The Jewish Problem, as is the case with all minority problems, constitutes one of the countless issues which a sickly social system based upon economic classes constantly throws up. It will take much more than tear-jerker ads in the newspapers; much more than impassioned orations by prominent civic, national and world figures; much more than all the money that can ever pour into the coffers of organized charities to solve. A problem which arises out of the nature of class society can only be solved by the eradication of class society. Needless to say, this is one task which organized Jewry leaves strictly alone.
In order to see clearly what is behind the Jewish Problem it is necessary to understand first and foremost just what and who the Jewish people are.
Origin and History of the Jews (*)
There are many strange theories prevalent in the world today concerning the "Jewish race." We even find an occasional anthropologist still holding forth on the difference in skull measurements of Jews and non-Jews. The "findings" of these "scientists" like the arguments on racial differences that the Jews themselves maintain, should make important additions to the Mother Goose tales of the future. One only needs to dip into Jewish history to see through this ridiculous thesis.
The word "Jew" itself is derived from Judah, or in Hebrew, Yehudah — the Biblical character who with his brother Benjamin were the reputed founders of the two tribes which constituted one of the two rival kingdoms which were established in Palestine about 975 B. C. The Israelites, constituting twelve tribes in all, were supposed to be descended from Father Abraham, who, if he actually did exist, probably lived around 1500 B. C. But even in those early times, the inhabitants of the "land of milk and honey" must have constituted a strange mixture. For we find that at the time of the patriarchs, the land of Canaan was occupied by the following tribes: Kenites, Venizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Hivites, Philistines and Phoenicians. Since it is also established that the Hebrews originated in Mesopotamia (Iraq), and the Mesopotamians themselves sprang from the Chaldaeans, Cushites and from "the descendants of Sham of the tribe of Thara", it can readily toe seen that father Abraham had a fairly representative crew of homo sapiens to work upon with his startling new theory of one God.
Furthermore, it must be remembered that Palestine is situated between Asia and Africa. Across this ancient pathway, the caravans and armies of the early Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Egyptian empires crossed and recrossed. Since it is highly improbable that soldiers and travelling men were more chaste in those times than they are today, it can safely be assumed that by the time (584 B. C.) the last of the Israelites were exiled to Babylon the Jewish people were as pure, in the sense representative of mankind generally, as any people could be.
From those times right on through the ancient, medieval and modern eras, the Jews have scattered into every continent and every civilized part of the world. Legal inter-marriage and other types 'of sex relationship with Mongols from Asia, Moors from Africa and the Christians of Europe have continually taken place. The early practice of proselytising brought into the picture Negro and Chinese Jews. Until today we have this "descendant" of Abraham, through the tribe of Judah, as thoroughly mixed as any other of the "races of mankind" by the cocktail shaker of history.
There is no such thing as a Jewish "type". Nor are there any distinct and separate Jewish characteristics. An Eastern European Jew is a different "type" than the Western or Sephardic Jew. No more nor less different than the non-Jews of those areas. The characteristics and customs of the Russian or Polish Jews, are quite foreign to those of the German or English or Dutch Jews. They are the customs and characteristics of their adopted countries. There are major differences in their methods of prayer and there is no common basis in their political outlook. Yet despite all of the foregoing, there is in society today, the Jew and the Jewish Problem. It would seem that in face of all of the evidence, the only scientific definition of Jew today, is one who believes in the Jewish Religion or who accepts an unsound political doctrine, fostered by Zionism, of a Hebrew nation and a Hebrew nationality.
Strictly speaking, the term anti-semitism as applied against the Jews is a mis-nomer. The Arabs, whose national fervour has been stirred up against the admission of Jews to Palestine can hardly be called anti-semites. For they are nearer to being Semites than are the Jews in the Displaced Persons camps of Europe. Nor does the average non-Jew of Europe or America who hates Jews have any particular feeling against the Semitic Arabs, who are not in sufficient numbers in these Continents to constitute a problem. So it is not because they are classified as Semites that Jews are hated, whether in the Christian or Moslem world.
There have been various reasons behind the hatred for Jews in the past. In their early history, Palestine was never a completely independent political unit, nor has it ever been one since. The Jews in the days of the kings were always under the suzerainty of some great empire or other and as a vassal people they received the contempt of a vassal people. Especially since they propagated new and inimical religious theories to those of the powerful empires.
In medieval times, they became associated in the minds of the non-Jews with money-lenders or usurers Since Church law frowned upon usury, and Jews were forbidden to learn useful trades, many of them became money lenders. They charged exorbitant interest rates because first there was little if any competition, and second, they were taking a terrific gamble at a time when Christianity held the bulk of political and consequently legal power.
After the advent of capitalist dominance, Jew-baiting took on the nature of a political weapon, and the Jewish people have variously been designated as an international gang of capitalists who seek to dominate the world by means of a financial oligarchy; and an international gang of communists who seek to overthrow the capitalist system. Even in modern times, they have been accused of starting the first and second world wars and of poisoning the minds of our youth by their control of the movie industry, etc, ad nauseam.
Such is the nature of anti-Jewish propaganda and in our times it can be stated unequivocally that the cause is bound up with the need for capitalist society to maintain division in the ranks of the working class. Anti-Jewish, anti-Negro or any other type of "racial" discrimination is all part of the whole process of the suppression of the working class.
The torture and persecutions which Jews suffered under the Spanish Inquisition had nothing on the punishment and "experimentation upon" that many of them have been going through during this most civilized and cultured of centuries. The pogroms instituted in Czarist Russia, in which Cossack troops wiped out whole Jewish communities might be excused on the grounds that Russia was at that time a backward country, lacking in the finer sensibilities which capitalist society brings into being. The same excuse might have been given for “democratic” Poland where millions of poverty-stricken Jews were herded into cellars and garrets to live and die like rats with all sorts of government tolerated indignities heaped upon them. But then came the Nazis in cultured Germany and the tempo of Jewish persecution became greatly accelerated.
The concentration camps, sterilisation centres, gas chambers and brothels of the Nazis brought a reaction of shock to the civilised British capitalists who had become used to treating the Jewish question in Palestine with more finesse, more polish. It was not nearly so bad form to handle the problem by pitting them against the Arabs. Let someone else do your dirty work, don't you know. This, of course with the cooperation of their American capitalist brethren.
The end of World War II, however, brought British and American capitalism up against a new set of realities. With a "socialist" government in power in Britain the Jewish people took heart. Surely the "socialists" had always been their champions. But this "socialist" government was elected on a mandate to continue class society, not to do away with it. And because capitalism is basically the same, regardless of who sits in the government, Ernest Bevin, the Labor Government's foreign secretary has assumed the "honours" in Jewish eyes, formerly held by Messrs Hitler, Rosenberg, etc. In a desperate effort to maintain good Arab relationships, British "socialist" concentration camps were erected to house the refugee Jewish workers who had only just left the horrors of Europe. And truncheons, bayonets, and bullets, produced in "socialist" Britain were wielded against recalcitrant Jewish refugees. In the background sits Uncle Sam, more or less directing the orchestra in which Britain now plays second fiddle. Palestine can no sooner become a separate political unit today, even with Partition, than it could at any time in its history. The reason today is OIL which American interests control in the Near East.
So the Jewish Problem goes on into the last quarter of 1947 with the Jewish philanthropies growing as rapidly as the problem itself.
Socialists see a worse minority problem in the world today than the Jewish Problem — serious as it may be. Society as a whole is organized on the basis of classes — the master or capitalist class constituting a minority with a problem of keeping a majority — the working class — in subjection. On the other hand, the socialists, an insignificant minority of the working class are confronted with the terrific problem of getting their message across to their fellow workers. To join in the fight that nationalistic Jews are making for a Jewish "homeland" is to fight for the prolongation of class society. The capitalist Jews do not need our sympathy. Nor do we expect them to join in the main fight. The Jewish workers on the other hand, who make up the overwhelming majority of the Jews, must shake a lot of unsound ideas before they can do much toward their own emancipation.
Zionism would have its adherents believe that a Jewish state in Palestine is the answer to their problem. The organised Jewish charities want us to believe that the plight of the Displaced Persons's in Europe can be cured by an appeal to the heartstrings to loosen the purse strings. This sort of approach is completely unsound and will solve nothing. The class struggle rages in Palestine between Jew and Jew, Jew and Arab, Arab and Arab — in short between capitalists and workers — just as it does throughout civilisation. The "Bulletin", issued by the Council on Jewish-Arab Cooperation, N. Y., May-June 1947, tells of working class celebrations in Haifa and Jerusalem, mass strikes involving as many as 30,000 Arab and 10,000 Jewish workers in Palestine cities; a strike in the all Jewish city of Tel-Aviv. So much for Palestine as a solution to the Jewish Problem. The United Jewish Appeal and all other such Funds, sincere as they may be, cannot but help prolong the very conditions that make for a Jewish Problem.
The socialist appeal is based upon reason and a scientific evaluation of the nature of class society. We say, get rid of capitalism and all minority problems will cease to exist.
(*)The historical data on early Jewish history used in this article was gleamed from the encyclopedias Americana, Britannica and the Jewish Encyclopedia.
(The Western Socialist, Boston, November 1947)