The Parlor Terrorists
If some of my best friends are right, and the big thing right now is to show that the Jew is as common a common man as the next, Arthur Koestler’s Thieves in the Night is the finest thing that has happened to the Jews since Benny Leonard. First of all, like all good public relations, it graciously meets its audience halfway. Jewish traits, Koestler admits, are as unpleasant as they are said to be: Western Jews—that is, the Jews all around us—are greasy and pushy and noisy and argumentative and just too clever, and when there’s a crowd of them, it’s about all you can do to stand them. But—wait until they get back to their own country! There they work on the land, they get calloused and dumb, they stop talking so much-, they hate the Arabs’ guts, and if need be they can rough a few of them up to keep them quiet. (Of course, there are some incorrigibles—pacifist Jews—but they disappear after the first generation.) This presumably convinces Gentiles that Jews are basically just like other people, and if it weren’t for an unhappy historical circumstance, they would never have developed those objectionable traits.
But for the Jews themselves, this book can be as harmful as it is frivolous—if they take it seriously. Koestler would have us believe that the British in 1939 decided to let no more Jews into Palestine because the colonial officials in Palestine liked the Arabs’ picturesqueness, and the government in London feared their strength; that there is no chance of Jews and Arabs working together because all the Arabs are medieval, hate the Jews, and are incapable of seeing their own interests; and that British imperial interests, if the British were only smart enough to see them, would best be served by a Jewish state in Palestine. So, he says, let’s blow up some Arabs to show how strong and tough we are, let’s blow up some English to show we can fight them too, and maybe then England will take us instead of the Arabs as their Near East protégés.
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