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Anti-Semitism in United Kingdom

History

While the main activity of anti-Semitism has manifested itself in Germany, Russia, Rumania, Austria-Hungary and France, its vibratory influences have been felt in other countries when conditions favourable to its extension have Great Britain, &c. presented themselves. In England more than one attempt to acclimatize the doctrines of Marr and Treitschke has been made. The circumstance that at the time of the rise of German anti-Semitism a premier of Hebrew race, Lord Beaconsfield, was in power first suggested the Jewish bogey to English political extremists. The Eastern crisis of 1876-1878, which was regarded by the Liberal party as primarily a struggle between Christianity, as represented by Russia, and a degrading Semitism, as represented by Turkey, accentuated the anti-Jewish feeling, owing to the anti-Russian attitude adopted by the government. Violent expression to the ancient prejudices against the Jews was given by Sir J.G.

Tollemache Sinclair (A Defence of Russia, 1877). Mr T.P. O’Connor, in a life of Lord Beaconsfield (1878), pictured him as the instrument of the Jewish people, “moulding the whole policy of Christendom to Jewish aims.” Professor Goldwin Smith, in several articles in the Nineteenth Century (1878, 1881 and 1882), sought to synthetize the growing anti-Jewish feeling by adopting the nationalist theories of the German anti-Semites. This movement did not fail to find an equivocal response in the speeches of some of the leading Liberal statesmen; but on the country generally it produced no effect. It was revived when the persecutions in Russia threatened England with a great influx of Polish Jews, whose mode of life was calculated to lower the standard of living in the industries in which they were employed, and it has left its trace in the anti-alien legislation of 1905. In 1883 Stöcker visited London, but received a very unflattering reception. Abortive attempts to acclimatize anti-Semitism have also been made in Switzerland, Belgium, Greece and the United States.

Anti-Semitism made a great deal of history during the thirty years up to 1908, but has left no permanent mark of a constructive kind on the social and political evolution of Europe. It is the fruit of a great ethnographic and political error, and it has spent itself in political intrigues of transparent dishonesty. Its racial doctrine is at best a crude hypothesis: its nationalist theory has only served to throw into striking relief the essentially economic bases of modern society, while its political activity has revealed the vulgarity and ignorance which constitute its main sources of strength. So far from injuring the Jews, it has really given Jewish racial separatism a new lease of life. Its extravagant accusations, as in the Tisza Eszlar and Dreyfus cases, have resulted in the vindication of the Jewish character.

Its agitation generally, coinciding with the revival of interest in Jewish history, has helped to transfer Jewish solidarity from a religious to a racial basis. The bond of a common race, vitalized by a new pride in Hebrew history and spurred on to resistance by the insults of the anti-Semites, has given a new spirit and a new source of strength to Judaism at a moment when the approximation of ethical systems and the revolt against dogma were sapping its essentially religious foundations. In the whole history of Judaism, perhaps, there have been no more numerous or remarkable instances of reversions to the faith than in the period in question. The reply of the Jews to anti-Semitism has taken two interesting practical forms.

In the first place there is the so-called Zionist movement, which is a kind of Jewish nationalism and is vitiated by the same errors that distinguish its anti-Semitic analogue (see Zionism). In the second place, there is a movement represented by the Maccabaeans’ Society in London, which seeks to unite the Jewish people in an effort to raise the Jewish character and to promote a higher consciousness of the dignity of the race. It lays no stress on orthodoxy, but welcomes all who strive to render Jewish conduct an adequate reply to the theories of the anti-Semites.

Both these movements are elements of fresh vitality to Judaism, and they are probably destined to produce important fruit in future years. A splendid spirit of generosity has also been displayed by the Jewish community in assisting and relieving the victims of the Jew-haters. Besides countless funds raised by public subscription, Baron de Hirsch founded a colossal scheme for transplanting persecuted Jews to new countries under new conditions of life, and endowed it with no less a sum than £9,000,000 (see Hirsch, Maurice de). (1)

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Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)

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  • Article Name: Anti-Semitism
  • Author: International
  • Description: History While the main activity of anti-Semitism has manifested itself in Germany, Russia, Rumania, Austria-Hungary and [...]

This entry was last updated: October 24, 2016

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