Among those who have expressed concern lest the strong emotional attachment that American Zionists have exhibited for Israel cast suspicion on the loyalty of American Jews to the United States, Dorothy Thompson’s has been an especially outspoken voice. She states here the case for this viewpoint, which has won its passionate advocates and aroused equally passionate denials. (Immediately following this article, Oscar Handlin presents an alternative, opposing view of the problem raised by Miss Thompson.)
There exists a famous American document to which reference is often made, but which few people read. It says: “Nothing is more essential [to this country] than that permanent inveterate antipathies against particular foreign nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded. . . . The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. . . . Sympathy for the favorite [foreign] nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest where no real common interest exists . . . leads to concessions to the favorite nation and privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions . . . and it gives corrupted or deluded citizens, who devote themselves to the favorite nation, facilities to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes, even, with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation . . . the base or foolish compliances of . . . infatuation.”
These words are from Washington’s “Farewell Address,” and they have hitherto, for the most part, guided American policy towards all nations. Ours has been a policy of equal and reciprocal friendship. If friendships have lapsed it has been because of conflict of interest between other nations and our own, and not because of “inveterate antipathies” or “passionate attachments” to any other nation or nations per se.
For no nation was Washington’s advice more pertinent than ours. As our country developed, the wisdom of this advice has increased rather than diminished. For the United States has drawn its nationals from other nations, with the concomitant danger that these might transfer to this nation the “inveterate antipathies” or “passionate attachments” of their former nation and so destroy the Republic by internal divisions of loyalty.
From the outset the United States repudiated the idea of a multi-national state—and this point is the main theme of this article. We are a union of American states; we are not a union of European nations or nationals. Each immigrant to these shores came as an individual, prepared to cast off his former nationhood and enter with good faith into a new nationhood, as well as a new statehood. Here, unlike the Soviet Union or the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, nationhood and statehood are conjoined.
It is very important that we keep this basic fact clear. The citizen of the Soviet Union (like the citizen of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire) retains a nationality within a multi-national state. He may be a Ukrainian, speaking the Ukrainian language, or an Uzbek, speaking the Uzbek language, within a state embracing more than a hundred and fifty other nationalities with as many languages, and with schools and courts in all of them.
However, the nationalities of the Soviet Union, like those of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, were indigenous on the soil the state embraced. The state found them there, as long-settled and cohesive nationalities, and incorporated them together under a single central government.
It is from these East European areas, where state and nation have not meant the same thing, that we have derived the concept of the national “minority.”
The concept of national “minorities” arose within multi-national states. National “minorities” were cohesive ethnic groups within a state, with a sense of nationhood, who were denied, or who felt they did not enjoy, equal status with the dominant nationalities comprising the state of their citizenship. The Slavs, for instance, of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire felt they were denied equality of national status with the Germans and the Magyars, and out of this revolt against “minority” status rose the conflict that ended the Empire—and, incidentally, started new conflicts within its successors. Ethnic groups differing from the dominant body demanded “national” rights as “national minorities,” including the right to set up a state or other autonomy of their own. Such were Croatians, in the early Yugoslav monarchy, who denied they shared nationality with the Serbs; the Austro-Germans in the Czech Sudeten; the Slovaks, in the Czechoslovak Republic; the Ukrainians in pre-war Poland; repeatedly, the Ukrainians in Russia; and the Jews in all these states as well.
Such a concept never has been, and never could be accepted by the United States, nor are the cases parallel. For the American nation was created by the voluntary transfer of persons from another soil to this, not by federation or conquest of nations on their original soil.
The United States is a nation and a state originally created by British colonists in a primeval country inhabited only by a sparse population of tribally organized aborigines whom the white settlers gradually displaced. The act of creating the United States included a total break of the then almost purely Anglo-Saxon American people from their mother country. In the break, they created a new nation as well as a new state. We were an American “people” from the time the Constitution opened with the words, “We, the people,” to and beyond the time when Abraham Lincoln described “a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
It may seem the utmost banality to reaffirm a proposition so obvious. But that it needs reaffirming is indicated by the way the concept of American “minorities” has crept into the American language. It must here be stated: There are no minorities in the United States. There are no national minorities, racial minorities, or religious minorities. The whole concept and basis of the United States precludes them. That our culture—and race—has long since ceased to be wholly “Anglo-Saxon”; that America is a blended amalgam of many races and cultures does not change this fact. American democracy is based on equality of right for every individual citizen and religious group, with neither inherent rights nor inherent prejudices for or against any national groups—which are simply not recognized.
Every citizen of the United States and member of the American nation who was not born here came voluntarily as an individual, with one exception—the Negroes whose ancestors were imported as chattel slaves. Each member of this nation possesses his nationhood and his citizenship with equality of right and equality of obligation with every other citizen. Where, or if, his status, or the status of a group to which he belongs, is prejudiced, he has the right, personally and as a member of the group, to fight for the equalization of his status, as in the case of the Negro. But he cannot fight for the recognition of a different national status, or a status of “minority,” for no such status is constitutionally recognized or recognizable. We are “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Unless this identity of American nation and state is upheld as primary, this nation will not survive. From the beginning, the creation of the American nation was a hazardous experiment. For were a Polish, British, Czech, German, or other European nation to transplant itself in a national bloc to this soil, without a clear break of former nationhood by every individual, one of two things would eventually happen: either the country would split into contending national groups, or its policies would become subject to other states using their nationals here for the purposes of the parent nation-state.
The danger of this has always been recognized by the national instinct, expressing itself in abhorrence of “hyphenates”; symbolized in the naturalization processes; expressed in the law that citizenship can be withdrawn if a naturalized citizen returns to his native country for more than two years without satisfactory explanation; in such rituals as the Oath to the Flag; in the hatred of communism, far less for its social and economic theories than for its acceptance of the Soviet Union as the “workers’ fatherland”; and in the immediate revolt against the German-American Bund, claiming national allegiance from Americans of German origin.
Frenchmen, Englishmen, and other Europeans find some of these expressions of American nationalism naive and exaggerated. But Englishmen and Frenchmen have never had to ask themselves what it means to be English or French. With the exception of a few naturalized citizens, that is the way they all were born; that is what their ancestors were. Our country, alone in the whole world, is composed of persons a majority of whose ancestors originally had other nationalities. Hence the perpetual emphasis has been upon assimilation. All public schools are conducted in one tongue; political life divides the population into parties, not ethnic groups; all religions are accorded equal rights and none is given state favoritism.
Nevertheless, repeatedly in our history, dangers have arisen to the American nation by reason of a recrudescence of former loyalties and the transmission of inter-European interests to their American descendants. Americans of Irish origin have been anti-British for no American reasons; Americans of Polish origin have been anti-Russian and anti-German for no American reasons, etc. It was precisely this danger that Woodrow Wilson warned against, on May 10, 1915, when he said:
You cannot become true Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become American, and the man who goes among you to trade upon your nationality is not worthy to live under the Stars and Stripes.
And on occasion, fear of these other, former loyalties has led to harsh measures, often unjust, especially in time of war—to persecution of Americans of German origin, for instance, and, in the last war, to the very un-American treatment accorded the Nisei. For it is recognized as hard, in nature, to relinquish one nationality for another, and even harder in one or two generations to cut ties of peculiar sympathy with a former motherland.
But with all the latent conflicts that could arise from the diversity of American national origins, America was aided by the recognition of other states that they had permanently lost their former nationals when they became American. The single exception was Hitler’s claim to Americans of German descent, which provoked so drastic a national reaction, and temporarily prejudiced the status of all Americans of German ancestry.
On the whole it was easy for European countries to relinquish their nationals. Europe, since the industrial revolution, has suffered from over-population; the export of part of its population was a boon, as it would be today to certain countries, notably Italy; European nations wanted to keep the good will of America as a rising powerful state, and also to keep open the American gates. Bismarck, much wiser than Hitler, fought the idea of a “Union of Germans Abroad,” on the ground that it would prejudice in other countries the case of Germany herself; and at the outbreak of World War II, the Polish Ambassador to the United States, Jan Ciechanowski, addressing Americans of Polish descent while Poland was being overrun by German armies, had the wisdom and tact to remind his hearers that, although they were bound in natural sympathy to the citizens of their former nation, they must remember that they were not Poles but Americans.
In The growth of the American nation, the Jews joined the great stream of immigrants from Europe, not as Jews, but as Poles, Russians, Austrians, Hungarians, or other nationals, arriving here not to transplant their national allegiances, but to shake them off for a new one. When immigration was restricted and the quota system adopted, Jews shared the quotas assigned to the various European nationals—and still do. Jewish immigration was large. Especially in Eastern Europe, where the Jews held a peculiar status of second-class citizenship, and of a religious and quasi-national minority, their eagerness to acquire a first-class citizenship and equal status was strong. Hence it happened that eventually a third of all the Jews in the world found residence and citizenship in the United States, and with Hider’s extermination of the Jews in Europe, American Jews formed half the number of all Jews, which is the present situation.
In general, and in the past, Jewish immigrants, particularly those from East European countries, were most free of prejudices arising from their former national and state allegiances. Where they had such, they were the prejudices of their co-nationals of other religions. But even so, they had fewer such prejudices. Their ghetto life in pre-revolutionary Russia and Poland had not inclined them to Russian or Polish chauvinism, and in all ways except religion they assimilated rapidly and enthusiastically.
The growth and expansion of Zionism, however, raised, for the first time among the Jewish and non-Jewish populations of Western states, the question of whether a Jew was a person adhering to the religion of Judaism or whether he was a member of a separate nation and chiefly set off from others by this latter fact.
There is no question that the sense of nationhood had always been latent in Orthodox Jewry. The Old Testament is both the source of Jewish religious inspiration and the secular history of a specific people, the twelve tribes that many centuries ago constituted the “nation” of Israel. A few of the religious festivals of Judaism recount the national trials of the Jews and might be interpreted to express national aspirations.
Also, in the face of medieval persecutions, European Jews extended their own religious law codes, with which they governed not only the religious life of Jewish communities but, to an extent, their secular life as well. These theocratic arrangements which governed the medieval European ghettos passed over in part to the modern ghettos, and were even cherished by East European Jews as evidence of their separate religious and secular existence.
But at the end of the 18th century Moses Mendelssohn in Germany, under the influence of the ideas of the Enlightenment, began the reformation of Judaism, to emphasize the spiritual revelations of the prophets rather than the rituals and habits of mind of a nation in exile. He translated the Bible, read by the Jews in Hebrew, into German. (Orthodox Jews burned the translation!)
Nevertheless, the movement of the Enlightenment, for the purpose of making Judaism entirely a religious faith compatible with any nationality, and for the reception of Jews into equal status as nationals of the countries where they lived, extended itself to all of Western Europe during the 19th century. In America, a country cut loose at birth from much unhappy history, in which the Jews breathed perhaps the greatest freedom they had known since the fall of the Jewish state, further reforms made headway under the leadership of Rabbi Isaac M. Wise. These Reform Jews looked upon the Zion of the Bible and the Prayer Book symbolically, as the aspiration of those who would found on the principles of Moses, Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah, the Civitas Dei—the City of God—wherever they might be. Their Jerusalem hardly differed from the “Holy City,” “The Golden,” “Of milk and honey Blest” of the Protestant Christians, for whom it was, and is, symbol of a redeemed society, wherever on earth that society may be.
But nearly half a century after Moses Mendelssohn had begun his work, Theodor Herzl, a Viennese Jew, started the Zionist movement, to return the Jews to Palestine and establish there a state. This movement was entirely secular and political. Herzl’s impulse was not the religious Zionism of Orthodoxy. As a journalist, writing for the Neue Freie Presse of Vienna, he had covered the Dreyfus Affair in France, and by it had been impelled to the belief that there was no permanent hope for the assimilation of Jews anywhere in Europe.
I find it of the highest historical importance that the Zionist movement thus originated in the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the one country historically belonging to Europe which was not a nation-state but a multi-national state, doomed even in Herzl’s time to break up by reason of the nationalism of its component elements.
For although Jewish nationalism, or Zionism, does, to be sure, differ in one important essential from the nationalist movements of the last and present century in Eastern Europe, it is practically identical with them in others. It is unique in the fact that it is the movement of a people considering themselves displaced for millennia from their national soil. It was not, therefore, a movement of people to attain self-government and national status on the soil where it was living, but to attain it on a far distant soil, where few of them or their ancestors had lived for centuries. This is what makes it different from the other East European national movements. Otherwise, Zionism was a not atypical East European movement, arising in lands where various nationalities had varying status within multi-national states such as Russia, Poland, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Jewish movement for national freedom and independence could be compared, without stretching the analogy excessively, to movements among the Ukrainians in Poland and Russia, and the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, etc., in Austro-Hungary. And just as these movements found support from former nationals elsewhere in the world, so Zionism found similar support. Until Hider, it was pre-eminently a movement of and for such Jews as had no satisfactory or equal status in the countries where they lived.
The Zionist movement, however, received its most powerful impetus and opportunity from the rise to power of Adolf Hider in Germany.
Prior to Hider the Jewish colonization of Palestine was a problem rather of finding sufficient settlers than of dealing with the pressure of vast homeless masses. The number of Jews from the West who joined the halutzim and other settlement groups was negligible. Although militant Jewish nationalism was always a part of the Zionist movement, its supporters in the West tended rather to regard it as a relief measure for their less fortunate co-religionists in Eastern Europe.
However, when Germany, the cradle of Jewish emancipation, turned against the Jews a shock was delivered to the Jewish mind and soul such as it had hardly received in its millennial history. It was all that was needed to fan into white heat the Jewish nationalism which the Zionist movement had never previously succeeded in doing more than spark. The fear that had overcome Theodor Herzl at the end of the last century in France was nothing compared to the terror that gripped the hearts of Jews throughout the world, as in the midst of a Western and theoretically advanced civilization Jews were first reduced to second-and third-rate status; branded to the fourth and fifth generations, regardless of intermarriage or religious conversion; and eventually systematically subjected to extermination in every European country occupied by the German armies.
It was thus not the Jews, not even the Zionists, who gave the greatest impetus to Jewish nationalism. It was Hitler, the Germans, and the whole Gentile world, who failed to come with anything like adequate energy to their relief.
But it is also one of the bitter ironies of history and human psychology that we tend to accept the theses of those we hate. It was Hitler’s violent and exaggerated nationalism, his concept of the Germans as a separate, persecuted, and superior people, his idea of the eternal identity of race, nation, and state, his identification, furthermore, of nation and religion—in his attempt, for instance, to make a specifically German and exclusive Christianity—all of which ideas were latent and slumbering in the German subconscious and, for that matter, are probably in some measure latent and slumbering in the subconscious of many other peoples—that resulted in the violent persecution of the Jews.
One would have thought—though the thought would have been superficial, leaving out of account the peculiarities of human psychology—that the reaction of the world, and especially of the Jews, to the unprecedented horrors released by such concepts would have been to repudiate all such ideas for all time. Unfortunately, human emotions do not follow the dictates of reason. Among millions of Jews the reaction to the German action was to release a counternationalism of unprecedented vehemence, bearing in some of the more radical Zionist groups such as the Irgunists and Stemists a striking resemblance to Hitler’s own concepts and working itself out—again by one of those strange historical ironies—not against the Germans but against the nation which had made the greatest sacrifices to destroy the enemy of the Jews—Great Britain—and which, also, had been the first country to accept the original Zionist idea.
But it is not my purpose to go into such phases of Zionist phenomena. Who would do so enters the dark regions of the soul and the reactions of despair, in which the terrorized become terrorists, the victims of genomania become genomaniacal, a man like Arthur Koestler creates his own “darkness at noon,” and anyone who dares to raise however timid a voice of warning in an attempt to break a circle of action and reaction which has many of the aspects of hell itself is charged as an anti-Semite. These things, too, it seems to me, could have been expected as the result of the Hitler horror. They did not start with the Jews and it ill becomes a non-Jew to assume any attitude of righteousness, however deeply and sadly one may deplore them.
But there is an aspect of Zionism which demands clear facing by Jews and Gentiles alike. And that concerns the relation of the American who recognizes himself as a Jew to the nation of his citizenship, and to the nation-state of Israel. Both among Jews and Gentiles there is a sort of open conspiracy not to face this question—or at least not to face it publicly. I believe that this timidity is extremely dangerous—dangerous, in the first line, to the Jews. For it is being discussed very vehemently in private, both among Jews and Gentiles.
Israel is not the first state in the world to be created by colonization. But it is, I think, the first state in human history to be created by the emigration of a non-recognized “nation” to a non-Existent state of that nation. Colonization in every other historic case was from an existing state to a colony of that state or a territory desired as a colony—after which the colony often broke away to independent existence. In creating the State of Israel, however, the process has been reversed. A hitherto legally non-existent nation—the Jewish—has created a nationstate, and not by members of the nation resident within the geographical confines of the state but by members of the nation who were actually citizens of other states yet were successfully urged to regard themselves, at the same time, as in some way nationals of a state in process of creation.
The question, now, of what will be the future relation of an international “nation”—if we accept the Zionist thesis—that created the nation-state of Israel to this, its offspring, is unavoidable. Shall “World Jewry” outside Israel, citizens of many nations but above all concentrated in the United States, regard itself in some manner as “Israel-in-Exile”? Is what the Zionists themselves always call “World Jewry” a continuing part of the Jewish nation? And if this is so, what is bound to be the reaction eventually of the states of their citizenship, and especially the reaction of the United States, where reside half the Jews of the earth?
The American of Jewish religion has always been, and as long as this nation holds to its basic and Constitutional principles will always be, accepted as a full and equal citizen. But sooner or later the Jewish nationalist, which today means the Israeli nationalist, will have to choose allegiances. “One cannot,” says an old Jewish proverb, “sit on one chair at two weddings.” There is no room in American nationality for two citizenships or two nationalities. To say it extremely brutally: no one can be a member of the American nation and of the Jewish nation—in Palestine or out of it—any more than he can be a member of the American nation and the British or German nation. In this country nationhood goes with statehood. No one should interfere with the choice but sooner or later the choice will have to be made.
Many years ago a distinguished Zionist presented me with what seemed a very telling argument in favor of a Jewish state. “Thousands of Jews,” he argued, “have within themselves a deep sense of separate nationality. Being stateless, each Jew is compelled to carry this sense around with him, guarding it in his own bosom and feeling treasonable if he drops it. Once given an established state, this feeling will fade away. The Jewish nation-state wall be a specific place and thing, and the individual Jew can give up this harassing sense of vague nationality and make a free choice.”
Were that to be true, the establishment of the State of Israel might bring a real emancipation to the Jews throughout the world who feel themselves clearly to be Frenchmen, Britons, Americans, and what not, differing from their fellow-nationals if at all only in matters of religion. One could assume that a natural sympathy would exist between Jews everywhere and the State of Israel, as a natural sympathy exists between Americans of various national origins and the countries of their ancestry, not strong enough, however, to influence their behavior where interests might be in conflict. But, unfortunately, certain tendencies in Zionism do not point in this direction. On the contrary, if the words of some Zionists are to be taken at face value, Zionism conceives of every Jew in the world as belonging to the Jewish “nation,” and to a sort of Diaspora of the State of Israel. There is traceable in the United States an increasing wish to separate Jewish cultural existence here from the main stream of American life—this apart from the Jewish religious community—and to set up among American Jews a quasi-secular community. There are already Jewish community councils that try to discipline Jews as though they were members of a separate minority group within the United States. In specifically Jewish publications I have read of such ceremonies as American Jewish children taking oaths to the Star of David flag, which is not, as a flag, a religious symbol but the banner of a state like any other secular state. There are in this country pioneer camps where native-born American children and youth are training for Palestine—training, indeed, to become citizens and soldiers of another state. And on August 31 in Tel Aviv, Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Ben Gurion, was quoted as saying: “Although we realized our dream of establishing a Jewish state, we are still at the beginning. Today there are only 900,000 Jews in Israel while the greater part of the Jewish people is still abroad. Our next task will not be easier than the creation of a Jewish state. It consists of bringing all the Jews to Israel.
“We appeal chiefly to the youth in the United States. . . . Even if [their parents] decline to help we will bring the youth to Israel.”
Now such camps and such statements, unrepudiated by the American Zionist organizations, perturb me. Training camps for Palestine existed in Eastern Europe under the friendly aegis of East European governments. But they were tolerated because these countries wished to reduce what were, in their terms, cohesive Jewish minorities, and therefore favored their emigration to Palestine—or for that matter to any other place that would receive them. To say it bluntly, these countries wanted to get rid of Jews. Are we to assume that the same reasons lie behind American tolerance of such training camps? And if the half-conscious wish to reduce the Jewish population here does not lie behind the tolerance, what does? What other conceivable reason could make such camps and such a concept as Ben Gurion’s acceptable? And how does one equate the desire of European Jews to emigrate to the United States under various quotas, with Jewish exhortations within the United States for American Jews to go to Israel? And, finally, if all the Jews of the world are to have an actual or potential home in Israel, what extended encroachments on the Arab world are implied?
The claim that every Jew in the world is, by his very existence, a member of the Jewish “nation,” from which he cannot and may not extricate himself, is a claim never before made, to my recollection, by anybody except anti-Semites. Some of us non-Jews have spent a great part of our lives arguing against anti-Semites that the Jews are not a separate and specific “people,” or “nation,” or “race” held together within other states by a kind of secret nationhood, and many of us who have supported Zionism have done so on the ground that a Jewish nation-state would tend to end the Diaspora idea, and thus clarify this anti-Semitic suspicion once and for all, by making it possible to say: There, in Palestine, is the Jewish state and nation—there and nowhere else.
But this is not the attitude being taken by certain Zionists, who refer over and over again to “World Jewry” as an integral part of the Jewish nation with unceasing and perpetual obligations to the Jewish national state—obligations which are not, incidentally, reciprocal. For although, in the official Zionist view, no Jew in the world may be neutral toward Israel, Israel itself has declared a policy of neutrality between Russia and the West at a time of utmost crisis for our civilization. And this, despite the fact that Russia is persecuting Zionism and Jewish Americans have largely financed Israel.
The idea that the world Zionist movement is under the political discipline of the state it has created was expressed in New Palestine, June 11, 1948: “From the minute the Jewish State was proclaimed we [Jews abroad] are constrained from taking any political action in regard to Israel without the approval of the Jewish State.”
I am sure also, that I do not know what is going to happen to the Jewish religion if it becomes increasingly subservient to political Zionism. Only the other day, the Scriptural verse, “If I forget Thee, oh Jerusalem,” was invoked throughout this nation in behalf of a purely political solution of the status of that city. We Christians also pray the same exhortation, “If I forget Thee,” associating Jerusalem with the Holy Land of prophecy for peace and good will among all men. In Christian terms, to politicize this concept would be to revive the Crusades to wrest the city from the hands of the infidel! Terrible dangers lie in such politicizing and secularizing of a religion to the purposes of state power. The history of Christianity is full of examples: Jews can learn from the errors of other religions; the equating of politics and religion has always been unfortunate, and must by its nature widen the gap between the religions here in our own country.
There is another aspect of present-day Zionist propaganda which disturbs me. That is an effort to recreate in American Jews Herzl’s anxiety and to deepen the anxiety neurosis in them. American Jews are being indoctrinated by some Zionists with the idea that they exist in this country—as everywhere else outside Israel—on dubious sufferance, and that what happened in Germany could happen here any minute.
Now, God knows, a Jewish anxiety neurosis is understandable after the events of this decade in Europe. But I often think that every person who attempts to lead states, nations, and people should have to make a study of analytical psychology. For when a fear takes possession of the mind, the pattern of behavior becomes self-defeating and of such a nature as to make the realization of the fear more likely. We bring on what we fear. Any psychologist will tell you that a primary neurosis is the fear of rejection and that when that neurosis takes hold of a person he unconsciously strives to create the conditions for that rejection.
I find no analogy between the outbreak in Hitler’s Germany and the danger in this country. Racialism has been a European disease for centuries, and no part of Europe has ever had the kind of equal democracy of this country. The racially polyglot nature of the United States makes outbursts of racialism highly dangerous to far more than Jewish Americans. The Negroes are, as I have said, unique because their original status was unique. They were not originally admitted to this country as citizens but as slaves, and out of that original sin and crime has come all the malaise and strain that has marked the relations between blacks and whites. Yet it is my faith that this problem too will ultimately solve itself in the only American way, namely, by gradual racial assimilation and more rapid recognition of equality of personal rights.
Every Jew in America should have faith in this, for himself and for others. What the Jews here and everywhere else need today, as rarely in their history, is not discouragement but encouragement, not the instilment of perpetual fear but of confident faith in the American brotherhood; not the conviction that the American dream is going to break down in a horrible pogrom, but that it will triumphantly outride every storm.
We who are Gentiles have much to do to help adjustments between the various types and ancestries that make up our country. I myself, for instance, have throughout my public life fought such silly, un-American, and self-defeating measures as hotel restrictions, residential restrictions, and quotas in private schools. But one is not aided in this if from any group comes a perpetual affirmation of their essential separateness, and affirmation of the conviction that they are apparently appointed by destiny to perpetual persecution. I believe myself that even the continual beating of the drums of anti-anti-Semitism can be, and has been, overdone. Again, I believe it is psychologically false. Prejudice is apparently so integral a part of human nature that we can hardly expect ever to see it wholly eliminated socially, and if I may say so, it is not entirely confined to the Gentile world. But the plain fact of the matter is that for millions of Jews this country is their Zion, their home, and the representative of their democratic faith. And anyone who tends to break down that fact and faith is not the friend of either the United States or the Jews.
In Addition to this fear being engendered among Jews there is another tendency equally dangerous as it affects non-Jews, and that is to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. This really amounts to making anti-Semites, by appointment, of everybody who either does not believe in Zionism or criticizes any phase of Zionist and Israeli policy. Israel is a state whose policies and interests must conflict at certain points with the interests and policies of other states; it is a state run like all others by fallible men whose policies are open to criticism; and it is also, like other states, one within which there are conflicting tendencies and conflicting policies and parties, some of which may awaken admiration and others distaste, not at all by reason of race or religion, but by reason of the policy itself. Yet—and I speak from very unhappy experience—we are in a frame of mind and a condition of affairs in this country where to make any criticism of any policy or party in Israel is equated, by Zionist leaders and apologists, with anti-Semitism, with, as a result, a highly strained and by no means healthy condition in the press. I thought, for instance, that the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte and his aide was a dreadful thing; that the failure of the Israeli government to apprehend the culprits was scandalous; that the immense reception accorded to the Irgunist leader Beigin in New York was out of place; and that some acts of Israeli terrorists against Arabs were shameful. I made these criticisms in good faith but also, as I learned, in most naive innocence, for by making them I called down upon my head a campaign of vilification such as it has seldom been my lot to endure; a huge letter-writing campaign to newspapers demanding that my column be dropped and charging me, of all things, with being an anti-Semite, as though being anti-Irgun or anti-Stern Group or—for that matter—anti-Zionist was synonymous with being against Jews per se.
Nothing, to my mind, could be worse. The State of Israel will, in my opinion, be infinitely stronger in world public opinion when journalists and commentators are given no cause to fear treating it with the same forthrightness that they treat other states and their policies. I say this in full knowledge that young and weak states and governments are always more sensitive than established and strong ones, and I say it in the ardent and absolutely sincere hope that Israel will flourish and give expression to the deepest moral instincts and intellectual gifts of the Jewish religion and of Jewish cultural possibilities.
But the Zionists should, I think, realize the truth in the words of Emerson that “a friend is a person with whom one can be sincere.” The terrorization of criticism is not, in my experience, characteristically Jewish at all, but quite the contrary; and when any people embark upon a political road they embark upon a controversial road, controversial in essence, in the nature of the act itself.
I have found the courage to write some of these things because I know that thousands of American Jews feel them equally or more strongly than myself, including Jews who have been and are in the Zionist movement, and those others who, though accused of being “traitors to their people,” have rejected Zionism. And it is my hope—though not my expectation—that those who read my words will accept them exactly in the spirit in which they are meant—uttered by one who, far from rejecting the American Jews or the State of Israel, wants to see American Jews wholly American, free and equal members of the American nation and no other, and Israel’s Jews Israelis, creating the nation they have dreamed of in peace with all their neighbors and with all mankind.