Antisemitism: Its History and Causes. Bernard Lazare 1894

Chapter Ten: THE RACE

THE Jew is a Semite, he belongs to a strange, noxious, disturbing and inferior race such is the ethnologic grievance of the antisemites. What does it rest upon? It rests upon an anthropological theory which had given rise or at least justification to an historical theory: the doctrine of the inequality of races, of which we must speak first of all.

Since the eighteenth century attempts have been made to classify men and distribute them under well-defined, distinct and separate categories. As a basis for it quite different indices were taken: the section of the hair oval section for negroes with woolly hair, or round section; [179] the shape of the skull broad or elongated; [180] the colour of the skin. This last classification has prevailed: nowadays three races of mankind the negro, the yellow, and the white race are distinguished. Different aptitudes are ascribed to these races, and they are arranged in the order of their superiority in a ladder of which the negro race occupies the lowest and the white race the highest round.

Race is, however, a fiction. No human group exists that can boast of having had two original ancestors and having descended from them without any adulteration of the primitive stock through mixture; human races are not pure, i.e., strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a race. “There is no unity,” says Topinard: [181] “the races have divided, scattered, blended, inter crossed in all degrees and directions since thousands of centuries; most of them gave up their language in favour of that of their conquerors, then gave the same up for a third, if not a fourth language; the principal masses have disappeared and now we find ourselves face to face with peoples and not races.” The anthropologic classification of mankind has consequently no value whatever.

Nevertheless, and however untenable this doctrine of the inequality of races, whether from the linguistic or from the anthropologic point of view, it has been quite dominant in our times, and nations have chased and still chase this chimera of ethnologic unity, which is but the heritage of an ill-informed past and, truth to tell, a form of regress.

Whatever they be, true or false, these ethnologic principles which concern us, have, by the very fact of their existence been one of the causes of antisemitism; they have supplied a scientific appearance to a phenomenon which we shall later recognize as national and economic and, through them, the grievances of the antisemites were fortified with pseudo-historical and pseudo-anthropological arguments. Indeed, not only was the existence admitted of three races negro, yellow and white ranged in hierarchic order, but even in these races sub-divisions, categories, were established. At first it was asserted that the white race alone and some families of the yellow race were capable of founding superior civilizations; presently this white race was divided into two branches: the Aryan race and the Semitic race ; finally it was maintained that the Aryan must be considered the most perfect race. Even in our days the Aryan race has been subdivided into groups, and this enabled anthropologists and chauvinistic ethnologists to declare either that the Celtic or the Germanic group must be considered as the pure wheat of this Aryan race, already superior as it was. Thus, consciously or unconsciously, history is modeled after the ethnic tables of Genesis tables also met with among the Babylonians and the primitive Greeks which accounted in a rudimentary way for the diversity of human groups, by the existence of sprouts issued from single parents, each sprout then producing a nation. Thus it is the Bible again that lends assistance to the antisemites, for in ethnography and history we are still clinging to the explanations of the GenesisShem, Ham and Japhet, only replaced by the Semite, the Turanian and the Aryan, however impossible it may be to justify these divisions linguistically, anthropologically or historically.

Without stopping to discuss whether the negro races are capable of civilization or not we must see what is understood under the names Aryans and Semites.

Aryans is the name of all peoples whose language is derived from Sanskrit, a language spoken by a human group called arya. Now, this group “presents no scientifically demonstrable unity except from the exclusively linguistic point of view.” All anthropologic unity is undemonstrable: the cranial measurements, indices, numbers, furnish no proof. In this Aryan chaos are found Semitic types, Mongolian types, all types and all varieties of types, from the one which is capable of developing morally, intellectually and socially, up to the one that remains in everlasting mediocrity. There may be observed dolichocephals and brachycephals, men with brown skin, others with yellowish and yet others with white skin Still, despite the fact that some tribes of Aryan language had no development perceptibly superior to that of some agglomerations of negroes, it is not a whit less energetically asserted that the Aryan is the most beautiful and noblest of the races, that it is the productive and creative race par excellence, that to it we are indebted for the most wonderful metaphysics, the most magnificent lyric, religious and ethical productions and that no other race ever was or is susceptible of a like expansion. To arrive at such a result, an abstraction is naturally made from the indisputable fact that all historical organisms had been formed of the most dissimilar elements, whose respective share in the common work it is impossible to determine.

The Aryan race, then, is superior, and it has proven its superiority by resisting the rule of a fraternal and rival race the Semitic. This latter is a ferocious, brutal race, incapable of creative power, devoid of any ideal, and Universal History is represented as the history of the conflict between the Aryan and the Semitic race, a conflict which we witness even at present. Each antisemite affords proof of this secular conflict. Even the Trojan War becomes, with some, the struggle between the Aryan and the Semite, and through the exigencies of the case, Paris becomes a Semitic brigand who ravishes Aryan beauties. Later on the Median Wars form a phase of this great contest, and the great king is pictured as the leader of the Semitic Orient falling upon the Aryan Occident; then it is Carthage disputing with Rome over the Empire of the World; then Islam advances against Christendom, and all through, it is pointed with pleasure that the Greek has defeated the Trojan and Artaxerxes, that Rome triumphed over Carthage, and Charles Martel checked Abder-Rahman.

The Christian antisemites have thus reconciled their faith with their animosity, and not stopping short even before heresy, they have admitted that the prophets and Jesus were Aryans, [182] while the anti-Christian antisemites consider the Galilean and the nabis (prophets) as deserving condemnation and inferior Semites.

Does what we know of the history of ancient and modern nations give us the right to accept as genuine this rivalry, this struggle, this instinctive opposition between the Aryan and the Semitic race? By no means, since Semites and Aryans have intermingled in a continuous way, and since the Semitic share in all so-called Aryan civilizations is considerable. From this point of view, the history of Hellenic myths is curious and instructive, and this Semitic contribution may be grasped by comparing Hercules to Melkart, or Ashtoreth to Aphrodite. Likewise, the Phoenician cups and vases, exported in great numbers by the merchants of Tyre and Sidon, served as models for the Greek artists, and thus enabled the subtle mind of the Ionians and Dorians to interpret the myths represented on them, and the Phoenician image-trade helped out much the Greek iconologic mythology.

Still the modern antisemites would rigorously admit the importance of the Semites in the history of civilization, but would make a classification even there. There are, they say, superior and inferior Semites. The Jew is the latter type, of the Semites, essentially unproductive, from whom men have received nothing and who can give nothing. It is impossible to accept this assertion. It is true that the Jewish nation has never displayed any great aptitudes for the plastic arts, but, through the voice of its prophets, it has accomplished a moral work by which every nation has been benefited; it has worked out some of those ethical and social ideas which are the leaven of humanity; if it has not had any divine sculptors and painters, it has had wonderful poets, it has, above all, had moralists who had worked for universal brotherhood, prophetic pamphleteers who made living and immortal the idea of justice, and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, despite their violence, fierceness even, have made heard the voice of suffering which wants not only to be protected against execrable force, but to be freed from it.

However, if the Phoenician element had incorporated itself with the Pelasgian, Hellenic, Latin, Celtic and Iberian elements, the Jewish element, by intermingling with others, has also contributed to the formation of those agglomerations which later on united to form the modern nations. The Jew, too, came to sink and disappear in that enormous crucible which Asia Minor presented, and where the most diverse nations were cast. Slowly hellenized, the Jews in Alexandria turned the city into one of the most active centres of Christian propaganda. They were among the first to convert; they formed the nucleus of the primitive Church in Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, and after the disappearance of the Ebionites they were absorbed in the total mass of Greek and Roman converts.

Throughout the Middle Ages Jewish blood was intermingling with Christian blood. Cases of wholesale conversion were exceedingly numerous, and it would make interesting reading to recount those of the Jews of Braine, [183] of Tortosa, [184] those of Clermont converted by Avitus, the 25,000 converted, as tradition goes, by Vincent Ferrer all of whom disappeared in the midst of the nations among whom they lived. If the Inquisition hindered, or at least tried to hinder, judaization, it favoured the absorption of the Jews, and were the Christian antisemites logical they would curse Torquemada and his successors, who helped to pollute Aryan purity by the adjunction of the Jew. The number of Marranos in Spain was enormous. In nearly all Spanish families, a Jew or a Moor is found at some point of their genealogy; “the noblest houses are full of Jews,” they said, [185] and the cardinal Mendoza y Bovadilla wrote in the sixteenth century a pamphlet on the flaws in Spanish lineages, [186]

We have thus made answer to those who maintain the purity of the Aryan race; we have pointed out that this race, like all the others, was a product of countless mixtures. Not to speak of the prehistoric times we have made it clear that the Persian, Macedonian and Roman conquests made worse the ethnologic confusion which increased in Europe still further during the invasions. The so-called Indo-Germanic races, stock-full of alluvions even before, intermingled with Chudians, Ugrians, Uralo-Altaians. Those among the Europeans who believe themselves descended in line direct from Aryan ancestors do not keep in mind those so diverse lands which these ancestors had traversed in their long journeys, nor all the tribes which they had swept along with them, nor all those which they found settled wherever they tarried tribes of unknown races and of uncertain origin, obscure and unknown tribes whose blood is still running in the veins of those who boast themselves heirs of the legendary and noble Aryans, as the blood of the yellow Dasyus and black Dravidians flows under the skin of the white Arya-Hindoos.

At present, the Jews who consider themselves the highest incarnation of Semitism help in perpetuating this belief in the inequality and hierarchy of races. The ethnologic prejudice is universal, and those even who suffer from it are its most tenacious upholders. Antisemites and philosemites join hands to defend the same doctrines, they part company only when it comes to award the supremacy. If the antisemite reproaches the Jew for being a part of a strange and base race, the Jew vaunts of belonging to an elect and superior race; to his nobility and antiquity he attaches the highest importance and even now he is the prey of patriotic pride. Though no longer a nation, though protesting against those who see in him the representative of a nation encamped among strange nations, he nevertheless harbours in the depth of his heart this absurdly vain conviction, and thus he is like the chauvinists of all lands. Like them he claims to be of pure origin, while his assertion is no more well-founded, and we have to examine closely the assertion of Israel’s enemy and of Israel himself: to wit, that the Jews are the most united, stable, impenetrable, irreducible nation.

We possess no documents to determine the ethnology of the nomadic Bene-Israel, but probable it is that the twelve tribes constituting this people, according to the tradition, did not belong to a single stock. They were doubtless heterogeneous tribes, for, in spite of its legends, the Jewish nation cannot, any more than the other nations, boast of having originated from a single couple, and the current conception which represents the Hebrew tribe as subdividing into sub-tribes [187] is but a legendary and traditional conception that of the Genesis and one which a portion of historians of the Hebrews have wrongly accepted. Already composed of various unities among which doubtless were Turanian and Kushite groups, i.e., yellows and blacks, the Jews added still other strange elements while living in Egypt and in the land of Canaan which they conquered. Later on Gog and Magog, the Scythians, coming in Josiah’s reign to Jerusalem’s gates, probably left their impress on Israel. But starting with the first captivity the mixtures grow in number. “During the Babylonian captivity,” says Maimonides, [188] “the Israelites mingled with all sorts of foreign races and had children, who formed, owing to these unions, a kind of a new confusion of tongues,” and yet this Babylonia, where there were cities like Mahuza, almost entirely peopled by Persians converted to Judaism, was deemed to contain Jews of a purer race than the Jews of Palestine. Said an old proverb: “For the purity of the race, the difference between the Jews of the Roman provinces is just as perceptible as the difference between dough of mediocre quality and dough made of the flour of meal; but, compared to Babylonia, Judea itself is like mediocre dough.”

This means that Judea had undergone many vicissitudes. It had always been the transit ground for the Mizraim and Assur; afterwards, on returning from captivity, the Jews united with the Samaritans, Edomites and Moabites. After the conquest of Idumea by Hyrcan, there were Jewish and Idumean unions, and it was said that, during the war with Rome, the Latin conquerors had begotten sons. “Are we perfectly sure,” said Rabbi Ulla, melancholically, to Judah-ben Ezekiel, “that we are not descended from pagans who dishonoured the young daughters of Zion after the capture of Jerusalem?”

But what was most conducive to the introduction of foreign blood into the Jewish nation was proselytism. The Jews were a propagandist nation par excellence, and from the construction of the Second Temple and particularly after the dispersion, their zeal was considerable. They were exactly those of whom the Gospel says, that they ran over “earth and sea to make a proselyte,” [189] and with perfect right could Rabbi Eliezer exclaim: “Wherefore has God scattered the Jews among the nations? To recruit for Him proselytes everywhere.” [190] There are abundant proofs of the proselyting ardour of the Jews, [191] and during the first centuries before the Christian era Judaism spread with the same vigour as characterized Christianity and Mohammedanism later on. Rome, Alexandria, Antioch where nearly all the Jews were converted gentiles Damask, Cyprus were the centres of fusion, as I have already pointed out. [192] Nay, more, the Hasmonide conquerors compelled the vanquished Syrians to circumcise; kings, carrying their subjects along, converted, as, e.g., the family of Adiabenus, and the population was very mixed in certain cantons of Palestine itself, as was the case with Galilea, in that “circle of gentiles” where Jesus was to be born.

All over Europe the Jews attracted proselytes, thus rejuvenating their blood by the admixture of new blood. They made converts in Spain where successive councils at Toledo forbade mixed marriages; in Switzerland, where a decree of the fourteenth century sentenced young girls to wearing Jewish hats for having begotten children by Israelite fathers; in Poland, in the sixteenth century, in spite of Sigismund I’s edicts, if we are to believe the historian Bielski. [193] And they not only made these unions with the so-called Aryan nations in Europe, but also with the Uralo-Altaians and Turanians; there the infiltration was more considerable.

On the shores of the Black and the Caspian Sea, the Jews had established themselves in great antiquity. The story goes that during the war he waged against King Tachus (361 B.C.) in Egypt, Artaxerxes Ochus wrested the Jews from their land and transferred them to Hyrcania on the Caspian shore. Even if their establishment in this region is not so old as claimed by this tradition, they still were settled there long before the Christian era, witness the Greek inscriptions of Anape, Olbia and Panticapea. They emigrated in the seventh and eighth centuries from Babylonia and came to the Tartar cities, Kertsh, Tarku, Derbend, etc. About 620 they converted there a whole tribe, the Khazars, [194] whose territory was in the neighbourhood of Astrakhan. Legend seized upon this fact, which greatly stirred up the Jews of the West, but, despite of this, there can be no doubt about it. Isidore of Seville, a contemporary of the event, mentions it, and afterwards Chasdai Ibn-Shaprut, minister of the Khalif Abd-er-Rahman, corresponded with Joseph, the last Khagan of the Khazars, whose kingdom was destroyed by Svyatoslav, prince of Kieff. The Khazars exercised a great influence over the neighbouring Slav tribes, the Polyane, Syeveryane and Vyatichi, and made numerous proselytes among them.

The Tartar peoples of the Caucasus also embraced Judaism in the twelfth century, according to the report of the traveler Petachya of Ratisbon. [195] In the fourteenth century, there were numerous Jews in the hordes, which, with Mamay at their head, invaded the lands surrounding the Caucasus. It was in this nook of E:astern Europe that actively went on the fusion of Jews and Uralo-Altaians; here the Semite mixed with the Turanian, and even now, in studying the nations of the Caucasus, one meets with traces of this mixture among the 30,000 Jews of that country and the tribes surrounding them. [196]

Thus this Jewish race represented by Jews and antisemites as the most unassailable, most homogeneous of races, is strongly multifarious. Anthropologists would in the first place divide it into two well-defined parts: the dolichocephals and the brachycephals. To the first type belong the Sephardic Jews the Spanish and Portuguese Jews as well as the greater part of the Jews of Italy and Southern France; to the second may be assigned the Ashkenazim, i.e., the Polish, Russian and German Jews. [197] But the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim are not the only two known varieties of Jews; these varieties are numerous.

In Africa are found agricultural and nomadic Jews, allied with the Kabyls and Berberians, near Setif, Guelma and Biskra, at the frontier of Morocco; in caravan they go as far as Timbuctoo, and some of their tribes, on the borders of Sahara, like the Daggatouns, are black tribes, [198] as also are the Fellah Jews of Abyssinia. [199] In India, one finds white Jews in Bombay, and black Jews in Cochin China, but the white Jews have in them melanian blood. They settled in India in the fifth century, after the persecutions of the Persian King Pheroces, who banished them from Baghdad. Their settling is at all events assigned to a more remote date: the coming of the Jews into China, i.e., before Christ. As to the Jews of China, they are not only related to the Chinese surrounding them, but they have also adopted the practices of the Confucian religion. [200]

The Jew, consequently, has incessantly been transformed by the environments in which he stayed. He has changed because the different languages which he has spoken, have introduced into his mind different and opposite notions; he has not remained such as a united and homogeneous people ought to be, but, on the contrary, he is, at present, the most heterogeneous of all nations, one that presents the greatest varieties. And this pretended race whose stability and power of resistance friend and foe agree in extolling, affords us the most multifarious and most opposite types, since they range from the white to the black Jew, passing by way of the yellow Jew, not to speak of the secondary divisions Jews with blond and red hair, and brown Jews with black hair.

Consequently, the ethnologic grievance of the antisemites does not rest upon any serious and real foundation. The opposition of the Aryans and the Semites is artificial; it is not correct to say that the Aryan race and the Semitic race are pure races, and that the Jew is a single and unvarying people. Semitic blood has mingled with Aryan blood and Aryan blood has mixed with Semitic blood. Aryans and Semites have both, furthermore, received an admixture of Turanian blood and Hamite, Negro or Negroid blood, and in the Babel of nationalities and races which the world is at present, the preoccupation of those who seek to discover who among his neighbours is an Aryan, a Turanian, a Semite, is a vain pursuit.

In spite of this there is a portion of truth in the grievance which we have examined, or, rather, the theories of the antisemites about the inequality of races and Aryan superiority, in one word, the anthropologic prejudices are but the veil which covers some real causes of antisemitism.

We have said that there are no races, but there are peoples and nations. What is improperly called a race is not an ethnologic unit, but is an historic, intellectual and moral unit. The Jews are not an ethnos, but they are a nationality, they are diversified types, it is true, but what nation is not diversified? What makes a people is not unity of origin, but unity of sentiments, ideas, ethics. Let us see whether the Jews do not present this unity, and whether we cannot find therein, in part, the secret of the animosity shown them.

Footnotes

179. Ulotrichi and Leiotrichi.

180. Brachycephals and Dolichocephals.

181. L. Gumplowicz, La Lutte des races (Paris, 1893).

182. This theory, which has the immense advantage of not resting on any foundation, sprang up in Germany and passed from there into France and Belgium. De Biez and Edmond Picard have in turn upheld it, but they did not bring any even illusory proof in support of their assertions. (Cf. Antisemiten – Spiegel, pp. 132, et seq, Danzig, 1892).

183. Saint-Prioux, Histoire de Braine.

184. The Jews of Tortosa converted in thousands after the conference opened at the instigation of Jerome de Santa Fe.

185. Centinela contra Judios.

186. Francisco Mendoza y Bovadilla, El Tizon de la Nobleza Espanola, o maculas y sambenitos de sus Linajes (Barcelona, 1880; Bibliotheca de obras raras). – Cf. also Llorente, Histoire de l’Inquisition (Paris, 1817).

187. Ernest Renan, Histoire du peuple d’lsrael, v. I.

188. Maimonides, Yad Hazaka (the powerful hand), Part I, chap. 1, 4.

189. Matth. xxiii.

190. Talmud Babli, Pesachim, f. 87.

191. Horace, Sat. IV, 143. – Josephus, Bell. Jud., vii, III., 3. – Dio Cassius, xxxvii, xvii, etc., etc.

192. Cf. ch. II; ch. III and ch. IV.

193. Bielski, Chronicon rerum Polonicarum.

194. Vivien de Saint-Martin, Les Khazars (Paris, 1851). – C. C. d’Ohsson, Les Peuples du Caucase, Paris, 1828. – Revue des Etudes juives, v. XX, p. 144.

195. Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, v. IX, p. 246; and Wagenseil, Exercitationes.

196. Among the Chechens inhabiting the East and Northwest of the Caucasus, as well as among the Andis of Daghestan, the Jewish type is very widespread. The Tats of the Caspian Sea are considered to be Jews, and there are many Jews among the Tatar tribes, as the Kumiks, for instance. (Cf. Eckert, Der Kaukasus und seine Volker, Leipzig, 1887).

197. For the dolichocephalous Jews of Africa and Italy, cf. the works of Pruner-Bey (Memoire de la Societe d’anthropologie, II, p. 432 and III, p. 82) and Lombroso. – For the brachycephalous Jews cf. Copernicki and Mayer, Physical Characteristics of the Population of Galicia, Cracow, 1876 (in Polish).

198. Mardochee Aby Serour, Les Daggatouns, Paris, 1880.

199. On the Fellahs cf. Abbadie, Nouvelles annales des Voyages, 1845, III, p. 84, and Ph. Luzzato, Archives israelites, 1851-1854.

200. Elie Schwartz, God’s Nation in China, Strassburg, 1880. – Abbe Sionnet, Essai sur les Juifs de la Chine, Paris, 1837.