Reflections on Hilaire Belloc’s “The Jews” (1922) [Part One of Three] by Andrew Joyce
Of all the fallacies that one confronts when engaging with the theme of relations between Jews and Europeans, one of the most easily disproven is the idea that antagonism towards Jews is constantly changing. In the ‘mainstream’ reading of the history of European-Jewish interactions, the friction that exists between Jews and other elements of the society is argued to be linked solely to a Christianity-induced communal psychosis on the part of Europeans. This psychosis is said to undergo almost ceaseless metamorphoses.
The idea is so deep-rooted among organized Jewry that, even today, we are forced to listen to endless bleating about the emergence of a “new anti-Semitism”? This redundant cry resounds almost weekly even though, to the informed observer, it is clear that there isn’t, and has never been, any real change in the essence of the friction between Jews and Europeans. The ‘Jewish Problem,’ if one wishes to employ that archaic terminology, is seemingly as timeless and unchanging as the Jews themselves.
In my examination of Robert Wistrich’s Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred, I pointed to that author’s typically contorted argument that a “virus” existed in Europe, in which “pagan, pre-Christian anti-Semitism grafted on to the stem of medieval Christian stereotypes of the Jew which then passed over into the post-Christian rationalist anti-Judaism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.” Needless to say Wistrich’s phantasm, and similar poorly-fabricated ‘theories,’ are prejudiced at a very early stage by the employment of that fundamentally meaningless term: ‘anti-Semitism.’ By its very nature the term places the Jew or the ‘Semitism’ immediately in the passive position, thereby avoiding confrontation with the true essence of the problem — that there is a mutual friction between two essentially different entities, with divergent group interests and goals.
Concurrent with such prejudices, in mainstream ‘histories’ one finds a wholesale condemnation of many historical writers and their work on the subject of ‘the Jews.’ The gravest sin of these authors was their emphasis on the causes and nature of the inter-ethnic friction, rather than on the ‘martyr-ology’ which today passes for Jewish ‘history.’ Too much analysis, and not enough sympathy. The efforts of these authors were intended to point out the differences, transgressions, and secrecy which together combined to ensure a periodic, and often chaotic, resurgence of Gentile exasperation. I am thinking in particular of specific works produced by Voltaire, Wagner, Bauer, and von Treitschke.