Anti-Semitism: Will It Appear in the U.S.?
By Henry Ford
(Reprinted from the 19 June, 1920, Issue of the house journal of the Ford Motor Co., the Dearborn Independent and slightly edited by Raymond Bray to eliminate the numerous uses of "which" for "that" in the original.)
Anyone who essays to discuss the Jewish Question in the United States or anywhere else must be fully prepared to be regarded as Anti-Semitic, in high-brow language, or in low-brow language, a Jew-baiter. Nor need encouragement be looked for from people of from press. The people who are awake to the subject at all prefer to wait and see how it all turns out; while there is probably not a newspaper in America, and certainly none of the advertising mediums that are called magazines, that would have the temerity even to breathe seriously the fact that such a Question exists. The press in general is open at this time to fulsome editorials in favor of everything Jewish (specimens of the same being obtainable almost anywhere), while the Jewish press, which is fairly numerous in the United States, takes care of the vituperative end.
Of course, the only acceptable explanation of any public discussion at present of the Jewish Question is that someone - writer, or publisher, or a related interest - is a Jew-hater. That idea seems to be fixed; it is fixed in the Jew by inheritance; it is sought to be fixed in the Gentile by propaganda, that any writing that does not simply cloy and drip in syrupy sweetness toward things Jewish is born of prejudice and hatred. It is, therefore, full of lies,, insult, insinuation, and constitutes an instigation to massacre. These terms are culled at random from Jewish editorial utterances at hand.
It would seem to be necessary for our Jewish citizens to enlarge their classification of Gentiles to include the class that recognizes the existence of a Jewish Question and still is not anti-Semitic.
There are four distinct parties traceable among the Jews themselves. First, those whose passionate purpose is to keep Jewish faith and life alive at the cost of any sacrifice of popularity or success; second, those who are willing to make whatever sacrifice may be needed to preserve Jewish religion, but are not so particular about the traditional customs of Jewish life; third, those who have no very strong convictions either way, but are opportunists, and will always swerve in the direction of success; and, fourth, those who believe and preach that the only solution of the differences between the Jew and other men is the complete absorption of the Jewish race by the other races. The fourth is the weakest, most unpopular and least to be considered of all the parties.
With the Gentiles there are only two classes, as far as this special question is concerned: those who dislike Jews, they cannot tell why; and those who are disposed to fairness, in spite of the accident of congeniality, and who recognize the Jewish Question as, at least, a problem. Both these attitudes, whenever they become apparent, are subject to the charge of "anti-Semitism."
Anti-Semitism is a term that is bandied about too loosely. It ought to be reserved to denote the real anti-Jewish temper of violent prejudice. If used indiscriminately about all who attempt to discuss Jewish Characteristics and Jewish world-power, it may in time arrive at the estate of respectability and honor.
Anti-Semitism in almost every form is bound to come to the United States; indeed, it may be said that it is here now, and has been here for a long time. If it be mislabeled now, the United States will not be able to work within it the transformation that has been effected upon so many other ideas that have arrived here in their journey round the globe.
It may be a serviceable clearing of the ground to define what anti-Semitism is not:
1. It is not recognition of the Jewish Question. If it were, then it could be set down that the bulk of the American people are destined to become anti-Semites, for they are beginning to recognize the existence of a Jewish Question and will steadily do so in increasing numbers as the Question is forced upon them from the various practical angles of their lives. The Question is here. We may be honestly blind to it. We may be timidly silent about it. We may even make dishonest denial of it. But it is here. In time all will have to recognize it. In time the polite "hush, hush" of over-sensitive or intimidated circles will not be powerful enough to suppress it. But to recognize it will not mean that we have gone over to a campaign of hatred and enmity against the Jews. It will only mean that a stream of tendency that has been flowing through our civilization has at last accumulated bulk and power enough to challenge attention, to call for some decision with regard to it, to call for the adoption of a policy that will not repeat the mistakes of the past and yet will forestall any possible social menace of the future.
2. Again, the public discussion of the Jewish Question is not anti-Semitism. Publicity is sanitary. The publicity given the Jewish Question, or certain aspects of it, in this country has been very misleading. It has been discussed more fully in the Jewish press than elsewhere, but not with candor or breadth of vision. The two dominant notes - they are sounded over and over again with monotonous regularity in the Jewish press - are Gentile unfairness and Christian prejudice. These apparently are the two chief aspects of life that impress Jewish publicists when they look over the line of their own race. It is said in all soberness that it is fortunate for Jews generally that the Jewish press does not circulate very widely among Gentiles, for it is probably the one established agency in the United States that, without altering its program in the least, could stir up anti-Jewish sentiment by the simple expedient of a general reading among non-Jews. Jewish writers writing for Jewish readers present unusual material for the study of race consciousness and its accompaniment of contempt for other races. It is true that in the publications referred to, America is constantly praised, but not America as the land of the American people; America, rather, as the land of the Jews' opportunity.
On the side of the daily press, there has been no serious discussion at all. This is neither surprising nor reprehensible. The daily press deals with matters that have reached the overheated stage. When it mentions the Jews at all, it has stock phrases for the purpose; the effort includes a list of the famous Jews of history, and usually closes with complimentary references to certain local Jews of commendable qualities, whose advertisements are not infrequently found in another part of the paper. Summing up, it may be said that the publicity given the question in this country consists in misrepresentative criticism of the Gentiles by the Jewish press and misrepresentative praise of the Jews by the non-Jewish press. An independent effort to give a constructive publicity cannot, therefore, be laid to anti-Semitism, even when some of the statements that are made in the course of it arouse the resentment of Jewish readers.
3. Nor is it anti-Semitism to say that the suspicion is abroad in every capitol of civilization and the certainty is held by a number of important men that there is active in the world a plan to control the world, not by territorial acquisition, not by military aggression, nor by governmental subjection, not even by economic control in the scientific sense, but by control of the machinery of commerce and exchange. It is not anti-Semitism to say that, nor to present the evidence that supports that, nor to bring the proof of that. Those who could best disprove it if it were not true are the international Jews themselves, but they have not disproved it. Those who could best prove it would be those Jews whose ideals include the good of the whole of humanity on an equality and not the good of one race only, but they have not proved it. Some day a prophetic Jew may arise who will see that the promises bestowed upon the Ancient People are not to be fulfilled by Rothschild methods and that the promise that all the nations were to be blessed through Israel is not to be fulfilled by making the nations the economic vassals of Israel; and when that time comes we may hope for a redirection of Jewish energy into channels that will drain the present sources of the Jewish Question. In the meantime, it is not anti-Semitism, it may even be found to be a world service to the Jew, to throw light on what purpose motivates certain higher circles.
If the above propositions are true, then the term "anti-Semitic," so freely bestowed on this series of articles, betrays a worse spirit in the critics than in the author. But enough of that. There is much yet to do, and what is done must stand on what merit remains after friend and foe alike are through with praise and blame.
Anti-Semitism has unquestionably swayed large sections of humanity at various times, warping the vision, twisting the characters and staining the hands of its victims, but the most amazing statement that can be made of it is that it has never accomplished anything in behalf of those who used it, and it has never taught anything to the Jews against whom it was used.
The grades of anti-Semitism are fairly numerous, and a few of them may be cited here:
1. There is first that degree of anti-Semitism, if it may be so described, that consists in plain dislike of the Jew as a person, no matter whom he may be. This is often found in people of all grades. It is found mostly, however, in those whose contact with Jews has been very limited. It begins sometimes in childhood with an instinctive dislike for the word "Jew." It is encouraged by the misuse of the word "Jew" as an epithet, or as an adjective generally descriptive of unpopular practices. The feeling is not different from that which exists toward Gentiles ,concerning whom the same notions are held, but it differs in that it is extended to the race of unknown individual Jews instead of being restricted to known individuals who may justify such a feeling.
Congeniality is not within our choice, but control of the sentiment of uncongeniality is. Every fair-minded person is compelled at time to reflect that it is not impossible that a person for whom he feels a dislike may be as good and possibly a better person than he. Our dislike merely registers the result of attraction and repulsion as they operate between another person and oneself; it does not indicate that the disliked person is unworthy. Of course, wherever intelligence is joined with this instinctive withdrawal from social contact with members of the Jewish race, prejudice is forestalled, except, of course, in those persons who hold that there are no individuals among the Jews worthy of respect. This is an extreme attitude and is composed of other elements beside natural dislike. It is possible for people to dislike Jews and not be anti-Semitic. Indeed, it is not at all uncommon, it grows more and more common, that intelligent and refined Jews themselves do not relish the society of their own people except in cases of exceptional refinement.
This reality calls for some comment on the manners and characteristics of the ordinary member of the Jewish race, the accidents of behavior that stand out most obnoxiously and of which Jews themselves are often the most unsparing critics, but these comments must fall into place later.
2. A second stage of the spirit of anti-Semitism may be designated as hatred and enmity. It should be noted that the antipathy referred to immediately above was not hatred. Dislike is not hatred, nor is it necessarily enmity. One may dislike sugar in his tea without troubling to hate sugar. But undoubtedly there are people who because they have let their dislikes deepen into prejudice, and perhaps also because of unpleasant experiences with members of the Jewish race (probably a million Americans have been brought to the verge of becoming Jew-haters this winter because of contact with Jewish merchants and landlords) may be classified as at least, incipient anti-Semites. This is most of all unfortunate for the persons who harbor these emotions. It is unfortunate in that it unfits the mind to consider intelligently the facts that constitute the Jewish Question and also unfits it to deal with them in a fair and constructive way. For one's own sake, whatever the provocation otherwise, it is better not to let passion deflect the needle of one's mind. Hatred at the wheel means hazard on the course. Enmity lives in the vicinity of the Jews more than of any other race, and the reason for this is one of the puzzles of the ages. The Jewish nature itself, as shown in ancient and modern history, is not without its own share of enmity, and it either evokes or provokes enmity where it comes in contact with those Aryan races that follow their natural impulses unchecked by cultural and ethical influences. This age-long conflict of the Jew has puzzled the minds of students for generations. Some explain it Biblically as the curse of Jehovah upon His Chosen People for their disobedience to the discipline by which He would have made them the Prophet Nation of the world. If this offense must come, if it is part of the Jew's heritage, an old saying - Christian and Scriptural, by the way - would still remain true: "It must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."
3. In some parts of the world at various times this feeling of hatred has broken into murde3rous violence, which has roused, as wholesale outrage always does, the horror and resentment of humanity. This is the extreme form in which anti-Semitism has exhibited itself, and it is the charge of intending to stimulate it here and elsewhere that every public discussion of the Jewish Question has to bear. There is, of course, no excuser for these outbreatks, but there is sufficient explanation of them. The Jews usually explain them as expressions of religious prejudice, and the Gentiles as rebellion against an economic yoke that the Jews have woven for the people. it is an astonishing fact that, to take one country, the parts of Russia where anti-Semitic violence has been most marked are the most prosperous parts, so prosperous indeed and with a prosperity so unquestionably due to Jewish enterprise that the Jews have openly declared that they have the power to throw those parts of Russia back into commercial lethargy again by simply withdrawing. It is utterly idle to throw denials at this statement. It is confirmed time and time again by men who have gone to Russia full of resentment against the attitude of the Russians toward the Jews, as that attitude is represented in the Anglo-Saxon press, and who have come home with a new light on the cause of these outbreaks, though not excusing their character. Impartial observers have also found that some of the outbreaks have been precipitated by the Jews themselves. A correspondent, known the world over for his trenchant defense of the Jews under Russian persecution, was always bitterly attacked by the Jews themselves whenever he stated the truth about this, notwithstanding his protest to them that if he did not tell the truth when they were in the wrong the world would not be ready to believe him when he said they were blameless. To this day, in every country, the Jews are slow to admit to blameworthiness for anything. They must be excused, whoever else may be accused. It is a trait that will have to be disciplined before they can be brought to assist, if ever they can, the removal of those characteristics that arouse the antagonism of other peoples. Elsewhere in the world, it may be said that out-and-out enmity to the Jews has an economic basis. This, of course, leads to the question of whether the Jew shall have to become a deliberate failure, or deny his genius, and forego his just meed of prosperity before he can win the approval of the other races - a question that will arise for discussion later.
As to the religious prejudice that the Jews are, as a rule, readiest to affirm, it is safe to say that it does not exist in the United States. Yet it is charged up to Americans by Jewish writers just as freely as it is charged up to Russians. Each non-Jew reader is competent to settle this for himself. He can easily do so by asking himself whether in all his life he has ever felt a moment of resentment against the Jew on account of his religion. In an address recently delivered in a Jewish lodge and reported in the Jewish press, the speaker, a Jew, stated that if 100 non-Jews on the street were approached at random and casually asked what a Jew is, the reply of the majority would be, "He is a Christ killer." One of the best known and most highly respected rabbis in the United States said recently in a sermon that children in Christian Sunday schools were taught to regard the Jew as a Christ-killer. He repeated it in a conversation several weeks later.
It would probably be the testimony of Christians generally that they never heard this term until they heard it in a Jewish complaint, and certainly themselves never used it. The charge is absurd. Let the 20,000,000 now in Christian Sunday schools of Canada and the United States testify as to the instruction given. There is no hesitation in stating that there is no prejudice whatever in Christian churches against the Jew on account of his religion. On the contrary, there is not only a deep sense of indebtedness, but a feeling of sharing with the Jew in his religion. The Sunday schools of the Christian churches of the world are spending six months of this year studying the International Lessons that are appointed for the Books of the Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel and the Books of Kings, and every years is devoted in part to the Old Testament.
Here, however, is something for Jewish religious leaders to consider: there is more downright bitterness of religious prejudice on the part of the Jews against Christianity than could ever be possible in the Christian churches of America. Simply take the church press of America and compare it with the Jewish press in this regard, and there is no answer. No Christian editor would think it either Christian or intelligent to attack the Jewish religion, yet any six months' survey of the Jewish press would yield a mass of attack and prejudice on the other side. Moreover, no religious bitterness in America attains within infinite distances to that bitterness visited upon the Jew who becomes a Christian in his faith. It amounts almost to a holy vendetta. A Christian may become a Jewish proselyte and his motives be respected; it is never so when a Jew becomes a Christian. These statements are true of both the orthodox and liberal wings of Judaism. It is not the religion that gives prominence to the Jew today; it is something else. And yet, with undeviating monotony it is repeated wherever the Jew takes cognizance of the feeling toward him that it is on account of three things, first and most prominent of which is his religion. It may be comforting to him to think that he is suffering for his faith, but it is not true. Every intelligent Jew must know it.
Every Jew ought to know also that in every Christian church where the ancient prophecies are received and studied, there is a great revival of interest in the future of the Ancient People. It is not forgotten that certain Promises were made to them regarding their position in the world, and it is held that these prophecies will be fulfilled. The future of the Jew, as prophetically outlined, is intimately bound up with the future of this planet, and the Christian church in large part - at least by the evangelical wing, which the Jews most condemn- sees a Restoration of the Chosen People yet to come. If the mass of the Jews knew how understandingly and sympathetically all the prophecies concerning them are being studied in the Church, and the faith that exists that these prophecies will find fulfillment and that they will result in great Jewish service to society at large, they would probably regard the Church with another mind. They would at least know that the Church does not believe that it will be the instrument in the conversion of the Jews - a point on which Jewish leaders are tragically misled and which evokes more bitterness than anything else - but that it depends on quite other instruments and conditions, which it is not the function of this article to point out except to say that it will be the Jews' very own Messiah that will accomplish it and not the "wild olive" or the Gentile.
Curiously enough, there is a phase of anti-Semitism having to do with religion, but not in the way here discussed. There are those, very few in number and of atheistical tendencies, who assert that all religion is a sham, being the invention of Jews for the purpose of enslaving the minds of the people of the world to an enervating superstition. This position, however, has had no effect on the main issue. It is a far extreme.
Now, which of these exhibitions of anti-Semitism will show itself in America? If certain tendencies continue, as they are certain to do, what form will the feeling toward the Jew take? Not that of mass violence, we may be sure. The only mass action visible now is that of the Jewish agencies themselves against any person or institution that dares bring the Jewish Question to public attention.
1. Anti-Semitism will come to America because of the habit that emotions and ideas apparently have of making their way westward around the world. North of Palestine, where the Jews have been longest settled and where they are now in great numbers, anti-Semitism is acute and well-defined. Westward, in Germany, it is clearly defined but, until the seizure of German revolutionary agencies, was devoid of violence. Still farther westward, in Great Britain, it is defined, but because of the comparatively small number of Jews in the British Isles and their coalition with the ruling class, it is more a feeling than a movement. In the United States is not so definite, but shows itself in a restlessness, a questioning, a sensible friction between the traditional tendency of the American to fair-mindedness and his respect for the cold facts.
Because the Question will assume more and more pressure in America it behooves everyone of foresight to disregard the shortsighted protests of the Jews themselves and see to it that the Question shall not present itself among us as it has done among other people, in its most distressing and confusing forms. It is a public duty to seize this problem at its beginning and train it up, so to speak; that is, so prepare for it that it may be handled here in a manner that will form a model for all other countries, which will indeed supply all other countries with the essential materials for a permanent solution. And this can be done only by exposing and recognizing and treating with the serum of publicity the condition before which, heretofore, the nations have helplessly floundered because they lacked either the desire or the means to get at the great root of the difficulty.
2. Another cause of the Question appearing here will be the great influx of Jews that is planned for America. There will probably be a million Jews enter the country this year, increasing our Jewish population to nearly 4,500,000. This does not mean merely an immigration of persons, but an immigration of ideas. No Jewish writer has ever told us, in systematic fashion, just what is the Jews' idea of non-Jews, how they regard the Gentiles in their private minds. But there are indications of it, although one would not attempt to reconstruct the Jewish attitude toward Gentiles. A Jew ought to do this for us, but he would probably be cast out by his own people if he discharged his task with rigorous jealousy for the exact fact.
These people are coming here regarding the Gentile as an hereditary enemy, as perhaps they have good ground for doing, and so believing they are going to model their behavior in a manner that will show it. Nor will these Jews be so helpless as they appear. In stricken Poland, where the Jews are represented as having been stripped of everything during the war, there are hundreds daily appearing before the consulate to arrange their passage here. The fact is significant. In spite of their reputed suffering and poverty, they are able to travel a great distance and to insist on coming. No other people are financially able to travel in such numbers. But the Jews are. It will readily be seen that they are not objects of charity. They have been able to keep afloat in a storm that has wrecked the other people. They know it and they joy in it, as is natural. And they will bring here the same thoughts toward the majority that they have harbored in their present lands of domicile. They may hail America; they will have their own thoughts about the majority of the American people. They may be in the lists as Russians or Poles or what not, but they will be Jews with the full Jewish consciousness, and they will make themselves felt.
All this is bound to have its effect. And it is not race prejudice to prepare for it, and to invite American Jews themselves to consider the fact and contribute to the solution of the problem that it presents.
3. Every idea that has ruled Europe has met with transformation when it was transplanted in America. It was so with the idea of Liberty, the idea of Government, the idea of War. It will be so with the idea of anti-Semitism. The whole problem will center here and if we are wise and do not shirk it, it will find its solution here. A recent Jewish writer has said: "Jewry today largely means American Jewry. . . .all former Jewish centers were demolished during the war and were shifted to America." The problem will be ours, whether we choose it or not.
And what course will it take? Much depends on what can be accomplished before it becomes very strong. It may be said, however, that the first element to appear will be a show of resentment against certain Jewish commercial successes, more particularly against the united action by which they are attained. Our people see the spectacle of a people in the midst of a people, in a sense that the Mormons never were, and they will not like it. The Mormons made an Exodus; Israel is going back into Egypt to subjugate it.
The second element that will undoubtedly appear is prejudice and its incitement. The majority may always be right, but they are not always initially reasonable. That prejudice that exists now, and that is freely admitted by both Jew and Gentile, may become more marked, to the distress of both parties, for neither the subject nor the object of prejudice can attain that freedom of mind that is happiness.
Then we may most confidently look for a reaction of Justice. It is here that the whole matter will bend to the genius of Americanism. The innate justice of the American mind has come to the aid of every object that every aroused American resentment. The natural reaction with us is of very brief duration; the intellectual and ethical reaction swiftly follows. The American mind will never rest with merely resenting certain individuals. It will probe deeper. Already this deeper probe has been begun in Great Britain and America. We characteristically do not stop with persons when principles are in sight.
And upon this there will be an investigation of materials part of which may yet be presented in this series and which may possibly be disregarded for a time, but which at a future date will be found to be the clue to the maze. Upon this, the root of all the trouble will be bared to the light, to die as all roots do when deprived of their concealment of darkness, and then the Jewish people themselves may be expected to begin an adjustment to the new order of things, not to lose their identity or to curtail their energy or to dim their brilliance, but to turn all into more worthy channels for the benefit of all races, which alone can justify their claim to superiority. A race that can achieve in the material realm what the Jews have achieved while asserting themselves to be spiritually superior, can achieve in a less sordid, a less society-defying realm also.
The Jews will not be destroyed; neither will they be permitted to maintain the yoke that they have been so skillful in fastening upon society. They are the beneficiaries of a system that itself will change and force them to other and higher devices to justify their proper place in the world.