A CONVERSATION with
Mr. Israel Zangwill on
with a PREFACE by Mr.
Zangwill, the TEXT by
"Do I really contradict myself?
Well, then, I contradict myself."
ROBERT M. McBRIDE & COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1925, BY
ROBERT M. McBRIDE & Co.
Printed in the United
States of America
Judah L. Magnes
A Prince in Israel
PREFACE By Israel Zangwill 9
THE FIRST CHAPTER Time and Space 31
THE SECOND CHAPTER Faith 37
THE THIRD CHAPTER God 43
THE FOURTH CHAPTER The Rabbis 47
THE FIFTH CHAPTER Intellect 52
THE SIXTH CHAPTER Beauty 59
THE SEVENTH CHAPTER Modesty
THE EIGHTH CHAPTER Jesus
THE NINTH CHAPTER The
THE TENTH CHAPTER America 88
THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER History 100
THE TWELFTH CHAPTER Diaspora 105
THE THIRTEENTH CHAPTER Prophecy 110
THE FOURTEENTH CHAPTER Antisemitism 114
THE FIFTEENTH CHAPTER Herzl
and Zionism 120
THE SIXTEENTH CHAPTER Orientalism 127
THE SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER The
THE EIGHTEENTH CHAPTER Pharaoh 143
IT IS fortunate that it is the habit of prefaces to appear in the front of books and not as rear lights, or the reader of this volume would be puzzled to understand why I should be writing a preface to a work in which I am abused or at least misunderstood and misrepresented. Or would he perhaps imagine I took the opportunity of countering? The simple truth is that I am an admirer of Samuel Roth's poetry and pugnacity as becomes one who is himself a meek "prosateur." Although I do not share his views on the Jewish Problem, or on myself--apparently to him a still tougher Jewish problem--I respect forthrightness, and I take off my hat to his Jewish faith--or, should I say, I put it on? But he appears to belong to a young generation of Zionists who were in their cradles when I was fighting for Zion, and who absorbed prejudice against me with their mothers' milk or the honey with which Palestinian oratory has never failed to flow. Among the stigmata of these young fanatics, whose nationalism is incurably linked with a land they have never trodden, the word "Uganda" is the most revelatory. Uganda is a country which never came within a hundred miles of Jewish history. It is a country which, according to my friend and neighbor, Sir Harry Johnston, whom the twentieth century found implicated in its administration, is inhabited by a dense population of negroes and Masai clothed and unashamed, many of them Christians, ticking away at typewriters. Pigmies take up any space left by these civilized children of Ham, and there is not room for a Jew to worm his way into the polity even as High Commissioner. Yet the whole literature of Zionism for a decade bristles with Uganda and Ugandaism. The region really offered to the Zionists by the magnanimity of Joseph Chamberlain was a plateau in the adjoining province of British East Africa. It was an empty, healthy territory, free from politicians and almost from insect pests, and the refusal thereof by the Jews was an historic blunder of the first magnitude, a spiritless contradiction of the Hebrew proverb: Leolam Tikkach (Always take). What could the "Elders of Zion" have been about, thus to refuse a slice of the planet which, according to a famous manufacturer of motor cars and myths, their one dream is to annex? Not only would thousands of Jews have by now been settled happily on land which, even without their advent, has gone up vastly in value, but Zionism, there exercising governmental functions, would--as Professor Gregory, F.R.S., has pointed out--have been in a position to claim and to take over the mandate for Palestine. In conformity with the paradox of his history, Israel would have colonized his mother-land from his colony. Still stronger would have been the Jewish position, had my scheme of taking over the whole of British East Africa as a British Judća materialized the scheme for which I had won the sympathy of both Winston Churchill and Joseph Chamberlain, then on opposite sides of the House of Commons. "Great work accomplished!" one of the zealots cabled to America when the East African territory was rejected by the Zionist Congress. "Great work unaccomplished" was, I remember, my comment on his cable. And what is geography--any more than statesmanship--to passionate Palestinians, who have never seen Palestine? And so Uganda it is which figures in Zionist annals as the despised and rejected of the Jews, and Uganda it will be, I suppose, to the end of the chapter. It even figures in Nahum Sokolow's monumental "History of Zionism." "We have Palestine, why do we want Uganda?" shrieked an hysterical Zionist at the critical Congress. "Have you Palestine? Give it us then," came Max Nordau's retort.
It is a curious debate to remember just now, when, despite a magnificent British gesture, the possession of Palestine by Israel has become more nebulous than ever. To the Dreamer of the Ghetto the Palestine of millennial vision was more solid than the political Palestine of the British Mandate and Sir Herbert Samuels.
BY AN odd coincidence there arrived at this moment from their war-storage in London seven packing-cases full of the pre-war correspondence of the Jewish Territorial Organization with its upshoot the Emigration Regulation Department, and, weltering in this dusty ocean of my dead past, I recall the pertinacious slogan of the Zionists that only in Palestine could the Jewish State be re-created. They were almost persuaded--despite their own point of location on the planet--that save to Zion no Jew would ever emigrate. Not since the proverbial German philosopher evolved the camel from his inner intuition has there been such an example of inattention to reality. Inattention not only to the existence in Palestine of 600,000 Arabs and an incalculable number of Christian prejudices, but inattention to the actualities of geography, politics and of Jewish psychology. One could forgive their turning a blind eye to the Palestinian negatives, much as Nelson turned his blind eye to his telescope,--it is faith that moves mountains. But to deny the extra-Palestinian positives, that was not faith but fanaticism.
I turn over the thousands of index cards devoted to the emigration which we fostered to the United States by way of Galveston. Each bears the name of the emigrant, the place of his origin in Eastern Europe, the number of his relatives, if any, traveling with him, and the place of his settlement West of the Mississippi. Pathetic it is to think of these Odysseys of the obscure in quest of bread and peace, through a hostile world of bullies, sharks and Bumbles. But we did our best to guide and protect, and, in the majority of cases, the quest was successful; and the result of ten thousand such placements was to set up a nucleus of Jewish settlement which has since served to draw off into the rising towns of the West and Southwest myriads of Jews who would otherwise have added to the congested Jewish quarters of the great Eastern cities or fallen a prey to the massacres engendered in Europe by "the war for righteousness." One can imagine what the gravitation would have been, had my organization been able to present to the persecuted children of the Pale, not merely the hope of bread, but of a Jewish self-governing State, which their bread-winning would at the same time build up, a State complete with Jewish institutions and the Jewish Sabbath.
As Mr. Winston Churchill put it in writing to a follower of mine on New Year's Day, 1906:
"I agree most heartily with the spirit of Mr. Zangwill's letter to the Times of December 12, 1905. I recognize the supreme attraction to a scattered and persecuted people of a safe and settled home under the flag of tolerance and freedom. Such a plan contains a soul, and enlists in its support energies, enthusiasms, and a driving power which no scheme of individual colonization can ever command . . . . I do not feel that the noble vision you behold so vividly ought to be allowed to fade, and I will do what I can to preserve it and fulfill it. There should be room within the world-wide limits of the British Empire, and within the generous scope of Liberal institutions, for the self-development and peculiar growth of many races, and of many traditions, and of many creeds. And from an Imperial point of view it is on the varied excellence of its parts that there is most surely to be founded the wealth, the happiness, and the higher unity of the whole."
This letter has a peculiar interest in view of the fact that, by the whirligig of history, Palestine has become British, and the writer holds its destiny in his hands. But the driving power of which Mr. Winston Churchill speaks so eloquently is not--be it marked--a force needing to be artificially generated. There is here no question of Jews preferring, according to the stock gibe, to be ambassadors in Paris of the Jewish State--a joke which rather lost its point in the Dreyfus days. The driving force is actually at work, although, through unskillful engineering, it is not producing its maximum effect. For under pressure of persecution or poverty the population of the potential State is already on the move. American messengers of relief, returned from the Ukraine, report that the whole thought of millions of Jews is to escape to a place of safety. It is little wonder when we read of the seven hundred bestial pogroms with their orgies of slaughter and rape in some four hundred places, many of them utterly wiped out. This panic-stricken stream is like water running to waste in many directions, that might be diverted to and concentrated on some great barren tract. Hood described his seamstress as "Sewing at once with a double thread a shroud as well as a shirt."
The Jewish artisan could make at once with a single tool a State as well as a livelihood.
The Jewish immigrant, whom even the cruelest tests of the American Statute Book could not bar out, is not of the puny middleman type familiar to caricature. From some statistics, carefully preserved in my packing-cases, dealing with over 4,000 men who passed through a "Jews' Temporary Shelter" in London during a year before the war, I find that 74 per cent. of the immigrants followed a definite occupation. One thousand five hundred and thirty-eight individuals were bootmakers, capmakers, furriers, tailors, etc., the kind of workers who, although not necessary in the very first stage of colonization, very soon became indispensable. Five hundred and sixty-three persons were engaged in textile and technical industries, including blacksmiths, coopers, smiths, tanners, that have an even closer connection with colonization. Closer still to the needs of a new colony come the 420 bricklayers, builders, carpenters, road paviors, gardeners, wheelwrights, glaziers, painters, plumbers, etc., and the 500 unskilled laborers who had been regularly employed as agriculturists, porters, etc. Bakers and millers, butchers and confectioners, weavers and painters, ropemakers and woodcarvers, bookbinders and brass founders, engravers and electrical engineers, dramatists and dentists, they combine the requirements of a whole civilization.
Moreover, over 50 per cent. of the immigrants were between 20 and 30, the very age needed for pioneering, and the bulk of these were unmarried. The majority, too, were reservists who had had military training and no doubt experience in roughing it. These had a very high economic value from the industrial point of view. Practically every one had followed some definite pursuit and learned habits of discipline and restraint in his term of service. Engaged in textile and other technical industries were 990 or 24.4 per cent. of those whose callings are enumerated. In the production of articles of dress, 764 or 18.75 per cent.; engaged in trade, 481 or 11.85 percent.; in the building trades, 474 or 11.65 per cent.; in agriculture on their own account, 171 or 4.25 per cent.; engaged in means of locomotion (mainly as carmen), 161 or 3.95 per cent.; in the preparation of food, 148 or 3.65 per cent.; in the highest professions 92 or 2.25 per cent.; unskilled labor (mainly engaged in agriculture, but not on own account), 764 or 18.75 per cent.--oddly coincident with the number in clothing factories. That the refugees, being notoriously sober and industrious, formed a very desirable class of emigrants was not open to question. Officers of the English army and doctors who examined the men on departure, spoke in the highest terms of their physique.
Nor, except perhaps in periods of violent convulsion when flight at any cost is his sole resource, is the Jewish immigrant a pauper alien who comes knocking at the door with his begging-bowl or offering merely his muscles. According to statistics collected by the Jewish Colonization, the number of Jews who emigrated from Russia alone in 1905 was about 92,500, and the total amount of money in their possession was nearly two milliards of roubles. "This, then," I finished an annotation of mine, made in 1906, "is the force of a high economic value which we freely give away to other lands with no permanent political benefit to the Jewish problem, merely because we will not take the trouble to organize it and use it for Jewish purposes. A Jews' Temporary Shelter, that we are able to make, but what cries out to be made is a Jews' permanent Shelter."
ALAS, experience since 1906 has convinced me that even if one takes an infinity of trouble, the world is unwilling to have the Jewish problem settled on a territorial basis. The bulk of the globe has been parceled out between the Great Powers--even the little ones like Belgium have millions of square miles--and the few regions yet undeveloped and not too tropical are invariably guarded by dogs-in-the-manger. This is not the moment to write the history of the Jewish Territorial Organization. Concluding his sympathetic survey of the Jewish problem, Mr. F. G. Abbott wrote in his "Israel in Europe," published in 1907:
If the past and the present are any guides regarding the future, it is safe to predict that for many centuries to come the world will continue to witness the unique and mournful spectacle of a great people roaming to and fro on the highways of the earth in search of a home.
We have seen that even in Palestine there is no safety for the Jews, no assurance that he will be allowed to build up his National Home there. Envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness assail the attempt to apply reason and good-will to politics or to find a home for the only homeless people on the globe. The world seems to prefer Jews scattered, to serve as scapegoats for its crimes and follies. In Palestine, the Arab hirelings of more Machiavellian Powers terrorize their fellow-Arabs into massacring the Jews as a way of getting rid of England and all her works. The Zionists, who had overlooked such an obscure feature of the Palestine landscape as 600,000 Arabs, are consoling themselves for the massacres by pointing to my humble self as the cause. It seems that I have alarmed the Arabs by suggesting they must be expropriated, or, at least, submerged. How it is possible for a Jewish National Home to arise in Palestine without the one process or the other I do not pretend to understand--indeed, submergence by the gradual immigration of Jews is the public policy of Zionism. How else is the Basle, Program feasible? For that runs--it will be remembered--"To create a publicly, legally secured home for the Jewish People in Palestine." What called forth the Arab alarm was, of course, the Balfour Declaration that this aspiration was now to materialize. And if Mr. Balfour's Declaration in November, 1917, had escaped Arab attention, which was far from the case, the menace confirmed in subsequent years by Lord Curzon's reiteration of it, by great meetings at which representatives of the British Government repeated it; while it was uttered in less diplomatic form by the Labor Party which, by a resolution, reminded Mr. Lloyd George of the necessity of Palestine "being reconstituted the National Home of the Jewish people," and by President Wilson, who in a message expressed his conviction "that the Allied nations, with the fullest concurrence of our Government and people, are agreed that in Palestine shall be laid the foundation of a Jewish Commonwealth."
The Arabs, even were their simplicity uncontaminated by foreign agitators, even were they not the puppets of religious and imperial intrigue, are not so childish as to imagine that the establishment of a Jewish National Home would leave them masters in their own country. Had my speeches or writings counted for anything in their discontent, these would surely have been mentioned in the elaborate petition they presented to Winston Churchill on his visit to Palestine. But their argument based itself on the inevitable implications of the situation. It was because I foresaw--and was alone in foreseeing--the Arab difficulty, that the Jewish Territorial Organization turned its quest towards "fresh woods and pastures new," to territories unpopulated and to lands neither developed nor degenerated. It was only when that Nestor among statesmen, Mr. Balfour, adopted the Zionist program, that I was compelled to believe he had as a preliminary solved the problem of the existing Arab population. But he seems to have been no more alive to the actual political circumstances than an academic writer like George Eliot, whose "Daniel Deronda" was utterly oblivious of the fact that Palestine was not unoccupied. So far, however, from his having worked out any way of dealing with the difficulty, Mr. Balfour has not even been able to persuade the British military staff in Palestine that the establishment of a Jewish National Home there is feasible, and the officers are almost as overtly against their job as the Arab policemen. Even the Pope, who encouraged the Zionist leaders, has now joined in the cleverly concerted attack against the ancient Jewish hope and the new political adjudgment; while Mr. Chesterton, whose one cry against the Jews has been that they would not be Zionists, now relapses into the characteristic paradox that Zionism would be admirable could it be otherwhere than in Zion. Apparently he has become a follower of my Territorialism but without any suggestion of the alternative territory. Were he to propose any part of the British Empire, I am afraid he would evoke the same hue-and-cry as was raised against me when I projected setting up a Jewish Colony in one of the vast empty spaces of Australia--a continent with a smaller population than London. Able Australian editors pointed out that Australia was for the Australians, and frenzied correspondents, ignorant of the realities of shipping space, pictured a million Jews landing in Sydney in a single year. I find--in my packing-cases--a letter of mine to a New Zealand paper, pointing out that, willing as Jews are to be born outside the British Empire, it is increasingly difficult. The difficulty has not been lessened by the many millions of square miles which the war against German grab has added to the British Empire. In the full flush of the world-wide enthusiasm called forth--even in the enemy countries--by the Balfour Declaration that Britain would set up the Jews in Palestine, my spirit bubbled over into Limericks which, I fear, had more inspiration than many more portentous oracles.
There was a lost lady of Zion,
Who was offered a lift by a lion
She was mounting astride
When he roared: "Step inside,
There is no room on top--of a lion."
Responded that lady of Zion,
"Why should I go inside a lion?
I was promised a State
And a happier fate."
"L'état c'est dans moi," said the lion.
There is a story of a Russian sea-captain who, weary of carrying a batch of Jews to and fro between Odessa and the various countries which refused to receive them, finally dumped them in the Black Sea. This is the only logical solution of the situation, but it is one which, despite "the war for righteousness," the world is still not brutalized enough to adopt. With the power to assassinate the Jews physically, it confines itself to moral assassination. It says much for the Jews that to find a ground for attacking them, the forged document of "The Jewish Peril" was necessary, of which "Nilus" himself has deliciously said that the providence of God can work even by dubious instruments.
When De Witte was accused by the Czar of favorable sentiments towards the Jews, he asked his imperial master whether he thought it possible to destroy six millions of his subjects--if not, they must be given reasonable conditions of existence. Either Christendom must cease reproaching the Jew for being on other people's territory--and there is not a single country in which Antisemitism is not now raging--or it must give him a piece of Christian, or even Islamic, territory. Dos pou sto--as Archimedes said. A standing place is all Israel requires to be again a people on a soil of his own. Unfortunately, standing places are only acquired by force of arms, and a people without a standing place cannot muster an army. It is a vicious circle. Meantime the world goes on babbling of Einstein, Bergson and Freud and enjoying the incalculable Jewish contributions to every branch of science, literature and art.
MR. ROTH seems obsessed by the notion that in dealing with England the Jews have been guilty of some disloyalty to Turkey. That may be true of some few native Jews in Palestine itself, whose aid was of prime value to General Allenby; but assuredly the Zionist movement has no call to be grateful to the people which did its best by the device of the red ticket to restrain Jewish immigration and to baffle Zionism. I admit that the Turkish pressure did not begin till Zionism had blurted out its aspiration; I am willing to believe that even the Armenians enjoyed Turkish tolerance so long as they harbored no dream, of liberation, and it is undeniable that throughout the centuries the Ottoman Empire has sheltered the Jews more securely than Christendom has done. It is equally true that the Christian ideas of Turkish life belong to the province of caricature, for Islam, though inferior in idealism to Christendom, is considerably nearer to its own ideal.
But Jewry at large is no such political entity that it can be either loyal or disloyal to Turkey. Zionism is indeed the effort to create such an entity. To imagine it existing before it has been created savors of an Irish bull, or at least of the Greek figure, prolepsis. The political loyalties of the Jews are to their respective fatherlands, even to their step-fatherlands, and since the overwhelming majority of the Jews found themselves in the opposite camp to Turkey and Germany, they could not possibly have cast in their lot with Turkey, even after the victory. For whatever the post-war sins of the Entente, there is no Jew in the world--not even a German Jew--with any admiration for the Prussianism with which Turkey chose to ally itself.
It is curious enough that before the war the Jewish Territorial Organization was involved in an abortive negotiation with Turkey, and despatched a scientific expedition to Cyrenaica, as may be read in my preface to Professor Gregory's report. And in those inexhaustible packing-cases I found sundry threads of communication with the Ottoman world. One letter, which strikes me as historically curious, if only because it was written eight months before the Great War, may be reproduced here. It is signed by a legal representative of Turkey in London, whose name, however, like those of the well-known personalities of the letter, I have suppressed pro tem.
5th December, 1913
Messers. * * * and * * * and the Islamic Society have commissioned me to enlist the cooperation of the most influential Jews for the purpose of the initiation of a movement having for its object the union of Islam and Israel in order to protect the religious and national rights of both the branches of the faith of Abraham, my friend, Mr. * * * urges me to secure, first of all, your invaluable advice on the subject.
In view of the fact that the fate of Turkey (seat of the Khalifate) and Palestine may, in the not distant future, come up for decision, I request the honor of an interview with you, to consider what steps, if any, should be taken, to consider the above matter; the solution of the Jewish question may, after all, not be a dream!
I am, dear Sir, Your sincere admirer,
* * *
Here is a distinct hint that Palestine might be available for the Jews. Yet to-day Islam is not the least of the forces engaged in the conspiracy to destroy the promise of a Jewish Palestine, which it pretends is against all Islamic sanctities and interests. Whether the letter betrays any sinister foreknowledge of the coming war, I must leave the reader to determine.
MR. ROTH subtitled his book The Jews and the Future. It is a big title for such a little book. When a Jewish farmer consulted me as to whether Jews could keep pigs, I replied that the question was whether pigs could keep Jews. Similarly Mr. Roth's title sets me speculating whether the Jews will have a future or whether the future will have any Jews. Mr. Roth writes with a mystic assurance that there will always be Jews and I agree--more scientifically--that they can no more be eliminated than any other species which finds in diffusion its source of safety. The real question is, will they face the future as a race, or as a religion, or as a nation territorialized like any other? For the religious solution Renan gave them a magnificent lead when he said: "By race we French are Latins, by culture Greeks, by religion Jews." But to comprehend their real historic glory and to wish to continue the world apostolate of Judaism on its own essential lines is given to few Jews. The trend to-day is to concentrate on the racial or national aspect, to the neglect of the missionary motif, which runs as much through Jewish literature as the tribal thread. As if indeed the race of the Bible could be disposed of as merely one of the many races whose friction afflicts our planet!
Mr. Roth seems to imagine that there can be a Jewish nation in Palestine irrespective of whether it has political power in Palestine, or rather that this nation, already existing disseminated everywhere, can express itself through commercial achievements in the Holy Land and the Orient. Even if this were not a political chimera, it is an anti-climax, not only to the Zionism of the Prophets but to the Zionism of Herzl, which Mr. Roth reverences without understanding it. He is too young to have known Herzl, and too old to be willing to learn about him. But he exhibits a pride of race, a faith in Jehovah, and a moral self-assertion which would give Zionism more dignity than it exhibits under its professional leaders. By his manly temper, his haughty scorn in face of the ethical bankruptcy of Christendom, he takes his place in that remarkable band of Jewish writers who have arisen--whether in France, in America, in England, or in Germany--to be the world's conscience in a day when every state does what is right in its own eyes. It is the school of Hebrew prophets forming itself again under modern conditions, though writing least of all in Hebrew.
London, July, 1921.
N O W A N D F O R E V E R
A conversation between
ISRAEL ZANGWILL and SAMUEL ROTH
THE FIRST CHAPTER
MR. ZANGWILL'S telegram read: "Have tea with us at three o'clock," but it is easier to read Mr. Zangwill than to find him, for his London residence is an obscure corner in that cascade of brown stones, The Temple, praised in the Faërie Queene by Spenser, who probably never had to find his way through it. In my worst plight, when it began to appear that I was lost to myself as well as to my engagement, I stumbled luckily into Mr. Louis Zangwill, a brother and a brother novelist, who guided me safely the rest of the way. Mr. Zangwill received me with pontifical kindness.
One is first impressed by Mr. Zangwill's height, then by the fineness of his gray hair, and finally by a strong resemblance in his face, in his manner, in the sloping of his shoulders, to Mr. George Arliss' famous impersonation of Mr. Disraeli. Did Mr. Arliss, searching for a living clew to the genius of his semitic subject, consciously adopt as an explanation as well as an illumination the personality of Mr. Zangwill? It would be interesting to know, as it would also be interesting to speculate on why Mr. Zangwill, who has as much wit as the famous prime minister has so much less political ingenuity.
When his brother had made a gentle jest of the helpless plight in which he had found me, Mr. Zangwill expressed surprise that I should have lost my way. "And you have been two months in London," he cried, "whereas any Galician schnorrer emerging for the first time into the swelter of Waterloo station finds me easily enough."
Recollection rushed in on me of a similar slight perpetrated by Mr. Zangwill against these humble folk in the prelude to his then current book, The Voice of Jerusalem. I felt stirred, hurt. "That is surprising," said I, turning to him, "because I am myself a Galician, and maybe something of a literary schnorrer."
"Well, then," replied Mr. Zangwill with unstinted gayety, "living in America so long has obscured that talent in you. If you had come to me directly from Galicia instead of stopping off for eighteen years in America I feel certain you would have had no trouble whatever finding me."
I was introduced to Mrs. Zangwill, to two gentlemen who at the moment of my arrival were engaged in discussing with Mr. Zangwill a new angle in the problem of time and space, to the visiting sculptor from Bulgaria, Glicenstein, and to a little lady in a heavy brown coat and extraordinarily thick glasses who asked me had I already been to the exhibition of the Royal Academy. More guests were being expected, among them Dr. Yehudah of the University of Madrid, whom we were to accompany to the auditorium of the University of London to listen to the first of a series of his lectures on Genesis.
I turned back to Mr. Zangwill. "Genesis," I ventured, "is a good beginning for almost anything, but since the matter of the Galician schnorrers is so personal to me, would it not be best to settle it immediately?"
Mr. Zangwill looked a little troubled, a trifle worried. Great men do not object to being argued with occasionally, but it is usually assumed that they must be allowed to set their own leisurely pace. The innocence of my expression must have reassured him. "I warn you," he laughed, "that I have been settling with them for a quarter of a century, and I don't seem to be through with them yet."
It was evident that, unless I kept him effectively to the point, Mr. Zangwill would escape from me with a witticism, possibly even with a pun. I shall be the last to appear to underrate a witticism or a pun, good specimens of which are so rare nowadays, but, whatever other excellent uses it might have, a pun cannot relieve mental anxiety, and I was grieved as well as anxious. "This may be very true," I insisted, "nevertheless I cannot understand your repugnance for those poor fellows whose only offense seems to be that they come to you to borrow money. Now I grant you that it is far from pleasant to see your resources drained continually by utter strangers who come as impersonally as though they were applying to a public institution. But no, they come to you with a certain reverence: they come to you as they are said to have come to the house of Dr. Herzl: and if they do not actually kiss the front steps of your dwelling (as they are reputed to have done at the house on Leopoldstrasse) it is because you are so careless as to have no front steps.
"What an extraordinary and enviable position yours is! Untitled, you receive obeisances which should make you the envy of every crowned head in Europe. What, beside you, for instance, is the reigning king of England? The only pilgrims to Buckingham Palace whose presence may be noted in any appreciable numbers are the servant girls of Victoria who ride by behind solemn perambulators to exchange glances with the handsome redcoats standing motionlessly on guard at the great gate. Whereas to you come, in an unwavering stream, from every part of the earth, representatives of the humblest, hardiest and most vividly intelligent people on earth. No community is so insignificant that its ambassador does not come to you for half fare to America. Yet you are dissatisfied.
"If you are not more careful, Mr. Zangwill, some wag will say: 'He has become so puffed up with pride that, content no longer with being the uncrowned king of Israel, he is attempting to pose as a God by treating his subjects as though they were his worshipers--with scorn.'"
Mr. Zangwill smiled, the gentlemen interested in time and space smiled, the little lady in the brown coat and the extraordinary thick glasses asked me once more if I had been to see the new exhibition of the Royal Academy, and as I turned to explain to her that I had not gone there yet, that I probably never would, I realized with sinking courage that, for the present at least, Mr. Zangwill, who had resumed the argument my entry had broken, was lost to time and space.
I listened with impatient intentness to the little lady's innocent patter of talk about pictures and daubers, but my eyes were on the tall, stooping, faintly malignant figure of the author of Children of the Ghetto to discuss with whom the many-faceted problem of Jewish nationalism had been one of my cherished desires when I crossed the Atlantic. Our brief, mutually suspicious, yet eager correspondence on the subject had been most unsatisfactory to me, for letters take a long time being written, in traveling some three thousand miles over land and sea, in being answered, and in traveling back again the same distance. Time and space were always against me.
But hope dawned as Mrs. Zangwill began to serve tea, and Mr. Zangwill thoughtfully made the rounds with the cake-tray--what a use for such a man, but that is what wives make of the best of us! I gazed intently at him as I chose my cake, and he must have understood the plea in my eyes, for presently he drifted away from the philosophical young gentlemen, paused before us, and, having said something pleasant to the little lady, asked me how I liked London.
It was my moment, no mistaking it.
"London," said I to Mr. Zangwill, "is everything or nothing to me according to how much time you will give me in which to adjust my differences with you."
"Are the differences so sharp?" he asked.
"Sharp or not," I replied, "they exist, Mr. Zangwill, and now your sole care should be that they prove to be interesting, for I tell you that I am determined to thoroughly thresh them out with you before leaving you at peace again."
THE SECOND CHAPTER
ZANGWILL--I think it will simplify matters if you tell me directly what it is in my attitude towards the Jewish problem that you disagree with.
Roth--That is done with almost no effort, for it is precisely your attitude, root, trunk and branch, that I disagree with.
Zangwill--Splendid! I was a little afraid you might make it a debate, but this is really going to be a quarrel.
Roth--You state the Jewish problem with a tragic exaggeration natural in a writer of drama but not at all to the point and rather misleading in the leader of a people. The Voice of Jerusalem paints the Jewish situation so blackly that, judged by it, we Jews would appear to be the poorest, the most persecuted, and the most reviled people on earth, in danger as much from annihilation by the sword as from death by starvation.
Zangwill--Am I to infer from this that to you the prospect looks brighter?
Roth--To such a turn have things come, I may say without exaggeration, that our prospects are as bright and as dark as the prospects of mankind.
Roth--It has so long been our national habit to pull a long face before the world that, in spite of its glaring inaccuracies, your book goes by unchallenged both by Jews busy simulating distress and by gentiles so accustomed to beholding it that it would not occur to them to doubt it. In the interests of our people as well as of truth whom you occasionally profess to serve I beg you to consider that our plight, though far from happy, is not by any means pitiable. Pitiable our plight once was when the world itself was a safer and happier place. But since, by one of these adroit maneuverings of fate which proves her to be indifferent to race and party, Europe has caught up with us in an unaccountable progression of misery, let us abandon once and for all time our age-old tragic rôle of the sufferer among the nations. The part, never a beautiful or enviable one, though it has several times caught you almost defenseless in the searchlight of history, is no longer ours. In Armenia, to give only an instance, we have a nation which, without having a tenth of what we have, and with a history as ancient as our own, suffers a great deal more. I know how difficult it is going to be to convince you of this, but I am determined to try. I am also determined that you shall not stop me. Will you admit, to begin with, that there never was a time in Jewish history when there were so many Jews in the world--more than fourteen millions?
Zangwill--Readily, but I get little consolation from the knowledge that so many more are suffering at one time.
Roth--Admit that never before in our history were Jews as rich, and as powerful in commerce as they are to-day?
Zangwill--Why not? I see that you have become quite thoroughly Americanized. Is it not the American idea that to be rich is to be happy?
Roth--Korach had that idea too. But it is too late now to stop to establish the value of wealth--admitted enthusiastically by those who have it, and fiercely by those who hope to have it. But in climbing mountains let us try to avoid the humiliation of stubbing our toes against pebbles. Admit that never before were Jews as independent as they are to-day.
Zangwill--In America, where they are not Jews?
Roth--In England where they are good Englishmen, in America where they are good Americans, in France where they are good Frenchmen, and in Arabia where they are good Arabs. Your role being that of the tragedian, you are naturally thinking of the Jews of Russia, Poland and the Ukraine where they live in a state of temporary hopelessness and exhaustion. But when you think of the misery of the Jews in those countries you might remember that even the gentiles in those countries are not better off.
Why are you so eager to count our losses, and so reluctant to count the losses of the enemy? Have not the Europeans suffered as much from the war as we have? While they pogrommed us did they not butcher one another? We lost lives, but they lost wealth which is not so easily replaced. Our gains in this war, I tell you, were greater and our losses proportionately smaller than those of the gentiles.
At the end of the war, what are the gains of Europe? For the military menace of Germany she has the military menace of France. A bad bargain, for the Germans are better soldiers just as the French are better story-tellers, and now you will have in France more soldiers and fewer novelists. In Russia the rule of the aristocracy has been put aside for the dominance of the peasantry: the jeweled crown has been exchanged for the leathern halter. What else have they gained? I had almost forgotten: the League of Nations.
In the meantime we Jews have gained freedom and a beautiful revenge. Oh, it was worth being pogrommed for. The government which strangled us writhes hopelessly in the dust of oblivion, the new government does not dare invoke the old anathemas. Where we were once the humbly persecuted we are to-day the majestic and relentless persecutors. They have not yet admitted us to the League of Nations? What would we do there--the only people on earth without a war-debt?
It would be vulgar to insist on a comparison of losses. The losses on both sides were fearful, and we shall never cease to mourn with Europe. But one thing the gentiles have lost we still retain: our faith.
Zangwill--Have we retained our faith?
Roth--Who should know this better than you? What, pray, is the meaning of the pilgrimages of Galician and Lithuanian schnorrers to your London rooms? Do you believe that they merely pick you for an easy mark, as we say in America? Human conduct is not so shallowly motivated. It means that these schnorrers have something in common with you. Now what is this community of interests which draws them to you from the innumerable ends of the earth? It is not your dress, your speech or your thoughts--least of all your thoughts. Would you like to know what it is? I will tell you. But do not smile. It is the Jewish faith. After all the idols have been smashed in the sunlit temple of Baal the God of Israel continues to look down on us from his throne of glory, towering, distant, immutable and alive. These poor Jews, burned out of their homes like rats, scatter tumultuously over every part of the earth, in every direction that the wind and the sunlight open up to them. Do they lose their reason?
Do they lose their sense of direction? Do they even lose their money? What can be the secret of it all except that, wandering through a hostile and crumbling world, they keep bright, untouched and palpitating in their bosoms their faith in the God of Israel who is also the God of Israel Zangwill?
Zangwill--I am not exactly a theist, but you must permit me to object to involving God in the discussion of a purely practical problem.
Roth--If you were not so incurably Anglicized there would be no need for me to point out to you that God is at the very foundation of our practical program.
THE THIRD CHAPTER
ROTH--Ours is not, as you know, the first civilization to have made faces at the imperturbable skies. Thanks to the patient researches of Germans with a good nose for dust we know that race after race of mankind before us built up out of the rock and granite of the earth towering castles to glitter awhile in the sun. When the earliest community of Jews congregated for the first time on the feverish desert of Arabia to whisper something of that mysterious law which binds together the sands of the desert like a necklace, many such civilizations were dying and many others like them were being born, in their turn to flower, fade, crumble and disappear.
Why, argued our first Jews amongst themselves, do these civilizations die? The springs of life are deep, and the current of life is without beginning and without end. Yet the life of a civilization hath a terribly swift end. Between the dawn and the twilight of a civilization stretches the meager span of a few centuries.
And among those Jews there were some who were wise (and they made the fashions and created the manners of the people) and some who were only persistent (but it was they who did most of the difficult and useful work). And the wise ones said: "It is so because all human labors have assigned to them an end which is not perceived by us because He who makes the assignations remains invisible to us." Whereat the persistent ones said: "Then it is only a matter of finding for ourselves some occupation which is without end, for when we shall have found that our civilization will also be without end."
The persistent ones had their way, as usually they do. In persisting they discovered that the tongue of man is boneless and may be wagged ceaselessly to and fro at all times almost without effort. Now the tongue of man was even at that time an ancient and honorable instrument, ancient in texture and honorable in the uses to which it had been put. But whereas it had been employed to modulate the sounds issuing from the human throat when the desire was for things indescribable by the human throat unaided, to express excesses of pleasure and pain, and, by being boldly wagged, to express defiance, it had never yet been employed in the idle luxury of talk. And this was precisely the use to which it was now being put; for the tongue, true to the discovery of the persistent ones, can make subtle sounds enduring longer than those echoes which steal through the hills when the mists rise out of the valleys to confound the deer in her running and the stag in his leaping about among the wooded rocks.
The surmise proved to be correct. Talk is the secret of survival of our civilization. I mean, of course, our Jewish manner of talk which is in evidence wherever there is danger of the disruption of civilization. For there is first some disagreement about the distribution of wealth or privilege, followed by savage warfare, and then a sanctimonious patching up of differences the use of which is like applying bandages to flowing wounds, and so instead of helplessly bleeding to death we rise, like the old phoenix, above the ashes of our own bones.
Zangwill--But surely you can not believe that with mere talk----
Roth--Yes, mere talk, schmoos. Here is an instance. Nelson and Wellington fought for England. What did they achieve? Glory. What is glory? A word. Disraeli went to the Congress of Berlin and by talking changed England from a kingdom into an empire.
Zangwill--But what has our genius for talk got to do with God?
Roth--Everything. God is our chief talking enterprise. The first thing we do for a people once we have invaded it is to give it a God to talk about, for, with a God to celebrate, a people is not so particular as to what it receives in exchange for its wares.
Zangwill--Do you realize that you are justifying the enemies of our people who already claim that we are purely commercial and that our idealism is only a pretense?
Roth--Our idealism is our own, Mr. Zangwill. Do we not suffer for it? As for our market-wisdom, it is our staff of life, as it is the staff of life of the nations, since their fields are plowed up by it as we pass through them dragging the dreary thing after us. If there is any pretense in our idealism it is in the expressed belief that the rest of the world shares it with us. Every time we assert the hope that Europe will some day become Christian we are guilty of a pretense of the first order.
Zangwill--I should warn you that your confusion of Judaism and Christianity is historically inaccurate.
Roth--But what do the historians know about religion? Oh, they have talked so much nonsense, and the truth itself is so simple. Hear me. It is only true that we have wandered through the valleys and over the hills of the earth. And every time we reached the peak of a high hill we built a fire before which to warm our bones and mumble out our fatigue. Once we crested Rome which is higher than any of her seven hills, and there we built our greatest bonfire and knelt down to murmur our exceeding tiredness. It is this they call Christianity.
Zangwill--But are there no essential differences between Judaism and Christianity?
THE FOURTH CHAPTER
ROTH--There are very interesting, very vital differences, that reach back to the sources of two separate streams of human conduct, though they are not differences obvious enough for the historians of religion to recognize. A significant indication of how profoundly Christianity varies from Judaism is that the goyim have put their religion in the charge of priests whereas our religion is in the charge of rabbis.
Zangwill--Forgive me, but I cannot remember that I have ever seen much difference between a priest and a rabbi.
Roth--Then you have had dealings only with reformed rabbis, who are really priests in disguise. Do you believe that a rabbi can be made by the mere act of ordinance? When being a rabbi meant, as in the time of Rabbi Jochanan, the putting away of all hope of attaining worldly possessions, you had rabbis. But these orators whose careers are a ludicrous struggle to "make the rabbinate pay"--let us leave them out of our discussion.
Zangwill--You have proven that orthodox rabbis are superior to reformed rabbis by the simple device of saying that the orthodox rabbis are good and the reformed rabbis bad, but will you kindly explain how rabbis are better than priests?
Roth--I did not say they were better, I said they were different. But never mind, better is what I meant. The priest is a soldier obeying an invisible general. In the battle into which he is commandeered only a passive interest keeps him at his post. The rabbi must himself be a general and a strategist whose eyes are always on both extremities of the battlefield.
Zangwill--Can it be good for a people to have so many generals?
Roth--But only see how they have led us.
Zangwill--We have at last returned to our essential difference. The rabbis have certainly led us a long way, but do you not think they would have done better to have made the way somewhat pleasanter?
Roth--The business of a general is to make the battle as dangerous as possible, danger being the only true test of a soldier's courage.
Zangwill--Our way, I say, has been made not dangerous but unpleasant. Was it daring to so completely insulate ourselves? Was it not the rabbis who forbid intermarriage?
Roth--It was, if you please, one of their great strategic feats.
Zangwill--And look at the result.
Roth--What I see is good. What is the result as you see it?
Zangwill--Well, among other things, we are not exactly loved by our neighbors.
Roth--But we have survived, have we not? And not meanly either. Are we not to-day as highly motivated a people as we ever were, whereas every nation which allowed itself the luxury of intermarrying with its neighbors either lives in shameless degeneracy or in the exclusive and refined dust of the memory of historians?
Zangwill--The rabbis also forbid Jews to make paintings and statues.
Roth--Another wise act.
Zangwill--You amaze me. What good has it done?
Roth--None whatever, since we did not heed it.
Zangwill--You don't seriously mean that you regard the making of statues and paintings harmful?
Roth--Only the other day I was explaining this to one of your Georgian poets who was sharing tea with me in a dark corner of the Savoy dining room. "How is it," he asked me, nodding a pig's head, "that you Jews have contributed nothing to the plastic arts?" I took up the delicate saucer from under my cup and gently rapped it against his bald pate. He looked grieved, but I hastened to explain myself. "If you knew," said I to him, "that every time you made such a saucer it would be split over your head, would you be anxious to continue producing them?"
But the making of statues and paintings is harmful to us in yet another way; for, to survive, we Jews must love nothing better than ourselves. This is how the rabbis considered the matter: once Jews take to the making of images, they would create in shadow and in stone figures so much more beautiful, so much more appealing than the figures in their own flesh and blood that, being a people with a sense of justice, they would learn to prize them more. They feared that the presence within our sight of overwhelmingly beautiful figures sprung out of our own foreheads would degrade for us the people passing before us in the common robes of humanity. Our contempt for our fellow creatures was already more than we could bear.
No one, Mr. Zangwill, can realize what harm has been done in the world by the arts which have given us so much pleasure. Weighed in the balance against the damage they have caused, I wonder if the arts would survive judgment. What is the nature of the harm? Man has learned to lift his worship above man, with the result that while pictures and statues sell for great sums of money and are jealously guarded in the strongest and most beautiful houses we know how to build, men, women and children wander about lonely and hungry over the face of a cold planet. When Mona Lisa leaves her place on the walls of the Louvre the whole world shakes with excitement, whereas many a philosopher is put out of his house into the rain without any one even asking why.
Zangwill--But there are so many philosophers and only one Mona Lisa.
Roth--True. There is just one Mona Lisa, the only mother of the human imagination who remains unchurched. But shall philosophers be neglected because there are so many of them? Consider----
Zangwill--I will not consider the philosophers another moment. Pray, get back to the Jewish Question unless you have decided to leave it to the rabbis. If you have, I suggest that you consult them about it immediately. You may find, as I have found so many times, that no rabbi, reformed or not, will seriously give himself over to the solution of a problem which is not of immediate or demonstrable benefit to the congregation which pays him for his services. Besides, your quarrel is not with the rabbis but with me. How, tell me, how I myself have been found wanting in my attitude towards the Jewish problem?