THE FIFTEENTH CHAPTER
ZANGWILL--But there is a general Jewish Problem for the solution of which Herzl called the First Zionist Congress. Since you concede Herzl half prophet, will you not concede some value to the work he undertook?
Roth--There was a real need for the work of the Zionist Congress, and if Herzl had gone ahead with the work as he began it, the story of Zionism might be the story of a triumphant movement. Herzl, as I see him at the First Zionist Congress of Basle, was our first and only Jewish statesman in two thousand years. "We are a people, one people," said Herzl, and with this gesture of his prophetic hand he swung the dial of history backward and forward.
The world raised its eyelids curiously, and the rabbis looked up appalled. The world applauded and the reformed rabbis babbled, but the Jewish people which has never yet failed to recognize a poet was stirred.
As Jethro pointed out to Moses, even a great leader must have smaller leaders subservient to him, and as Herzl looked about him he saw only orators, young men with vast enthusiasm but with almost no political sense.
Of the few capable Jews who believed in Herzl, Franz Oppenheimer gave him the little time he could wrest from his engrossing studies in sociology. Israel Zangwill gave only an infinitesimal part of himself to Herzl, and divided the rest of himself between literature and woman suffrage.
Herzl stood alone in his own light and the light revealed a vista of terrible, insurmountable dangers. But he had taken the first step. He had pronounced the magic words: "We are a people, one people." There was no drawing back.
Once uttered, these words portended imminent danger as well as imminent achievement. The world, after all, was rather hostile to Jews, the Dreyfus Affair having proved how little it took to excite Europe into a fury of Jew-hatred. No Jew has ever been as sensitive as Herzl to the physical harms to which his people was being exposed. He had traveled through Russia, and in the heaving seas of Jewish faces which engulfed his triumphant way he had read a dumb, unutterable faith. Somehow, they had come to believe, he would keep them out of harm. And perhaps he was bringing them into even greater dangers. Who knows but that the declaration of Jewish unity might tempt the world into more extravagances against them?
To-day we know better. We know that such a declaration forces the respect of the world. But Herzl, it must be remembered, was schooled differently, for most of his Jewish nationalist weapons were forged in the fires of the Dreyfus conflict.
Herzl's next step was to declare that it was the intention of the Jewish People to secure a legally constituted home in Palestine. There, too, he faced portentous difficulties. To mention the three most important ones:
1. There were some six hundred thousand Arabs on the soil of Palestine;
2. Turkey owned Palestine and jealously resented any reflections on her sovereignty over it;
3. The Kaiser, at that time the overshadowing figure of Europe, had Germanic fancies for the Holy Land.
With only these three difficulties in mind it appears to have been little short of madness for a Jew to hope to establish his people in Palestine. Nevertheless Herzl persisted. It was only when England, through the stewardship of Mr. Chamberlain, offered the Zionist Organization Uganda in British East Africa that Herzl wavered, and wavering he died, leaving his work in weak hands. With Herzl died the hope of the Zionist movement.
Zangwill--You forget that at the time of Herzl's death Max Nordau was almost as influential a figure.
Roth--Nordau. What was Nordau? Some day it may become the task of a future historian to write:
The tragedy of this great people was that it gave everything to the world and kept nothing for itself, left itself not even enough wherewith to rear a humble monument to its past. Those Jews built pyramids and cathedrals out of granite, but their own synagogues they built out of wood and straw. To the polity of other nations they contributed Disraelis and Gambettas, for themselves they kept some super-clerks whose names it would be abuse of history to mention.
He will write with pity and with not a little indignation as one writes of a masterpiece spoiled by the ruthless hands of an invader. I tell you that in spite of the series of concessions beginning with the Balfour Declarations and ending with the specifications of San Remo nothing has been accomplished, and the outlook for a new era of Jewish national life in Palestine is no brighter to-day than it was ten years ago when, under the leadership of the wooden David Wolffsohn, the Jewish world faced the prospect of another Zionist Congress, the eleventh by record.
I look back with amazement at the naivete of the organization, and of its leaders at that time. The only living aspect of the situation was that there were two contending groups--the practical Zionists who insisted that it was only important to colonize Palestine, and the political Zionists who tolerated the work of the practical Zionists and dozed in Constantinople--a conflict between the dying and the dead, the dying being victorious, only to fall at the first trumpet-blow of the great war.
Had a single Jewish statesman been present at the eleventh Zionist Congress he would have pointed out that though the movement downstream in the Zionist ranks was slow, the sea of international relations was restless and likely at any moment to rise and flood the shores, and so meet the Jewish People when and where they were least expecting the encounter. But the statesmanship of the Congress was divided between the merchant Wolffsohn and the journalist Nordau.
As I search through the published reports of the Congress I note with amazement that not once was the all-important question of the relations between Palestinian Jewish colonists and the native Arabs raised. The relationship was certainly there; it was swiftly developing in spirit and prejudices. Why was no attention paid to it? If Jews were not already living in large numbers in Palestine did we not hope that some day they would? Surely butter-milk Zionists of 1913 were not planning to precede the Jewish occupation of Palestine with the wholesale annihilation, as per Bible precedent, of all its existing occupants? But the relationship between Jewish Palestinians and Arabian Palestinians was only one item in a much larger bill which the East vainly expected the Zionist Congress to draw up. Since Jews were colonizing Palestine and aiming to establish there "a legally secured home," what was the Jewish attitude towards the Indian and Egyptian struggles for national freedom?
There did not seem and there does not seem to be now any understanding among Zionists of the fact that the East is a world in itself, a world so ancient and possessed of such magnetic power that they who come into it, even though, like Alexander, they come into it as conquerors, must learn to deal with it on its own terms, that whereas we certainly can never hope to be able to impose on the East the European way of living, it is quite certain that the East will impose its way of living on us.
The Zionists have contented themselves with accepting the European idea that the East is simply a part of the world still not thoroughly conquered by the West, and that their work is simply a matter of arranging for Austrian, Russian, American, and English Jews to come to live there and reproduce there what they can bring along with them of European culture and comfort. What the East might think of such an attitude is a question that has never occurred to the Zionists whose behavior causes Easterners to ask themselves: "Has this Jewish People become all fools or all rogues?"
Zangwill--But surely you realize that the Zionist Organization was never in a position to announce its sympathy with the national aspirations of the oppressed peoples of the East, since it is itself a courtier for favors at the courts of the oppressors.
Roth--You have brought me to the point of my objection more quickly than I could have brought myself. The secret of the failure of the Zionist movement is that since the negotiations with England for British East Africa it has been no more than a courtier for favors at the courts of Europe. The entrance to the Promised Land is not through Paris, London or Constantinople, but through Jerusalem.
Zangwill--That is too easily said.
Roth--And not easily done. But when has the program of the Jewish People been known to be an easy one? Meanwhile I insist that what the Zionist Organization is doing, what it has done, and what it will do for another generation is without true vision, and will not bear fruit.
Zangwill--I am not myself, as you know, in agreement with the Zionist Movement, but I don't see how you can say these things in the face of what is happening in Palestine to-day.
Roth--Yet I insist that the apparent success of the Zionist Movement is an illusion. Its actual success would prove, perhaps, the most terrible event in all Jewish history. Let me show you what I mean.
THE SIXTEENTH CHAPTER
ROTH--It is perhaps unfair to put you in charge of the defense of the Zionists, who love you even less than you love them, but it will be necessary for the sake of the argument that you assume this task.
Zangwill--Never mind me. Defending them will be a sweet revenge.
Roth--Well, then, tell me to begin with: Are we returning to Palestine as Europeans or as Jews?
Zangwill--Since we are returning chiefly by the discourtesy of Europe, it would be difficult for us to say that we are returning as Europeans.
Roth--But it is necessary that you grant me more than that. You must grant me that we are returning as Jews.
Zangwill--I easily grant you that, for I am not granting you very much.
Roth--We are Jews. Jews who are first of all Europeans have no business returning to Palestine. They belong in Europe. They must expect that some day their bones and blood will mingle with the bones and blood of Europe. It is their strange destiny. But we are here coping with another destiny--a Jewish one. There are Jews who have not become Europeanized. There are Jews living in Europe, who, repelled by the brutality of its life, do not ever want to become Europeanized. In 1881 they formed bands of young men and young women, these un-Europeanizable Jews, and trudged badly clothed and hungry in the direction of Palestine. They were the Chovevi Zion. Since 1918 such Jews have been migrating in thousands, ragged and hungry, in the direction of Palestine. They are the Chalutzim. Those Chovevi Zionists, these Chalutzim, are Easterners--whether they come from Odessa, Vienna, London or New York--and their destiny is an Eastern one. Whatever national future they may have in Palestine surely must be Eastern.
Zangwill--Your argument has the weakness shared by all generalities. Many of these Eastern Jews, fleeing though they are from Europe, love Europe and European things, which they appreciate because they have lived with them, almost as dearly as they love Palestine and the East, which they know only by means of a shadowy report.
Roth--You need not tell me that. Do I not know it? We Jews love Europe with that passionate bitterness with which men love only those things which are denied them. If they had let us, would we not have been content to remain in Europe? Happy are those Jews who can be happy in Europe! Their lives are filled with innumerably lovely moments. Their days are full of wonder, and their nights with sweetness. But it is given very few Jews to be happy in Europe. And since we must go the temptation is to go to Palestine. It is a case of the dead calling to the living.
Zangwill--Permit me to remind you that you are wandering again.
Roth--Well, suppose we actually establish ourselves in Palestine? I invite you to behold a Jewish civilization on the fringe of the Arabian peninsula--Jewish cities with Jewish mills, Jewish offices, Jewish banks, Jewish streets, and rows of Jewish enterprises. Is it difficult to see that?
Zangwill--It is more difficult to believe than to see.
Roth--Where there is much splendor the humble find it easier to believe than to see. But we are really getting on famously. Granted this Jewish civilization on the fringe of the Arabian desert--don't you see something happening to the desert?
Zangwill--You are not going to have it swept?
Roth--Why should we try to do what is already done so well by the tempests that rise spontaneously out of the Indian Ocean? But do you not, for instance, see the desert becoming irrigated?
Zangwill--Yes. There is such a plan on foot now.
Roth--There will be many plans. If this plan does not go into effect, another plan like it will. And what will be the meaning of Jewish streets in Jerusalem and Jaffa, with rows of Jewish enterprises, but that Egypt, Persia, India and all other neighboring countries will be pierced by a series of far-reaching electric currents of a gigantic commerce?
Zangwill--That's not so unlikely.
Roth--Not unlikely! It is exactly what will happen. Do you not realize that India and Egypt are countries stored to bursting with natural resources it would take several civilizations, each lasting approximately five thousand years, to exhaust? England with her petty police system does not even approach these resources, but Jews with straggly beards and lean pale fingers will reach to their heart and vitals. Do you know what will be the result?
Zangwill--What will it be? I am breathless . . . .
Roth--The result will be that India, Egypt, Persia and all the countries of the neighboring East will undergo a vital reawakening, so that the spirit of history which Hegel noted a century ago moving westward will turn east again.
Zangwill--I regard all references to Hegel as evidences of plain pedantry. Kindly explain yourself.
Roth--With pleasure, for I am certain I can explain myself far better than I could possibly explain Hegel. There are perhaps many ways of substantiating the expression "spirit of history" which really means the time and the place where the most important things in the world are happening. Strictly speaking, therefore, there are at all times many spirits of history roaming over the planet, for it is inconceivable that events in the Western World are of any significance to a boy living in the heart of China for whom the spirit of history probably remains in Peking. And the spirit of history, for us Jews, moves as we move over the face of the earth, and nations rise as we rise to the surface of their life, and nations fall as we depart from their midst. During the last few centuries the spirit of history for Israel has been moving westward. It has had a long, pleasant journey, but it is returning to its original source in the East. Even now Europe is in the process of decay, and though this process may take as long as two or three centuries there can be no doubt that its culmination will mean the utter waste of Europe, and the rise once more of the spirit of building, of culture, and of happiness in the countries east of the Red Sea. Do you see that as possible?
Zangwill--It is not impossible.
Roth--Is it not something we Jews should pray for? If we are going back to Palestine as Jews, as Easterners, should we not give the enterprise all our love, all our heart, all our vision? Should we not say it in our hearts that the East shall blossom forth as a rose at our approach? Should we not vow in our hearts that our return must mean life to the East if the East is to mean life for us?
Zangwill--I concede that you are right without seeing how all this proves that the Zionist Movement, which is bringing us back into the East, is a menace.
Roth--Patience. Everything in its time, as the old rabbis said. What is happening in the East now? What is the most important development in the East to-day?
Zangwill--Undoubtedly the new manifestations of nationalism.
Roth--How do these manifestations appear in Egypt?
Zangwill--As rebellion against England.
Roth--And in India is it not rebellion against England? In Persia, is it not hostility to England? Is not the story the same throughout all the dark, smoldering regions of the East?
Roth--Now remember, we are returning to Palestine as an Eastern People. How do you think the nations of the East will look upon Jews who have settled Palestine under the mandate of England, pledged to uphold the arms of England in her struggle against their freedom? Do you think it possible that they will believe that we came East to befriend them, to help them?
Zangwill--But we are going to Palestine not to protect England but to create a homeland of our own.
Roth--That is true, but have our enemies of the past been so amenable to reason that we can hope our enemies of the future to take so rational a view of the situation?
Zangwill--We have never catered to the credulity of our enemies.
Roth--We have at least dealt honestly and intelligently with them. Think how we have wandered these centuries through a Europe which we built up, with the bones of our fingers, driven from city to city with cries of: "Traitors! Poisoners! Murderers!" How long is it since we had to explain to the world the innocence of Mendel Beyliss? No, we did not poison their wells, we did not betray their armies, we did not cut up their little children for our Passover feasts. Yet are there not masses of Europeans who still to-day believe these things against us? How, tell me, shall we be able to answer the accusations of the East when our time of reckoning comes, as it must? How, since our pleas of righteousness did not avail us in Europe where we were right, shall they avail us in the East where, pointing a finger of scorn at us, they will say, and not without truth: "In our most anguished moment, when our throats bled from the cruel fingers of the oppresser, they came to strengthen his arms?" What answer shall we make to this? How shall we convince them that they are wrong? How shall we convince ourselves that we are right? If we survived the accusations of Europe, was it not because we were in the right? And shall we not be annihilated by the East because in their case they will be in the right?
Zangwill--But what would you expect the Zionists to do?
Roth--The war only temporarily dislodged the Zionist colonists in Palestine. Since they had gained so much in the grace of Constantinople before the war they had no reason to hope that they could not gain more after the war. Moreover, in dealing with Turkey, the Zionists were dealing, as was proper, with an Eastern Power, a natural ally. But the Zionists acted with scant nationalistic intelligence, certainly with little Jewish statesmanship, when they gave themselves over completely to the Entente.
I earnestly beg you to consider, in spite of all paradoxical implications, that our lot at the end of such a disastrous war, belonged with the losers, not with the victors. If we had aligned ourselves with Turkey, our natural ally, we would under no circumstances have lost anything. But, since we had no national bank, no standing army, there was no need of allying ourselves with any one of the forces. Suppose, not having committed ourselves one way or another, Germany and her Allies had won the war? I concede you that Turkish arrogance within her own domains would have been greater than ever, and that she would have been more than ever reluctant to concede Jewish rights in Palestine. But we would at least in that case have been placed on an equal footing of political inferiority with some five hundred thousand Arab nomads, and their strength would for a long time have been our strength too.
Even when it had become apparent to the Zionists that the Allies were sure to win the war it should have been clear to them that, despite any treaty that might on the spur of victory be arranged, Turkey would still remain the most influential state in the East, as indeed she is, and this should have been a sufficient warning against playing the politics of England. Moreover, did they not know that it has become a fixed policy of the Imperial British government to grant every mandatory country the right to vote its own Parliament? Did not this assure the Arabs of the master hand over us? What was there to gain from an English mandate?
So for the illusory Balfour promise which cannot and will not be fulfilled, the Zionists destroyed their painfully built-up prestige in Constantinople. Do you remember what stress Ezekiel placed on the necessity of Israel keeping her foreign treaties? Was not our understanding with Turkey as sacred as a treaty? This treaty we tore into a million fragments and tossed to the violent winds of European conflict.
The Zionist plea at San Remo was little better than a request for a clerkship in the British Empire. We got precious little more. Only examine our gains! Are the Arabs not the lords of Palestine? Is there not a severe restriction against Jewish immigration into Palestine which will keep them in their high place?
Zangwill--You have not shown me yet whether there was any other course than the one they took open to the Zionists.
Roth--Is it not enough when I show you that the Zionists had no right to throw the Jewish People's future into the arms of the Entente? Now our way to Palestine is clouded with confusion. Better let the way be lost. Better let the whole thing die now. Better let us have, instead of several more centuries of confusion, several centuries of respite. And if we shall return to the East we will return as we left it, alone, with our hands ready to build, and our minds ready to plan. If we cannot return to Zion with honor, let us wait. Let us wait.
THE SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER
ZANGWILL--How long must we wait?
Roth--Perhaps as long as we have already waited.
Zangwill--That is a long time.
Roth—A long time and a sad time. When the period of our waiting is over the whole face of the world will have changed. It will be a new face and a new world. Maybe the time that will elapse will not be so long as it will be sad. It will be a very sad time, and at its culmination America will be as old as England is to-day, England will be as dead as Greece is to-day. The body of Europe, like that of an impish child, will have turned a complete summersault, and where the head of Europe was there will be Europe's feet, and where the heart of Europe was there will be Europe's liver. As though after a slight feverish dream, Europe will wake up to find herself grown old. Appetites which to-day are young and ravenous will have been sated. Peoples will have been sated with words and men with the multiplicity of their feverish lusts. The bones of Europe will move with a faint shudder of decay. There will dwell over every European city, like a cloud, the yellow atmosphere of an insidious canker. It will be terrible to look on, and seeing it men will find it difficult to breathe for fear that their lungs will be wasted.
We Jews will be in very much the same position we are in to-day. Geographically we will be distributed according to the revitalized map of the world. There will be, then, proportionately, as many Jews in America as there are Jews in England to-day. There will be almost no Jews in England, which will hang over Europe much as the moon hangs over the earth--a dead luminary. There will be a few Jews in France--most of them in Paris.
Zangwill--Why so few Jews in America?
Roth--I have been too hopeful about America. America will yet prove to be the most ungrateful of all the nations. She will expel us, just as Spain expelled us, just as England expelled us, just as France expelled us. Only there will never be a return of the Jews to America. Before America will have realized her loss in the loss of the Jews the yellow peoples will be on her back and at her throat. Poor romantic America! It will never be her fault. But we still have a century or so in America--perhaps more, perhaps less. It cannot be very much more. Then the persecution will begin. The fires now smoldering will flare up. The pot will boil and boil over. It will be the old melting pot, Mr. Zangwill, but we will be the only ones boiled in it. Antisemitism is somewhat different in America from what it is or has been in any other country. If you look into the matter carefully you will find that there has always been some purely spiritual force behind our expulsions from other countries. But antisemitism in this country is sheer boorishness, the whole triumph of America seems to me a triumph of sheer boorishness.
Why should I not have been hopeful of America's attitude towards us? Did I not observe our people expand their borders of influence throughout the country? City by city we developed wider and wider spheres of influence. But that was chiefly because we had a hand in building them, even the city of Detroit which is the capital of antisemitism in America. I have seen our people gain the friendship of America, but I have not been totally deceived. The gratitude of America to-day is of that elementary sort which does not require the help either of the memory or the imagination.
When America is completely built up there will set in the usual process of hardening and crystallizing. America does not yet know what she really is, so her prides are numerous but not concentrated. For things in which she now shows a remarkable interest she will have only a mild curiosity. Passions which have no roots in the ideals of democracy will spring up and find some democratic means of expression. It has been done. It will be done. When she has become conscious of her subconscious character, America will suddenly discover herself to be a sort of glorified Ku Klux Klan, suspicious of all intruders, especially of Jews. It has never taken very long for excitement about Jews to develop into incitement against them. I expect to be living when they will be roasting Jews alive on Fifth Avenue.
Zangwill--Charming prospect. Now tell me, what makes you think England will collapse so quickly and so completely?
Roth--Can you conceive of a British Empire without a British Navy?
Zangwill--Not very well.
Roth--It may happen five or five hundred years later, but it is sure to happen, that scientific discovery will make it as simple and as easy for a schoolboy to blow up a national navy as it is now for him to blow soap-bubbles through a clay pipe. What will England be without her colonies? There will be such misery, such bitterness, such loathing on your misty islands that they will be a fit dwelling place only for the mourners of their glory.
Zangwill--Where will the greater numbers of Jews be?
Roth--There will be Jews in Russia, in Germany, in Austria and in Italy. But the greater number of the Jews will be massed in India, Persia, China and all the neighboring countries. Jews will be spread plentifully throughout the entire East, which will float strange colored banners fresh with triumph. The whole East will be alive with planning and with building. But in the midst of all this a strange, a terrible man will arise the like of whom has never before been seen on earth, and he will go through the market places of the East, and he will speak only a loathing of Europe.
He will wander from man to man and from city to city, and his speech will be very scant and quiet, but something in his eyes will open up in their beholders great sluices of wrath, so that slowly, silently, desperately, his following will increase, and all with little clamor, all with little wagging of the boneless tongue.
In time this man will become leader of an enterprise of vengeance which will start out modestly from Calcutta, but by the time it reaches Constantinople will number several millions of men carrying secreted in their clothes little yellow phials. Sweeping up the Steppes, their numbers will increase as by a miracle, and their great hordes will seem to darken the face of the earth.
For six days and six nights the world will remain in the grip of these dark forces, for it took six days for God to create the world. The yellow cloud will slowly descend in their midst and breathing will become as painful as pulling nails from living fingers. A strange confusion will spread throughout the world during those dreadful six days. Having gone out for a stroll, a man will find on having reached the front door of his dwelling that he is legless. Sitting opposite a beautiful woman he will find himself gone blind. The water in his cup will taste like foul blood. His bones will snap like dry twigs.
The lives of the peoples of Europe will flow out of them through the mouth, through the eyes, and through the dense, undented skin, in streams of foul blood wherever the strange man and his silent army will have passed through.
In Russia only sucklings and illiterates will be spared--the rest will make huge graveyards of Moscow and Petrograd. Of Poland and the Ukraine he will make a howling wilderness, all the women in those countries will be put to shame before being killed as a reminder of what once happened to a defenseless people in their midst. The docks will spout foul blood where Danzig receives the sea.
Of Belgium and Germany he will make such a slaughter-house that it will be necessary to build new and taller dykes around Holland that the smell of the carnage might not befoul a country for which his outraged memory will have no terrors. Through France he will sweep as a conflagration sweeps through a cornfield . . . .
* * *
Zangwill--I say, Roth, have you fallen asleep?
THE EIGHTEENTH CHAPTER
LOOKED up startled, and rubbed my eyes. The room seemed entirely changed. The little lady had turned away from me to bestow her attentions on the more artistic Mr. Glicenstein, and Mr. Zangwill was bowing kindly over me. The sad truth, which must now out, is that Mr. Zangwill had no sooner sat down to talk to me than Dr. Yehudah, accompanied by his English fiancée, arrived, and Mr. Zangwill hurried forward to greet them, so that even time and space were confounded for the day.
When I had been introduced to the newcomers there was nothing left for me to do but to sit back and make myself once more the target for the artistic prattle of the little lady in the brown coat. But something had begun working inside of me, one of those subconscious forces about which Messrs. Freud and Jung can tell you a great deal more than I can, so that while the little lady prattled on, my subconscious will continued the conversation with Mr. Zangwill doing, as is its habit, both the asking and the answering.
It is not reasonable to suppose that Mr. Zangwill, a notably impatient listener, would have actually let me go into such long speeches. I remember that he once interrupted me three times before I could finish reciting to him a simple declarative sentence. That his replies, presupposing that he would have had the patience to listen to my questions, would have been infinitely wittier and more scholarly than those which my impertinent subconscious suggested for him, will be questioned by no one who has read the works of the author of The King of Schnorrers. Substantially, however, my questions and his replies would have been the same if the conversation had actually taken place.
In one respect the interruption of our conversation--which relegated it to the shadowy regions of my imagination--was a lucky thing. For while my subconscious will was tormenting the shadow of Mr. Zangwill with long, commaless speeches, my conscious eyes followed him persistently, greedily, as he turned his great white head from one to the other of his guests, and suddenly I caught something of the personality of Mr. Zangwill I had never been able to find in his books. I discovered the real Zangwill.
My memory of Mr. Zangwill reaches back some eighteen years to a day when, fresh from the reading of Robinson Crusoe, I prevailed on the New York Public Library to loan me a copy of The Children of the Ghetto, and though this, Mr. Zangwill's most distinguished work, was my junior by only a few years, that time happened also to be the beginning of Mr. Zangwill's ambassadorship for his people at the court of world opinion.
It testifies to Mr. Zangwill's persuasiveness as a man of letters that the world accepted him as the representative Jew of his generation just when the Jews, who had observed through dark, profoundly amused eyes his cold cordiality towards the flame-bitten Herzl, his brilliant rummagings as a Zionist, and his extraordinary emergence against the movement after Herzl's death, had surrendered all hope of ever profiting by his political activity in which they could perceive only the workings of a strange literary caprice.
Often our resentment against Zangwill the Jew diminished our enthusiasm for Zangwill the writer, so that even in those remote, legendary days--the days of first literary enthusiasms--I remember that I felt while reading his stories that though he was speaking to me kindly enough, this poet-jester seemed also to be winking mysteriously to some dark intangible figure shadowing behind me. He employed Jewish life as black and red thread out of which to weave his fantastic literary patterns, and the result was a scarf of luxury for the healthy glowing shoulders of the gentiles, not a cloak of shelter for the bare, beaten back of the desolate in Israel.
But I forgave Mr. Zangwill everything for his gracious, infinitely delicate humor. It was something, I consoled myself, to have a Jew who in the dungeons of our Goluth darkness could shine like a prince of light. I forgave Mr. Zangwill, but until that afternoon I never understood him truly.
As I watched him with hazy eyes turned inwardly into a maze of soundless speeches I seemed to recognize in him a familiar figure. Instantly his whole career became logical, clear, and fraught with meaningfulness.
It was Pharaoh of Egypt we ran away from in the first place, was it not? And is it not the legend that he has been ceaselessly, frantically pursuing us through the wastes of our wanderings? Well, as I looked at Mr. Zangwill in that dazed state it occurred to me suddenly that Pharaoh had caught up with us, but because he has taken a fancy to us he is no longer our foe, and indeed aspires to lead us.
You may call it a delirious fancy, and dismiss it by attributing it to my impatience with the little old lady who maddened me with her prattle about artists. Nevertheless I believe firmly in my fancy. I believe in it chiefly because it has cleared so many things for me. I now understand Mr. Zangwill's almost instinctive disinclination for Palestine. Could a Pharaoh ever sit on the throne of David? As for his pursuit of the phantom of territorialism--it is Pharaoh's policy, of expansion within his own domain.
SINCE it may be supposed that by this time the fever of this conversation has gently subsided in the mind of the reader, it is only fair that I warn him against certain inaccuracies which, it is possible, have unworthily gained his confidence.
On reconsidering the matter, I think I have exaggerated the homeliness of Jewish women. There are, of course, homely Jewesses, but is there a people in the world without homely women? As for Jewesses, they are not predominately homely. I have myself known dozens of beautiful Jewesses.
I possess no documentary evidence with which to support the belief that the happiness of the return of the Jews under Nehemiah was due to their relief at escaping the rigors of Talmudic discussion. Moreover, since I have never been able to digest half a page of Talmud without feeling myself helplessly precipitated into a state of drowsiness bordering dangerously on slumber, my view in the matter must be a deeply biased one. Besides, most of the Babylonian Talmud was really written in Jerusalem, and not until many years after the return.
I find myself surprised, mystified and amazed by the venom which I have occasionally mixed with the genial names of Mr. Chesterton and Mr. Belloc, both of them gay and considerable English writers. My expressed contempt for them must be my inheritance from an indiscriminate Jewish journalism which is conducted almost exclusively by reformed rabbis, and which thrives almost solely on anti-Jewish agitation such as is furnished by the contributers to The New Witness. But alas for their thriving, for whereas a goy writing on the Jewish Problem merely makes a fool of himself, the reformed rabbi who replies to him makes fools of all of us and a rogue of himself to boot.
Altogether I have been too verbose about antisemitism. Why, one might sensibly ask, all this fuss? What do we gain by converting the goyim? For a philosemite loves the Jews as a people and hates every Jew individually, whereas the antisemite, if he pays us no national compliments, is at least decent enough to do business with us.
But the sensible reader whom I have already flattered into asking me several rhetorical questions will here interpose smilingly: Why, since you, are so surely aware of the inaccuracies you mention, do you not correct them instead of wasting our time warning us against them?
In a world which believes in its statistics as in a sacred testament I venture the opinion that an erroneous statement of fact is frequently more important and usually more interesting than its corrected version can be. For I did make these statements in the belief that they were true, and this belief of mine was brought into being by prejudices rooted deeply in the life of our people. And though the truths themselves can, obviously, be of no use on this page, since they may readily be hunted up in the Jewish Encyclopædia, my error should arouse the thoughtfulness of my more earnest readers.
I WROTE the preceding pages in London, England, on whose horizon Mr. Zangwill looms large, and where his name is as music on the lips of the editor of the Morning Post and his cohort of Jew-baiters.
The war against the Jews being in England a one-day-in-one-day-out affair, Mr. Zangwill, Israel's clearest spokesman in the arena, is naturally under a very powerful searchlight.
This is how the war is waged.
Mr. Zangwill makes a speech in, say, Queen's Hall. The Post reports it and examines the speech editorially the following morning. In that week's issue of Common Sense, Lord Alfred Douglas, its editor and mentor (of whose ancestor the poet Wordsworth wrote: "Degenerate Douglas! O thou evil Lord!"), announces the discovery of a new plot on the part of the Elders of Zion to control Britain and divide it up among the twelve tribes of Israel, and a week after that Mr. Chesterton, of the New Witness, comes up with his heavier guns and lighter wit. When a certain time has passed, Mr. Zangwill makes another speech, and the game is renewed once more, to the gratification of all parties concerned.
I was so fortunate as to be present one evening in Queen's Hall when Mr. Zangwill delivered one of those provocative speeches. The occasion was the welcome accorded by London Jewry to the sculptor Glicenstein, and the hall was naturally overfilled. Mr. Zangwill is an imposing platform personality, reads slowly and unaffectedly from his paper in a distinctly Jewish reading voice, and by reason of his seasoned wit and the graciousness of his person constitutes one of the most dramatic speakers I have ever listened to.
The Kabboleth Ponim (Welcome) was overshadowed, however, by what had recently, a few days before, happened in Jerusalem, where the Arabs attacked the Immigrants Shelter and, in Mr. Zangwill's eloquent words, turned it into a bath of blood. Naturally the weight of Mr. Zangwill's words inclined in that direction. But in his fine rage Mr. Zangwill delivered himself of an attack on the Arabs which is unworthy of his finer judgment. "It is a sufficient handicap to Zionism," he said, "that the Arabs exist; but to strengthen their position is a curious way of overcoming the obstacle they present to the rise of a Jewish National Home."
The Zionist reply to this was that Mr. Zangwill had made a strategic blunder. But the Zionists, it appeared to me, had made a much worse blunder when they spoke of strategy. Are we at war with the Arabs? If we are to irrigate and cultivate Palestine, shall we not need the help of the Arabs? It may be true, as Mr. Zangwill remarked in that speech, that the world's rewards are given not to those who break stones but to those who break heads, but we are not so naive as to seek reward from the world for anything we do, and a country happens to be built up both by those who break stones and those who break heads.
So I turned with my notes to Mr. Zangwill, who seemed to me to be much the strongest Jew within reach, and if he has brought me little enlightenment on the many issues which still perplex me, he has injected into my book a gayety for which, at this time, I myself have little heart or wisdom.
THERE was still another strong man in England, Vladmir Jabotinsky, a poet, a journalist, and, if you please, a man of eloquent courage which has become almost legendary in his short life time. I found him in a dingy little office on the second floor of the Zionist house on Great Russel Street, and I said to him: "Working as you do with the best of intentions, you are endangering the future of the Jewish People." I explained to him that it might seem well and good to try to establish ourselves in Palestine now under the protectorate of England when England is at the height of her career as a world power, but what will we do from the day when England will be compelled step by step to relinquish her holds in Asia and Africa? What will be the position of the Jewish People among the liberated Eastern peoples? Have we the moral right, for a little temporary convenience, to endanger the future of the Jewish people by justifying the worst attacks that have ever been made and will yet most assuredly be brought up against our national character?
To this Mr. Jabotinsky replied that there was no danger of the East ever throwing off her shackles, that, anyway, the East was becoming westernized, and that my fears for the future were without justification.
To this there was nothing to say. I thought then that Mr. Jabotinsky's vision was greatly at fault. I still think so, and I hereby set down my objection and his reply to it so that we may both be judged accordingly at the bar of history.
MR. ZANGWILL returns, in the Preface, to Uganda, his favorite theme, and, characteristically, for Mr. Zangwill dearly loves a paradox, he begins by asserting that Uganda is not Uganda. When is Uganda not Uganda? When it is a part of East Africa. Mr. Zangwill is logical, if anything.
I readily share Mr. Zangwill's regret that the Jews did not colonize British East Africa, on the ground that so many Jews the less would have fallen prey to the massacres engendered in Europe by the war for righteousness. But does he really think that we could have found ourselves in the position to even ask for the mandate over Palestine?
It is difficult to believe that Mr. Zangwill is nave enough to take stock in Professor Gregory's theory that so rich a prize as Palestine would have been turned over to a Jewish colony at the end of a war whose prizes were nowhere commensurate with its expenditures.
It is also difficult to believe that Mr. Zangwill would have sanctioned such an enterprise. If, with an English army on guard, Mr. Zangwill thinks the Jewish colonists in Palestine are exposed to too great a danger, what would he have thought of our chances of safety with only a Jewish colony to protect Jerusalem from the onslaughts of the Arabs?
MR. ZANGWILL scorns my charge that the Jewish People has been guilty of a serious breach of loyalty to Turkey, on the ground that since there is no Jewish Government there could not possibly have been a Jewish treaty. What was the Zionist Congress if it was not a body of Jewish legislators empowered to speak in the name of the Jewish People? Who, I can hear Mr. Zangwill demand, gave them such a wide authority? It should be enough to remind Mr. Zangwill that the American Colonial Government which approved the Declaration of Independence in 1776 represented an even smaller percentage of Americans than the percentage of Jews represented by the Zionist Congress. The difference is that whereas the American Legislature represented America wisely and ably, the Zionist Congress represented the Jewish People foolishly and ineffectively.
Mr. Zangwill does not deny that there was an understanding between the Government of Turkey and the Zionist Organization, that without a word to Turkey the Zionists placed their ridiculously small resources at the disposal of the nations engaged in a life-and-death struggle with her, though in the same breath in which he denies that we owe anything to Turkey he concedes that "it is undeniable that throughout the centuries the Ottoman Empire has sheltered the Jews more securely than Christendom has done."
Two paragraphs after making this startling admission, Mr. Zangwill produces the letter from the high Turkish official, proposing a movement having for its object the union of Islam and Israel, a union which appears to me to be essential for the safety of the Jews in the East. This letter is at least an indication that Islam has something to gain from such a union, for Islam has never been known to make international proposals towards philanthropic ends. Even if there were not in Islam a feeling of need for the cooperation of the Jews, such a feeling would have to be created by us, for it will rob our survival of every Vestige of pleasure or sense if it is to be against the enmity of both Islam and Christendom.
If Islam is part of the conspiracy to destroy the promise of a Jewish Palestine, as Mr. Zangwill asserts, the Jews had better leave Palestine immediately, and the sooner the better. But I am not inclined to believe so. Arabians daily curse the Jews because they are in constant dread that the Jews will confiscate their lands, of course. But that an adroit man like Mr. Zangwill should permit his judgment of Eastern Jewish polity to be ruled by such petty demonstrations proves that the European ideas of Islam belong to the realms of caricature and tragedy.
IN KENSINGTON GARDENS, several days before leaving London, I met the eminent English artist, Eric Kennington, who had just returned, in the company of my friend, Pincus Ruttemberg, from a trip of exploration in Palestine.
Kennington had personally witnessed the massacre of the Jews in Jerusalem, and when I asked him about it he shook his head and said that it was unavoidable.
I asked him if it was not because the Arabs have a monopoly on the supply of firearms.
"Arms," he said, "are not unequally distributed; it merely happens that the Arabs are quicker to make use of theirs. And it is natural that this should be so."
"Because," he replied, "whereas the Jews are there only in support of a theory, the Arabs stand in defense of real property."
BOOKS like these are and can be of no possible use. For nothing in the world will ever again be mended by being written about. Ink and blood flow equally well. Only ink dries more quickly.
Digitized by http://www.JRBooksOnline.com May 2001