Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Esau’s Tears: Excerpts of chapter 2

Albert Lindemann is perhaps the only Jewish scholar who, unlike most Jewish pundits, acknowledges the reasons why they’ve been so disliked. No ellipsis added between unquoted paragraphs:

Esau’s Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Chapter 2. Modern Times (1700 to the 1870s)

The French Revolution and the Jews

Opponents of Jewish emancipation retorted that Judaic belief, included the belief that Jews were a separate nation, was not then merely a private affair. Jews could not serve in the army because they could not be depended upon to defend the French nation; they were potential enemies of France.

The liberal years of Midcentury

Legal restrictions concerning Jews were lifted, and many Jews became prominent politicians. This period of liberal triumph has been referred to as the “honeymoon years” of Jewish-Gentile relations. [But] honeymoons always end, sometimes with bitter reflections concerning the flawed beliefs and naive expectations upon which the union was initially conceived.

Backward Russia in Ostjuden

Russian Jews throughout the nineteenth century remained a nation most emphatically apart from the dominant Great Russians. Historians now doubt that hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed by Chmielnicki’s forces, as earlier stated.

By the end of the [18th] century Jews had sufficiently recovered economically and demographically that they represented ten percent of Poland’s population.

By the middle of the [19th] century, the Jews of Posen and Galicia were awarded Prussian and Austrian citizenship, including the right of free movement.

Russia’s “Liberal” Experiment

Jews became prosperous industrialists, merchants, bankers, doctors, and lawyers in proportionately much larger numbers than did Great Russians, Byelo-Russians, Poles, or Ukrainians. Jews also entered white-collar employment in sharply disproportionate numbers.

Eastern European Jews were also infamous in the nineteenth century for involvement in activities associated with the saloon, as pimps, or in the language of the time, on “white slavery,” but also in other illegal activities.

Anti-Semites in Russia were inclined to perceive yet another area of Jewish vice, one that emerged from the destructiveness of Jewish character, in the unusual proclivities of Jews to engage in subversive activity.

Revolutionary Agitation and Tsarist Reaction

Arrests and repression followed, and thereafter activists took a more violent and terroristic direction. When Alexander II was assassinated by revolutionary conspirators in 1881, much attention was drawn to the Jews involved in the conspiracy. Following the assassination, popular rioting against the Jews, or pogroms (the word originated in Russia), broke out in many areas.

The May Laws of 1882, not formally repelled until 1917, were designed to bring Russia’s Jews under control; control [of] what was considered the increasingly unscrupulous exploitation by Jews of peasants. Quotas on the number of Jews allowed in higher education were established to reduce and stabilize the numbers of Jews in the universities. The new goal was around ten percent, since by the 1870s the percentage of Jewish university students had grown much beyond that figure in many areas.

The 1880s marked the beginning of a massive Jewish emigration out of the Russian Empire. Now opportunities to get out of Russia opened up as never before, especially for those willing to go to the New World. Jews from eastern Europe arrived in floods.

The Concept of Race

By the middle years of the nineteenth century, the term “race” came to be commonly and unapologetically used by nearly everyone in western Europe. In stark and revealing contrast to the situation by the mid-twentieth century, few questioned that there was a Jewish race.

A Gentile child, adopted by Jews at birth, can never qualify for priestly status. His moral probity or fidelity to the beliefs and rituals of Judaism, no matter how perfect, cannot alter his lower status. Nazis, too, said that one is born a Jew and Jewishness could never be relinquished.

Blood Imagery

In the nineteenth century, the word race began to replace blood. The English politician and writer Benjamin Disraeli (prime minister, 1868), in spite of having converted to Christianity as a child, emphatically insisted that he remained a member of the Jewish race. In his novel Coningby, Disraeli depicted a vast and secret power of Jews, bent on dominating the world. His noble Jewish character, Sidonia, describes race as a supremely important determinant (“all is race; there is no other truth”). He wrote that if the “great Anglo-Saxon republic” (the United States) allowed its white population “to mingle with its negro and coloured populations” it would be the beginning of the end for the new country.

Racism and anti-Semitism

It is significant that racism in its nineteenth-century form had no single theorist whom most racists recognized, in the way that Marx was recognized by socialists or J.S. Mill was recognized by liberals. Racism did not become a movement in the way that socialism and liberalism did, nor did racists–even specific kinds of racists, such as anti-Semites–form coherent, durable parties comparable to socialist and liberal parties.

There seems little question that increasingly systematic observations about various human societies had important implications for the growth of racism in the nineteenth century.

The Evolution of the Vocabulary of Race

Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) developed the concept of Volkgeist. He presented himself as the outspoken friend [of the Jews], yet he rejected Jewish emancipation in Germany, at least in the near future, and termed Jews “parasites.” He wrote that Jews “belong to Palestine and not Europe. Since Israel and its prayers despise all other peoples from which it is set apart, how can it be otherwise than that it is itself despised by other nations?”

A number of influential European anti-Semites arrived at Zionist conclusions: The Jewish problem in Europe could be solved if the Jews would go to Palestine, where they belonged.

Racist Ideas among Jews

There were many Jewish racists in the nineteenth century. As noted, Disraeli was probably more influential in spreading certain general notions about the Jewish race than any of the theorists of race described in the preceding sections. He despised what he termed “that pernicious doctrine of modern times, the natural equality of man.”

Moses Hess (1812-1875), who had worked closely for a time with Karl Marx, later affirmed that the “race struggle is primary, the class struggle secondary.” Judaism would become the spiritual guide of humankind, whereas Christianity, “a religion of death,” would wither. He was a good friend of Graetz, who wrote him of his delight in “scourging” Germans. Graetz added that “we must above all work to shatter Christianity.”


Excerpted from a longer entry that eventually will contain most of the book’s chapters.

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