 82a ("The Babylonian Talmud", translated by Lazarus Goldschmidt, Berlin, 1932).
5. Ibid., 82b.
6. Ruppin. Vol. I., p. 347.
Dr. Ruppin points out, however, that the figures in the above table, as in all such tables, should be carefully compared in order to determine first the percentage of Jews in the general population, because, as he says, where Jews are plentiful there tends to be greater competition in the merely middleman, or commercial, jobs hence the higher percentage of Jews in other callings when Jews are plentiful.
Here is another table from Dr. Ruppin: 2
Both of these tables bear out what has been so often alleged and yet has recently been regarded as unjust by all Jews and Liberal Gentiles.
Curiously enough, however, the facts revealed are really implicit in the claim that the Jew is by predilection a middleman. He buys and sells. He does not, as a rule, produce. Whether this predilection is rooted in his dislike of manual labour is ultimately beside the point. What really matters is that his fondness for the middleman's job is well established.
Israel Zangwill, describing the essential character of the Jews, says: "Indeed the Jew is a born intermediary, and every form of artistic and commercial agency falls naturally into his
1. Ruppin. Vol. I., p. 357. It should also be noted that in the Middle Ages, at least in Germany, although most callings were closed to Jews, agricultural work was not, and yet they did not take it up.
2. Ibid., Vol. II., p. 355.
But in the very manner with which Lord Melchett prefaces this admission, he tenders the most eloquent excuse for it. He says: "After an experience of many centuries, the Jews have been driven by law, by religion, by terrorism, to avoid the ownership of immovable goods. Those who are liable to be expelled at a moment's notice take care to have no property that cannot easily be taken with them." 3 Hence, etc. etc.
In making this apology for the middleman proclivities of the Jews a plea which he is by no means alone in advancing Lord Melchett raises a most important point, which is: "Are the Jews as we now know them i.e., a preponderatingly commercial people, middlemen, shunning productive labour the outcome of our oppression of them, and of our having forced them to specialize in the callings for which we now unfairly criticize them?"
Many people would answer this question offhand in the affirmative. Most Jews would do so and have actually done so. Mr. C. M. Salaman, for instance, writing in 1882, spoke of the Jews as "having been subjected . . . to the exceptional disadvantage of being forced for many years to pursue, in order to sustain life, many avocations calculated to degrade and depress the human character". 4 We have also seen that Disraeli answered the question in the same way. 5
Scores of similar passages from Jewish writers could be given, and the notion is one firmly held by Gentiles.
Is it substantiated by history? Is it substantiated by what is known of the ethnic origin of the Jews, and of the character of those from whom they derive? Can we, in view of their history, subscribe to the view that the Jews as we find them
1. "Report of the Fifth Session of the Universal Races Congress." Article: "The Jewish Race", p. 274. Renan actually suggests that in the Middle Ages the Jews were middlemen even in philosophy. See "De la Part des Peuples Sémitiques", etc., p. 18: "Le rôle philosophique des juifs au Moyen Age est aussi celui de simples interprètes."
2. "My Neighbour" (London, 1936), p. 51.
3. Ibid. Disraeli also advanced this plea. See "Biography of Bentinck", p. 490, where, in trying to account for the Jews' predilection in favour of such callings as usury, he says: "In this they obey the law which regulates the destiny of all persecuted races; the infamous is the business of the dishonoured; and as infamous pursuits are generally illegal pursuits, the persecuted race which has most ability will be most successful in combating the law."
4. "The Jews as They Are" (London, 1882), p. 9.
5. See footnote 3.
Before hastily giving an affirmative reply, there are many points which would require elucidation. It would be necessary to find out whether the Bedouin's natural disinclination towards manual labour had at any time been lost by the Jews, never to be recovered. Some of the awkward points enumerated in the passage just quoted from Dr. Cunningham would have to be met and we should require to explain away certain characteristics of the Jews revealed, as has been shown, in their history and in the Talmud long before the Roman Dispersion. Above all, we should have to account for their having displayed the same predilection in favour of commercial and middleman occupations before the Christian era, with its oppressive anti-Jewish legislation, was thought of.
It is well known, for instance, that life in Rome was made quite tolerable for the Jews, 1 that they were persecuted less than the Christians, 2 and that if they were banished or otherwise punished it was not out of any motive comparable to that which operated in the later persecutions of the Jews in mediæval times, but because they themselves created intolerable disturbances. 3 It is known, moreover, that they were not liked. Dr. Oesterley mentions, among the chief reasons for this, "the distinctive customs of the Jews, exhibited with ostentatious display". 4 This matter of ostentatious display is found mentioned in Classical writing. The Jews seemed to take a delight in exhibiting their aloofness and difference from the Roman world, which naturally caused offence.
Juvenal speaks of them rather as a public nuisance, as preying on the credulity of the more simple Roman by begging, selling him dreams of any kind (or their interpretations?). 5 He also accuses them of unsociability and of flouting the laws of Rome. 6 Cicero, in his speech in defence of Flaccus, speaks of the Jews as despicable and turbulent, but, as will be shown later, he also hints very broadly indeed at their power (probably financial) and implies that he himself was not free from fears of it. 7
1. Oesterley. Vol. II., pp. 414, 415.
2. See Lecky, "The History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne". Vol. I., p. 407.
3. Thus does Lecky explain the dislike which the Romans felt for the Jews. He says (Op. cit., Vol. I., p. 416): "The Jews, on account of their continual riots, their inextinguishable hatred of the Gentile world, and the atrocities that frequently accompanied their rebellions, had early excited the anger and contempt of the Pagans."
4. Oesterley. Vol. II., p. 415. See also "The History of Rome", by Theodor Mommsen (London, 1894), Vol. V., p. 418, where Mommsen, speaking of the Roman Jews in Cæsar's time, says: "At this period, too, we encounter the peculiar antipathy of the Occidental towards this so thoroughly Oriental race and their foreign opinions and customs."
5. "Satire" VI., 542547. (Loeb Classical Library. Translated by G. G. Ramsay, LL.D.).
6. Ibid., XIV., 96106. Same translation.
7. See "The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero" (Translated by C. D. Yonge, London, 1883, p. 454, Sec. XXVIII. of the Oration). Mommsen also refers to their power (Vol. V., p. 419).
As far as can be gathered, there was no influence, except native proclivity, which at that time drove the Jews to these occupations, and the fact that they must have grown rich in them is known, not merely by the accounts of historians, or by the complaints of their ostentatious displays at the baths and elsewhere, which can be read in contemporary literature, but also in the fact that Domitian, when he was "reduced to financial straits by the cost of his buildings and shows", resorted, just as a mediæval French or English monarch might have done, to a rigorous taxation of the rich Jewish community. 4
The immense urban experience, the vast conditioning in civilized habits of mind and body which he possessed and which was implied in the opening passages of this section, must have served the Jew in great stead in Rome, as everywhere else in Europe in the days immediately before and after the Great Dispersion; and if a historian as impartial and learned as Dr. Oesterley thinks it fair to tell us of the Jews in Rome that "sooner or later their energy and their sharp wits had to be reckoned with in every sphere", and "it was a source of pleasure to the Jew to measure his acuteness with that of the less endowed Roman, and to overreach him" 5 if, as we say, a historian as judicial as Dr. Oesterley thinks fit to speak in these terms of the Roman Jews, it surely lends colour to the view that probably everywhere in antiquity the Jew was using his immense experience and inherited adaptation as a civilized
1. Oesterley. Vol. II., p. 415. See also Mommsen (Vol. V., p. 418), where he says, speaking of the Jews in Cæsar's time: "Even at this time the prominent business of the Jews was trade."
2. "Rome et Judée", by Count Franz de Champagny (Paris, 1858), p. 94.
3. Ibid., p. 97.
4. Suetonius, "Lives of the Cæsars", Books VIII., XII. (translated by J. C. Rolfe, London, 1914).
5. Oesterley. Vol. II., p. 416.
Besides, it is only necessary to consider the peculiar genius the Jews display in financial matters in order to doubt whether external pressure alone could have been responsible for making them so constantly ready to practise usurious methods and such expedients as forward buying, regrating and cornering in order to secure quick returns with the least possible amount of effort. When it is remembered that they were the first to make use of letters of credit, and that most of the secrets and problems of modern finance were known over 3,000 years ago in Babylon, it is, to say the least, difficult to concede that in the modern Jew, as we know him, we have the descendant of a simple, honest, hard-working and horny-handed son of toil whose seed has been wholly disfigured and corrupted by the oppressive and hostile legislation of mediæval Europe.
Against the excuses usually made by the Jews and by Liberal Gentiles for the Jews having been money-lenders and traders in the Middle Ages (i.e., that Christian laws forced them to these pursuits), and against the claim made by the same group of apologists that the Jews to-day, with all their unpleasant concentration on unproductive means for money-making, are the creation of Christian conditions, Dr. Cunningham writes, therefore, as follows:
"We cannot but feel that an opinion which has asserted itself in so many lands and so many ages, deserves at all events to be examined, before it is contemptuously dismissed as an idle prejudice; and a little reflection on the conduct of the Jews in the East, or in pagan Rome, will serve to disprove the calumny that the faults of the Jewish race originated wholly in the maltreatment they received at the hands of the Christians." 2
In order to show how general and how monotonously similar Gentile complaints against the Jews always are, no matter where they may chance to be found, Dr. Cunningham quotes an interesting Consular Report on Russia, dated 1882, in which the people of Pereyaslav are said to have made certain demands
1. Mommsen, for instance, says (Vol. V., p. 418): "The Jewish trader moved everywhere with the conquering Roman merchant there, in the same way as he afterwards accompanied the Genoese and the Venetian, and capital flowed in on all hands to the Jewish, by the side of the Roman merchants."
2. Cunningham. Vol. I., pp. 202, 203.
Among the twelve demands, the following are the most characteristically traditional:
"That the Jews should cast off the cloak of pride and braggadocio that the Jews should impress on their wives and daughters not to deck themselves out in silk, velvet, gold, etc., as such attire is neither in keeping with their education nor the position they hold in society . . . . To forbid all Jews to abuse Christian burgesses, and in general to scoff at them. To prohibit Jews from buying up in the markets the first necessaries of life with the intention of reselling them to the Russians . . . . To prohibit Jews buying wheat for trading purposes within 30 versts of the town of Pereyaslav . . . . To prohibit Jews from buying up uncut wheat . . . . The Town Council is begged not to let, and the Jews not to hire, the grounds at fairs and markets, with the object of farming them out." 1
Always the same kind of complaint! The Jews are to be forbidden from constantly stealing financial marches on the less wily Gentile, or from using methods not immediately obvious to the Gentile, for extorting money from him such, for instance, as hiring fair and market grounds from the Town Council, not in order to use them, but in order to farm them out at a higher rate to the Russian producer who comes to the fair or the market with his produce.
This is exactly the same sort of complaint as is implicit in Dr. Oesterley's observation to the effect that "it was a source of pleasure to the Jew to measure his acuteness with that of the less endowed Roman, and to overreach him".
The kind of excuse advanced by Lord Melchett and writers like Disraeli, Mr. C. K. Salaman, and scores of others, to the effect that if the Jews now show a predilection in favour of commerce and finance, and a bias against manual and productive labour, it is due to Christian oppression and agitation, does not therefore seem altogether adequate. And the inevitable conclusion seems to be that, very far from this trait having been reared in the Jew by his European environment since the Great Dispersion, it was there certainly as early as Roman times, and according to the evidence of Dr. Cunningham's and others, given above, most probably before.
What, then, does it amount to?
1. Cunningham. Vol. I., p. 203.
It is here submitted that this view of the matter probably explains a good deal of the financial success of the Jews, their peculiar pursuits, and the dislike which, as has been sufficiently shown, they have everywhere provoked. And in estimating their character, it would be inaccurate not to reckon with the tremendous impetus of all the forces above mentioned in directing the Jews away from manual and productive labour into channels where money can be made by mere buying and selling, not necessarily commodities, but actual cash, at the right time and in the right place.
But no discussion of the Jew's characteristics could be complete, particularly in regard to the subject of finance, without some reference to the fundamentally particularistic basis of the Jewish character inherited from his desert ancestors. For it is this particularism of the Jew, combined with his native hardness, which makes him not only incapable of understanding property except as an individual possession free from all ties, but also incapable of living among a people with the more gregarious view of property 2 i.e., as a trust involving certain obligations, duties and responsibilities without trying to convert this gregarious and only practical view of property into a particularist view.
The repeated instances in history of the gregarious view of property degenerating and hardening with time into the
1. Dr. Ruppin is careful to remind us in his enumeration of his race's peculiarities that "town life demands a higher degree of mental alertness". (Vol. I., p. 55.)
2. There is a good deal of misapprehension rife concerning the origins of the gregarious view of property with its essential features of obligation, duty and responsibility. These limitations on property in a sanely run society are not due to benevolence, generosity or magnanimity on the part of the rulers. They are due to simple common sense. For, not only is any other view of property unpractical and therefore incapable of enduring, but it also fails to recognize the essential element in all property, which is the contribution made to it daily and yearly, throughout the generations of a people, by the community as a whole. The fact that the particularist view of property overlooks this makes the particularist view of property thoroughly unworkable.
All this, however, becomes perfectly clear and understandable when we bear in mind Keane's statement that the "whole mental outlook", the "mode of thought" and the "religion and organization" of the Semites "indicate their derivation from a desert people". 1 For how can an independent nomad, moving with all his personal and family goods from pasture to pasture and from oasis to oasis, conceive of any gregarious attitude towards property, or of any obligations implicit in his possessions, other than those he feels towards perhaps his own children?
Add the factor of high sophistication relative to those about them, the quality of hardness of which Renan speaks, and the further gift of psychological insight, and there results an equipment of formidable power in the presence of any people who have not been as accustomed to the individual struggle for private possessions as long as the Jews have.
Dr. Ruppin convincingly supports his claim that the Jews are gifted with unusual psychological insight, by pointing to their success as interpreters of all kinds: actors, musical executants, journalists and producers of drama. 2
In psychology it is notorious that men like Freud and Adler have been not only pioneers but have cleft the history of the science into two, the more or less dark and groping era lying behind them.
Mention has already been made of Zangwill, who claimed this gift of the born intermediary in the Jew and said that "every form of artistic and commercial agency falls naturally into his hands". 3 There can be no doubt that much of this gift finds its
1. See p. 65 ante.
2. Ruppin. Vol. II., p. 58.
3. See p. 72 ante.
Dr. Ruppin would add to this enumeration of the Jew's peculiar gifts a quality we have already indicated as belonging to his remotest ancestors i.e., an inability to bend or bow to domination, and intolerance of any power demanding obedience, which, he says, is "reconcilable alone with democracy a state when obedience is not recognised by anyone". 1
This explains, more satisfactorily than Zangwill explains it, the Jew's tendency to Socialism. 2 Zangwill believes that this Jewish tendency is due to a racial gift for acting as an intermediary, "lifted to the plane of idealism". 3 But surely it is due rather to the Jew's rooted democratic bias. Mr. Salaman also frankly recognizes this trait in his co-religionists. He says: "The revolutionary feeling in Europe owed its life and stimulus to the Jews . . . and the liberal ideas slowly dawning in Europe and mainly due to Jewish brains and money." 4 True! But he does not explain it. It seems to be explained by the congenital intolerance of dominion which characterizes the Jew rather than by his gifts as an intermediary. There are, however, other reasons for the Jew's association with Socialism, Liberalism and revolutionary feeling in Europe, which will be pointed out in the next section.
Much has been said about the great intellectual gifts of the Jew. Renan made a great point of this in his address on Jewish Contributions to Civilization, and goes so far as to ascribe to Jewish genius not merely the alphabets of the Greek and Roman languages, but also the idea of phonetism, "whereby each articulation is expressed by a sign, and these signs themselves are reduced to a small number (twenty-two)". He also says of them that, even in the artistic sphere, it is impossible to imagine a Milton, a Lamartine, a Lamennais, if the psalms had not already existed. 5 Others have ascribed to the Semites at least the Babylonian and Assyrian branches of the race many of the discoveries connected with our calendar and time divisions. Milman, for instance, says that long before Europe had any knowledge of the true relation of
1. Ruppin. Vol. II., p. 57.
2. Op. cit., p. 274.
3. Op. cit., p. 274.
4. Op. cit., p. 39.
5. "De la Part des Peuples Sémitiques", etc., pp. 1620.
Much of this has been violently contested, not as to the facts about Jewish knowledge but as to the suggestion that the knowledge was originally discovered by the Semites themselves.
Ferdinand Fried, for example, 2 denies that the Semitic race had any hand whatsoever in the invention either of the Greek or Latin alphabet, or of phonetism and the signs expressing articulations. He would allow that they may have modified or handed on certain original inventions which formed the basis of our modern script and alphabets, but ascribes the main inventions to the Sumerians. He says the same of the alleged original contributions of the Semites to the calendar and our divisions of time, all of which, he declares, were already either present or implicit in Sumerian culture.
Even allowing for some prejudice on Fried's part, it is impossible not to be impressed by the high tribute Professor Longdon pays to the influence of the ancient Sumerian culture upon the peoples who absorbed it, and when he says "it is not easy to disentangle the interwoven influences of Sumerians and Semites", 3 he clearly justifies much of what is contended by the German author.
Count Franz de Champagny is another who recognises the superior intellectual endowments of the Jews. He says: "The race of Judah is certainly among those races most highly gifted by God; for He endowed them with patience combined with energy, eloquence combined with subtlety, and a feeling for the beautiful combined with the sense of what is profitable." 4 But he is also careful to stress their unchanging character and assures us that, if we wish to form a picture of the Jew of the ancient world, we need
1. Milman. Vol. III., p. 435.
2. "Der Aufstieg der Juden", Chap. II.
3. "Cambridge Ancient History", Chap. XII.
4. Champagny, pp. 84, 85.
Dr. Ruppin, who also claims exceptional intelligence for the Jews, lays great stress on the factor of mate-selection in the development of their shrewd and alert brain. He says: "The rich Jews of eastern Europe were less concerned about seeking out rich suitors for their daughters than young men who were first-class students of the Talmud, and thus contributed constantly to a selective process which cultivated mental acuteness and intellectuality in the race." 2
Although the natural endowments and other factors mentioned may have done a good deal towards making the Jews above all shrewd as compared with the more recently civilized peoples about them, it would seem as if the two factors that have all along been insisted upon in this section four and a half millenniums of contact with civilization, and at least three millenniums of contact with trade and urban life adequately explain all that is known about the Jew's character and his peculiar relationship to his Gentile environment, more especially when the latter is either preponderatingly agricultural and rural or has relatively recently achieved civilization.
There now remain to be discussed those characteristics of the Jews which, though not reducible to their ethnic origins and their vast experience as civilized products, are nevertheless connected with their peculiar experiences as a people who, again and again, have ben dispersed from a common native focus.
It is hardly necessary at this stage to point out that the Great Roman Dispersion was by no means the first of the dispersions. There were communities of Jews in Egypt and Babylon long before the Romans had made the first conquest in the history of their empire.
But in considering the whole phenomenon of Jewish dispersions, whether before the Roman conquest or as the result of it, something must here be said which, so far as can be ascertained, has never yet been said or even hinted at.
It might be argued, for instance, and undoubtedly has been argued, that when we are discussing those traits of the Jewish character which are the outcome of the Jews being a dispersed people without a national home, we are surely concerned with
1. Champagny, pp. 7297.
2. Ruppin. Vol. II., p. 55. This explanation, however, would make it appear that the peculiar qualities of the Jews were due to comparatively recent European cultivation and not, as Champagny argues, to congenital factors which have remained unchanged throughout millenniums.
This sounds so obvious and unquestionable that by thousands of ordinary readers it might be allowed to pass without further inquiry. Regarded a little more narrowly, however, it loses much of its cogency, and for the following compelling reasons.
In the first place, we know that long before the Roman Dispersion there had been dispersions many of which were voluntary. Communities of Jews, many of them voluntary exiles from Judah, had formed in Egypt, in Asia Minor and elsewhere. 1 This is one fact worth remembering. But a fact of far greater importance is the natural roving quality of the Jews, apparently implanted in their nature long before any external pressure whatsoever was brought to bear upon them.
What is the earliest history of their ancestors but a continuous pilgrimage? What was the explanation of their very presence in Mesopotamia and Palestine, if it was not that they were wandering from an area in which, at all events, they had always been rovers into another area seeking fresh woods and pastures new?
In fact, it may very seriously be questioned whether their Bedouin ancestry in itself did not implant in them for all time a roving and restless spirit which could not and actually did not shoot any lasting roots of deep attachment into any soil. In their origin they were nomads. But can one speak of nomads as possessing a fatherland, a home country, a patrie from which they are dispersed? And would it be logical to say of nomads who had been dispersed from a temporary common focus that certain unsettled roving elements in their nature had been forced upon them by their dispersal?
In this sense, it seems timely to utter a warning particularly in these days of courtesy and kindness at all costs, even at the cost of Truth against the tendency to account for every less prepossessing attribute in the Jew to the force of his unfortunate circumstances amid a barbarous and oppressive environment.
What the Great Dispersion did, therefore, was not so much to give the Jews a fresh experience in the form of dispersion, or to force upon them a new taste for it, but to make it impossible for any common native focus to be established again for some time. For, as we have seen, the Jews had had the experiences
1. A surprisingly large list of the places in the Near East in which Jewish communities lived before the first century A.D. will be found in Oesterley, Vol. II., Chap. XXVI.
Now, the peculiarity of the Jews in dispersion to mention one important factor in their psychological constitution was that they retained a sense of national unity and a sense of a native focus without the need of any territorial basis. It was a sense of national unity built only on a common religion, a common law and a common ethnic origin. This is often spoken of for instance by Kastein as a marvellous phenomenon, as a pis aller in a terrible crisis. But is it not in itself a proof that the Jews were by nature, from the very beginning, a nomadic people who in any case would have no other unity except one of this ideological type?
They could, in fact, preserve their non-territorial sense of nationality only by forcing, as it were, the note of their common religion and their "clannishness". They were one non-territorial kith and kin against a world consisting of territorial nationalities.
This meant, however, not merely aloofness and a certain eagerness and pride in exhibiting the evidence of their peculiar form of unity (which, incidentally, is one their characteristics which most provoked the anger of the Romans) but also and this is important in understanding the psychology of the Jews it meant that in their heart of hearts they were at home nowhere. Their common home was only in the spiritual realm of their religion and in the consciousness of their common ethnic derivation.
This is magnificently explained in the chapters of Joseph Kastein's book, 1 and it is the only explanation which accounts for certain traits in the Jews which all ages, almost, have commented upon, and which marks them out as a peculiar people.
If to-day the Jew is in the forefront of every international movement, whether the creation of a language like Esperanto 2 or the support of an ideology like Socialism with its brotherhood of mankind as against Fascist Nationalism, it is due not so much to the fact that the Jew is at heart a democrat and intolerant of dominion, as to his being himself a creature without a nation in the territorial sense, and with a primitive ancestry which, in any case, did not know of any such territorial nationality.
1. Kastein, particularly such a chapter as "The Mobile Centre" in Part III.
2. Dr. Zamenhof a Jew, according to Zangwill was the inventor of it. (Op. cit., p. 274.)
Thus Dr. Joseph Dulbeeg, a Manchester Jew, writes: "Judaism is not a religion merely, like Catholicism or Protestantism; it is a brotherhood, a race if you like; and that it will remain as long as there are two Jews left in the world. Say what you will, no matter how an English Jew or a German Jew may love and feel for his English or German neighbours, he will have a greater love, a greater sympathy for another Jew, even if that Jew may come from the other end of the world." 2
This is probably true, and this trait in the Jewish mind, while it makes for good world citizenship, can hardly square with the national feeling of those among whom the Jews may merely be sojourning. It may so square. But if a national crisis be imagined in which the Jews do not feel themselves involved in the national issue at stake, or in which the Jews have reasons of their own for sympathizing with the opponents of the nation among whom they are but sojourners, is it not conceivable that they will either act or use their influence in a way hostile to their local hosts?
This has certainly happened again and again, and the historical evidence alone abundantly confirms Dr. Dulbeeg's frank admission.
Only three historical examples of it need be mentioned.
Not only from the positive statements of Jewish historians themselves, but also from the fact that a large number of the Jews of Babylon remained behind when Cyrus of Persia set the Jewish exiles free, it is known that the rulers of Babylon treated the Jews very mercifully and considerately during their half century of sojourn in Babylon.
And yet Isaiah and his people obviously desired the downfall of Babylon, and welcomed the prophesied arrival of Cyrus, who was to be the conqueror of Babylon, merely because
1. Op. cit., p. 274.
2. "Jewish Chronicle", quoted by Joseph Banister on pp. 59, 60 of "England under the Jews".
"For your sake", saith the Lord, "I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldæans, whose cry is in the ships." 1
"Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of Kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall be shut." 2
And then the final prophetic curse:
"Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldæans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.
"Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare thy leg, uncover thy thigh, pass over the river.
"Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: and I will take vengeance . . .
"Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldæans: for thou shalt no more be called The Lady of Kingdoms." 3
And Cyrus came and conquered the Babylonians, while the Jews rejoiced to see Isaiah's prophetic curse fulfilled. And yet they were living in a country which made them so comfortable and happy that, even after Cyrus's conquest, according to Josephus and there is no doubt that he was right, for there is other evidence of the fact "many abode in Babylon, not willing to leave their possessions." 4
Much the same sort of thing happened in Egypt. The large Jewish community there was treated with great tolerance and hospitality. And yet when the Romans came as invaders, the Jewish community, hoping to gain some advantage by the arrival of the hostile strangers, sided with the Romans against their old hosts. At the end of the Alexandrian War, Cæsar granted the Jews the right of citizenship in Alexandria, doubtless in return for the support they had given to the army brought by Mithridates to his relief, at a time when he was in the sorest straits in the Egyptian city.
Writing on this very point, the scholarly historian, Dr. Oesterley, says:
"The friendly relations existing between Rome and the Jews of Alexandria had the effect of embittering the non-
1. Isaiah, xliii., 14.
2. Ibid., xlv., 1.
3. Ibid., xlvii., 15.
4. Oesterley. Vol. II., p. 78.
What Dr. Oesterley does not point out, however, and what seems important if a fair estimate is to be formed of the situation in Alexandria in the last half century B.C., is the fact that the Jews were not only neighbours of the Alexandrians, but very old neighbours, having enjoyed Egyptian hospitality for centuries.
A third and last instance is the attitude of the Jewish community in Algiers when the French conquered the country in 1830. The Jews welcomed and sided with the French against their ancient hosts, and completely forgot any past obligations. But perhaps it were best , in this matter, to quote a Jewish writer's own statement of what occurred. Mr. Maurice Block says:
"On landing in 1830, the French army found friends, guides and interpreters in the very heart of the enemy's country. They were the Jews who were only too glad to rally to the tricolour standard, which in its folds was to bear them freedom and toleration." 2
A similar case of going over to the enemy is reported of the Polish Jews during the Bolshevik invasion of Poland. But enough has been said to make it quite clear that the Jew, through being by long tradition a nomad, a cosmopolitan, a man of no fixed territorial home, but only a member of a body whose unity is essentially spiritual and ethnic, cannot be expected to be anything else than an indifferent spectator when the local human environment in which he happens to find himself is threatened. Only if the interests of this local human environment coincide with his own does he appear to be other than indifferent. But suppose circumstances in which only a slight advantage would accrue to himself and his co-religionists by the defeat of his former hosts, then his indifference would seem to turn to active sympathy with the latter's enemies. 3
It is this trait in the Jewish character which doubtless has earned him the reputation of being self-seeking, and when
1. Oesterley, p. 404.
2. "Revue des Études Juives." Vol. 38, No. 75, p. xxix. The passage is taken from a lecture delivered by Maurice Block on the 26th January, 1899.
3. Commenting on this very indifference of the Jews to any merely local or national patriotism in those about him, Champagny says: "Les juifs qui ne s'étaient liés à la cité qu'ils habitaient par aucune tradition nationale, quand cette cité était vaincu ou envahie, saluaient sans regret le vainqueur et savaient se rendre nécessaires au nouveau venu."
It may not be the Jew's fault that he necessarily feels and acts in this way. But in an enumeration of his qualities it would have amounted to a grave inaccuracy not to mention this trait of his character the instinctive loyalty to a spiritual and ethnic unity which transcends all other loyalties, and therefore makes him appear egotistical and self-centred.
Before closing this all too brief outline of the quintessential character of the Jews, another effect of being territorially nationless must now be mentioned, and with this the present section may be closed.
The sense of spiritual and ethnic unity which possesses the Jews and which makes them act as one, despite their sundered existence in many lands, may be intense and satisfying, but it inevitably has the result of making them, as compared with the territorial nations, feel in one very important respect appreciably inferior. For human nature, even in a people as sophisticated and relatively senior 2 as the Jews, still remains actuated by most of the familiar springs of ordinary human conduct, and it would be daring to deny that the Jews are in any way privileged to be free from those motives and incentives which we normally ascribe to the rest of humanity.
If, however, it be admitted that the Jews, in view of their non-territorial mentality amid territorial nationals, must be constantly reminded of their deprivation and their consequent relative inferiority and their study of their own history alone would suffice to bring it to their attention had they not become aware of the fact by other means then it follows that the customary consequences of these inferiority feelings would be bound to manifest themselves in a characteristic course of conduct in Jews as a whole.
What are the customary consequences of inferiority feelings? With surprising regularity they consist in an intensified longing for self-assertion and ascendancy. They drive those who are possessed by them to what is known not merely as compensation, but also as over-compensation.
Whether this sufficiently accounts for the trait universally recognized in the Jews of ancient Alexandria, ancient Rome, mediæval Europe, and modern America and Europe, which has so constantly provoked the Gentiles about them we refer to
1. "De la Part des Peuples Sémitiques", etc., p. 18.
2. "Senior" in the sense of having been longest in touch with civilization.
But the belief that the inferiority feeling of the Jews constitutes an adequate and necessary explanation of their exceptionally intense arriviste or climbing propensities is probably more soundly established. For this indomitable ambition, this restless and indefatigable striving after importance and power, is exactly the kind of psychological result which might be expected from the inferiority feelings in question.
Hardly any writer, from Renan to Dr. Ruppin, fails to mention this indomitable ambition as an outstanding feature of the Jews, and added to their other qualities enumerated above it naturally makes them formidable exponents of the will to power, and ruthless competitors in any contest for influence and ascendancy.
But again, it may not be the Jew's fault that he is predisposed by his inferiority feelings to be ever striving for influence and supremacy, a striving which, according to the Jewish psychologist Adler and this claim alone on the part of a Jew is significant is the principal motive of all human conduct.
We are, however, not concerned here with praise or blame, but merely with stating facts, and in an estimate of the Jewish character it would have been unpardonable to omit this important factor in the springs of Jewish behaviour.
Enough has now been said, if not to provide a full description of the Jewish character, at least to indicate its main features and its more striking differences from the character of the average Gentile for, after all, that was what we chiefly set ourselves to do. How these differences peculiar to the Jews operate in influencing the life, institutions and politics of a people among whom they become powerful will be the burden of the ensuing section.