November 21, 2013
Editor’s note: This article comprises the first chapter of a book entitled, ‘The Tragedy of Anti-Semitism’, written in the form of an exchange of letters between A.K.Chesterton and a Mr Joseph Leftwich, a Jew. The book was published in 1948 prior to the formation of the state of Israel and therefore while all references to that land use the term ‘Palestine’, the modern reader might wish to substitute the term ‘Israel’.
Throughout this article, the author appears to make the mistake in my view of accepting the long-held Jewish assertion that any opposition to Jewish influence within society constitutes anti-semitism, whereas the term ‘anti-semitism’ should rightly be reserved only for expressions of racial hatred towards Jews.
For example, expressing opposition to French influence within our society does not carry with it the presumption that the speaker or writer involved has a pathological hatred of French people, and in the same way it sh
ould be possible to express opposition to Jewish influence, as the author does in this article, without that being interpreted a racial hatred of Jews.
Having lived in Africa for most of his formative years A.K. Chesterton joined the British Army during WW1, fighting in both Africa and on the western front where he won the Military medal for bravery. Later he became a writer for Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists during the 1930s, but then served in the British Army again in Africa during WW2.
After the war he worked as a journalist, contributing on occasions to both the ‘Daily Mail’ and the ‘Daily Express’, but then ventured into nationalist politics again forming first the League of Empire Loyalists in 1954, and then the National Front in 1967.
Due to ill-health he retired from active politics quite soon after forming the National Front and died in 1973.
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My Dear Leftwich,
I approach the Jewish problem without personal prejudice. This fact is set down for my own satisfaction, since it will be received with derision by people who believe that the man dubbed an anti-semite deals in diabolic prejudices, beyond the reach of reason, justice and even of ordinary common decency.
This attitude was summarised by a writer in the Jewish Chronicle, who divided anti-semites into only three groups:
1. Unscrupulous liars.
2. Dupes of unscrupulous liars.
3. Emotional defectives who pick upon the helpless Jews as a target for their pathological hatred.
I have never met the anti-semite liars or their dupes, though it is possible they exist. The third seems to me a more plausible group, since one encounters more potential or actual madmen among anti-semites than among any other group of human beings. Even so, it is a mistake to suppose that the Jews are “picked upon” because they are helpless. They are the least helpless of all the peoples on earth.
For my own part, while not running away from the title of anti-semite, I can truthfully say that it gives me no pleasure. I would rather not possess it. The concept of England as a chivalrous and hospitable country is a precious one, which, other things being equal, I should like to cherish. Further, if I have energy to spare for personal hatred, I feel that it would be more usefully directed against those unconscious traitors of my own race who for years have been befuddling and misleading the minds of the British people, thereby furthering their national disintegration.
There are other, more personal reasons why I deplore what I hold to be the present necessity for opposing Jewish influences. As a boy soldier, slogging and fighting through German East Africa, my best friend and one of the staunchest of my comrades-in-arms was an Italian Jew. In this war, as a man of forty-one, my best friend and most efficient brother-officer in the Abyssinian campaign was a Jew from Nairobi. Between the wars I knew a number of Jews, liked some of them, disliked none so much as I disliked some Gentiles, received kindnesses from several and am happy to think that I was sometimes able to do them kindnesses in return.
Neither is anti-semitism a hang-over from my earlier days, for as a young boy in Johannesburg I went to school with scores of Jews, and, so far from being aware of racial antipathy, I not only had some among my friends but resisted the pressure of elders who tried to make me give them up. If personal prejudice were involved, my own would clearly be on the Jewish side.
I am what is called an anti-semite mainly because I am a nationalist—a nationalist in the sense that I believe every nation to have its own guiding star which it must follow, its own ideal pattern which it must trace, its own integration which it must maintain, its own vision of the past, its own distinctive character, its own soul.
Nationalism, as I see it, is the dynamic of communal aspiration and growth, just as its opposite, cosmopolitanism, is the negation of these things, leading to the uprooting, debasement and decay of spiritual values. Whether I am right or wrong, that is my belief, and my further belief—no less firmly held—is that Jewry at almost every level of contact exerts an influence hostile to this national ideal. The bad Jew shamelessly exploits it. The good Jew, no matter how sympathetic he may be, always tends unconsciously to distort it, and never more so than when he sincerely espouses it.
It is not an act of malice on his part: the phenomenon is entirely due to his essential separateness—the separateness which his refusal of absorption through the ages so signally proclaims. The Gentile not only becomes aware of the distortion, but in time recognizes it as Jewish, since the Jewish personality is tremendous and cannot go unrecognised.
As every man wants a home of his own, so does every true man want a country of his own, and the plain truth is that when Jewish influence upon the national life becomes too marked the non-Jew, recognising the alien slant, begins to feel a stranger in his own land. Thus is anti-semitism born.
I have said that every true man wants a country of his own, but non-Zionist Jews are an exception and they are none the less true men on that account. How can I picture to them—and to you, my dear Leftwich, who are one of them—the feeling of a man towards his native land and its continuing traditions?
The most sacred thing in your life, if I read you aright, is your religion. Suppose then that, while some of the British people sneered at your religion and sought to exploit it, others became converts and rose to high positions as rabbis and elders: suppose that in the result your doctrines were distorted by a distinctively British (or Christian) slant, imparted by even the most orthodox, and that Britons were also prominent among the schismatists and despoilers: suppose, further, that Britons gradually abrogated—or seemed to abrogate —to themselves the right to speak and act on behalf of Hebraism!
Would it be surprising if Jews ceased to feel that their religion was their own?
Could they not be forgiven, in the circumstances, if they became anti-British?
The analogy, of course, is not precise, since Jews do not usurp the functions of the Christian priesthood: my only reason for drawing it is to try and find a parallel which will illustrate the sense of alienation from his own traditions arising in the Gentile mind when the Jew begins to take any considerable part in the ordering of his affairs. However, with your permission, I will now set down a more exact analogy, although it will necessarily be one lacking so powerful an appeal to people like yourself, who are not Zionists.
Let us, for this purpose, suppose that the dispersion of the Jews never took place; that they have enjoyed the continuing habitation of Palestine with full national sovereignty; and that, instead of the Jews, it was the English who became fully dispersed over both the Old World and the New.
It is difficult to imagine what would have happened to Palestine if it had remained in Jewish possession. So gifted and vigorous a people would almost certainly have placed their native land in the vanguard of the nations, and perhaps have been impelled by their own ferment to overflow their own boundaries to found an empire. At any rate I ask you to imagine that modern Palestine is now an Imperial power, and that there is an English minority both in the central citadel of Jewry and in its various dominions, as well as in those countries which are Palestine’s most formidable rivals.
The English in Palestine, as elsewhere, complain bitterly of anti-English feeling: they describe it as religious prejudice; they say it is due to Jewish envy of their superior talents, that the Jews who criticize them are all liars or bullies, and they agitate for special legislation to make “anti-Englishism” a crime. They demand the right to full Jewish citizenship and at the same time they desire to remain a corporate English entity, affiliated with English entities in every part of the globe. Some among them— and those by no means the least influential—are clamouring for the Jews to restore England to them, at the expense of peoples who have been living there for many centuries and who have racial ties with Western Europe which Jewry’s world position makes it suicidal to offend.
Meanwhile, the Jews are becoming more than a little alarmed at the extension of English influence throughout the land—an influence which tends to distort Jewish life and tradition. Although a small minority, the English are prominent in every Jewish political party; they do not hesitate to speak on behalf of Palestine as though they were the possessors of the land; they have accepted Jewish titles of nobility by the score; they have adopted Jewish names by the thousand; they have become associated with all those phases of Jewish life which the best Jews hold to be demoralizing; and by virtue of their advertising leverage they manage to keep all discussion of their distinctive activities out of the Jewish Press and the Jewish broadcasting programmes, so that the position is reached wherein Jews can publicly criticize whom they will so long as they do not publicly criticize the English.
Yet in spite of all this passionate identification with Jewish national life, the English will not be absorbed—they insist upon remaining Englishmen.
If this were the whole story the impartial observer in Palestine would well understand the feeling of the Jews that their nationhood was being undermined, and would not need to look further for reasons to explain the phenomenon of “Anti-Englishism”. But it is only a part of the story. There has also to be considered the commercial enterprise of the English, which has enabled them to establish a virtual monopoly in many departments of the Palestinian economy.
They are not to be found among the primary producers and they are not in the main famous as inventors of industrial processes or as mechanics and engineers. Instead, their peculiar bent lies in the financial exploitation of the articles produced. They have become the master middlemen, not only of Palestine, but of the world, and in spheres of commerce wherein they have specialized it is more or less impossible for the Jews to compete against them. Much more serious, from the Jewish point of view, is the fact that the English, working very often through Jewish stooges, have built up a colossal world financial power which, in the opinion of many Jews, makes them the masters of mankind.
That financial power, intimately related to political power, is believed to serve the interests of English internationalism at the expense of Jewish national interests, and which—whether it be true or not—certainly operates to the sole advantage of the money-racket and to the grievous hurt of the economic needs of mankind.
It cannot be said of the English in Palestine or elsewhere that they have gained notoriety in any department of crime except one—the commercial. But here they are paramount, being found almost habitually at the heart of huge conspiracies. This trait is thrown into special prominence in time of war, when restrictions upon legal trading naturally open up vast opportunities for illegal practices. Many English have fought bravely in the wars waged by Jewry on behalf of civilization, and many have given their lives to the common cause, but nevertheless the cold, hard fact is that they do not come before public notice by virtue of their martial qualities, but because they play so large a part in these malpractices, besides appearing to take the lion’s share of legitimate contracts for feeding and clothing the Jewish armed forces.
Furthermore, even in the middle of a war in which the Jews are shedding their blood without stint, many Englishmen domiciled among them are mocking their most cherished institutions (such as the Monarchy), affirming that the war is not being fought for the preservation of “traditional Palestine” and taking a leading part in subversive movements which fill “traditional Jews” with detestation and horror.
Finally, for purposes of this short hypothesis, it cannot be said that the English are generally liked, either by the Jews or by any other people in whose midst they have settled. Many of them do not go out of their way to be liked, especially those who adopt towards the land of their adoption a somewhat condescending air of proprietorship. So it comes about, in Palestine and elsewhere, that there is held to be an “English Problem”.
Now is it possible to imagine such a state of affairs existing in a modern Jewish Palestine?
I submit that it is not possible, for two main reasons.
First, the English have many gifts, but among them one does not find that tremendous energy, concentration and ethnic solidarity, which would enable them to establish such a special position among Jews.
Second, the Jews themselves have many gifts, but among them one will search in vain for the patience, which would allow them to tolerate any situation of the kind.
Am I wrong in thinking that Palestine under such conditions would long ago have kicked the English out? Yet the converse of this situation exists today in Britain and throughout the world.
The Jews have undoubtedly established just such a special position for themselves. The result is anti-semitism. Anti-semitism, that is to say, is an effect and not a cause, and has to be recognized as such before one can even begin to talk about finding a solution to the problem.
If the constant A invariably produces the constant B, no matter in what age or clime, then it seems to me that common-sense demands an investigation of A, whereas every Jewish apologist I have ever read fixes upon B and attacks it as an isolate.
That method aggravates rather than diminishes the disease, but even so we should in fairness examine it to find out what validity, if any, it possesses. In other words, we have to ask ourselves the question: Is anti-semitism a racket?
Does the holder of anti-semitic views derive any profit from them?
If a man were running an exclusively anti-semitic journal, or earning a living as an official of some exclusively anti-semitic society, then I can conceive it possible that he might have a vested interest in the perpetuation of anti-semitism. But I do not know of any such journal or society.
You may point out that a vested interest can be established outside the sphere of monetary gain, and that if anti-semitism were to be abolished (through the elimination of its causes) some men might find themselves robbed of their entire intellectual or politico-emotional stock-in-trade. Perhaps so, for there are cranks in every walk of life. Outside the ranks of Jewry, however, the anti-semitic crank is not taken seriously; rather is he treated as the harmless lunatic, which in fact he is.
For the rest, I ask you to accept my assurance that anti-semitism in Britain is a royal road leading—not to prosperity and fame—but more often to obloquy and ruin. The Jews see to that. I am able to illustrate the Jewish technique in this matter from my own experience.
When, after three years voluntary active service in this war (making a total of seven years’ voluntary active service in all) I returned to civil life, a deputation of Jews called upon my employer with the amiable suggestion that he should dismiss me from his service. I was not sufficiently interested in these people to enquire their names, but I did happen to learn that they had never taken any step, voluntary or otherwise, to place their own persons in the enemy’s line of fire! But that is by the way.
I have said that the anti-semitic crank—the man with the one-track-mind—is nowhere taken seriously outside the ranks of Jewry, and this leads me to suggest that while non-Jews have nothing to gain from anti-semitism, it is just possible that the Jews themselves have much to gain from it.
This suggestion may sound fantastic, but is it?
Many editors of Jewish newspapers, for instance, seem to be men of sound judgment. How does it come about, therefore, that even the obscurest of anti-semitic tub thumpers in the obscurest of back streets is sure of publicity in these periodicals?
Why do the editors range over the Press of the world in search of trifling anti-semitic paragraphs to reprint? What conceivable purpose is served by thus making Jewish newspapers virtual anti-Semitic broadsheets?
I do not suggest that these things are done deliberately to build circulation, although it is possible that more Jews do buy copies because of the excitement occasioned by reading of anti-semitic outbursts. But would I be wrong if I were to suggest that a measure of anti-semitism, where there is the assurance that it will be properly controlled, does help to promote Jewish solidarity and therefore constitutes a strong counter to Jewish indifference and schism?
In support of this idea—which is no more than an idea—I would like to ask your opinion about the following extract from a sermon published by the Jewish Chronicle:
“The greatest threat to the existence of the Jew, to the pursuance of his glorious destiny as the guardian of God’s law and the remembrancer of His principle for the advancement of man, lies not in the cruellest persecution, but in genuine tolerance and security.”
If my suspicions are unworthy you will tell me so. If not unworthy, it is possible that they may indicate one means, not, it is true, of eliminating anti-semitism, but of preventing it being deliberately fostered by short-sighted Jewish policies.
The main problem, however, is to tackle anti-semitism at the source, which can only be done, with submission, by enquiring into semitism. That is what most Jews refuse to do. They angrily proclaim their grievances against the anti-semites but ignore the underlying grievances which are responsible for the rise of anti-semitism.
I intend in subsequent chapters to specify some of these underlying grievances, in the hope that between us we may be able to adumbrate some solution. My own contention, in answer to the heading of the present chapter, is that anti-semitism in Britain is far too uncomfortable in its consequences to encourage any Gentiles to turn it into a racket, whereas I think it just possible that in some respects it may be a racket of the Jews themselves.
Do you agree?
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To read more of ‘The Tragedy of Anti-Semitism’: http://solargeneral.com/library/a-k-chesterton-and-j-leftwich-the-tragedy-of-anti-semitism-1948.pdf
For more on A.K. Chesterton, please see the website of Candour & The A.K. Chesterton Trust at http://www.candour.org.uk