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THE JEWISH NATIONAL MOVEMENT
I. Auto-emancipation. By Dr. L. PINSKER. Berlin. 1882. 2. Publications of the Bund' (Yiddish): 1. What we demand.
II. The National Question. Geneva. 1905. 3. The Struggle of the Austrian Nations for the State. By
RUDOLF SPRINGER. Vienna. 1902.
(HEN the reconstruction of Europe is undertaken on
the basis of Mr. Lloyd George's Carnarvon formula'one emancipated land from the Urals to the Atlantic'many unsuspected national problems will reveal themselves Among these, the claims of the Jewish nationality, which has more or less silently developed itself in Eastern Europe during the last thirty-five years, will take a much higher place than is generally anticipated. In Western Russia alone there are close on 7,000,000 Jews, while in the adjacent territories to which a new political geography will have to be given are little short of another couple of millions. Thus, in magnitude they constitute a nationality only third in rank among the peoples which, in some form or another, will claim their share in the fulfilment of the Prime Minister's rare and refreshing promise. They are, indeed, outnumbered only by the Ukrainians and the Poles ; they are 33 per cent. more numerous than the Czechs and Slovaks, and they are nearly three times as numerous as the Serbs, with all their irredenta added. Nor is their national consciousness less intense, or their national aim less definite than that of any other of the many races who constitute the ethnographic whirlpool of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Even if complete national emancipation should, for obvious reasons, not prove practicable for them, their national claims will still offer a perplexity to the peace congress. This may be seen in the single problem of the reconstitution of Poland, in which they figure with about 14 per cent. of the population of the Russian section alone, including 40 per cent. of the townsfolk and between 45 and 50 per cent. of the artisan and trading classes.
The Jewish national movement is, however, of profound interest to the political student, for more abiding reasons. It is the latest manifestation of national self-assertion in Europe, and its appearance is that of quite a new nationality, deriving its consciousness, inspirations, methods, and even language less from inherited tradition and ethnographic peculiarities than from the example and isolating conditions of its immediate environment. The Zionist wing of the movement is never tired of claiming that it expresses an unbroken national yearning of over two thousand years, but it is very doubtful whether this claim can be substantiated. From the time of Bar Cochba, who raised the flag of Jewish revolt for the last time in the year 132, to our own days, there is scarcely a trace of Jewish national feeling, in the political sense of the term, in Jewish history and literature. The truth is that the Zionists confuse eschatology with politics. The Jews were always primarily, and above everything else, a religious community, and their national life in Palestine was only a phase, a social expedient, of their greater history as a Church. The religion could live without politics, and did. The exiled people, filled with the religion, its duties, and its problems, soon lost their political yearning, and merged their hopes of national restoration with the Messianic teachings of their prophets and sages. It is, of course, true, as the Zionists do not fail to remind us, that the Jewish liturgy is full of prayers for the restoration to Jerusalem, but this is precisely because the restoration prayed for was not the satisfaction of a worldly craving, but the fulfilment of a divine scheme of human redemption. Had it been otherwise, it would assuredly not have formed, as it does, the staple of the English Prayer Book and the refrain of its most solemn litanies.
There were other and more practical reasons why the Jewish national nostalgia died out so completely. In a double sense, the European atmosphere was unfavourable to it. The oppression and persecutions from which the Jews suffered cut them off from everything that was virile in their European surroundings, while it still more directly sapped their own instincts of self-assertion. But, even had they not been so isolated and crushed, it is doubtful whether the national sentiment could have survived in them. They are instinctively the most assimilative of peoples, and, during the
Middle Ages, and for some centuries later, they lived in lands where nationality, as we know it to-day, did not exist. There were certain monarchical and oligarchical bodies politic, made up of classes or estates of the realm, and, after the Reformation, there were divergent groups of religious monarchies similarly organised; but, until the French Revolution, there were no self-conscious nations, properly so called, except perhaps, in a rudimentary form, in England and Holland. The Jews adapted themselves to this state of things, of which they almost became an integral part as an autonomous, but unrepresented, Fifth Estate. Now and again, a poet like Jehuda Halévi would sing of the past national glories of Israel, but he evoked no practical echo. Occasionally a pseudoMessiah would appear on the scene, but he found few followers. It is true that one of these national leaders, Sabbethai Zevi, who made a sensational appearance in the Levant in 1660, did evoke a certain echo, and also found followers, but this was because his advent was regarded as Messianic, and not exclusively political. He was not so much a product of Jewish secular politics as he was a product, on the one hand, of the horrors of the Thirty Years War, and the consequent general belief that the reign of Christ on earth was at hand, and, on the other, of the frightful massacres of the Jews in Poland in 1655, and the widespread Jewish belief that this calamity, together with the ravages of the great war, were the appointed signs of the coming of a Redeemer. Moreover, Sabbethai was very widely excommunicated by the saner elements, both lay and clerical, in the Jewry of his time. At any rate, his squalid failure gave the death blow to any elements of secular nationalism that may have lingered among the Jews.
The effect was seen very clearly when the French Revolution created the French nation, and when Volney, Condorcet, Carnot, and Grégoire formulated the modern democratic doctrine of nationality. Not only did the Jews remain absolutely unattracted by the new doctrine, but they hastened, on their own behalf, to refuse to profit by it. When, as a result of the French Revolution, the Ghetto gates were for a moment thrown open throughout Europe, and Jews found themselves, for the first time, relatively free, they asked, not for national rights for themselves, but only for the right to be incorporated as nationals and equal citizens of the new free
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nations. This was the aspiration of the Mendelssohnian school, which in Germany anticipated this outcome of the French Revolution, and it was formally sanctioned, legalised and promulgated, on behalf of the Jews of France, Italy, Holland, and South Germany, by the great Sanhedrin summoned by Napoleon in 1806. This authoritative body renounced Jewish nationality in unambiguous terms. It declared the Jews to be 'neither a nation within a nation, 'nor cosmopolitan’; it affirmed that they were an integral part of the nations among whom they lived, and it claimed for them the same rights, and acknowledged the same duties, as their fellow-citizens, from whom they differed only in religion.* It was practically on the basis of this declaration, which was confirmed by conferences of Rabbis, in Germany in 1845, and in America in 1869, that the whole battle for Jewish emancipation in the Western World was fought. In England, Macaulay accepted it as disposing of the last obstacle to the civil and political enfranchisement of the Jews, and even in Eastern Europe, which for a time had no part in the emancipation movement, and where the Jews were still of the extreme orthodox wing, shrinking from all 'customs of 'the Gentiles,' scarcely a word of protest was heard against it.
This movement of Jewish social assimilation was strengthened and justified by the stirring political events of the next half century. The Congress of Vienna practically annulled the work of the French Revolution, with the result that all over Western Europe a great struggle for popular libertiesin some cases for national freedom—was set on foot. Everywhere the Jews threw themselves with conspicuous enthusiasm and effectiveness into the struggle, not as Jews, but as part and parcel of the suffering democracies, content to merge their own claims for emancipation in the larger claims for civil and religious liberty and constitutional reform. The wisdom of this action was strikingly illustrated by the revolutions of 1848, the final outcome of which was virtually to make the assimilative formulae of the Paris Sanhedrin an integral part of the structure of Western European liberties. Throughout this agitation, not a word was heard of Jewish national claims. It was only in the sixties, when the so-called Principle
* Actes du Grand Sanhédrin (Paris, 1807), pp. 65–73, 191.
of Nationalities was revived by Napoleon III., in connexion with the struggle for Italian unity, that a faint manifestation of national sentiment was noted in the Jewish community. It took the form of a pamphlet entitled ' Rome and Jerusalem, 'the latest National Question,' by the well-known Social Democrat, Moritz Hess. In this work, the re-establishment of the Jews as a nation in Palestine was advocated; but the proposal found no sympathy anywhere, and even in the Jewish community its reception was significantly cold.
The first symptom of a decisive change came from the great Jewish community in Russia, in the early eighties. It was due, partly to the frightful massacres and other outrages which devastated the teeming Jewries of the western provinces in the spring of 1881, and partly to the example of the other sub-nationalities of Western and South-Western Russia, who had also been made to feel the heavy hand of Slavophil persecution. Previously to the eighties, the younger generation of Russian Jews, under the comparatively mild sway of Alexander II., had, like their occidental co-religionists, very largely sought their political salvation in assimilation. They frequented the universities; they took an active part in the liberal, and even the revolutionary, movements of the empire, and they dreamt of a free Russia, of which they also would be free citizens. These dreams were rudely dispelled by the savage anti-Semitism sanctioned by Alexander's reactionary successor, which culminated, not only in the pogroms, but also in a new statute for the Jewish communities, known as the May Laws, under which all their medieval disabilities were revived and aggravated. When the first great rush of emigration to escape the new 'house of bondage' was over, the Jews settled down to consider their hapless situation. Emigration had conspicuously failed, for the Western Relief Committees had even found themselves compelled to repatriate the bulk of the fugitives. On the other hand, the storm of Slavophil reaction showed no sign of abating, and there was clearly a long road to travel before Russia would reach the level of political thought and action which prevailed in Western Europe. In these circumstances, it became apparent to thoughtful minds among the Jews that assimilation on the old plan–the plan borrowed from quite different conditions in Western Europe-was a hopeless failure. Very soon they