- Hilaire Belloc

This social history of the Jews was written after the Great War at a time when the Question of Jewish domination of finance and geopolitics was being discussed. It provides an interesting history of conflict between Jews and Gentiles, identifies reasons for the current friction, and seeks amiable solutions to the 'Jewish Question.'

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[Title Page] from The Jews by Hilaire Belloc


The object of this book is more modest, I fear, than that of much which has appeared upon that vital political matter, the relation between the Jews and the nations around them.

It does not propose any detailed, still less, any positive legal solution to what has become a pressing problem, nor does it pretend to any complete solution of it. It is no more than a suggestion that any attempt to solve this problem ought to follow certain general lines which are essentially different from those attempted in Western Europe during the time immediately preceding our own. I suggest that, if the present generation in both parties to the discussion, the Jews and ourselves, will drop convention and make a principle of discussing the problem in terms of reality, we shall automatically approach a right solution.

We have but to tell the truth in the place of the falsehoods of the last generation. Therefore, of the three principles upon which this essay reposes, the principle that concealment must come to an end seems to me more important than the principle of mutual recognition, or even the principle of mutual respect. For it may well be that my judgment is at fault in the matter of Jewish national consciousness; it may well be that I exaggerate it, and it is certain that one party to a debate cannot be possessed of the full knowledge required for its settlement; the other side must be heard. But neither my judgment nor the judgment of any man can be at fault on the value of truth and the ultimate evil consequences of trying to build upon a lie.

The English reader (less, I think, the American) will often find in my sentences a note that will seem to him fantastic. The quarrel is already acute here in London, but it has not here approached the limits which it has reached long ago elsewhere; and a man accustomed to the quieter air in which all public affairs have, until recently, been debated in this country, may smile at what will seem to him odd and exaggerated fears. To this I would reply that the book has been written not only in the light of English, but of a general, experience. I will bargain that were it put into the hands of a jury chosen from the various nationalities of Europe and the United States it would be found too moderate in its estimate of the peril it postulates. I would further ask the reader, who may not have appreciated how rapidly the peril approaches, to consider the distance traversed in the last few years. It is not very long since a mere discussion of the Jewish question in England was impossible. It is but a few years since the mere admission of it appeared abnormal. The truth is that this question is not one which we open or close at will in any European nation. It is imposed successively upon one nation after another by the force of things. It is this force of things, this necessity for national well-being, and for the warding off of disorder, which has thrust the Jewish question to-day upon a society still reluctant to consider it and still hoping it may return to its old neglect. It cannot so return.

I will conclude by asking my Jewish, as well as my non-Jewish, readers to observe that I have left out every personal allusion and every element of mere recrimination. I have carefully avoided the mention of particular examples in public life of the friction between the Jews and ourselves and even examples drawn from past history. With these I could often have strengthened my argument, and I would certainly have made my book a great deal more readable. I have left out everything of the kind because, though one can always rouse interest in this way, it excites enmity between the opposing parties. Since my object is to reduce that enmity, which has already become dangerous, I should be insincere indeed if from mere purpose of enlivening this essay I had stooped to exasperate feeling.

I could have made the book far stronger as a piece of polemic and indefinitely more amusing as a piece of record, but I have not written it as a piece of polemic or as a piece of record. I have written it as an attempt at justice.



The Jews are an alien body within the society they inhabit—hence irritation and friction—a problem is presented by the strains thus set up—the solution of that problem is urgently necessary.

An alien body in any organism is disposed of in one of two ways: elimination and segregation.

Elimination may be by destruction, by excretion or by absorption—in the case of the Jews the first is abominable and, further, has failed—the second means exile: it has also failed—the third, absorption, the most probable and most moral, has failed throughout the past, though having everything in its favour.

There remains segregation, which may be of two forms: hostile to, or careless of, the alien body, or friendly to it and careful of its good—in this latter form it may best be called Recognition. The first kind of segregation has often been attempted in history—it has been partially successful over long periods—but has always left behind it a sense of injustice and has not really solved the problem—also it has always failed in the end.

The true solution is in the second kind of segregation, that is, recognition on both sides of a separate Jewish nationality.


In the immediate past the problem was shirked in Western Europe by a mere denial of its existence—some were honestly ignorant of the existence of a Jewish nation—some thought the difference one of religion only—more admitted the existence of a separate nation but thought a convenient fiction, that it did not exist, necessary to the modern state.

This ignorance or fiction has broken down in our own time—partly through the necessary reaction of truth against any falsehood—partly through the increasing numbers of the Jews in Western countries—more through the great increase of their power.

Yet, though this old "Liberal" fiction about the Jews is dead, having proved unworkable in the face of fact, it had something to be said for it—it secured peace for a while—it chose models from the past—and it was based on a certain truth, to wit, that the Jew takes on very rapidly the superficial characters of the nation in which he happens for the time to be living—moreover it was desired by the Jews themselves—example of the old Jewish Peer and his claim "to be let alone"—practical proof of the failure in his case.

At any rate the old "Liberal" fiction is now quite useless—the problem is admitted and must be solved.


The Jewish problem, present throughout history, has assumed a particular character to-day—it is the character of a sharp reaction against the old pretence that Jews were identical with the nations in which they happened to live—it first took the form of irritation only—it was suddenly exasperated in a very high degree by the Jewish revolution in Russia—but long before this the increasing power of Jews in public life, the anti-Semitic writing on the Continent, the Dreyfus agitation, the South African War, and the Jewish leadership of Socialism had prepared the way—The situation on the outbreak of the Great War—Bolshevism—a short description to be expanded in a later chapter—Bolshevism is a Jewish movement, but not a movement of the Jewish race as a whole—its particular effect was to release criticism of Jewish power which had hitherto been silent from fear of, or sympathy with, Capitalism.

Men hesitated to attack the Jews as financiers because the stability of society and of their own fortunes was bound up with finance—but when a body of Jews also appeared as the active enemies of existing society and of private fortune, the restraint was removed—since the Bolshevist movement open (and hostile) discussion of the Jewish problem has become universal.


The strain between Jewry and its hosts in Islam and Christendom much older than any modern cause can account for—the true causes are both general and particular—I call those general which are ineradicable and proceed from the contrasting natures of the two races, particular those which depend upon the will on either side and can be modified to the advantage of both.

The general cause of friction being a contrast in fundamental character, we note that the common accusations brought against Jews are false, as are the common praises given him by those not of the race.—In each case what has to be noted is not a series of virtues or vices special to the Jew, but the racial character or tone of each quality.

These examined—the Jewish courage—examples—the Jewish generosity—the strength of Jewish patriotism—the consequent indifference to our national feelings—accusations arising therefrom, especially in time of war—the Jewish power of concentration—of eloquence—the Jewish tendency to "push" a Jewish success and hide a Jewish failure or danger—the evil effects of this tendency in our mutual relations.

The poverty of the Jewish people—false effect produced by a few great Jewish fortunes—the instability of these—cringing of wealthy Europeans to Jewish money-dealers—dependence of our politicians on wealthy Jews—evil effect of this in the attempt to regulate domestic affairs of Eastern Europe.

The ill effect of the partially Jewish financial monopoly—especially with Parliamentary corruption as pronounced as it is to-day.


I have called "Special" causes of Friction those which are remedial at will by either party—they would seem to be, on the Jewish side, the habit of secrecy and the habit of expressing a sense of superiority—on our side a disingenuousness and unintelligence in our treatment of Jews and a lack of charity.

The deplorable Jewish habit of secrecy—the use of false names—examples—excuses for same not adequate—a regular code of such names which deceive us but can be decoded by fellow Jews.

The expression of superiority by the Jew—our statesmanship has never sufficiently allowed for it—examples of this expression—Jewish interference in our religion—or national quarrels—and other departments which are alien to Jewish interests—on the other hand this quality has been a preservation of the race—the Jew should note the corresponding sense of superiority on our side—even the poor hack-writer, if he be of European blood, feels himself superior to the Jewish millionaire.


This department of our inquiry often neglected through an error—it is presumed that, because we are the hosts and the Jew alien to us, no responsibility falls on us—this error forgets that the Jew is permanently with us and that every permanent human relation involves responsibility.

The first cause of friction on our side is disingenuousness in our dealings with the Jew—examples of this—we conceal from the Jew our real feelings—we deceive him—the richer classes who intermarry with Jews and enter into business partnership with them especially to blame—the populace more straightforward—this deceiving of the Jew leaves him troubled when the quarrel comes to a head—he has not heard what is said behind his back.

Disingenuousness in our suppression of the Jewish problem in history—gross examples of it in contemporary life and particularly in the popular press—Jews called "Russians," "Germans," anything but what they are.

Unintelligence a second cause of friction—example: our treatment of Jewish immigration—we hate it, yet allow it because we dare not give it its right name—unintelligent treatment of the Jew in fiction—unintelligence in our astonishment at his international position—example of the cabinet minister's cousin who got into trouble.

Last cause, lack of charity—people won't put themselves in the shoes of the Jew and see how things look from his side—we do not (as we should) mix with Jews of every class and address their societies—Summary—A warning against the idea that the friction between the Jews and ourselves is unimportant—it has bred catastrophe in the past and may in the future.


Error of neglecting to study Anti-Semitism on account of its extravagance—it is a most significant thing, however ill-balanced—character of the Anti-Semite—he does not recognize a Jewish problem to be solved but only a Jewish race to be hated—this hatred his whole motive—his self-contradictions—his delusion—his strength—the press still on the whole boycotts the Anti-Semitic movement—but it is growing prodigiously—its great power of documentation—its vast accumulation of evidence—effect this will have when it comes out.

The Jews met Anti-Semitism by nothing but ridicule—this weapon insufficient and bound to fail—their enemies have countered it by accumulating facts—the latter a much stronger weapon so long as the erroneous Jewish policy of secrecy is maintained.

Danger to the Jews of the Anti-Semitic movement—(1) because of its intensity—(2) because of its formidable accumulation of evidence, which cannot be permanently suppressed—(3) and most important, because it is allied to a now widespread and more moderate, but very hostile, feeling, to which it acts as spear-head.


The revolution in Russia will be the historical point of departure whence will date the renewed hostility to the Jew in Western Europe.

Examination of that revolution—it was (as said in Chapter III) "a Jewish movement, but not a movement of the Jewish race:" importance of this distinction—unfortunately the two different terms "Jewish race" and "a Jewish movement" are confused in the popular mind.

The Revolution not the result of an accident or of a universal plot—element of racial revenge—the Jew not a revolutionary—special character of the Russian situation—Industrial Capitalism, the great evil of our time, there recent and weak—therefore open to special attack—an international evil—the only two international forces applicable were the Jews and the Catholic Church—why the Catholic Church cannot directly attack industrial Capitalism—why the Jew who happens to be opposed to it can and does directly attack it—neither our instinct for property nor our Nationalism an obstacle in his case.

Grave perils to the Jew arise from his identification with Bolshevism—the more reason to meet these perils by a sane treatment of the Jewish problem.


The Jewish problem varies (1) according to the extent to which Jews have acquired control and domination in various places; (2) according to the tradition of each community in approaching the problem; (3) according to the strength in each community of the four international forces, which are the Catholic Church, Islam, Industrial Capitalism, and the Socialist revolt against this last.

The individual Jew does not feel that he is in a position of control or even that he is interfering with his hosts—yet that is the universal complaint against him—it is a corporate or collective power—more and more resented.

The position in Russia—repeated—in the Marches of Russia and Roumania and Poland—in Central Europe—in Occidental Europe—Ireland an exception.

The position in the United States—Mr. Ford and the great effect of his action.

The Western tradition more favourable to the Jews than the Eastern—problem of the Jews and Islam—position of the Catholic Church—effect of Industrial Capitalism and of its converse, Socialism, upon the problem.


England has gone to both extremes with the Jew. The Jew in the Roman time and in the Middle Ages—his monopoly of Usury in early Middle Ages—The exile of all English Jews under Edward I—their return under Cromwell—followed by a growing alliance between the English State and the Jews—largely due to cosmopolitan commercial interests of Britain—also to common hostility towards the Catholic Church—aided by great wealth and security of this country—in the later nineteenth century the Jews, in spite of their small numbers, colour every English institution, especially the Universities and the House of Commons—the interests of the two races began to diverge before the Great War—none the less a formal alliance maintained through the control of the politicians by Jewish finance—its culmination in the attempt to form an Anglo-Judaic state in Palestine.


The chief interest of the Zionist experiment lies in its reaction upon the international position of the Jew—yet that point is not yet discussed—what will be the effect of the experiment on the position of Jews outside Palestine, necessarily the vast majority of the race?—an inevitable alternative—either the Jews lose their international position through loss of the fiction that they are not a nation—or the Zionist experiment breaks down—effect especially in Eastern Europe.

Special effect of the experiment on Great Britain—difficulty of maintaining sacrifice for purely Jewish interests—which now clash with British—unpopularity of such sacrifice inevitable—grave error of first appointment to the headship of the New State—unworthiness of the politician chosen for that position.


This but a consequence of the conditions established in Chapters IV, V and VI—our double duty of mixing with the Jews and of recognizing their separate nationality—necessity of openly admitting this separate nationality in conversation and social habits—in spite of difficulties opposed by convention—in this the wealthier classes should follow the lead of the populace—folly and danger of Fear in this matter—the fear of Jewish power a degrading and exasperating thing to the European—delay makes it worse—our plain duty is to recognize this alien nation, to respect it, and to treat it frankly as we do every nationality other than one's own.


Only a brief mention—for interference or advice in domestic concerns of Jewry would be an impertinence—but it is clear that all specially Jewish institutions favour the right policy for which I plead—those already in existence—schools, newspapers, Jewish societies—all increase of these institutions should be welcome, because they emphasize and make clear the separate nationality of the Jew.


This chapter is a digression on the various theories on the Jewish race and its fortunes which have arisen in history and some of which are still present.

The theory that reconciliation is impossible—its attachment to the idea of a special curse or blessing.

The theory of a mysterious necessary alliance between Israel and Britain—its most extravagant forms.

The theory that the Jews are the necessary flux of Europe, without which our energies would decline—note on the intellectual independence of the Jew and on his original effect on our thought—demand for a Jewish history of Europe and Islam combined.

The theory that the Jewish problem is domestic only and no concern of ours—its error, since the relations are mutual.

The two theories of the Jew as a malignant enemy of our innocent selves, and of our malignant enmity against the innocent and martyred Jew—both erroneous.

The theory that the Jewish problem is now solving itself by absorption—this theory false and due to a misunderstanding of history and a neglect of acute modern and recent differentiation—Mr. Ford's epigram on "the melting-pot."

Fantastic theory that no Jewish national type exists!


Granted that the solution I advance (a full recognition of separate nationality) is the just solution, should it be expressed in law?—Not, I think, until it has first appeared in our morals and social conventions—to begin with laws and regulations on our side would inevitably breed oppression—but the suggestion of separate institutions coming from the Jewish side should be welcomed—urgency of a settlement—modern quarrels are growing fiercer, not less—but for my part I say, "Peace to Israel."