Sanctifying Time as the World Ends

The Church’s traditional liturgy sanctifies our time — the day, the week, the month, the season, the year. What is quite literally mundane and temporal is thus transformed into something heavenly and spiritual, an anticipation of our partaking in God’s own eternity.

The liturgical year is, in its temporal cycle, a summary of the life of Jesus Christ, but it is also a summary of all time as salvation history. Beginning with the four weeks of Advent symbolizing the four thousand years (in the Hebrew/Vulgate reckoning) from Creation until the coming of Jesus Christ, it ends with, “the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty” (Matt. 24:30), bringing rapid completion to those events which immediately precede the end of time.

That Gospel passage from Matt. 24 comes from the “Twenty-Fourth and Last Sunday after Pentecost,” which we just celebrated this past Lord’s Day as the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost. If those differing numbers confuse you, please understand an important bit of Catholic erudition concerning the traditional Roman liturgical cycle, as explained by Father Leonard Goffine: “The Mass of this Sunday is always the last, even if there are more than twenty-four Sundays after Pentecost; in that case the Sundays remaining after Epiphany, which are noticed in the calendar, are inserted between the twenty-third and the Mass of the twenty-fourth Sunday.”

The End, and the Beginning

This last week after Pentecost, which lasts till the office of None inclusive (about 3:00 p.m.) on Saturday, points us to the end of the world, to the dark and terrifying things that immediately precede Christ’s second coming — as foreshadowed in the destruction of Jerusalem — as well as to the everlasting happiness or misery which awaits each of us. It is a very eschatological and apocalyptic week. In this week, Dom Gueranger also focuses us on one of the great mysteries that will immediately precede the reign of Anti-Christ, a sign of the imminence of the Second Coming, that happy event of the mass Conversion of the Jews.

At this time of the Catholic year when we look to the end of time, and also to its beginning again with the first Sunday of Advent next week, I would like to take a quick glance at how four natural divisions in the solar year coincide with four Christian feasts, how the Church dates Easter, how the beginning of the Church’s year is determined, and, lastly, how our superior Gregorian calendar came to replace its Julian predecessor.

“Praise Ye Him, O Sun and Moon” (Ps. 148:3)

The four seasons are traditionally sanctified by the four sets of Ember Days, but there are also four feasts on the sanctoral cycle that touch upon the astronomical events that define those seasons, to wit: the Annunciation, March 25, corresponding roughly with the Vernal Equinox; the Nativity of John the Baptist, June 24, corresponding roughly with the Summer Solstice; the Conception of Saint John the Baptist, September 23, corresponding roughly with the Fall Equinox; and Christmas, December 25, corresponding roughly with the Winter Solstice. There is some variation on the exact dating of these quarterly astronomical events, and there are useful tables online, like this one, which give the dates with astronomical precision.

I believe that Jesus was born on the concurrence of two things: the Jewish festival of Hanukkah and the astronomical reality of the Winter Solstice, historically observed as a religious feast by many pagans. In my piece, In Defense of Christmas, I go to some pains to elaborate this view, which is certainly not something I came up with myself.

You will note that the four festivals have to do with conceptions and births. The conceptions are associated with the equinoxes and the births with the solstices, and by them the Holy Infant and His Forerunner cousin divide up the Church year. The equinoxes are those days wherein daylight equals nighttime; the solstices are the days on which the daylight hours are most radically unequal from those of the night, making for the longest duration of daylight on the Summer Solstice and the longest night on the Winter Solstice. Here is a schema that spells it out clearly (again, keep in mind the slight variation in the dating of the solstices and equinoxes):

  • Vernal (Spring) Equinox: March 20 (Near the Annunciation, March 25)
  • Summer Solstice: June 21 (Near the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist: June 24)
  • Autumnal (Fall) Equinox: September 23 (The exact date of the Conception of Saint John the Baptist: September 23)
  • Winter Solstice: December 21 (Near Christmas: December 25)

The first of these mysteries, the Annunciation, occurs on March 25, a date that is traditionally accepted as both the anniversary of the first day of Creation and of the first Good Friday. (Tolkien enthusiasts will recall that this is also the date that the Ring was destroyed in the Cracks of Doom, just as October 24, the feast of the healing angel, Saint Raphael, was the day Frodo was healed of the injury received from the Nazgûl on Weathertop Hill.) There is something poetic in the thought that day and night — light and darkness — were perfectly equal in their duration on that first day, when God Himself “divided the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:4).

In the mystery of the Annunciation, the Eternal Logos becomes the Incarnate Logos. He thereby ushers in a new creation, both as God and as the “Last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45; cf. What is a ‘Type’?). He will, following normal human gestation, be born on the Winter Solstice, that darkest day of the year being the right time for the “Light of the World” to be born. The coincidence with Hanukkah, the Old-Testament “Festival of Lights” provides another luminous layer of meaning. (For further details, see In Defense of Christmas.)

The Conception of Saint John the Baptist is not a feast in the West, but it is in the East, where it is celebrated on September 23, the exact date of the Autumnal Equinox. Nine months later is the liturgical feast, in both East and West, of Saint John’s Nativity. Our Lord’s birth on a date when each successive day grows longer and Saint John’s on a date when the following days grow shorter are, according to many commentators, an astronomical fulfillment of that utterance of the Forerunner himself, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Another fulfillment, which pertains, oddly enough, to corporeal height, is the manner in which each of the cousins was martyred: Jesus was lifted up on the Holy Cross, John was shortened by the cutting off of his head. The deeper meaning of the Baptist’s words is that his disciples should leave him and follow his Cousin, whose reputation and following must eclipse that of His Precursor, whose vocation was simply to prepare the way for and point out the Lamb of God, making him “more than a prophet” (Luke 7:26).

The Dating of Easter

The year is regulated by the sun’s revolution around the earth; the month, by the lunar cycles. The Church’s most important festival, the Pasch (Easter), is dated by a coalescence of both the solar and lunar cycles. The formula for its dating, devised by the First Council of Nicea is “the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox.” For this reason, the full moon on or after the Spring Equinox is called “the Paschal Full Moon.”

This situates the Pasch always on a Sunday — the day of the week sanctified by the Father creating on a Sunday, the Son resurrecting on it, and the Holy Ghost’s descent at Pentecost on the first day of the week. But it is, specifically, the Sunday closest to the lunar and solar dating of the day that Jesus rose from the dead.

Saint Andrew, the “Strong Man” Who Carries the Year

What determines the first Sunday of Advent, the very beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Year? In the Roman Rite, it is very simply the Sunday nearest to the feast of Saint Andrew, November 30. The first Sunday of Advent can occur either before or after November 30; the formula is that it is the closest Sunday. There is something appropriate here. Saint Andrew is the Protoclete, the “First Called,” as he is named in the East. He was the first of Saint John the Baptist’s disciples to follow Our Lord and he, in turn, brought his brother, Simon, to do the same: “We have found the Messias…. And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41-42). It was then that Jesus told Simon he would become Peter. Andrew’s name comes from the Greek word for man. He is to the liturgical year what Atlas is to the celestial spheres in Greek mythology; the manly Protoclete holds the liturgical year, as it were, on his shoulders.

St. Teresa of Ávila and the Ten-Day Night

At the time of Pope Gregory XIII, the Church reformed the calendar. It has been known for quite some time that the old Julian calendar was off, but there was not sufficient astronomical knowledge to solve the problem of fixing it until the late sixteenth century. Following a plan devised by learned astronomers, Pope Gregory issued the Bull, Inter gravissimas, which removed ten days from the calendar and simultaneously adjusted the system of leap years to prevent similar slippage of the calendar in the future. Centennial years were henceforth no longer leap years, unless divisible by 400. (How is that for careful planning for the future? In my lifetime, this century leap year happened in the year 2000. It will not happen again until 2400.)

The night that was set for the implementation of this plan was the night of October 4, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. The next day, as declared by the Holy Father, the world would wake up on October 15. The great Saint Teresa of Ávila died during that night, which is why her feast is October 15 and not October 5, which it otherwise would have been. (Brian Kelly narrated this story at greater length on our site.)

Redeeming the Time

Twice in his canonical corpus, the Apostle says we ought to be “redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5, Eph. 5:16). Taking time seriously, not wasting it, consecrating it to Our Lord, making good use of it for God’s glory, for our and our neighbor’s salvation — these are all ways we can fulfill the injunction of Saint Paul. (Father Paul Scalia has a good meditation on this at The Catholic Thing.)

The Church’s traditional liturgy sanctifies our time—the day, the week, the month, the season, the year. What is quite literally mundane and temporal is thus transformed into something heavenly and spiritual, an anticipation of our partaking in God’s own eternity. As the old liturgical year ends in a few days and the new one begins, we should take all this to heart and redeem the time that God has given us.

We never know when it will come to an end.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: Creation. Light and Darkness, engraving, 1585.

Utopia, Progress, and the Kingdom of God

Near the dawn of the modern period (1500’s), the Reformation set in motion a world of ideas. If the old world of Medieval Catholicism was to be discarded (reformed), what should take its place? The earliest answers were largely those allowed and dictated by the various political states of Europe: Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Calvinism, etc. On the whole, this was a moderate answer. But change is heady stuff – once it’s begun, how do you stop? By the 1600’s new answers began to appear. In England especially, reform led to experimentation, and experimentation gave way to Civil War. At the same time, England was exporting its religious combatants to America – a place that would become the incubator for every imaginable religious experiment.

It is striking to me that a number of those experiments were utopian in nature. The question became not how to create a better world, but how to create a perfect world. When the Great Awakening (1740’s) swept through New England, the quiet Calvinists villages of the region erupted into an amazing number of extremes. There were claims by some of the newly-awakened that they had reached a state of sinlessness. A few even declared that they would never die. Groups like the Shakers and others experimented with a variety of communal forms that today are largely known only to specialists in American religious history.

But the fervor of that religious revival, mimicked by the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century (which gave us Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a host of new denominations), never disappeared. What began as a religious phenomenon quickly became a political pheonomenon (religion and politics in America have had a long, troubled marriage). The utopian dreams of one century became the political dreams of another. What today can be described as “modernity,” is nothing more than a secularized version of those dreams. The perfect world dreamed of by some, has become the better world of today’s political parties.

Christian evangelism first taught advertising how to sell a product. Advertising is now its own secular evangelism in which its believers are called “consumers.” If the world is to become a better place – it will be because we bought it.

These dynamics are easy to see within our cultural mix. They hang over us, particularly in the meta-world of the powers-that-be. However, they are not the stuff of our daily lives (for which we should be grateful). We still move from task to task each day, with human interactions (for good or bad) creating the landscape of our lives. We are never any closer to a perfect world (much less a better world) for the simple fact that the human interactions around us are as flawed as ever. The adoption of the latest utopian-designed, non-oppressive beliefs by a jerk never result in anything other than a jerk with some new ideas (to put it crudely). And none of that alters the bumps and bruises of our day-to-day tasks. Indeed, it often only complicates matters further.

There is a manufacturing company that I pass by on a regular basis. For some strange reason, it has an electronic sign on the street where messages can be regularly posted. Sometimes the messages can be quite practical, telling passers-by what the pay would be for a starting position: “now hiring.” However, most days, the sign proclaims that we are now in a special month – set aside for the one or another perceived minority group. We are closing in on utopia a month at a time. What I’ve learned by watching the sign over the past couple of years is that there is a zealot somewhere in the HR department who is in charge of the sign. It also sends signals (for some) that becoming part of such a workplace may come with extra problems beyond the day-to-day tasks with which we all must struggle. The Soviet utopian project was famous for its slogans.

It’s in light of our daily lives that I repeatedly suggest that there is no such thing as progress. The landscape changes. The advance in technology now enables me to sit on hold for an hour, waiting for a human voice, while holding enormously sophisticated (and expensive) device in my palm. It does not change the boredom of that hour, bring meaning to my existence, nor make the world a better place.

Nor should we mistake technological “progress” with the Kingdom of God. If the few social successes (end of slavery, etc.) of the past few centuries constitute moments in the Kingdom of God, then I am severely disappointed.

I do not find such interests (or lofty schemes) within the gospel record of Christ. There are miracles aplenty. However, those miracles are very much of the day-to-day variety. A woman with an issue of blood is healed. A woman bowed for 18 years by some crippling disease is loosed. A paralytic is made to walk. A leper is cleansed. A couples’ daughter is raised from the dead. A request to make a brother (or sister) abide by a better set of rules is refused (“make my brother divide the inheritance”…”make my sister help me with the housework”). And on the stories go – each one quite specific. None of those who are touched by such miracles enter a utopia, nor do all of their miracles add up to such a sum.

There were other miracles of note. A man who made a very good living by cheating and defrauding the citizens of Jericho had a life-changing dinner invitation. He went from tax-collector to Son of Abraham in a short matter of time, distributing half of his wealth to the poor and restoring four-fold any damages he had done to others. In that encounter, I see the Kingdom of God.

Christ taught that the “Kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:20). What we see in the stories of these individual encounters, is the Kingdom of God unfolding within the lives of people around Jesus. We have a more long-range image of that process in the lives of a few of His disciples and apostles. What we also see in the rear-view mirror that is history, is the long, tortuous tale of the Church, the single work that Christ gave to the world. It is a tortuous tale because it is unavoidably the aggregate of individual lives stretched over day-to-day experience. It is as wonderful as the life of a saint, and as shameful as the life of apostates, or those, who in the name of Christ, become the sponsors of great evil. That same tale is living its way out in each of our lives in the present moment.

Progress is a sales slogan. Politics is a sales slogan that takes your money and buys guns.

I am a child of the 60’s. Born in 1953, I was nurtured on the same slogans as the whole of my generation. I shared many of their dreams and sang the songs. A life-changing event occurred in my 15th year. Somehow, I stumbled on a book of essays by Leo Tolstoy. I never became a Tolstoyan – but I was deeply impacted by his treatment of the Sermon on the Mount. It was the first time I had encountered anything that made me want to read the Scriptures – much less with the idea that they could actually be pondered and practiced. Any number of Christ’s sayings in those two chapters seem extreme or beyond our abilities. Nevertheless, they formed a picture of the Kingdom of God. It created a hunger in me that has persisted through the years.

Seek first the Kingdom… the rest will follow… without slogans or vain imaginings. It is within you.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

Featured: Kingdom of Heaven icon, 19th century, from Saint Petersburg

Who is a Jew? Race, “the Chosen People” and Biopolitics

Israel is structured as the “homeland” of the race called “Jews,” but not for the faith of Judaism, since many who say they are “Jews” through faith are not racially qualified to be Israeli, and are thus excluded. To become an Israeli, one must possess state-approved racial credentials. Thus, geography is wedded to genetics (biopolitics), or what Friedrich Ratzel called “anthropogeography”: non-Jews are perpetually the Other who, because of their DNA, have no legitimacy, let alone place, within the state, or on the land; they are barely tolerated and openly hated. To then speak of “democracy” or even “civilization” in the context of Israel is to ignore this biopolitical fact. Historically, we must bear in mind that the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine was grounded in the currents of eugenics of the 19th and 20th century. Thus, Israel is a habitation (Lebensraum) for the race officially labeled “Jews,” and none other; and the purpose of the state is the regeneration of “Jews.”

But such a biopolitical set-up requires that there be a clear, genetic demarcation of the “Jew” from the “non-Jew.” This distinction was once based on tradition, in that those people who belonged to historical Judaic faith communities were accepted as “Jews.” This meant that not only the majority Ashkenazi (from Europe) and the Sephardic (from North Africa), but also the Mizrahi (from Iran, Syria, Iraq), the Beta Israel (Falasha) of Ethiopia, the various Jewish groups of Yemen, India, Central Asia and China—were all regarded as belonging to a greater Jewry, although the latter six groups were given this status very reluctantly, if at all. Given the predominance of the Ashkenazi in Israel (since the state has always been a German Ashkenazi project), there is extreme prejudice against “Jews” who do not “look” like the Ashkenazi.

But also given this diversity—is there a distinct racial stock that can be clearly labeled as “Jew?” The state of Israel certainly thinks so, for it has various racial laws in place (the Jewish Nation-State Law, the Law of “Return,” the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law). This protection now also includes a state-mandated DNA test to determine the racial qualification of anyone wanting to immigrate to Israel. In fact, it is illegal and thus impossible for ordinary Israelis to get a DNA test (as commonly done in the rest of the world, as a personal, fun, genealogical project)—such a test is only possible via court order (the Genetic Information Law 5761, passed in 2000)—because only the state of Israel can say who is a proper “Jew.” Such racial policing by the state implies that Israeli bureaucracy possesses clear and precise racial biomarkers. The notion of a distinct race of “Jews” is paramount—which guarantees Israel’s uniqueness. Without it, the logic of Israel as a “the land for Jews” falls apart, and it would then be a country like any other in this world, where just ordinary folk live.

“The Chosen People”

Lurking behind this racial distinction is the Protestant reading of the Bible, whereby modern-day “Jews” are held to be a unique people, especially chosen by God to carry out divine work in the world. The common understanding therefore is that the people known as “Jews” today are direct descendants of individuals inhabiting Holy Scripture. In other words, there is a supposed unbroken racial continuity from Abraham to today, despite the glaring fact that Abraham neglected to leave behind a sample of his DNA. Likewise, there are no DNA samples on record for all the prophets, kings, chief priests, scribes, guards, sadducees and pharasees mentioned in Holy Writ. So, what possible basis can there be for any sort of claim of familial descent stretching back thousands of years?

This model of uniqueness was introduced and codified by the German Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz, in his eleven-volume History of the Jews (published, 1853-1870); and then other historians, such as Moses Hess, went on to affirm the notion of “Jews” as a distinct race—thus, there was a jüdische Typus (a “Jewish type”), which was “scientifically” knowable (and here the “science” of the day was utilized, such as skull shape, shape of ears, noses, etc.). These historians, in turn, were following the age-old Protestant project of aligning with God’s “Chosen people,” which created “Christian Zionism,” and which led to various wry remarks, such as, that “Presbyterians are Jews who eat pork.” Here, the question of race was, and remains, central. Non-Protestant Christians, on the other hand, understand the term “the Chosen people” as the Church, the people who follow Christ, and not as a distinct race.

Graetz’s notion also grounds the state of Israel, whereby the Bible is the legal “deed” of ownership of the land once known as Palestine, in that the “Jews” of today are phyletic heirs of the ancient Israelites, whose literary lives and episodes play out against the backdrop of Palestinian geography.

But once we wade into antiquity and actually try to locate the ancient “Jews” outside faith, we run into all kinds of difficulties—lexical, linguistic, archaeological, and historical. First, you might be wondering why “Jew” is here quotation marks—in order to indicate that this racial category is a recent one. In antiquity, we do not have a term that can be rendered as “Jew.” Instead, what we have is a geographical designation: “Judaean,” that is, someone who lived in the area called “Judaea.” In antiquity, there are Judaeans; there are no “Jews.” In other words, geography is not akin to race, and it is impossible to push the racial term “Jew” back, say, 3,000 years.

This also therefore means that it is impossible to pinpoint a distinct genetic marker within the archaeological record for “Jews.” What we have are people (Judaeans) living in the region now called Israel, a region called “Palestine” by the Romans. The race of these people is impossible to determine. Many communities lived in the area, and all of them shared an indistinguishable and thus common material culture (Egyptian, Canaanite, Philistine). In other words, there is no indication at all in archaeology that a tribe of Hebrews erupted into “the Promised land,” conquered and settled it (Grabbe, 2017, pp. 82-88). This then calls into question the sequence of events known as the “Exodus,” which is the etiology used to justify possession of Palestinian land that comprises the modern-day state of Israel. Whoever the people were that God chose have long disappeared in the obscurity of millennia. They have vanished without a trace. Nothing genetically associates them to the people that call themselves “Jews” today.

But the concept of the “Chosen people” also means a racial uniqueness from the rest of humanity (supremacism), which is widely assumed and believed, and given that archaeology, linguistics and history cannot verify such a distinction, a more crucial question arises: to say that modern “Jews” are heirs to an ancient Hebrew matrimony and patrimony (race and land)—means that we possess a precise genetic marker of the “Chosen people”—ancient and modern, both of which match perfectly. Of course, none exists. How then can the modern “Jew” be genetically matched with the people of the Bible, as their living heir?

Here, we could veer into the history of modern Judaism, but suffice it to say that it is not the one talked about in the Bible—whatever that ancient belief system may have been, it has little to do with the faith called “Judaism” today. The only indications we have of that ancient Judaean faith are from Josephus, and they do not match up at all with modern-day Judaic practice. In the words of Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser: “This is not an uncommon impression and one finds it sometimes among the Jews as well as Christians—that Judaism is the religion of the Hebrew Bible. It is, of course, a fallacious impression… Judaism is not the religion of the Bible” (Judaism and the Christian Predicament, p. 59). A fact very clearly enunciated by the Jewish Almanac (1980, p. 3): “Strictly speaking it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a ‘Jew’ or to call a contemporary Jew an Israelite or a Hebrew.”

In short, there is no unbroken genetic history of the “Chosen people” from Abraham down to our times, nor is there a persistent, unchanging “Judaism,” especially since much suggests that there were systems of belief that were pre-Mosiac (pre-Torah, as it were). Whoever the people of the Bible were, they have disappeared; perhaps because they either became Christians, or later, Muslim. Their genes are impossible to trace let alone find in the populations of today.

But does a race of “Jews” exist today? The majority of the inhabitants of Israel are Ashkenazi, and then Sephardic, and Mizrahi. What history does their DNA contain? In a nutshell, largely Central and Eastern European and with some Asian. The most recent study suggests that the Ashkenazi are from Italy, and are thus Europeans. Very many hopeful studies have been carried out, which seek to “prove” that the “Jews” of today are indeed the descendants of the ancient Israelites. The originary assumption of all these analyses is to assert vague claims about continuity of ancient bloodlines, such as the Levites or the Cohenim. Needless to say, no one possesses the genomes of ancient Levites and Cohenim, against which to compare their modern descendants. Much is also made of the rare disorders that afflict “Jews” (Tay-Sachs, Neimann-Pick, and Gaucher); but again, these diseases are hardly confined to the “Jews” alone and are widespread in other groups.

More sober and neutral studies and analyses come up with a very different picture—that those we call “Jews” today are a mongrel lot of Romans, Greeks, Anatolians, Slavs, Iranians, Greater Turks (Khazar) and North Africans, with very little Middle Eastern components (of course, “Middle Eastern” itself is a vague category, which in no way can imply direct descent from Abraham). Such neutral studies are routinely attacked and vilified by those with vested interests—but they are never negated. In fact, a recent challenge by the eminent Israeli geneticist, Eran Elhaik, to prove “Jewishness” once and for all, using very precise criteria, was accepted and taken up by only two of the many pro-“Chosen-people” geneticists. And the results these two brought in only confirmed once again that a distinct race of “Jews” does not exist. There are only people of varied and mixed descent—like the rest of humanity. Those that believe in the “Chosen people” supremacy simply believe in a lie.


It was Johann Rudolf Kjellén, who coined the phrase “biopolitics” (as well as the phrase “geopolitics”), by which he understood the state as an “ethnic individuality” which gives it organic power used to dominate others in order to persist. In this process, the myth of the “Chosen people” is essential as the ground upon which the entirety of the Zionist project that is Israel rests. This myth gives Israel power over others, especially over Protestant America whose unbounded support is legendary and uncompromising (billions of dollars and weapons), because it believes that it is thus aligned with God’s “Chosen people” (and all manner of Bible quotations are tossed about as “proof” for such support).

Therefore, Israel presents itself as the land of the racially homogeneous “Chosen people,” and this explains its authoritarianism when it comes to the Palestinians—because Israel is a closed community with supposed common DNA, inherited from dim antiquity, which can only mean that other races must exist in a hierarchy of inequality with “Jews,” since these Others mean to harm the “Chosen people.” In effect, the life of Israel (past, present and future) is determined by perceived hereditary biology for the welfare and protection of “Jews.” The baseline protection consists in discouraging and religiously denying any mixed marriage and extra-marital sex between “Jew” and “non-Jew.”

The entirety of Israel’s actions, political and social, are best understood as expressions of “Jewish” biology, whose welfare is guaranteed by the state’s innate race-based structure—that is, the essentialized association of DNA with geography. “The Chosen people” thus can do no wrong, for they are merely pursuing their biological destiny.

Perhaps, Israel some day will learn to live without the crutch of race and will abandon its supremacist ideology. If it does not, it will eventually disappear, as “Jewish supremacism” is a deadend.

C.B. Forde writes from rual Canada.

Featured: The Children of Israel Crossing the Red Sea, by Frédéric Schopin; painted ca. 1850-1860.

Genetics of the Jewish People

Stephen Jay Gould remarked that “the most erroneous stories are those we think we know best—and therefore never scrutinize or question” (Gould, 1996). In the past, shamans and priests were believed to have omnipotence in controlling nature, man, and fate. As guardians of history and memory, they developed captivating narratives that bounded nature, religion, and mythology and aspired humans to continue their efforts to tame the natural and supernatural worlds. Nowadays, scientists have adopted the traditional role of the shamans and, grievously, some of their inclination to narratives (Sand, 2017).

In reconstructing the past from the distribution of genetic variation, population geneticists oftentimes rely on narratives. To decide between scenarios, geneticists have a multitude of accessories ranging from evolutionary theories to advanced computational tools applicable to modern and ancient genomes (Veeramah and Hammer, 2014; Morozova et al., 2016). In their efforts to understand human origins, geneticists also reach out to other disciplines like anthropology, linguistics, archeology, and history. However, as with any historical reconstruction, the inferred past remains a subject of controversy due to the subjectivity of the data, tools, assumptions, and, most importantly, the narratives that guided the scientist (Sand, 2017). Genetic studies of Jewish communities are especially vulnerable to such controversies as these communities have adopted various narratives since their inception (e.g., Patai and Patai, 1975; Kirsh, 2003, Kirsh, 2007; Kahn, 2005; Falk, 2006; Sand, 2009).

A narrative may meet its demise in a number of ways. It can evolve into a new narrative, usually by assimilating elements of other narratives, it can evolve by “drift” and eventually be replaced by a fitter variant, or it can be surrendered to scientific scrutiny that may either prove or dismiss it as fictitious.

This is now the case with two central Judeo-Christian narratives: the first, proposed less than two centuries ago by historian Heinrich Graetz, depicts the origin of modern-day Jews as the lineal descendants of the Biblical Judaeans. This narrative lacks historical (Sand, 2009) and linguistic (Wexler, 1993, Wexler, 2011) evidence. The second, rooted in first century Christian myths that were internalized by Jewish scholars, alludes to the “Roman Exile” that followed the destruction of Herod’s temple (70 A.D.) and introduced a massive Jewish population to Roman lands (Yuval, 2006). Such a population transplant, however, also lacks historical and linguistic support (Horon, 2000; Yuval, 2006; Sand, 2009; Wexler, 2016).

Most of the genetic studies on Jews focused on Ashkenazic Jews (AJs). The first genetic study that challenged the Levantine origin of AJs argued that such an origin has only been upheld and “replicated” due to the false dichotomy fallacy and that a Caucasus origin, never truly explored, explains the data better (Elhaik, 2013). A follow-up study (Costa et al., 2013) reported that at least 90% of Ashkenazic maternal ancestry is indigenous to Europe and likely originated through conversion of local populations with the remaining ancestries having East Asian or unidentified origins. These finding are supported by ancient DNA evidence showing 0–3% Levantine ancestry and a dominant Iranian ancestry (88%) in modern-day AJs (Das et al., 2016). Interestingly, this evidence explains the higher estimates of Middle Eastern ancestry ranging from 27 to 65% (Figure 1) in that previous analyses either considered Iran and the Caucasus as part of the “Middle East,” thereby inflating the proportion of Middle Eastern ancestry, or compared AJs to Palestinians, themselves a population with 40% non-Levantine ancestry that increased their similarity to AJs (Das et al., 2016). The second narrative has recently been revived due to the genetic similarity between AJs and south European populations (Xue et al., 2017). However, this similarity can be explained by the Greco-Roman origin of AJs who lived along the shores of the Black Sea in “ancient Ashkenaz” during the early centuries A.D. (Das et al., 2016), which is supported by historical (Harkavy, 1867) and linguistic evidence (Das et al., 2016). In light of these findings (Figure 1), Ostrer’s proposal that land disputes in the Middle East should be decided by the proportion of Middle Eastern ancestry in one’s genome (Ostrer, 2012) is regrettable and underlies the danger in developing policy based on ill-founded narratives.

These are not the only Jewish narratives in question. Over the past years, historical, theological, linguistic, and genetic narratives have all been challenged and replaced by new theories (Patai, 1990; Wexler, 1993, Wexler, 1996; Finkelstein and Silberman, 2002; Sand, 2009; Finkelstein, 2013; Kohler, 2014; Das et al., 2016; Elhaik, 2013). This was to be expected since, dismantling these narratives not only undermined their historical basis but also rendered any insights about the Judaeans gained by studying modern-day Jews erroneous.

To reflect upon the exhilarating progress in the youngest of these fields—population genetics—this Frontiers’ topic aimed to bring the most updated findings and perspectives. The first paper of this topic (Tofanelli et al., 2014) examined the “Cohen gene” hypothesis originated by Skorecki et al. (1997). In that study, the authors reported that individuals with the surname Cohen spotted in Canada, the UK, and Tel Aviv’s beaches (Goldstein, 2008) exhibit genetic differences from the general Israeli population in their Y chromosome. Skorecki and colleagues claimed that these differences evidenced their descent from ancient Judaean high priests, although ancient priests were never sampled. Tofanelli et al. showed that the “Cohen gene” narrative lacks biological support and criticized the use of haplotypemotifs as reliable predictor of “Jewishness.” Nogueiro et al., 2015, studied the origin of Portuguese Sephardic Jews. The authors reported that the genetic diversity of uniparental markers alludes to the complexity of the demographic processes underlying the genetic pool of the Portuguese Crypto-Jews’ descendants, which likely involve introgression from and admixture with Iberian populations. These findings were called into question for being interpreted within an a priori narrative depicting Portuguese Crypto-Jews as a reproductive isolate (Marcus et al., 2015). Falk’s perspective pulled the rug from under the field of Jewish genetics, arguing that thus far no Jewish markers were found, which highlights the imminent question—who are the people being studied and what is their relatedness to the ancient Judaeans, if any? Elhaik developed Falk’s postulate into a blind-test and invited members of the public, academia, and industry who claimed they can genomically distinguish Jews from non-Jews to prove their claims. Failing to satisfy the terms of the test and explaining why “Jewish biomarkers” are unlikely to exist, Elhaik concluded that all the findings concerning Jewish genetics should be critically evaluated.

The conclusions of these studies are innovative. The abandonment of the Levantine origin of Jews prompts new questions concerning the origin of various Jewish communities, the gene flow experienced with other communities, and the fate of the ancient Judaeans, which some authors discuss. The work presented here leaves aside many other narratives that should also be reevaluated, such as the purported absence of alcoholics among Jews (Keller, 1970), thought to have a genetic basis (Bray et al., 2010), whereas in reality alcoholism in Israel is a major concern (Efrati, 2014). We hope that articles published under this topic would be valuable for future scholarship.

Eran Elhaik is an Israeli-American geneticist and Associate Professor of bioinformatics at Lund University in Sweden and Chief of Science Officer at Ancient DNA Origins, Enkigen Genetics Limited. This article first appeared in Frontiers in Genetics (July 28, 2017).

Featured: Isaac, Abraham and Jacob, fresco, by Alexandru Ponehalski, in the pronaos of the Birth of the Mother of God Church, or simply the Hill Church (Biserica Din Deal), Ieud, Maramues, Romania; painted ca. late 18th century. (Photo Credit: Rada Pavel).

Khazars or Not?

There has long been much controversy as to whether modern-day Jews are originally Khazars, with much back-and-forth among various vested interests. We are pleased to bring you the work of Professor Eran Elhaik, the foremost Israeli geneticist, who settles the argument rather solidly, in our opinion.

The Problem of Zionism

There is an attitude for which my friends and I were for a long period rebuked and even reviled; and of which at the present period we are less likely than ever to repent. It was always called Anti-Semitism; but it was always much more true to call it Zionism. At any rate it was much nearer to the nature of the thing to call it Zionism, whether or no it can find its geographical concentration in Zion. The substance of this heresy was exceedingly simple. It consisted entirely in saying that Jews are Jews; and as a logical consequence that they are not Russians or Roumanians or Italians or Frenchmen or Englishmen. During the war the newspapers commonly referred to them as Russians; but the ritual wore so singularly thin that I remember one newspaper paragraph saying that the Russians in the East End complained of the food regulations, because their religion forbade them to eat pork. My own brief contact with the Greek priests of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem did not permit me to discover any trace of this detail of their discipline; and even the Russian pilgrims were said to be equally negligent in the matter. The point for the moment, however, is that if I was violently opposed to anything, it was not to Jews, but to that sort of remark about Jews; or rather to the silly and craven fear of making it a remark about Jews. But my friends and I had in some general sense a policy in the matter; and it was in substance the desire to give Jews the dignity and status of a separate nation. We desired that in some fashion, and so far as possible, Jews should be represented by Jews, should live in a society of Jews, should be judged by Jews and ruled by Jews. I am an Anti-Semite if that is Anti-Semitism. It would seem more rational to call it Semitism.

Of this attitude, I repeat, I am now less likely than ever to repent. I have lived to see the thing that was dismissed as a fad discussed everywhere as a fact; and one of the most menacing facts of the age. I have lived to see people who accused me of Anti-Semitism become far more Anti-Semitic than I am or ever was. I have heard people talking with real injustice about the Jews, who once seemed to think it an injustice to talk about them at all. But, above all, I have seen with my own eyes wild mobs marching through a great city, raving not only against Jews, but against the English for identifying themselves with the Jews. I have seen the whole prestige of England brought into peril, merely by the trick of talking about two nations as if they were one. I have seen an Englishman arriving in Jerusalem with somebody he had been taught to regard as his fellow countryman and political colleague, and received as if he had come arm-in-arm with a flaming dragon. So do our frosty fictions fare when they come under that burning sun.

Twice in my life, and twice lately, I have seen a piece of English pedantry bring us within an inch of an enormous English peril. The first was when all the Victorian historians and philosophers had told us that our German cousin was a cousin german and even germane; something naturally near and sympathetic. That also was an identification; that also was an assimilation; that also was a union of hearts. For the second time in a few short years, English politicians and journalists have discovered the dreadful revenge of reality. To pretend that something is what it is not is business that can easily be fashionable and sometimes popular. But the thing we have agreed to regard as what it is not will always abruptly punish and pulverise us, merely by being what it is. For years we were told that the Germans were a sort of Englishman because they were Teutons; but it was all the worse for us when we found out what Teutons really were. For years we were told that Jews were a sort of Englishman because they were British subjects. It is all the worse for us now we have to regard them, not subjectively as subjects, but objectively as objects; as objects of a fierce hatred among the Moslems and the Greeks. We are in the absurd position of introducing to these people a new friend whom they instantly recognise as an old enemy. It is an absurd position because it is a false position; but it is merely the penalty of falsehood.

Whether this Eastern anger is reasonable or not may be discussed in a moment; but what is utterly unreasonable is not the anger but the astonishment; at least it is our astonishment at their astonishment. We might believe ourselves in the view that a Jew is an Englishman; but there was no reason why they should regard him as an Englishman, since they already recognised him as a Jew. This is the whole present problem of the Jew in Palestine; and it must be solved either by the logic of Zionism or the logic of purely English supremacy and, impartiality; and not by what seems to everybody in Palestine a monstrous muddle of the two. But of course it is not only the peril in Palestine that has made the realisation of the Jewish problem, which once suffered all the dangers of a fad, suffer the opposite dangers of a fashion. The same journalists who politely describe Jews as Russians are now very impolitely describing certain Russians who are Jews. Many who had no particular objection to Jews as Capitalists have a very great objection to them as Bolshevists. Those who had an innocent unconsciousness of the nationality of Eckstein, even when he called himself Eckstein, have managed to discover the nationality of Braunstein, even, when he calls, himself Trotsky. And much of this peril also might easily have been lessened, by the simple proposal to call men and things by their own names.

I will confess, however, that I have no very full sympathy with the new Anti-Semitism which is merely Anti-Socialism. There are good, honourable and magnanimous Jews of every type and rank, there are many to whom I am greatly attached among my own friends in my own rank; but if I have to make a general choice on a general chance among different types of Jews, I have much more sympathy with the Jew who is revolutionary than the Jew who is plutocratic. In other words, I have much more sympathy for the Israelite we are beginning to reject, than for the Israelite we have already accepted. I have more respect for him when he leads some sort of revolt, however narrow and anarchic, against the oppression of the poor, than when he is safe at the head of a great money-lending business oppressing the poor himself. It is not the poor aliens, but the rich aliens I wish we had excluded. I myself wholly reject Bolshevism, not because its actions are violent, but because its very thought is materialistic and mean. And if this preference is true even of Bolshevism, it is ten times truer of Zionism. It really seems to me rather hard that the full storm of fury should have burst about the Jews, at the very moment when some of them at least have felt the call of a far cleaner ideal; and that when we have tolerated their tricks with our country, we should turn on them precisely when they seek in sincerity for their own.

But in order to judge this Jewish possibility, we must understand more fully the nature of the Jewish problem. We must consider it from the start, because there are still many who do not know that there is a Jewish problem. That problem has its proof, of course, in the history of the Jew, and the fact that he came from the East. A Jew will sometimes complain of the injustice of describing him as a man of the East; but in truth another very real injustice may be involved in treating him as a man of the West. Very often even the joke against the Jew is rather a joke against those who have made the joke; that is, a joke against what they have made out of the Jew. This is true especially, for instance, of many points of religion and ritual. Thus we cannot help feeling, for instance, that there is something a little grotesque about the Hebrew habit of putting on a top-hat as an act of worship. It is vaguely mixed up with another line of humour, about another class of Jew, who wears a large number of hats; and who must not therefore be credited with an extreme or extravagant religious zeal, leading him to pile up a pagoda of hats towards heaven. To Western eyes, in Western conditions, there really is something inevitably fantastic about this formality of the synagogue. But we ought to remember that we have made the Western conditions which startle the Western eyes. It seems odd to wear a modern top-hat as if it were a mitre or a biretta; it seems quainter still when the hat is worn even for the momentary purpose of saying grace before lunch. It seems quaintest of all when, at some Jewish luncheon parties, a tray of hats is actually handed round, and each guest helps himself to a hat as a sort of hors d’oeuvre. All this could easily be turned into a joke; but we ought to realise that the joke is against ourselves. It is not merely we who make fun of it, but we who have made it funny. For, after all, nobody can pretend that this particular type of head-dress is a part of that uncouth imagery “setting painting and sculpture at defiance” which Renan remarked in the tradition of Hebrew civilisation. Nobody can say that a top-hat was among the strange symbolic utensils dedicated to the obscure service of the Ark; nobody can suppose that a top-hat descended from heaven among the wings and wheels of the flying visions of the Prophets. For this wild vision the West is entirely responsible. Europe has created the Tower of Giotto; but it has also created the topper. We of the West must bear the burden, as best we may, both of the responsibility and of the hat. It is solely the special type and shape of hat that makes the Hebrew ritual seem ridiculous. Performed in the old original Hebrew fashion it is not ridiculous, but rather if anything sublime. For the original fashion was an oriental fashion; and the Jews are orientals; and the mark of all such orientals is the wearing of long and loose draperies. To throw those loose draperies over the head is decidedly a dignified and even poetic gesture. One can imagine something like justice done to its majesty and mystery in one of the great dark drawings of William Blake. It may be true, and personally I think it is true, that the Hebrew covering of the head signifies a certain stress on the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, while the Christian uncovering of the head suggests rather the love of God that is the end of wisdom. But this has nothing to do with the taste and dignity of the ceremony; and to do justice to these we must treat the Jew as an oriental; we must even dress him as an oriental.

I have only taken this as one working example out of many that would point to the same conclusion. A number of points upon which the unfortunate alien is blamed would be much improved if he were, not less of an alien, but rather more of an alien. They arise from his being too like us, and too little like himself. It is obviously the case, for instance, touching that vivid vulgarity in clothes, and especially the colours of clothes, with which a certain sort of Jews brighten the landscape or seascape at Margate or many holiday resorts. When we see a foreign gentleman on Brighton Pier wearing yellow spats, a magenta waistcoat, and an emerald green tie, we feel that he has somehow missed certain fine shades of social sensibility and fitness. It might considerably surprise the company on Brighton Pier, if he were to reply by solemnly unwinding his green necktie from round his neck, and winding it round his head. Yet the reply would be the right one; and would be equally logical and artistic. As soon as the green tie had become a green turban, it might look as appropriate and even attractive as the green turban of any pilgrim of Mecca or any descendant of Mahomet, who walks with a stately air through the streets of Jaffa or Jerusalem. The bright colours that make the Margate Jews hideous are no brighter than those that make the Moslem crowd picturesque. They are only worn in the wrong place, in the wrong way, and in conjunction with a type and cut of clothing that is meant to be more sober and restrained. Little can really be urged against him, in that respect, except that his artistic instinct is rather for colour than form, especially of the kind that we ourselves have labelled good form.

This is a mere symbol, but it is so suitable a symbol that I have often offered it symbolically as a solution of the Jewish problem. I have felt disposed to say: let all liberal legislation stand, let all literal and legal civic equality stand; let a Jew occupy any political or social position which he can gain in open competition; let us not listen for a moment to any suggestions of reactionary restrictions or racial privilege. Let a Jew be Lord Chief justice, if his exceptional veracity and reliability have clearly marked him out for that post. Let a Jew be Archbishop of Canterbury, if our national religion has attained to that receptive breadth that would render such a transition unobjectionable and even unconscious. But let there be one single-clause bill; one simple and sweeping law about Jews, and no other. Be it enacted, by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons in Parliament assembled, that every Jew must be dressed like an Arab. Let him sit on the Woolsack, but let him sit there dressed as an Arab. Let him preach in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but let him preach there dressed as an Arab. It is not my point at present to dwell on the pleasing if flippant fancy of how much this would transform the political scene; of the dapper figure of Sir Herbert Samuel swathed as a Bedouin, or Sir Alfred Mond gaining a yet greater grandeur from the gorgeous and trailing robes of the East. If my image is quaint my intention is quite serious; and the point of it is not personal to any particular Jew. The point applies to any Jew, and to our own recovery of healthier relations with him. The point is that we should know where we are; and he would know where he is, which is in a foreign land.

This is but a parenthesis and a parable, but it brings us to the concrete controversial matter which is the Jewish problem. Only a few years ago it was regarded as a mark of a blood-thirsty disposition to admit that the Jewish problem was a problem, or even that the Jew was a Jew. Through much misunderstanding certain friends of mine and myself have persisted in disregarding the silence thus imposed; but facts have fought for us more effectively than words. By this time nobody is more conscious of the Jewish problem than the most intelligent and idealistic of the Jews. The folly of the fashion by which Jews often concealed their Jewish names, must surely be manifest by this time even to those who concealed them. To mention but one example of the way in which this fiction falsified the relations of everybody and everything, it is enough to note that it involved the Jews themselves in a quite new and quite needless unpopularity in the first years of the war. A poor little Jewish tailor, who called himself by a German name merely because he lived for a short time in a German town, was instantly mobbed in Whitechapel for his share in the invasion of Belgium. He was cross-examined about why he had damaged the tower of Rheims; and talked to as if he had killed Nurse Cavell with his own pair of shears. It was very unjust; quite as unjust as it would be to ask Bethmann-Hollweg why he had stabbed Eglon or hewn Agag in pieces. But it was partly at least the fault of the Jew himself, and of the whole of that futile and unworthy policy which had led him to call himself Bernstein when his name was Benjamin.

In such cases the Jews are accused of all sorts of faults they have not got; but there are faults that they have got. Some of the charges against them, as in the cases I have quoted concerning religious ritual and artistic taste, are due merely to the false light in which they are regarded. Other faults may also be due to the false position in which they are placed. But the faults exist; and nothing was ever more dangerous to everybody concerned than the recent fashion of denying or ignoring them. It was done simply by the snobbish habit of suppressing the experience and evidence of the majority of people, and especially of the majority of poor people. It was done by confining the controversy to a small world of wealth and refinement, remote from all the real facts involved. For the rich are the most ignorant people on earth, and the best that can be said for them, in cases like these, is that their ignorance often reaches the point of innocence.

I will take a typical case, which sums up the whole of this absurd fashion. There was a controversy in the columns of an important daily paper, some time ago, on the subject of the character of Shylock in Shakespeare. Actors and authors of distinction, including some of the most brilliant of living Jews, argued the matter from the most varied points of view. Some said that Shakespeare was prevented by the prejudices of his time from having a complete sympathy with Shylock. Some said that Shakespeare was only restrained by fear of the powers of his time from expressing his complete sympathy with Shylock. Some wondered how or why Shakespeare had got hold of such a queer story as that of the pound of flesh, and what it could possibly have to do with so dignified and intellectual a character as Shylock. In short, some wondered why a man of genius should be so much of an Anti-Semite, and some stoutly declared that he must have been a Pro-Semite. But all of them in a sense admitted that they were puzzled as to what the play was about. The correspondence filled column after column and went on for weeks. And from one end of that correspondence to the other, no human being even so much as mentioned the word “usury.” It is exactly as if twenty clever critics were set down to talk for a month about the play of Macbeth, and were all strictly forbidden to mention the word “murder.”

The play called The Merchant of Venice happens to be about usury, and its story is a medieval satire on usury. It is the fashion to say that it is a clumsy and grotesque story; but as a fact it is an exceedingly good story. It is a perfect and pointed story for its purpose, which is to convey the moral of the story. And the moral is that the logic of usury is in its nature at war with life, and might logically end in breaking into the bloody house of life. In other words, if a creditor can always claim a man’s tools or a man’s home, he might quite as justly claim one of his arms or legs. This principle was not only embodied in medieval satires but in very sound medieval laws, which set a limit on the usurer who was trying to take away a man’s livelihood, as the usurer in the play is trying to take away a man’s life. And if anybody thinks that usury can never go to lengths wicked enough to be worthy of so wild an image, then that person either knows nothing about it or knows too much. He is either one of the innocent rich who have never been the victims of money-lenders, or else one of the more powerful and influential rich who are money-lenders themselves.

All this, I say, is a fact that must be faced, but there is another side to the case, and it is this that the genius of Shakespeare discovered. What he did do, and what the medieval satirist did not do, was to attempt to understand Shylock; in the true sense to sympathise with Shylock the money-lender, as he sympathised with Macbeth the murderer. It was not to deny that the man was an usurer, but to assert that the usurer was a man. And the Elizabethan dramatist does make him a man, where the medieval satirist made him a monster. Shakespeare not only makes him a man but a perfectly sincere and self-respecting man. But the point is this: that he is a sincere man who sincerely believes in usury. He is a self-respecting man who does not despise himself for being a usurer. In one word, he regards usury as normal. In that word is the whole problem of the popular impression of the Jews. What Shakespeare suggested about the Jew in a subtle and sympathetic way, millions of plain men everywhere would suggest about him in a rough and ready way. Regarding the Jew in relation to his ideas about interest, they think either that he is simply immoral; or that if he is moral, then he has a different morality. There is a great deal more to be said about how far this is true, and about what are its causes and excuses if it is true. But it is an old story, surely, that the worst of all cures is to deny the disease.

To recognise the reality of the Jewish problem is very vital for everybody and especially vital for Jews. To pretend that there is no problem is to precipitate the expression of a rational impatience, which unfortunately can only express itself in the rather irrational form of Anti-Semitism. In the controversies of Palestine and Syria, for instance, it is very common to hear the answer that the Jew is no worse than the Armenian. The Armenian also is said to be unpopular as a money-lender and a mercantile upstart; yet the Armenian figures as a martyr for the Christian faith and a victim of the Moslem fury. But this is one of those arguments which really carry their own answer. It is like the sceptical saying that man is only an animal, which of itself provokes the retort, “What an animal!” The very similarity only emphasises the contrast. Is it seriously suggested that we can substitute the Armenian for the Jew in the study of a world-wide problem like that of the Jews? Could we talk of the competition of Armenians among Welsh shop-keepers, or of the crowd of Armenians on Brighton Parade? Can Armenian usury be a common topic of talk in a camp in California and in a club in Piccadilly? Does Shakespeare show us a tragic Armenian towering over the great Venice of the Renascence? Does Dickens show us a realistic Armenian teaching in the thieves’ kitchens of the slums? When we meet Mr. Vernon Vavasour, that brilliant financier, do we speculate on the probability of his really having an Armenian name to match his Armenian nose? Is it true, in short, that all sorts of people, from the peasants of Poland to the peasants of Portugal, can agree more or less upon the special subject of Armenia? Obviously it is not in the least true; obviously the Armenian question is only a local question of certain Christians, who may be more avaricious than other Christians. But it is the truth about the Jews. It is only half the truth, and one which by itself would be very unjust to the Jews. But it is the truth, and we must realise it as sharply and clearly as we can. The truth is that it is rather strange that the Jews should be so anxious for international agreements. For one of the few really international agreements is a suspicion of the Jews.

A more practical comparison would be one between the Jews and gipsies; for the latter at least cover several countries, and can be tested by the impressions of very different districts. And in some preliminary respects the comparison is really useful. Both races are in different ways landless, and therefore in different ways lawless. For the fundamental laws are land laws. In both cases a reasonable man will see reasons for unpopularity, without wishing to indulge any task for persecution. In both cases he will probably recognise the reality of a racial fault, while admitting that it may be largely a racial misfortune. That is to say, the drifting and detached condition may be largely the cause of Jewish usury or gipsy pilfering; but it is not common sense to contradict the general experience of gipsy pilfering or Jewish usury. The comparison helps us to clear away some of the cloudy evasions by which modern men have tried to escape from that experience. It is absurd to say that people are only prejudiced against the money methods of the Jews because the medieval church has left behind a hatred of their religion. We might as well say that people only protect the chickens from the gipsies because the medieval church undoubtedly condemned fortune-telling. It is unreasonable for a Jew to complain that Shakespeare makes Shylock and not Antonio the ruthless money-lender; or that Dickens makes Fagin and not Sikes the receiver of stolen goods. It is as if a gipsy were to complain when a novelist describes a child as stolen by the gipsies, and not by the curate or the mothers’ meeting. It is to complain of facts and probabilities. There may be good gipsies; there may be good qualities which specially belong to them as gipsies; many students of the strange race have, for instance, praised a certain dignity and self-respect among the women of the Romany. But no student ever praised them for an exaggerated respect for private property, and the whole argument about gipsy theft can be roughly repeated about Hebrew usury. Above all, there is one other respect in which the comparison is even more to the point. It is the essential fact of the whole business, that the Jews do not become national merely by becoming a political part of any nation. We might as well say that the gipsies had villas in Clapham, when their caravans stood on Clapham Common.

But, of course, even this comparison between the two wandering peoples fails in the presence of the greater problem. Here again even the attempt at a parallel leaves the primary thing more unique. The gipsies do not become municipal merely by passing through a number of parishes, and it would seem equally obvious that a Jew need not become English merely by passing through England on his way from Germany to America. But the gipsy not only is not municipal, but he is not called municipal. His caravan is not immediately painted outside with the number and name of 123 Laburnam Road, Clapham. The municipal authorities generally notice the wheels attached to the new cottage, and therefore do not fall into the error. The gipsy may halt in a particular parish, but he is not as a rule immediately made a parish councillor. The cases in which a travelling tinker has been suddenly made the mayor of an important industrial town must be comparatively rare. And if the poor vagabonds of the Romany blood are bullied by mayors and magistrates, kicked off the land by landlords, pursued by policemen and generally knocked about from pillar to post, nobody raises an outcry that they are the victims of religious persecution; nobody summons meetings in public halls, collects subscriptions or sends petitions to parliament; nobody threatens anybody else with the organised indignation of the gipsies all over the world. The case of the Jew in the nation is very different from that of the tinker in the town. The moral elements that can be appealed to are of a very different style and scale. No gipsies are millionaires.

In short, the Jewish problem differs from anything like the gipsy problem in two highly practical respects. First, the Jews already exercise colossal cosmopolitan financial power. And second, the modern societies they live in also grant them vital forms of national political power. Here the vagrant is already as rich as a miser and the vagrant is actually made a mayor. As will be seen shortly, there is a Jewish side of the story which leads really to the same ending of the story; but the truth stated here is quite independent of any sympathetic or unsympathetic view of the race in question. It is a question of fact, which a sensible Jew can afford to recognise, and which the most sensible Jews do very definitely recognise. It is really irrational for anybody to pretend that the Jews are only a curious sect of Englishmen, like the Plymouth Brothers or the Seventh Day Baptists, in the face of such a simple fact as the family of Rothschild. Nobody can pretend that such an English sect can establish five brothers, or even cousins, in the five great capitals of Europe. Nobody can pretend that the Seventh Day Baptists are the seven grandchildren of one grandfather, scattered systematically among the warring nations of the earth. Nobody thinks the Plymouth Brothers are literally brothers, or that they are likely to be quite as powerful in Paris or in Petrograd as in Plymouth.

The Jewish problem can be stated very simply after all. It is normal for the nation to contain the family. With the Jews the family is generally divided among the nations. This may not appear to matter to those who do not believe in nations, those who really think there ought not to be any nations. But I literally fail to understand anybody who does believe in patriotism thinking that this state of affairs can be consistent with it. It is in its nature intolerable, from a national standpoint, that a man admittedly powerful in one nation should be bound to a man equally powerful in another nation, by ties more private and personal even than nationality. Even when the purpose is not any sort of treachery, the very position is a sort of treason. Given the passionately patriotic peoples of the west of Europe especially, the state of things cannot conceivably be satisfactory to a patriot. But least of all can it conceivably be satisfactory to a Jewish patriot; by which I do not mean a sham Englishman or a sham Frenchman, but a man who is sincerely patriotic for the historic and highly civilised nation of the Jews.

For what may be criticised here as Anti-Semitism is only the negative side of Zionism. For the sake of convenience I have begun by stating it in terms of the universal popular impression which some call a popular prejudice. But such a truth of differentiation is equally true on both its different sides. Suppose somebody proposes to mix up England and America, under some absurd name like the Anglo-Saxon Empire. One man may say, “Why should the jolly English inns and villages be swamped by these priggish provincial Yankees?” Another may say, “Why should the real democracy of a young country be tied to your snobbish old squirarchy?” But both these views are only versions of the same view of a great American: “God never made one people good enough to rule another.”

The primary point about Zionism is that, whether it is right or wrong, it does offer a real and reasonable answer both to Anti-Semitism and to the charge of Anti-Semitism. The usual phrases about religious persecution and racial hatred are not reasonable answers, or answers at all. These Jews do not deny that they are Jews; they do not deny that Jews may be unpopular; they do not deny that there may be other than superstitious reasons for their unpopularity. They are not obliged to maintain that when a Piccadilly dandy talks about being in the hands of the Jews he is moved by the theological fanaticism that prevails in Piccadilly; or that when a silly youth on Derby Day says he was done by a dirty Jew, he is merely conforming to that Christian orthodoxy which is one of the strict traditions of the Turf. They are not, like some other Jews, forced to pay so extravagant a compliment to the Christian religion as to suppose it the ruling motive of half the discontented talk in clubs and public-houses, of nearly every business man who suspects a foreign financier, or nearly every working man who grumbles against the local pawn-broker. Religious mania, unfortunately, is not so common. The Zionists do not need to deny any of these things; what they offer is not a denial but a diagnosis and a remedy. Whether their diagnosis is correct, whether their remedy is practicable, we will try to consider later, with something like a fair summary of what is to be said on both sides. But their theory, on the face of it, is perfectly reasonable. It is the theory that any abnormal qualities in the Jews are due to the abnormal position of the Jews. They are traders rather than producers because they have no land of their own from which to produce, and they are cosmopolitans rather than patriots because they have no country of their own for which to be patriotic. They can no more become farmers while they are vagrant than they could have built the Temple of Solomon while they were building the Pyramids of Egypt. They can no more feel the full stream of nationalism while they wander in the desert of nomadism than they could bathe in the waters of Jordan while they were weeping by the waters of Babylon. For exile is the worst kind of bondage. In insisting upon that at least the Zionists have insisted upon a profound truth, with many applications to many other moral issues. It is true that for any one whose heart is set on a particular home or shrine, to be locked out is to be locked in. The narrowest possible prison for him is the whole world.

It will be well to notice briefly, however, how the principle applies to the two Anti-Semitic arguments already considered. The first is the charge of usury and unproductive loans, the second the charge either of treason or of unpatriotic detachment. The charge of usury is regarded, not unreasonably, as only a specially dangerous development of the general charge of uncreative commerce and the refusal of creative manual exercise; the unproductive loan is only a minor form of the unproductive labour. It is certainly true that the latter complaint is, if possible, commoner than the former, especially in comparatively simple communities like those of Palestine. A very honest Moslem Arab said to me, with a singular blend of simplicity and humour, “A Jew does not work; but he grows rich. You never see a Jew working; and yet they grow rich. What I want to know is, why do we not all do the same? Why do we not also do this and become rich?” This is, I need hardly say, an over-simplification. Jews often work hard at some things, especially intellectual things. But the same experience which tells us that we have known many industrious Jewish scholars, Jewish lawyers, Jewish doctors, Jewish pianists, chess-players and so on, is an experience which cuts both ways. The same experience, if carefully consulted, will probably tell us that we have not known personally many patient Jewish ploughmen, many laborious Jewish blacksmiths, many active Jewish hedgers and ditchers, or even many energetic Jewish hunters and fishermen. In short, the popular impression is tolerably true to life, as popular impressions very often are; though it is not fashionable to say so in these days of democracy and self-determination. Jews do not generally work on the land, or in any of the handicrafts that are akin to the land; but the Zionists reply that this is because it can never really be their own land. That is Zionism, and that has really a practical place in the past and future of Zion.

Patriotism is not merely dying for the nation. It is dying with the nation. It is regarding the fatherland not merely as a real resting-place like an inn, but as a final resting-place, like a house or even a grave. Even the most Jingo of the Jews do not feel like this about their adopted country; and I doubt if the most intelligent of the Jews would pretend that they did. Even if we can bring ourselves to believe that Disraeli lived for England, we cannot think that he would have died with her. If England had sunk in the Atlantic he would not have sunk with her, but easily floated over to America to stand for the Presidency. Even if we are profoundly convinced that Mr. Beit or Mr. Eckstein had patriotic tears in his eyes when he obtained a gold concession from Queen Victoria, we cannot believe that in her absence he would have refused a similar concession from the German Emperor. When the Jew in France or in England says he is a good patriot he only means that he is a good citizen, and he would put it more truly if he said he was a good exile. Sometimes indeed he is an abominably bad citizen, and a most exasperating and execrable exile, but I am not talking of that side of the case. I am assuming that a man like Disraeli did really make a romance of England, that a man like Dernburg did really make a romance of Germany, and it is still true that though it was a romance, they would not have allowed it to be a tragedy. They would have seen that the story had a happy ending, especially for themselves. These Jews would not have died with any Christian nation.

But the Jews did die with Jerusalem. That is the first and last great truth in Zionism. Jerusalem was destroyed and Jews were destroyed with it, men who cared no longer to live because the city of their faith had fallen. It may be questioned whether all the Zionists have all the sublime insanity of the Zealots. But at least it is not nonsense to suggest that the Zionists might feel like this about Zion. It is nonsense to suggest that they would ever feel like this about Dublin or Moscow. And so far at least the truth both in Semitism and Anti-Semitism is included in Zionism.

It is a commonplace that the infamous are more famous than the famous. Byron noted, with his own misanthropic moral, that we think more of Nero the monster who killed his mother than of Nero the noble Roman who defeated Hannibal. The name of Julian more often suggests Julian the Apostate than Julian the Saint; though the latter crowned his canonisation with the sacred glory of being the patron saint of inn-keepers. But the best example of this unjust historical habit is the most famous of all and the most infamous of all. If there is one proper noun which has become a common noun, if there is one name which has been generalised till it means a thing, it is certainly the name of Judas. We should hesitate perhaps to call it a Christian name, except in the more evasive form of Jude. And even that, as the name of a more faithful apostle, is another illustration of the same injustice; for, by comparison with the other, Jude the faithful might almost be called Jude the obscure. The critic who said, whether innocently or ironically, “What wicked men these early Christians were!” was certainly more successful in innocence than in irony; for he seems to have been innocent or ignorant of the whole idea of the Christian communion. Judas Iscariot was one of the very earliest of all possible early Christians. And the whole point about him was that his hand was in the same dish; the traitor is always a friend, or he could never be a foe. But the point for the moment is merely that the name is known everywhere merely as the name of a traitor. The name of Judas nearly always means Judas Iscariot; it hardly ever means Judas Maccabeus. And if you shout out “Judas” to a politician in the thick of a political tumult, you will have some difficulty in soothing him afterwards, with the assurance that you had merely traced in him something of that splendid zeal and valour which dragged down the tyranny of Antiochus, in the day of the great deliverance of Israel.

Those two possible uses of the name of Judas would give us yet another compact embodiment of the case for Zionism. Numberless international Jews have gained the bad name of Judas, and some have certainly earned it. If you have gained or earned the good name of Judas, it can quite fairly and intelligently be affirmed that this was not the fault of the Jews, but of the peculiar position of the Jews. A man can betray like Judas Iscariot in another man’s house; but a man cannot fight like Judas Maccabeus for another man’s temple. There is no more truly rousing revolutionary story amid all the stories of mankind, there is no more perfect type of the element of chivalry in rebellion, than that magnificent tale of the Maccabee who stabbed from underneath the elephant of Antiochus and died under the fall of that huge and living castle. But it would be unreasonable to ask Mr. Montagu to stick a knife into the elephant on which Lord Curzon, let us say, was riding in all the pomp of Asiatic imperialism. For Mr. Montagu would not be liberating his own land; and therefore he naturally prefers to interest himself either in operations in silver or in somewhat slower and less efficient methods of liberation. In short, whatever we may think of the financial or social services such as were rendered to England in the affair of Marconi, or to France in the affair of Panama, it must be admitted that these exhibit a humbler and more humdrum type of civic duty, and do not remind us of the more reckless virtues of the Maccabees or the Zealots. A man may be a good citizen of anywhere, but he cannot be a national hero of nowhere; and for this particular type of patriotic passion it is necessary to have a patria. The Zionists therefore are maintaining a perfectly reasonable proposition, both about the charge of usury and the charge of treason, if they claim that both could be cured by the return to a national soil as promised in Zionism.

Unfortunately they are not always reasonable about their own reasonable proposition. Some of them have a most unlucky habit of ignoring, and therefore implicitly denying, the very evil that they are wisely trying to cure. I have already remarked this irritating innocence in the first of the two questions; the criticism that sees everything in Shylock except the point of him, or the point of his knife. How in the politics of Palestine at this moment this first question is in every sense the primary question. Palestine has hardly as yet a patriotism to be betrayed; but it certainly has a peasantry to be oppressed, and especially to be oppressed as so many peasantries have been with usury and forestalling. The Syrians and Arabs and all the agricultural and pastoral populations of Palestine are, rightly or wrongly, alarmed and angered at the advent of the Jews to power; for the perfectly practical and simple reason of the reputation which the Jews have all over the world. It is really ridiculous in people so intelligent as the Jews, and especially so intelligent as the Zionists, to ignore so enormous and elementary a fact as that reputation and its natural results. It may or may not in this case be unjust; but in any case it is not unnatural. It may be the result of persecution, but it is one that has definitely resulted. It may be the consequence of a misunderstanding; but it is a misunderstanding that must itself be understood. Rightly or wrongly, certain people in Palestine fear the coming of the Jews as they fear the coming of the locusts; they regard them as parasites that feed on a community by a thousand methods of financial intrigue and economic exploitation. I could understand the Jews indignantly denying this, or eagerly disproving it, or best of all, explaining what is true in it while exposing what is untrue. What is strange, I might almost say weird, about the attitude of some quite intelligent and sincere Zionists, is that they talk, write and apparently think as if there were no such thing in the world.

I will give one curious example from one of the best and most brilliant of the Zionists. Dr. Weizmann is a man of large mind and human sympathies; and it is difficult to believe that any one with so fine a sense of humanity can be entirely empty of anything like a sense of humour. Yet, in the middle of a very temperate and magnanimous address on “Zionist Policy,” he can actually say a thing like this, “The Arabs need us with our knowledge, and our experience and our money. If they do not have us they will fall into the hands of others, they will fall among sharks.” One is tempted for the moment to doubt whether any one else in the world could have said that, except the Jew with his strange mixture of brilliancy and blindness, of subtlety and simplicity. It is much as if President Wilson were to say, “Unless America deals with Mexico, it will be dealt with by some modern commercial power, that has trust-magnates and hustling millionaires.” But would President Wilson say it? It is as if the German Chancellor had said, “We must rush to the rescue of the poor Belgians, or they may be put under some system with a rigid militarism and a bullying bureaucracy.” But would even a German Chancellor put it exactly like that? Would anybody put it in the exact order of words and structure of sentence in which Dr. Weizmann has put it? Would even the Turks say, “The Armenians need us with our order and our discipline and our arms. If they do not have us they will fall into the hands of others, they will perhaps be in danger of massacres.” I suspect that a Turk would see the joke, even if it were as grim a joke as the massacres themselves. If the Zionists wish to quiet the fears of the Arabs, surely the first thing to do is to discover what the Arabs are afraid of. And very little investigation will reveal the simple truth that they are very much afraid of sharks; and that in their book of symbolic or heraldic zoology it is the Jew who is adorned with the dorsal fin and the crescent of cruel teeth. This may be a fairy-tale about a fabulous animal; but it is one which all sorts of races believe, and certainly one which these races believe.

But the case is yet more curious than that. These simple tribes are afraid, not only of the dorsal fin and dental arrangements which Dr. Weizmann may say (with some justice) that he has not got; they are also afraid of the other things which he says he has got. They may be in error, at the first superficial glance, in mistaking a respectable professor for a shark. But they can hardly be mistaken in attributing to the respectable professor what he himself considers as his claims to respect. And as the imagery about the shark may be too metaphorical or almost mythological, there is not the smallest difficulty in stating in plain words what the Arabs fear in the Jews. They fear, in exact terms, their knowledge and their experience and their money. The Arabs fear exactly the three things which he says they need. Only the Arabs would call it a knowledge of financial trickery and an experience of political intrigue, and the power given by hoards of money not only of their own but of other peoples. About Dr. Weizmann and the true Zionists this is self-evidently unjust; but about Jewish influence of the more visible and vulgar kind it has to be proved to be unjust. Feeling as I do the force of the real case for Zionism, I venture most earnestly to implore the Jews to disprove it, and not to dismiss it. But above all I implore them not to be content with assuring us again and again of their knowledge and their experience and their money. That is what people dread like a pestilence or an earthquake; their knowledge and their experience and their money. It is needless for Dr. Weizmann to tell us that he does not desire to enter Palestine like a Junker or drive thousands of Arabs forcibly out of the land; nobody supposes that Dr. Weizmann looks like a Junker; and nobody among the enemies of the Jews says that they have driven their foes in that fashion since the wars with the Canaanites. But for the Jews to reassure us by insisting on their own economic culture or commercial education is exactly like the Junkers reassuring us by insisting on the unquestioned supremacy of their Kaiser or the unquestioned obedience of their soldiers. Men bar themselves in their houses, or even hide themselves in their cellars, when such virtues are abroad in the land.

In short the fear of the Jews in Palestine, reasonable or unreasonable, is a thing that must be answered by reason. It is idle for the unpopular thing to answer with boasts, especially boasts of the very quality that makes it unpopular. But I think it could be answered by reason, or at any rate tested by reason; and the tests by consideration. The principle is still as stated above; that the tests must not merely insist on the virtues the Jews do show, but rather deal with the particular virtues which they are generally accused of not showing. It is necessary to understand this more thoroughly than it is generally understood, and especially better than it is usually stated in the language of fashionable controversy. For the question involves the whole success or failure of Zionism. Many of the Zionists know it; but I rather doubt whether most of the Anti-Zionists know that they know it. And some of the phrases of the Zionists, such as those that I have noted, too often tend to produce the impression that they ignore when they are not ignorant. They are not ignorant; and they do not ignore in practice; even when an intellectual habit makes them seem to ignore in theory. Nobody who has seen a Jewish rural settlement, such as Rishon, can doubt that some Jews are sincerely filled with the vision of sitting under their own vine and fig-tree, and even with its accompanying lesson that it is first necessary to grow the fig-tree and the vine.

The true test of Zionism may seem a topsy-turvy test. It will not succeed by the number of successes, but rather by the number of failures, or what the world (and certainly not least the Jewish world) has generally called failures. It will be tested, not by whether Jews can climb to the top of the ladder, but by whether Jews can remain at the bottom; not by whether they have a hundred arts of becoming important, but by whether they have any skill in the art of remaining insignificant. It is often noted that the intelligent Israelite can rise to positions of power and trust outside Israel, like Witte in Russia or Rufus Isaacs in England. It is generally bad, I think, for their adopted country; but in any case it is no good for the particular problem of their own country. Palestine cannot have a population of Prime Ministers and Chief Justices; and if those they rule and judge are not Jews, then we have not established a commonwealth but only an oligarchy. It is said again that the ancient Jews turned their enemies into hewers of wood and drawers of water. The modern Jews have to turn themselves into hewers of wood and drawers of water. If they cannot do that, they cannot turn themselves into citizens, but only into a kind of alien bureaucrats, of all kinds the most perilous and the most imperilled. Hence a Jewish state will not be a success when the Jews in it are successful, or even when the Jews in it are statesmen. It will be a success when the Jews in it are scavengers, when the Jews in it are sweeps, when they are dockers and ditchers and porters and hodmen. When the Zionist can point proudly to a Jewish navvy who has not risen in the world, an under-gardener who is not now taking his ease as an upper-gardener, a yokel who is still a yokel, or even a village idiot at least sufficiently idiotic to remain in his village, then indeed the world will come to blow the trumpets and lift up the heads of the everlasting gates; for God will have turned the captivity of Zion.

Zionists of whose sincerity I am personally convinced, and of whose intelligence anybody would be convinced, have told me that there really is, in places like Rishon, something like a beginning of this spirit; the love of the peasant for his land. One lady, even in expressing her conviction of it, called it “this very un-Jewish characteristic.” She was perfectly well aware both of the need of it in the Jewish land, and the lack of it in the Jewish race. In short she was well aware of the truth of that seemingly topsy-turvy test I have suggested; that of whether men are worthy to be drudges. When a humorous and humane Jew thus accepts the test, and honestly expects the Jewish people to pass it, then I think the claim is very serious indeed, and one not lightly to be set aside. I do certainly think it a very serious responsibility under the circumstances to set it altogether aside. It is our whole complaint against the Jew that he does not till the soil or toil with the spade; it is very hard on him to refuse him if he really says, “Give me a soil and I will till it; give me a spade and I will use it.” It is our whole reason for distrusting him that he cannot really love any of the lands in which he wanders; it seems rather indefensible to be deaf to him if he really says, “Give me a land and I will love it.” I would certainly give him a land or some instalment of the land, (in what general sense I will try to suggest a little later) so long as his conduct on it was watched and tested according to the principles I have suggested. If he asks for the spade he must use the spade, and not merely employ the spade, in the sense of hiring half a hundred men to use spades. If he asks for the soil he must till the soil; that is he must belong to the soil and not merely make the soil belong to him. He must have the simplicity, and what many would call the stupidity of the peasant. He must not only call a spade a spade, but regard it as a spade and not as a speculation. By some true conversion the urban and modern man must be not only on the soil, but of the soil, and free from our urban trick of inventing the word dirt for the dust to which we shall return. He must be washed in mud, that he may be clean.

How far this can really happen it is very hard for anybody, especially a casual visitor, to discover in the present crisis. It is admitted that there is much Arab and Syrian labour employed; and this in itself would leave all the danger of the Jew as a mere capitalist. The Jews explain it, however, by saying that the Arabs will work for a lower wage, and that this is necessarily a great temptation to the struggling colonists. In this they may be acting naturally as colonists, but it is none the less clear that they are not yet acting literally as labourers. It may not be their fault that they are not proving themselves to be peasants; but it is none the less clear that this situation in itself does not prove them to be peasants. So far as that is concerned, it still remains to be decided finally whether a Jew will be an agricultural labourer, if he is a decently paid agricultural labourer. On the other hand, the leaders of these local experiments, if they have not yet shown the higher materialism of peasants, most certainly do not show the lower materialism of capitalists. There can be no doubt of the patriotic and even poetic spirit in which many of them hope to make their ancient wilderness blossom like the rose. They at least would still stand among the great prophets of Israel, and none the less though they prophesied in vain.

I have tried to state fairly the case for Zionism, for the reason already stated; that I think it intellectually unjust that any attempt of the Jews to regularise their position should merely be rejected as one of their irregularities. But I do not disguise the enormous difficulties of doing it in the particular conditions Of Palestine. In fact the greatest of the real difficulties of Zionism is that it has to take place in Zion. There are other difficulties, however, which when they are not specially the fault of Zionists are very much the fault of Jews. The worst is the general impression of a business pressure from the more brutal and businesslike type of Jew, which arouses very violent and very just indignation. When I was in Jerusalem it was openly said that Jewish financiers had complained of the low rate of interest at which loans were made by the government to the peasantry, and even that the government had yielded to them. If this were true it was a heavier reproach to the government even than to the Jews. But the general truth is that such a state of feeling seems to make the simple and solid patriotism of a Palestinian Jewish nation practically impossible, and forces us to consider some alternative or some compromise. The most sensible statement of a compromise I heard among the Zionists was suggested to me by Dr. Weizmann, who is a man not only highly intelligent but ardent and sympathetic. And the phrase he used gives the key to my own rough conception of a possible solution, though he himself would probably, not accept that solution.

Dr. Weizmann suggested, if I understood him rightly, that he did not think Palestine could be a single and simple national territory quite in the sense of France; but he did not see why it should not be a commonwealth of cantons after the manner of Switzerland. Some of these could be Jewish cantons, others Arab cantons, and so on according to the type of population. This is in itself more reasonable than much that is suggested on the same side; but the point of it for my own purpose is more particular. This idea, whether it correctly represents Dr. Weizmann’s meaning or no, clearly involves the abandonment of the solidarity of Palestine, and tolerates the idea of groups of Jews being separated from each other by populations of a different type. Now if once this notion be considered admissible, it seems to me capable of considerable extension. It seems possible that there might be not only Jewish cantons in Palestine but Jewish cantons outside Palestine, Jewish colonies in suitable and selected places in adjacent parts or in many other parts of the world. They might be affiliated to some official centre in Palestine, or even in Jerusalem, where there would naturally be at least some great religious headquarters of the scattered race and religion. The nature of that religious centre it must be for Jews to decide; but I think if I were a Jew I would build the Temple without bothering about the site of the Temple. That they should have the old site, of course, is not to be thought of; it would raise a Holy War from Morocco to the marches of China. But seeing that some of the greatest of the deeds of Israel were done, and some of the most glorious of the songs of Israel sung, when their only temple was a box carried about in the desert, I cannot think that the mere moving of the situation of the place of sacrifice need even mean so much to that historic tradition as it would to many others. That the Jews should have some high place of dignity and ritual in Palestine, such as a great building like the Mosque of Omar, is certainly right and reasonable; for upon no theory can their historic connection be dismissed. I think it is sophistry to say, as do some Anti-Semites, that the Jews have no more right there than the Jebusites. If there are Jebusites they are Jebusites without knowing it. I think it sufficiently answered in the fine phrase of an English priest, in many ways more Anti-Semitic than I: “The people that remembers has a right.” The very worst of the Jews, as well as the very best, do in some sense remember. They are hated and persecuted and frightened into false names and double lives; but they remember. They lie, they swindle, they betray, they oppress; but they remember. The more we happen to hate such elements among the Hebrews the more we admire the manly and magnificent elements among the more vague and vagrant tribes of Palestine, the more we must admit that paradox. The unheroic have the heroic memory; and the heroic people have no memory.

But whatever the Jewish nation might wish to do about a national shrine or other supreme centre, the suggestion for the moment is that something like a Jewish territorial scheme might really be attempted, if we permit the Jews to be scattered no longer as individuals but as groups. It seems possible that by some such extension of the definition of Zionism we might ultimately overcome even the greatest difficulty of Zionism, the difficulty of resettling a sufficient number of so large a race on so small a land. For if the advantage of the ideal to the Jews is to gain the promised land, the advantage to the Gentiles is to get rid of the Jewish problem, and I do not see why we should obtain all their advantage and none of our own. Therefore I would leave as few Jews as possible in other established nations, and to these I would give a special position best described as privilege; some sort of self-governing enclave with special laws and exemptions; for instance, I would certainly excuse them from conscription, which I think a gross injustice in their case. [Footnote: Of course the privileged exile would also lose the rights of a native.] A Jew might be treated as respectfully as a foreign ambassador, but a foreign ambassador is a foreigner. Finally, I would give the same privileged position to all Jews everywhere, as an alternative policy to Zionism, if Zionism failed by the test I have named; the only true and the only tolerable test; if the Jews had not so much failed as peasants as succeeded as capitalists.

There is one word to be added; it will be noted that inevitably and even against some of my own desires, the argument has returned to that recurrent conclusion, which was found in the Roman Empire and the Crusades. The European can do justice to the Jew; but it must be the European who does it. Such a possibility as I have thrown out, and any other possibility that any one can think of, becomes at once impossible without some idea of a general suzerainty of Christendom over the lands of the Moslem and the Jew. Personally, I think it would be better if it were a general suzerainty of Christendom, rather than a particular supremacy of England. And I feel this, not from a desire to restrain the English power, but rather from a desire to defend it. I think there is not a little danger to England in the diplomatic situation involved; but that is a diplomatic question that it is neither within my power or duty to discuss adequately. But if I think it would be wiser for France and England together to hold Syria and Palestine together rather than separately, that only completes and clinches the conclusion that has haunted me, with almost uncanny recurrence, since I first saw Jerusalem sitting on the hill like a turreted town in England or in France; and for one moment the dark dome of it was again the Templum Domini, and the tower on it was the Tower of Tancred.

Anyhow with the failure of Zionism would fall the last and best attempt at a rationalistic theory of the Jew. We should be left facing a mystery which no other rationalism has ever come so near to providing within rational cause and cure. Whatever we do, we shall not return to that insular innocence and comfortable unconsciousness of Christendom, in which the Victorian agnostics could suppose that the Semitic problem was a brief medieval insanity. In this as in greater things, even if we lost our faith we could not recover our agnosticism. We can never recover agnosticism, any more than any other kind of ignorance. We know that there is a Jewish problem; we only hope that there is a Jewish solution. If there is not, there is no other. We cannot believe again that the Jew is an Englishman with certain theological theories, any more than we can believe again any other part of the optimistic materialism whose temple is the Albert Memorial. A scheme of guilds may be attempted and may be a failure; but never again can we respect mere Capitalism for its success. An attack may be made on political corruption, and it may be a failure; but never again can we believe that our politics are not corrupt. And so Zionism may be attempted and may be a failure; but never again can we ourselves be at ease in Zion. Or rather, I should say, if the Jew cannot be at ease in Zion we can never again persuade ourselves that he is at ease out of Zion. We can only salute as it passes that restless and mysterious figure, knowing at last that there must be in him something mystical as well as mysterious; that whether in the sense of the sorrows of Christ or of the sorrows of Cain, he must pass by, for he belongs to God.

This is an excerpt from G.K. Chesterton’s The New Jerusalem, published in 1920.

Featured: Build the Jewish homeland now. Palestine restoration fund $3,000,000. American Zionist poster, by Mitchell Loeb; published in 1919.

Dostoevsky’s Heroes in the Philosophical Jurisprudence of Carl Schmitt and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

Exactly 100 years ago, in 1923, Carl Schmitt, a German lawyer whose controversial talent for brilliantly formulating political concepts continues to attract a great deal of attention from researchers to this day, published Roman Catholicism and Political Form. This book made him a prominent figure among German Catholic intellectuals in the Weimar Republic. Out of all the plethora of ideas in the 1923 essay, we would like to analyse Schmitt’s attitude to the Russian writer Dostoevsky, with whom he continuously polemicises not only throughout the essay, but it could be argued throughout his entire life. It would be of particular interest to us to compare Schmitt’s attitude to Dostoevsky and his heroes with the views of his contemporary and colleague, another German legal scholar Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. Although these two authors took opposite stances in Germany in 1933 (support for the Nazi party and criticism of it from emigration), nonetheless they are united by the fact that, although they were jurists, they wrote about the Church, thus making them stand out from the general secular tendency of the social sciences of their era. As will be shown below, the Russian Orthodox author appears in the texts of these thinkers not so much in his capacity as a political-legal journalist, as in that of a vivid artistic symbol of a critical attitude to law and to the whole area of juridical thought and practice. Referring “to Dostoevsky” allows these philosopher-jurists to give their own diagnosis of the period following the First World War. This example makes it possible for us to trace the evolution of their own teachings, and their ideas on Russian culture and its place in world history.


Emphasizing that non-Catholic authors are often motivated by “anti-Roman temper,” (Roman Catholicism and Political Form, 1996, p. 3) Carl Schmitt cites Dostoevsky as an example of this “temper” and his main opponent. He remarks that in the first centuries of the Reformation, the Protestants were the most striking bearers of this “temper,” but from the 18th century onwards Protestant political authors become increasingly rational in their anti-Roman argumentation. From Cromwell to Bismarck and the French secularists of the end of the 19th century a whole epoch passes; Catholic-Protestant polemic loses its emotional expressivity, and the sole exception to increasing political rationalism Schmitt finds in the Russian-Orthodox Dostoyevsky’s “portrayal of the Grand Inquisitor,” which allows: “the anti-Roman dread [to] appear once again as a secular force” (Ibid.).

Several pages later, Dostoevsky is once again mentioned by the German jurist in a typological group containing a paradoxically broad spectrum of political views: people who see in the Roman-Catholic Church the heir of the universalist program of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Catholic Church as an historical complex and administrative apparatus has perpetuated the universalism of the Roman Empire. French nationalists like Charles Maurras, German racial theorists like H[ouston] Stewart Chamberlain, German professors of liberal provenance like Max Weber, a Pan-Slavic poet and seer like Dostoyevsky—all base their interpretations on this continuity of the Catholic Church and the Roman Empire (5).

The principle of precedent in the evolution of law inspires Schmitt to an apology for the Roman Catholic Church as the bearer of a particular political and juridical mentality that has placed its seal on the juridical development of the peoples of continental Europe. The German jurist not only expresses his approval of Catholic political thought (where for him the most important author is the Spaniard Donoso Cortés), but also of the canon law which had adopted the ideas of dogmatic development of the First Vatican Council. Describing papal dogma in Max Weber’s categories of the juxtaposition of charisma and office, he sees in unilateral church authority the removal of the contradictions of parliamentarism in the ecclesial complexion oppositorum. The pope has a representative role or function as Vicar of Christ. The papacy is both institutional and personal, yet “independent of charisma” (Ibid., 14).

Noting different aspects of criticism of Catholicism, Schmitt singles Dostoevsky out among a special section of critics taking a position of anti-legalism as “pious Christians.” In his interpretation, the Russian writer comes close to the Protestant jurist Rudolf Sohm, a German historian of law known for his theory of the “lawless church.” Dostoevsky is interpreted by Schmitt through the prism of Sohm’s antagonism between the juridical and spiritual principles of church organization. Both Sohm and Dostoevsky, according to Schmitt, juxtapose their Christianity to the “ethos of power” of the Roman church, which is amplified to an “ethos of glory.” Such “pious” anti-Roman attacks, writes Schmitt, are dangerous because they not only subject church law and authority to criticism, but the very principles of form and rule of law in society, and thereby feed the anarchic tendencies.

Schmitt does not cite any extensive quotations from Dostoevsky; it is enough for him that the writer created the image of the Grand Inquisitor. This image is interpreted by the German jurist literally, outside literary convention, outside the problem of polyphony and authorship within the novel, The Brothers Karamazov, where “the poem of the Inquisitor” is narrated by Ivan Karamazov and commented on from an anti-Roman perspective by Alyosha Karamazov. In the perception of the German jurist, the Grand Inquisitor is almost a historical character, one of the highest prelates of the Catholic Church, a Spaniard, like the writer who was politically closest to Schmitt, Donoso Cortés. The Inquisitor operates within the framework of the Church’s judicial legal system and procedure among the subjects of the Spanish monarchy. As a result, all these political institutions are condemned and their authority undermined at the moment when Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor admits that he has succumbed to the temptations of Satan.

Thus, although Schmitt does not undertake a literary analysis of the text, he perceives it in all the depth of its artistic content. He sees in the figure of the Inquisitor a realistic image that demands a reaction from him (which may be regarded as an indirect recognition of the talent of the Russian writer). The German jurist is sure that the Inquisitor is right in the political dispute; he deliberately aligns himself on the side of the Grand Inquisitor, in opposition to Dostoevsky. Towards the end of his life, Schmitt stated in a conversation with Jacob Taubes, anyone who failed to see that the Grand Inquisitor was right had grasped neither what a Church was for, nor what Dostoevsky, contrary to his own conviction, had really conveyed (Jacob Taubes, Ad Carl Schmitt. Gegenstrebige Fügung, 1987, p. 15). For Schmitt, the Russian writer’s error consists in the fact that he depicts the Spanish prelate as a losing figure; he is placed by the narrative in a scandalous and unseemly, and therefore, one might say, satirical situation (the sort of Dostoevskian satire that Mikhail Bakhtin would term menippeia), which gives the lie to the exaltedness of his position. Where, through the use of irony, the sublime authority of the Catholic Church is undermined, for Schmitt the authority of jurisprudence is also undermined: after all, the latter has its origins in political Catholicism.

Owing to its formal superiority, jurisprudence can easily assume a posture similar to Catholicism with respect to alternating political forms, in that it can positively align itself with various power complexes, provided there is a sufficient minimum of form “to establish order”…Once the new situation permits recognition of an authority, it provides the groundwork for jurisprudence—the concrete foundation for a substantive form (29-30).

Schmitt attributes “potential atheism” to Dostoevsky (as if the writer projects his own potential atheism onto the Roman Catholic Church), because he sees in him an “anarchic instinct.” For Schmitt, the anarchist is essentially atheistic, because he denies the possibility of authority. The romantic reader perceives the institutional coldness of Catholicism as evil, and the formless breadth of Dostoevsky as true Christianity; but this is a false contrast.

All this leads Schmitt to the conclusion that, for all the apparent differences between Dostoevsky and the Bolsheviks (the latter he initially conflates with “American financiers” in their rejection of classical jurisprudence), they represent a single stream of anarchist sentiment opposed to classical politics and the Western European legal tradition. And despite the phrase, “I know there may be more Christianity in the Russian hatred of Western European culture than in liberalism and German Marxism… I know this formlessness may contain the potential for a new form” (38), Schmitt’s condemnation of Dostoevsky remains in force: he is a symbol of the barbaric Russian threat to European forms, both cultural and legal. The German jurist interprets him anarchically in almost the same way that the French existentialists would later do, and it is this interpretation that he himself condemns as the threat of “potential atheism.” In the final part of the essay, where Schmitt retells the dispute between the Russian and Italian revolutionaries Mikhail Bakunin and Giuseppe Mazzini, the image of the Grand Inquisitor created by Dostoevsky must inevitably join the “Bakuninist” line of argument in the European revolutionary movement, as for Schmitt Russian thought is a priori anarchist.


The German-American jurist, historian, and social thinker Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy who was in contact with Carl Schmitt until 1933 wrote about Dostoevsky in the context of the Russian Revolution and its new order (Wayne Cristaudo, Religion, Redemption and Revolution: The New Speech Thinking of Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, 2012). “Dostoevsky extricates the types of men who will become the standard bearers of the Revolution. To read Dostoevsky is to read the psychic history of the Russian Revolution” (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, 1938, p. 91).

Rosenstock-Huessy created his theory of revolution after the First World War. The son of a Berlin banker from a Jewish family, as a young man Eugen chose to be baptized into the Lutheran Church. In 1912, at the age of 24, he became Germany’s youngest associate professor as a teacher of constitutional law and legal history at the University of Leipzig, where he worked with Rudolf Sohm. During the war, Rosenstock-Huessy was an officer in the German army at Verdun, and after demobilization he returned to academic and social activities. During the war itself, he became one of the organizers of the Patmos Circle, a group of intellectuals who gathered to reflect on the catastrophe of the world war. The Patmos Circle included, in addition to Rosenstock-Huessy, such well-known intellectuals as Hans and Rudolf Ehrenberg, Werner Picht, Victor von Weizsäcker, Leo Weismantel, Karl Barth, Martin Buber, and Franz Rosenzweig, among others. From 1915 to 1923, due to the crisis of European culture, the founders of this circle felt themselves to be living in a kind of internal immigration “on Patmos” (hence the publishing house they founded in 1919 was named Patmos).

Rosenstock-Huessy saw the Russian Revolution as the last possible European revolution, completing a single 900-year period of humanity’s quest in the second millennium. This period begins with the revolution of the Roman Catholic Church under the authority of the papacy against the power of monarchs and feudal overlords. Subsequently, the “chain of revolutions” was continued by the Reformation in Germany, the Puritan Revolution in England, the American Revolution, the French Revolution and, finally, the Russian Revolution. As a result, the Russian Revolution is part of the autobiography of every European.

Returning to Dostoevsky, it must be said that Rosenstock-Huessy emphasizes his dual identity as both a Russian and a European writer, who so virtuoso-like masters the Western European form of the novel that he cannot in any way be a symbol of “formlessness.” Russian novels became part of European culture in a special political period.

In the sixties, after the emancipation of the peasants, when the split between official Czarism and the Intelligentsia had become final, when the revolutionary youth vanished from the surface and sank into the people, the soul of old Little Russia began to expire. But some poets caught the sigh. Through their voice and through the atmosphere created in their writings, Russia could still breathe between 1870 and 1914. This literature, by being highly representative in a revolutionized world, became the contribution of Russia to the rest of the world. Without Dostoevsky and Tolstoi, Western Europe would not know what man really is. These Russian writers, using the Western forms of the novel, gave back to the West a knowledge of the human soul which makes all French, English and German literature wither in comparison (91).

The people Dostoevsky describes are not the heroes of Romanticism, distinguished by their special talents; on the contrary, “they are as dirty, as weak and as horrible as humanity itself, but they are as highly explosive, too. The homeless soul is the hero of Dostoevsky, the nomadic soul” (Ibid.).

For Rosenstock-Huessy, however, the “dynamite man” of Dostoevsky’s novels is not only a destroyer of law and order, living in an atmosphere of permanent scandal, but also a potential figure of the future. This is exactly the type of figure needed in the new circumstances of the twentieth century, when economic disasters and wars have become part of everyday life. “The revolutionary element will become a daily neighbour of our life, just as dynamite, the explosive invention of Nobel, became a blessing to contractors and the mining industry” (93).

The world of Dostoevsky’s novels is a world in which human passions, “the reverse of all our creative power… are faced without the fury of the moralist, or the indifference of the anatomist, but with a glowing passion of solidarity in our short-comings. The revolutionary pure and simple is bodied forth in these novels as an eternal form of mankind” (Ibid.).

Thus, Rosenstock-Huessy notes in the political idea of the Russian Revolution, as reflected in nineteenth-century Russian literature, precisely what Schmitt denies to the “Russians”: form. The Russian Revolution not only criticized the system of law created by the previous epoch (primarily the French Revolution, which in its drawn-out century-long cycle found a modus vivendi with the Anglo-American world), but also critically cleared the space for a new phase of world history: the planetary international organization of humanity.

Rosenstock-Huessy takes the contribution of the Catholic Church to the legal tradition of Europe extremely seriously, and in this he coincides with Schmitt. However, the Catholic idea is not the only one at the origin of the Western tradition of law, according to the German-American jurist. To no lesser extent, this tradition is the result of another religious revolution—that of Martin Luther—and the entire Protestant Reformation that followed. Therefore, those in the ranks of Hitler’s supporters who try to idealize the “Roman form” in modern times deny the achievements of the Reformation, and the Führer becomes for them a kind of “false pope.” The Russian situation, in which Dostoevsky’s heroes find themselves, is certainly different. Rosenstock-Huessy notes that the Russians were the first non-Roman (in the ecclesiastical sense) nation to launch a revolution of world significance, and that the Russian Church stands apart from and outside the Catholic-Protestant clash.

In Russia the Church had never conquered its liberty from the Empire. It had been petrified for a thousand years. Nothing had moved within the Church since the famous monasteries of Mount Athos were founded during the tenth century… These traditions were well-preserved in Russia. The Russian church, it is true, kept all the joy and delightful cheerfulness of ancient Christianity, and since there was less struggle with popes or reformers or puritans, it upheld the old tradition much better than Western Christendom. The childlike joy and glee which the members of the Russian and Greek Church feel and express at Easter are strange for a Roman Catholic, to say nothing of a Protestant (42).

Behind these words of a loyal Lutheran is not so much praise as a statement of fact, a clarification of the details of a historical drama. The German-American social thinker believes that the Russian church, “having lost to the empire,” is under attack by the Bolsheviks not because it poses a threat to them as part of the old order, the “ancien régime,” like the Catholic Church during the French Revolution. On the contrary, from the Bolshevik point of view, it is to be destroyed because, as it stands, it is a symbol of weakness, a symbol of peasant Russia, “the Church of the ‘moujik.’”

To the Russian Moujik the church gave one special instrument of communication with the majestic world of God and his Saints, an instrument well adapted to a far-off village in the country. In the lowlands of the Volga, earth is expanding and the individual is quite lost. Man is, in Russia, but a blade of grass. To this powerless man the church presented the Ikons, the painted images of the Saints… The Saints visited the poor as witnesses of a united Christianity far away, and as sponsors of a stream’ of power and strength going on from time eternal (42-43).

The Soviets must be against the Ikons because these reflect village economy… that fight is connected with the industrialization of Russia (44).

Rosenstock-Huessy refers to the church tradition of the Russians not as national, but as the preserved universal tradition of the first millennium: “In Russia in 1914, and in Russia only, the Christian Church was still what it had been everywhere in 900” (44).

Nationalism is a concept that for Russians is not connected with the traditional church, but rather with their openness to Europe in the 19th century: “capitalism presented itself to their eyes in the form of fervent nationalism… Furthermore, all the western territories of the Empire, Poland, the Baltic provinces, were more national than Russia itself” (66).

Returning to Dostoevsky, we can say that his ideal, which he puts into the mouth of Elder Zosima (“the state having become the church”) is not anarchy, but form, order, structure—a “church-like order,” as Rosenstock-Huessy calls it. And to the extent that this ideal is ecclesiastical, it is at the same time culturally a conduit of the classical culture of Roman antiquity. Dostoevsky’s political ideal, expressed through Elder Zosima, is not related to the nation-building of the “Russians;” it is universal, and yet it is an ideal of social and political form, not anarchy. The form of social life that Dostoevsky would like to see is as distanced as possible both from political romanticism and romantic nationalism in the style of J. G. Herder. Romantics might be defined as those who, in the age of the Great Reforms, would have liked to see the liberation of the individual in judicial and peasant reforms or in the mechanical destruction of czarism, and it is their dreams that Dostoevsky dispels in his works.

Thus, Rosenstock-Huessy, unlike Schmitt, does not ascribe anarchist sympathies and “anti-Roman temper” to Dostoevsky (and Russians in general). The German-American thinker scrutinizes the cultural preconditions of the Russian Revolution and concludes that many aspects of the anti-legalism of Russian authors are a criticism of the liberal-bourgeois law of Western European countries. The question of how law and religion will be treated in post-Bolshevik Russia for Rosenstock-Huessy remains open.


Having considered the juridical ideas of Carl Schmitt and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, which they expressed in the form of comments or references to Dostoevsky and the images of his heroes in the 1920s-30s, the following conclusions can be drawn. Dostoevsky’s heroes are certainly a symbol of anti-juridical existence, both for Carl Schmitt and Rosenstock-Huessy, but their interpretation of this symbolic space differs. Schmitt insists on the anarchism inherent in Russian culture, but his attitude towards the image of the Grand Inquisitor is complex. He solidarizes with him, writes about his political correctness, but at the same time he believes that Dostoevsky, due to his attitude as an Orthodox Christian towards a Roman Catholic, was fundamentally wrong and biased in depicting the Spanish prelate as an object of satire in a scandalous situation. As a result of this, the Inquisitor cannot symbolize a solution to the problem of the authority of law. The problem with this image, Schmitt suggests, is that it is written by an author for whom Christianity is infinitely broad and formless.

Rosenstock-Huessy argues that Dostoevsky anticipated and described the human type of the Russian revolutionary. While remaining critical of Marxism, and to an even greater extent of Bolshevism, the Protestant thinker notes in the political idea of the Russian Revolution the positive content of social justice reforms. Dostoevsky’s heroes have “explosive power” and criticize the social and legal order of previous epochs (the French and English revolutions). However, this criticism, even passing through tragic errors, clears the space for a new cooperation of Christian forces in the context of a new universal planetary phase of human history.

Irina Borshch is a historian of legal thought. She is also a doctoral researcher at the Waldensian Faculty of Theology (Rome) and a senior fellow in the Ecclesiatical Institutions Research Laboratory at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University (Moscow). She holds a Doctorate in Missiology from the Pontifical Urbaniana University.

Featured: Elder Zosima, by Ilya Glazunov; painted in 1982.

The Zionist Movement

There are fifteen million Jews in the world to-day, scattered over the face of the earth. Their ancestors once lived and ruled in Palestine, a country now no bigger than our own state of Vermont. For centuries, while peoples of alien faiths possessed their ancient land, each Jew kept warm in his bosom a belief that the Promised Land would one day be restored to him and the Holy City rebuilt to the glory of Jehovah.

During the last century Jews the world over began to discuss practical means for making the age-long dream of their people come true. This discussion grew into an organized movement which has rolled up in size like a snowball. Zionism, as it is called, is giving the statesmen of Christendom, as well as the Jew and the Mohammedan, a mighty problem to wrestle with. It involves the biggest colonization scheme since the settlement of America, as well as religious and political controversies likely to keep the world stirred up for a good many years to come.

This little country has been the battleground of the nations since long before the time of Moses. Egyptian and Hittite, Assyrian, Persian and Greek, Roman and Arab, the Crusader and the Turk have succeeded one another in their conquests. In the World War another[197] name was added to the long list, that of the Briton, who drove out the Turk. Under a mandate John Bull took over the rule of Palestine, and the holy places of three great religions, Christianity, Mohammedanism, and Judaism, came under his trusteeship.

The British Government proclaimed its intention to “favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and to “use their best endeavour to facilitate the achievement of this object.” At the same time they promised that nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the Christians and the Moslems in the Holy Land, nor to hurt the position of Jews in other countries. In this way the British became the chief sponsors of Zionism, while other great nations, including our own United States, expressed themselves more or less formally in sympathy with the aims of the movement. The British appointed a Jew, Sir Herbert Samuel, first High Commissioner of Palestine, and promised to coöperate with the international Zionist organization in working out Palestine affairs.

I have told you of the Jewish colonies I have seen in the Holy Land. When the first colony was founded there were not enough Jews in all Palestine to hold a prayer meeting. Under Zionism their number rapidly increased, and within three years after British control there were more than seventy-five thousand Jews in the Holy Land, with about sixteen thousand living in the colonies. But the number of Jews forms only about one tenth of the total population, four fifths of whom are Moslems, with about the same number of native Christians as Jews. After the war Jews poured in for a time at the rate of fifteen[198] hundred a month, and thousands more are eager to come as soon as permitted.

The founder of the Zionist movement was Dr. Theodore Herzl, who called together the first world congress of Jews. He travelled over Europe for many years, getting the leading men of his time interested in Zionism. The Pope received him, and so did the Kaiser, while Joseph Chamberlain in England gave his support to the movement. He had two interviews with the Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid, on whom he made such an impression that the Sultan once said:

“That is a good man. As he looks, so I imagine the Christ must have looked.” Some of the Jews called Herzl the “Twentieth Century Messiah.”

I once had a talk with Israel Zangwill, one of the most famous Zionists, about this Jewish movement. He said:

“We Jews have always hoped that Palestine would again belong to us. This hope has lasted for more than two thousand years, and from time to time various projects based upon it have been formed to repossess the land. Nearly all of these have been visionary and many of them have been founded upon the second coming of a Messiah who should suddenly rise and lead us, in some miraculous way, back to our Mother Country. Many Jews confidently believe that will occur. At present the Jews are scattered all over the earth. There are more than fifteen million of them. About ten million are in Russia and the other countries of eastern Europe. As it is now, the Jews are congested in the large cities. London has many times the number in the Holy Land, and there are at least twice as many Jews in New York as the whole population of Palestine. Chicago has a[199] quarter of a million, and Philadelphia more than two hundred thousand. New York City has the largest Ghetto of the world, and adds to it by thousands of immigrants a year.

“We were once an agricultural and pastoral people,” continued Mr. Zangwill, “and we could make Palestine again a land of milk and honey. We should like to have the country as a Jewish colony, made up of our own people, where we could govern ourselves in our own way. We should not object to being colonially dependent upon some great power, but we want home rule and a national home of our own.”

There are really three kinds of Zionists, and the Jews themselves are divided. Some would be satisfied to make Jerusalem merely the centre of their religion and of Hebrew culture. A larger number want Palestine to be a place of refuge, where Jews from all over the world may live in freedom from political, religious, or economic oppression. But a still larger number will not be satisfied until there is set up in Palestine a Jewish state, with Jews in control of the land, the government, and the holy places. These Jews say they wish to do full justice to the other natives of Palestine, with whom they believe they can live in peace, and expect the British to retain control until the Jews form a majority of the population. To put through this programme powerful Jewish organizations have set out to raise a fund of one hundred and twenty-five million dollars in five years.

The non-Jewish people of Palestine have objected to the Zionist scheme, and demanded of the British that all Jewish immigration be stopped for ten years. Christians and Moslems in Palestine have wasted no love on[200] one another, but the prospect of a great wave of Jewish settlers united them to the extent that a Moslem-Christian league was formed, whose members agreed to sell no land to Jews. Nevertheless, the Jews have continued to increase their land holdings, but the British have limited the number of Jewish immigrants who can come into Palestine. At times the feeling between Jew and non-Jew has been so acute as to result in riots in which many people were killed.

The Moslems say that the Jews have no right to Palestine since their people have not lived there for nearly two thousand years. The Zionist programme, they state, is based on the theory that might makes right, and they accuse the British of ignoring the wishes of the majority in Palestine and consulting only the Jews, whom the Moslems outnumber almost ten to one.

They complain that leaders of Jewish organizations in other countries have more influence in Palestine affairs than the native Palestinians themselves, and say that some of them are sending communists to the Holy Land to stir up class warfare.

The Zionists feel that what the Jews have already done in Palestine goes far to justify their aim to make it a Jewish homeland. “Our people,” they say, “have established over seventy colonies on land, much of which was reclaimed from swamp and sand. They have created gardens and orchards where once was waste. They have started modern schools, and the first act of the Zionists under British control was to lay the cornerstone of a national Jewish university in Jerusalem. They have put in sanitary improvements in their villages, opened hospitals and given medical service to Jew and Gentile[201] alike. They have started new industries, and are preparing to harness the water power of the Jordan so as to make it possible to irrigate the land and furnish electricity for the whole country.” These things, the Zionists say, are but the beginning of further benefits to come as the Jews flock back to the Promised Land and work out their big programme.

There is plenty of room for Jews and Moslems, according to Zionists, who estimate that the land could be made to support from three million to five million people. But one fourth of the land is now in use, and the population is only about fifty to the square mile.

The Jews have begun to revive the Hebrew language in Palestine. In Jerusalem, where most of the learned gather, it is already spoken by many Jews from different countries who find it their common tongue. Outside Jerusalem it is not spoken so much, but it is being taught in the Jewish schools. Before the war, German organizations backing certain colonies and schools tried to compel the use of German in the Polytechnic Institute built at the foot of Mount Carmel, but succeeded only in starting a great quarrel in which they were utterly defeated.

With the revival of the ancient language has come an effort to revive Hebrew art. In the Bezalel Art and Craft School of Jerusalem characters of the old Hebrew alphabet have been made the basis for new designs in weaving rugs and decorating vases. Young Jewish painters have been attracted to Palestine to take part in this revival, and musicians have begun to collect the old Hebrew melodies. The ancient church council of the Sanhedrin, told of in the Bible, has been set up again in Jerusalem, with women admitted to its membership.

The Hadassah Medical Organization in Palestine, formerly called the American Medical Unit, now has three hospitals and a dispensary maintained at a cost said to be more than five hundred thousand dollars a year. Hadassah grew out of an American organization of Jewish women. Ten years ago it was a small society of one hundred and ninety-three members. To-day it is a national organization with a membership of fifteen thousand. It is especially active in health work among children, and in the care of mothers and infants, and it teaches Palestine girls to be nurses. There were twenty-two girls in the first class graduated from the nurses’ training school.

Another thing the Zionists have done to help their brethren in Palestine is to organize a bank, with a capital of $800,000. They plan to make long-time loans to farmers who have had to depend in the past on loans from the Jewish organizations backing the colonies, or on private lenders in Palestine. The latter have charged interest at the rate of 10 per cent. and more.

But the Moslems say that all these activities on the part of the Jew prove that political Zionism aims at nothing less than Jewish control of the Holy Land and everything and everybody in it. There is a story of an American who found a Jewish friend weeping at the “Wailing Place.”

“What is the matter with you?” he asked.

“Me? I’m wailing!”

“What are you wailing for? Aren’t there plenty of Jews in Jerusalem? And haven’t you got a Jew for a governor?”

“Yes, I know, but I want the Mosque of Omar.”

There are also Jews who favour a more moderate Zionism, and fear that setting up a Jewish state will make trouble both in Palestine and in the countries where Jews are now citizens with a part in business and public affairs.

Frank G. Carpenter (1855 – 1924) was a well-known American journalist, traveler, travel writer, photographer, and lecturer. This is an excerpt from his book, The Holy Land and Syria (1922).

Featured: Jews! The Key to Zion is in Your Hands. Open the Gates! Poster by Reuven Rubin, published in 1921.

My Story 40 Years Ago on Israeli Apartheid and Palestinian Resistance

Since this important article is difficult to find, we are republishing it, with the kind permission of the author.

I wrote about Israeli apartheid over 40 years ago. I visited Israel and the West Bank in 1981. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had just been assassinated, though my visit had been planned before that. This is what I wrote for The Nation (May 29, 1982), prescient in the title, “The West Bank as Bantustan.”

Hebron, West Bank

On the map of Israel put out by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, there is no line separating the West Bank from Israel proper. A small caveat at the bottom of the sheet says, “This map is not an authority on international boundaries,” but what it represents is indeed the policy of the government of Menachem Begin toward the occupied territory. The West Bank, once the ancient Hebrew kingdoms of Judea and Samaria is held to be religiously and historically part of “Eretz Israel,” the land of Israel—or, as Regin has taken to calling it, “Western Eretz Israel.”

As part of its scarcely disguised goal of annexing the West Bank, Israel has recently stepped up its attacks on Palestinian leaders and has attempted either to force out the Arabs living here or to encourage them to leave through restrictive policies on economic activity, education, housing and political life. One example of that campaign can be seen here in the battle for Hebron, twenty-two miles south of Jerusalem.

Mustafa Natshi, acting mayor of Hebron, told me that | Jewish settlers had attacked Arab schoolgirls, that they regularly threw rocks at Arabs’ windows, that they had uprooted 1,000 olive trees belonging to two Arab families and that they had broken into the shop of an Arab quiltmaker and destroyed his machinery. All these have been confirmed. A correspondent from Ha’aretz, the most respected Hebrew daily, arrived at the scene of the settler-student clash and found blood on one girl’s hand and the rest of the children crying hysterically. Shulamit Aloni, a member of the Knesset, reported seeing Jewish settlers throwing rocks at Arab houses. The military governor of the territory ruled that the uprooting of the trees had taken place and was illegal. And the quiltmaker showed to the press the damaged machinery from his shop, which the Israelis had wanted to take over and use as an entrance to an attached communal house.

That house is the center—and Hebron the symbol—of the efforts by the ultra-Orthodox Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) to establish a Jewish presence throughout the West Bank. Inside the two-story Ottoman-era stone building, where twenty families live, a young woman told me that Hebron was “as much a part of Israel as Haifa,” and that Jews would never leave it. Outside, at a sandbag fortification, two Israeli soldiers and an armed settler stood guard with M-16s and Uzi machine guns, while other soldiers watched from posts atop nearby buildings.

The Gush Emunim also took over part of the great Hebron mosque, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, said to contain the burial places of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, a place holy to both Moslems and Jews. A few rooms have been cleared of Moslem prayer rugs and fitted with wood cabinets that hold the Torah scrolls. Soldiers stand guard there, too. A settler walking to the shrine carried an automatic rifle.

Some 23,000 Jews now live in eighty settlements on the West Bank, along with 800,000 Arabs. The first Jewish settlements, established under Labor Party governments, were located along the border with Jordan and were intended as a defense against attack, but the settlement policy was expanded substantially under Begin, and now the interior is dotted with new Jewish towns. As much as 30 percent of the West Bank land has been taken by Israelis during the fourteen-year occupation. About half the confiscated property had been held by the Jordanian government; the rest had absentee owners, or was used communally for grazing or privately for growing crops.

To drum up Jewish nationalistic support, the Israeli government runs tours of the settlements. I booked one with Yossi Meshulam, a legal adviser in the Ministry of Agriculture. In Ariel, Meshulam stood at the barbed wire fence at the perimeter and pointed to the rolling landscape spotted with rocks. “They don’t have anything here but olive trees,” he said. He turned to the shells of new buildings that will house electronics and manufacturing plants: “This will benefit the Arab villages—they can work here.” The inexorable move toward annexation is a time bomb. Israel does not dare to make West Bank Palestinians citizens because, added to the Arab population in Israel itself, they would number 1.8 million, compared with 3.2 million Jews. With their higher birth rate, they would become a majority in just a few decades, and Israel would cease to be a Jewish state. Nor can it permanently maintain its occupation over the Arabs here, because that would increase international hostility to Israel, prolong Arab terrorist attacks and increase the likelihood of another war. And ultimately, the repressive measures required to maintain the occupation would corrode Israeli democracy.

About 3,000 Palestinians are already in Israeli jails for crimes ranging from throwing explosives and possession of weaponsto membership in banned organizations. Four Arab newspapers are subject to stringent censorship, and three editors are under “town arrest,” unable to go to their East Jerusalem offices. Bir Zeit University has frequently been closed in response to student demonstrations. Although university administrator Gaby Baramki says there has been “no problem in teaching, no direct interference” by authorities, it has been difficult for him to get work permits for some of the foreign professors who are a substantial part of his staff, and several hundred Arab books and journals have been banned at Bir Zeit (although many of these publications are available at Hebrew University in Jerusalem). A new regulation gives Israeli authorities the power to approve student admissions and faculty hiring.

Some expressions of resistance have been allowed. I saw a surprising example one night in Jericho, about six miles from the Allenby Bridge on the Jordanian border. A troupe of young actors from East Jerusalem who call themselves The Storyteller put on an agitprop farce in an old theater. An Israeli soldier searches an Arab cafeand finds a stack of leaflets. He reads one aloud: “To our people who are struggling in all areas of occupied territory.” The theatergoers cheered. Then the title character, Mahjoob Mahjoob, accepts a job in Israel, gets threatening notes denouncing his collaboration and finally quits. Loud applause.

The problem of Arabs having to work in Israel or for Israeli companies is a real one, as the play indicates. Some 50,000 Palestinians from the occupied territories, most of them unskilled, work in restaurant kitchens or on construction gangs or at one or another menial job. There is little work for them on the West Bank, which was deliberately left undeveloped during Jordanian rule. Today, Israel exploits the cheap labor and captured customers for its products. It discourages new indigenous Arab industry while aiding Jewish settlers who want to set up factories. The West Bank and Gaza have been absorbed into the Israeli economy, just a step away from political annexation. The Israeli settlements are already under Israeli law, not West Bank jurisdiction.

Labor Party critics have described the occupied territories as “Little Bantustans.” The comparison is apt. And the lesson should be that such a system won’t work for Israel any more than it does for South Africa.

Lucy Komisar is a well-known investigative journalist. Her website is The Komisar Scoop.

Featured: Mother and Child, by Sliman Mansour; painted in 2009.

50 Years Ago: The Gulag Archipelago, A Revolution from the East

The reception of The Gulag Archipelago (1973) and its author Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), in Europe and the West alike, has been generally benevolent and even enthusiastic, but it has not failed to be reserved, even violently hostile, in certain media and political-intellectual circles. Spain is perhaps one of the countries where the reaction of the mainstream media has been the most execrable and undignified. Let us recall these not-so-distant episodes.

Solzhenitsyn, a victim of hatred

On March 20, 1976, four months after Franco’s death, Alexander Solzhenitsin told Televisión Española: “Do you progressives know what a dictatorship is? If we enjoyed the freedom you enjoy, we would be open-mouthed; such freedom is unknown to us. For sixty years we have been ignorant of these freedoms.” These statements immediately unleashed a campaign of extremely violent slander in most of the national press. Among the adjectives with which he was showered, we may mention, “paranoid,” “clown,” “buffoon,” “fanatic,” “liar,” “comedian,” “enemy of the people,” “fascist agent who wants an anti-Stalinist Stalinism (sic),” “mercenary,” “bad writer,” “megalomaniac,” “author of four ridiculous novels,” and so on and so forth. Referring to his physique as nothing less than “repugnant,” the press described him as “short”, “a small fellah,” “starveling”, “a talking head,” “a sausage,” and so on. To have a more concrete idea of the wave of hatred that he raised, here is an example of the article that could be read on March 27, 1976 in Cuadernos para el Diálogo (a magazine founded and presided over by Ruiz Giménez, former ambassador to the Vatican and minister of Education under Franco, who went into opposition and became the leader of the left-wing Catholics allied with the Communists, and vice-president of the René Cassin Institute for Human Rights, based in Strasbourg). The article was written by Juan Benet:

I firmly believe that as long as there are people like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, concentration camps will and must remain. Perhaps they should be a little better guarded so that people like Solzhenitsyn, until they get a little education, cannot go out on the streets. But once the mistake of letting them out has been made, nothing seems to me more hygienic than for the Soviet entities (whose tastes and criteria regarding subversive Russian writers I often share) to find a way to shake off such a pest.

Not to be outdone, Eduardo Barrenechea, another specimen of a defender of the spirit of the Cheka and at the same time deputy editor of the magazine, insisted: “I don’t know if he would also add in Russian a little ‘Heil Hitler!’”

In France, the evening paper Le Monde, a sort of French equivalent of El Pais (self-proclaimed “newspaper of reference,” but nicknamed, with a sense of humor, L’Immonde (The Repugnant) by President Charles de Gaulle), shamefully entitled an article, dated March 23, “Solzhenitsyn thinks that Spaniards live in the most absolute freedom,” falsely attributing to him a statement he had never uttered. In short, Solzhenitsyn, speaking of what he had been able to observe, concluded only that, in comparison with the repressive Soviet system, the Spanish system was incomparably more liberal.

But the real reason for this deluge of insults in the twilight of Francoism lay elsewhere. The Russian writer’s uncompromising criticism of communism and its socialist-Marxist allies was deemed unacceptable. He had committed an unforgivable crime by asking the fundamental question, a veritable historiographical taboo: is this ideology intrinsically evil? And he answered bluntly: yes, calling for the rejection of any complicity with its representatives. In short, he demonstrated that the Soviet concentration camp system was not the fruit of Stalinist will alone, but that it was already germinating in the Leninist and Marxist beginnings. Obviously, this was too much in the eyes of communists and other nostalgic supporters of the Popular Fronts of the interwar period.

Thirty years later, the Communists and their fellow travelers, more or less well disguised as “lifelong democrats,” would take up the antiphon so dear to them against the “reactionary,” the “tsarist,” the “professional anti-communist.” Even the literary qualities of this highly talented writer were criticized and denigrated by them. On the occasion of Solzhenitsyn’s death in 2008, the Frenchman Jean-Luc Mélenchon, ex-Trotskyite, ex-Socialist minister, senator and future founder of France Insoumise (a kind of Hexagonian Podemos), known for his fanaticism and sectarian blindness, expressed his hatred without the slightest restraint: “The apology of Solzhenitsyn, ‘great thinker of democracy against Stalinism,’ hurts my heart because I think of all those unfortunate people who, from the very first hour, led their struggle without being stuffed with honors, gilded trinkets, residences, protections of all kinds, as Solzhenitsyn was given, simply because he was right-wing,” and again, “Solzhenitsyn was an absurd, pontificating, macho, homophobic, backward-looking dullard, full of nostalgic bigotry for the great feudal and religious Russia. He was a useful parrot of Western propaganda.” We cannot help but paraphrase screenwriter Michel Audiard’s legendary line: “If all the jerks were put into orbit, Mélenchon would not stop spinning.”

In 2023, we are, alas, still there. The prestigious Russian writer, when he is not deliberately forgotten, is constantly reviled by Chekist minds. He is also vilified by a number of liberal and social-democratic journalists and political leaders, who cannot forgive him for his criticism of the decadent West in his Harvard speech (“The Decline of Courage,” 1978), let alone for having been awarded one of the highest official honors by Putin in 2007, and who described by him as a “major historian,” the first to have reported “one of the tragedies of the Soviet period.” Stupidity and sectarianism are certainly diseases that claim more victims than any pandemic!

But despite his many adversaries and enemies, Solzhenitsyn is now universally recognized as one of the greatest writers of his time, and The Gulag Archipelago is considered one of the major works of the 20th century. But who really was Solzhenitsyn, and why did The Archipelago have such an impact in the West?

From Obscure “homo sovieticus” to Most Famous Anti-Totalitarian Dissident

Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born on December 11, 1918, in a Caucasian town on the edge of southern Russia. Fatherless from birth, young Alexander was raised alone by his mother. A year earlier, two successive coups d’état (later described as “revolutions”) had swept away the imperial regime in Petrograd, making way for the Bolshevik dictatorship. In 1924, Solzhenitsyn’s mother moved to Rostov-on-Don, on the shores of the Black Sea. It was here that Alexander Isayevich grew up, and in 1936 entered the city’s University of Physics and Mathematics.

Like all young people of his generation, he joined the Communist Youth movement at an early age. His mother had taken him to church from time to time, but it was soon banned and closed. Her son, a victim of Communist propaganda, became a convinced Marxist socialist for almost twenty years. After becoming a secondary school teacher, he was mobilized in 1941 when the USSR, initially allied with National Socialist Germany, was invaded and forced to join the Second World War. Solzhenitsyn was soon commissioned an officer and awarded the Order of the Red Star for his bravery in battle. An unwavering Communist, he experienced first-hand the arbitrary arrests and harsh realities of the Communist concentration camps (1945-1953) before finally opening his eyes.

On February 9, 1945, the young Soviet captain was arrested in his colonel’s office on the Baltic coast, just before the German surrender. The military police had intercepted his correspondence with a childhood friend, in which he had had the misfortune to give his opinion on the country’s destiny, criticizing in veiled words Stalin’s policies.

Thrown into the jails of the Lubyanka, a sinister KGB interrogation center in Moscow, Solzhenitsyn was sentenced on July 27 to eight years in a “labor camp.” After two years of internment, he was transferred to a Sharashka, a prison for scientists, also in Moscow. Alexander Isayevich began to compose works clandestinely. In May 1948, he was sent to a forced-labor camp in Kazakhstan, where he worked as a foundryman and then as a mason. In 1953, he was sent to “perpetual relegation” in a village, again in Kazakhstan, where he resumed his teaching activities. Three years later, thanks to de-Stalinization, he was finally released and rehabilitated.

In October 1962, Solzhenitsyn published A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the story of the simple, humble prisoner, Shukhov, prisoner number CH-854, in a concentration and labor camp. This work, which appeared in the official literary journal Novy Mir the day after Stalin’s death (1962), was a huge success in the USSR For the first time, a literary work openly denounced the crimes of Stalinism. Of course, this book served the internal struggles of the Communist Party, but, much more importantly, it freed the speech of Russian intellectuals for the first time.

Soon, however, Solzhenitsyn was forced to continue his work underground. He gradually developed a more radical critique of the regime. He wanted to awaken consciences, defend human dignity, recall the importance of spiritual realities and unambiguously affirm the primacy of God. Individual happiness, he said, could not be the ultimate criterion of all morality. In October 1964, Solzhenitsyn began composing his best-known and most explosive work: The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956, An Experiment in Literary Investigation. It is a veritable literary monument that he intends to erect “in memory of all those tortured and murdered.”

His work was organized in secret, with the support of a clandestine network of very close friends. For years, Solzhenitsyn defied the Communist authorities. In his letter to the Writers’ Union (1967), he denounced the censorship and persecution to which he was subjected. In response, all means were used to stifle his voice. In 1968, he published The First Circle and Cancer Ward abroad. At the same time, he managed to grant a few interviews to the international press. In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. It became increasingly difficult to silence him. On August 30, 1973, a typist friend of his was found hanged in her home after having been tortured by the KGB, to whom she had given the hiding place of a copy of the manuscript of The Archipelago. Without further ado, Solzhenitsyn instructed a foreign friend to publish the work as soon as possible in the West. Photographed, microfilmed and smuggled from city to city, the manuscript eventually found its way to the West. The first volume was published in Russian by YMCA-Press in Paris on December 28, 1973, with the other two volumes to follow. They were translated into all the major languages, including French and English in 1974, and Spanish in 1976. No fewer than 10 million copies were sold worldwide.

An Intellectual, Popular and Political Revolution

It is no exaggeration to say that this book, which masterfully dissects the intrinsic mechanics of Soviet repression, made a powerful contribution to changing the course of history. It is a kind of ray of light that illuminates the turpitudes of the Soviet system. In itself, it is an intellectual, popular and political revolution.

On February 13, 1974, after an admirable intellectual resistance, without the slightest compromise or concession, the dissident writer was arrested at his home, stripped of his Soviet nationality and deported by special plane to West Germany. Solzhenitsyn went into exile in Switzerland and then the United States, where he devoted himself to writing The Red Wheel, an enormous 6,600-page fresco analyzing the origins of the Russian drama and unravelling its “knots” from August 1914 to April 1917. The Russian writer was highly critical of the Soviet communist system, but no less so of the West, which he considered cowardly and materialistic. To the astonishment and irritation of many, he was not afraid to debate and contradict the self-proclaimed pseudo-elites of Europe and America. A visionary, he warns Western states that believe they can impose their model on the whole world—they risk generating violent opposition if they do not respect the autonomy of other cultures.

In December 1988, the Russian intelligentsia met to celebrate the writer’s 70th birthday; two months later, they met again to commemorate the 15th anniversary of his expulsion. In June, Mikhail Gorbachev announced that he had authorized the publication of The Gulag Archipelago in the USSR. Its availability in Russian bookshops became a symbol of “glasnost.” The year 1990 was proclaimed “Solzhenitsyn Year” by the editor-in-chief of the Russian magazine Novy Mir. Colloquia were organized on his work, and all his writings were gradually published in Russia. Selected works were recommended for reading in schools.

Solzhenitsyn’s attachment to the “motherland,” to the identity of the Russian people, is a constant. That’s why he fiercely defended the “humiliated” who suffered under President Yeltsin’s savage “liberalization,” and denounced “the pirate state that hides under a democratic banner.” Banished, he never lost the conviction that one day he would return to Russia. This happened in 1994, after the dismantling of the Communist regimes in Europe and the USSR. Symbolically, the former convict chose to land in Magadan, in the far east of the country, on the Pacific coast, a stronghold of the Siberian Gulag. Then, for a month, he traveled from town to town, all the way to Moscow, where he met a Russian population fervent with admiration for the hero.

At the time of its publication in the West, The Gulag Archipelago did not provide the first review of the Soviet concentration and penitentiary system. In the 1920s, the edifying testimonies of many exiles were already known, in particular those of the hundreds of cultural and scientific personalities who were banished, expelled and threatened with being shot if they returned to the USSR at Lenin’s personal instigation. These intellectuals, many of them among the most prominent of the Russian intelligentsia, such as Sergei Bulgakov, Nikolai Berdyaev, Nikolay Lossky, Ivan Ilyin, Georges Florovsky, Semyon Frank or Pitirim Sorokin, were not hostile to the revolution as the GPU (the political police) claimed, but opposed Lenin’s extreme and violent line. In particular, they reproached Lenin, as well as the members of the Committee for Aid to the Hungry, for not having taken the necessary measures to stop the terrible famine of 1921-1922. Slander, defamation, silence or oblivion were the fate of these first victims of the Leninist purges who, no doubt because of their notoriety, escaped death in the concentration and forced labor camps created by Trotsky and Lenin in June and August 1918 to imprison “kulaks, priests, White Guards and other dubious elements.”

Already in 1935, Boris Souvarine had published his biography of Stalin (Stalin: A Critical Survey of Bolshevism), which dismantled “in the name of socialism and communism” the lies of Soviet “pseudo-communism.” In 1936, André Gide denounced in his book, Return from the USSR, the vices and defects of a system he had defended until then. As a consequence, the Friends of the Soviet Union declared him a traitor and agent of the Gestapo. Then, after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), came the instructive testimonies of former communist political commissars such as Arthur Koestler or former members of the POUM, such as George Orwell. One of the main heads of Soviet military intelligence in Western Europe, Walter G. Krivitsky, who moved to the West in October 1937, also gave a particularly valuable account of the democratic fiction of the various Popular Fronts, of the Comintern’s action in the West and of its relations with the GPU. He was violently attacked by the American and European left in 1939, when he published two books on Stalin’s methods (In Stalin’s Secret Service and I Was Stalin’s Agent, 1940), and finally “committed suicide” (or was killed) in a Washington hotel in 1941. Ukrainian exile Victor Kravchenko’s best-seller, I Chose Freedom (1946), also gave rise in France to one of the most resounding post-war trials in 1949. The testimonies of communists who had fled to the West, and those of former international brigadists who had survived the war in Spain, came at a quick succession; but the reaction of the socialist-Marxist left was always the same: insults, shrugging of shoulders, skepticism and visceral hostility. As for the intellectuals of the non-Communist left, they were conspicuous by their absence. The manipulation of history by the communists and their fellow travelers was almost total for decades.

The manipulation continued, though only in part, when the bombshell that was The Gulag Archipelago exploded. The benevolence, indulgence, connivance and complicity of a large part of Western cultural and media circles towards Marxist socialism and communist abominations, a tradition that was already more than half a century old in the West, was began to crack. In the 1970s, the political-intellectual circumstances in the various Western countries were very different from those in Spain. Western intellectuals, already fairly disenchanted with the experiences of Marxist socialism, probably felt a mixture of guilt and fascination with Solzhenitsyn, who had risked his own life and that of his loved ones in the name of truth. At the same time, the Russian writer’s popular appeal and rapidly-acquired authority made it difficult for them not to relativize not only their historical certainties, but also their relationship with political power and freedom of expression. Solzhenitsyn’s work was clearly helping to demolish the “communist revolutionary catechism;” and for many opportunists it was high time to jump on the bandwagon.

In addition to the relatively favorable social context, it was undoubtedly the form of the book that made it such an immediate success. The strength of the story lies not only in the literary talent of its author, but also in the original form he chose. The Gulag Archipelago is not the umpteenth account of a camp survivor, but a genuine investigation, bringing together 227 testimonies put into perspective.

On the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, let us remember those moving and severe words of its author: “You have forgotten the meaning of freedom… it cannot be dissociated from its purpose, which is precisely the exaltation of man. It was the function of freedom to make possible the emergence of values. Freedom leads to virtue and heroism. You have forgotten this; time has corroded your notion of freedom because the freedom you have is nothing more than a caricature of the great freedom; a freedom without obligation and without responsibility that leads, at most, to the enjoyment of goods. No one is ready to die for it… You are not capable of sacrificing yourselves for this phantom of freedom, you simply compromise yourselves.”

Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECDHe is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left—all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.