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Jewish View of Jewish Elitism, Jewish Cosmopolitanism, Jewish Particularism

jan peczkis|Saturday, December 12, 2015

Maurice Samuel (1895-1972) was a Jewish writer and Zionist. He identified himself as a freethinker. (p. 74, 76). He gives some frank insights into Jewish thinking, and I focus on a few of the topics he raises. My review is based on the original 1924 edition.


A number of Christians, who had passed near synagogues in the past, had reported that Jewish worship was loud and chaotic. Were these opinions based solely on prejudice, or did they have some basis in fact?

Samuel describes synagogue services as disorderly, with people walking in and out, those saying prayers starting and finishing at different times, people chatting with each other while others are praying, and people answering out of turn, etc. In recent times, however, some Reform temples have imitated the orderly Christian style of worship. (pp. 107-109).

Disorderly worship does not mean that Jews are undisciplined. To the contrary: Jews have survived as a peoples long after many "ordered" civilizations had come to an end. In addition, the Orthodox Jew imposes upon himself a code of conduct that governs every aspect of his life, and which a gentile could not stand. (p. 118).


The author gives insight into why gentiles often find Jewish manners repulsive. He comments, (quote) But wherever we are unrestrainedly Jewish we shock you by our uncouthness. We lack social grace... (unquote). (p. 109). (Quote) And carrying this still further, we Jews, the most clannish of peoples, are helplessly disorganized... (unquote). (p. 110).

He adds that, (quote) ...in business associations, we irritate and disgust you by our obdurate seeming singularity. We don't fit in properly. (unquote). (p. 115). Finally, (quote) Dislike of the Jew in business springs form the feeling that we regard all your play-conventions with amusement--or even contempt. Our abominable seriousness breaks jarringly into your life-mood. (unquote). (p. 148).


Nowadays, condemnation is often expressed at the very notion that Jews were seen as the "other", as by Poles. Actually, this was not surprising at all. In addition, it went both ways.

Maurice Samuel repeatedly stresses the vast divide that separates the Jew from the gentile (e. g, p. 9, 12, 21, 23), although he realizes that there is some overlap between the two worlds. (p. 20). He emphasizes that the difference between Jews and the GOYIM is primal, and irreconcilable. (p. 23).

Finally, Samuel concludes that, (quote) We Jews, we, the destroyers, will remain the destroyers forever. NOTHING that you do will meet our needs and demands. We will forever destroy because we need a world of our own, a God-world, which is not in your nature to build. (unquote). (p. 155). (Emphasis in original).


The author stresses that Jewish ways and gentile ways are offensive to each other. (e. g, p. 92). He also states that neither side is superior to the other. (p. 34). However, at other times, he makes it clear that, if his analysis of Jewish thinking is accurate, the Jews do in fact consider themselves above the GOYIM, as shown in the following paragraphs.

In common with many other authors, Samuel exalts the Jewish belief in social justice (p. 34), but also goes a step further. He suggests that the embrace of social justice is genuine in Jews, but something that is forced in gentiles (as in gentile radicals). He comments, (quote) Our very radicalism is of a different temper. Our spur is a natural instinct. We do not have to uproot something in ourselves to become "radicals", dreamers of social justice. We are this by instinct: We do not see it as something revolutionary at all. It is tacit with us. But with you it is an effort and a wrench...Your socialists and internationalists are not serious. (unquote). (pp. 151-153).

The theme of the brutish GOY, as contrasted with the ethically superior Jew, comes up in Maurice Samuel's characterization of the Jew. When the GOY is bad, he is relatively innocent, because he is doing something that is consistent with his base instincts. When the Jew is bad, he is doing something contrary to his higher nature, and this makes the bad Jew REALLY bad. Thus, Samuel writes, (quote) The vulgar type of gentile is not repellent: There is in him an animal grossness which shocks and braces, but does not horrify: He carries it off by virtue of a natural brutality and brutishness which provides a mitigating consistency to his character. But the lowest type of Jew is extraordinarily revolting. There is in him a suggestion of deliquescent putrefaction. The Jew corrupts into vulgarity--he has not a gift for it. (unquote). (pp. 181-182).


Samuel affirms that, not only are Jews cosmopolitan, but are very strongly so. He comments, (quote) The cosmopolitanism of the radical Jew springs from his feeling (shared by the Orthodox Jew) that there is no difference between gentile and gentile. You are all pretty much alike: Then why this fussing and fretting and fighting?.. The Jew is altogether too much of a cosmopolitan--even for your internationalists. (unquote). (p. 150).

Many commentators think it internally inconsistent to criticize Jews for being "too cosmopolitan" and then also criticize them for being "too separatist" or "too Jewish nationalist". Actually, both tendencies coexist among Jews. Samuel points out that, (quote) It is one of many vital paradoxes--a thing illogical and yet true to life. It is our very cosmopolitanism that gives us our national character. Because we are the only ones who are cosmopolitan by instinct rather than by argument we remain forever ourselves. (unquote). (p. 152).

One form of Jewish elitism, which Samuel describes, leads to anti-assimilationist tendencies, (quote) Nor do I see any contradiction between this fierce insistence on separate national existence and our dedication of a universal ideal. We believe and feel that for such an ideal we alone, as a people, possess the especial aptitude. The Orthodox Jew bases it on divine will and choice; others, like myself, know not what on...but believe it none the less. We shall not further that ideal by losing our identity; to mingle with you and be lost in you would mean to destroy the aptitude, forever. (unquote). (p. 122).


Although, as Samuel points out, Jews have proved to be soldiers as good as any gentile, the Jewish attitude towards the role of the military in society is very different from that of the gentile. Samuel writes, (quote) Your attitude toward combat (duels, wars) and all the virtues pertaining to it, is one from which we shrink. To you courage is an end in itself, to be glorified, worshiped as imparting morality to an act. To us, courage is merely a means to an end...Heroics play a great part of your idealism--none in ours. To fight is never glorious business to us...Nor do we glorify the warrior as a warrior, despite individual defection of ours from that view. (unquote). (p. 51). In addition, with reference to gentiles, (quote) ...you remember all your wars with wistful and longing pride as the greatest events in your existence. (unquote). (p. 59).


I now go beyond the contents of the book. To the extent that Maurice Samuel's characterization of the Jewish mindset is accurate, it adds stark clarity to much of the Jewish aloofness and hostility to Poles and Poland, and the resulting Polish anti-Semitism that it had provoked.

Samuel's analysis of Jewish cosmopolitanism sheds unmentioned light on the Jewish coolness to Polish efforts to regain independence during the time that Poland was under foreign rule after the Partitions (1795-1918). Since, to a Jew, all gentiles are quite alike, it really did not matter to the local Jew (except in matters of self-interest) whether Poland was ruled by Poles, or by Prussians, Russians, Austrians, or any other nationality. To the international Jew, it mattered still less whether or not there was a Polish state.

The logic was elementary. Why should a Jew die in an insurrection, or devote his life to an independentist effort that, if successful, would merely replace one gentile rule with another gentile rule? Why participate in, much less celebrate, acts of military and patriotic heroism when these are foreign to Jewish thinking in the first place?

The Jewish attitude towards the military helps explain other things. For instance, for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Jews were commonly seen, if not exactly as cowards, as not particularly compatible with military service.

During the 1930's, Endeks complained that even assimilated Jewish writers in Poland write in an insensitive or derogatory way about things which were noble and heroic in Poland's past. [More recently, we have seen attacks, by Jewish writers, on the onetime idea of Poland as the "Jesus Christ of Nations".]. Samuel's insights into Jewish anti-militarism and anti-heroism make this very clear.

Nowadays, the Endeks are excoriated for believing that an unbridgeable chasm existed between the Jewish soul and the Polish soul, and that mass assimilation and conversion of Poland's Jews, were it to take place, would not (usually) transform Jews into Poles. As is true of some of their counterparts today, some National Democrats and traditionalist Catholics expressed concern over the "infiltration" of Polish society and the Catholic Church by Polish-acting Jews, which could potentially lead to the zazydzenie (Judaization) of Poland. Clearly, this harsh attitude was nothing more than a mirror image of the attitudes of many Jewish thinkers, including Maurice Samuel, (quote) Repudiation of the Jewish religion or even of Jewish racial affiliation does not alter the Jew. Some of us Jews may delude ourselves as some of you gentiles do. (unquote). (p. 137).

On a completely different subject, the author mentions the 1918-era pogroms in Poland as claiming hundreds of victims. (p. 131). This is an implicit refutation of fantastic claims, in the German and Jewish press, which had put the Jewish death toll in the tens of thousands.
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