We recognise the important role nationhood plays in preserving cohesion and stability in society, or its decline when its identity is weakened. Being conscious of one’s cultural, national and ethnic identity does not, however, mean that one should have any less respect for other peoples’ identity, still less that a nation should seek to suppress or dominate another.
We are delighted to offer space to a respected Jewish theologian and writer, whose article explores the distortion of nationalism, particularly by anti-Semitic forces, in the public mind.
He is sympathetic to the Hirschian tradition within Jewish history. This German Rabbi and Philosopher believed passionately that Jews should be in the forefront of patriotism in their country of birth since they shared a common background and tradition with other Europeans. The re-emergence of this strain of Jewish thought can only strengthen the genuine and non-aggressive nationalism of the Third Position.
Since the Second World War ‘Nationalism’ has been heavily stained by the proclamations of pre-war fascists and post-war dictatorships, as prone to imperialism, violence and anti-Semitism — the fact that other adherents in the mantle of nationalism were and are opposed to these forms, have gone unnoticed.
For a genuine nationalist any manifestation of imperialism or the desire to conquer the lands of other people is anathema and a contradiction. How can one argue for the sanctity of the nation, and the right to create or maintain its own state, whilst breaking the sanctity of other nations? Third Positionists must be universally consistent if nothing else.
One of the greatest distortions was the introduction of anti-Semitism into the patriotic body-politic. The worst, or most popular (sic) manifestation was, of course to be found in Germany, culminating in the period of 1933-45.
The Wandervogel movement at the turn of the century was dedicated to romanticism, a return to nature, spiritual regeneration and the like, went through periodic convulsions on the question of Jewish Membership. Could a Jew join a German, romantic-patriotic movement?
In 1914, at the Wandervogel Conference in Frankfurt (Oder), the decision was made to allow local units the right to exclude Jews from their ranks and remove those already there. Goethe Germanism did not embrace Jewry.
On the philosophical level, Jewish thinkers often saw “Germanism” as a sort of beautiful “idealism”, a not uncommon notion in the early twentieth century world of thought. Dr Hermann Cohen was the foremost in this regard, but he had many disciples.
Jewish Bar Mitzvah boys of the Frankfurt Orthodox congregation of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch traditionally received, together with their Bible and Mishnah, the collected works of the great German authors, Goethe and Schiller. This was not surprising as Rabbi Hirsch always exhorted his followers to love and loyalty for Germany: “The soil upon which your cradles have been rocked… with deep and strong affection cling to the land of your birth.”
Throughout World War One, all across Germany Jewish congregations would sing in their synagogues Ich Hatt Ein Kamaraden in memory of the thousands of Jews perishing at the front of the war which — however senseless it seems in retrospect — was the litmus test for patriotism amongst European peoples at that time. It is estimated that at least 16,000 Jewish troops died in Germany’s service.
Although Zionism had its adherents it was always — before 1933 — the belief of a small minority. It was condemned as early as 1897 by the Rabinerverband in Deutschland in the following forthright terms: “Judaism lays upon its adherents the obligation to serve with utter devotion to the Fatherland to which they belong and to promote its interests wholeheartedly and to the best of their ability.” This position was the norm amongst both Reform and Orthodox Jews in Germany, both movements seeing Political Zionism as a conflict with Jewish Patriotism.
What is crucial to bear in mind is that despite some Jewish support for assorted radical leftist causes in Weimar Germany — here I am thinking of the Bavarian Social Republic, Kurt Eisner, Rosa Luxembourg etc — and some Jewish involvement in the moral and artistic decadence of the 1920s Berlin, the vast majority of German Jews rejected both those paths. In fact German Jewish Veterans fought, as members of the Freikorps, on the streets of many cities in Germany to defeat assorted Marxist rebellions, a fact that can be confirmed by referring to the highly informative Leo Beack Institute bulletin published in New York. As for artistic and moral decadence, the Orthodox Rabbinate of Berlin was constantly denouncing the seediness of urban nightlife in that metropolis.
REJECTED and DISSOLVED
Even after the Nazi’s rise to power in 1933, Jewish Groups continued to pledge themselves to a fatherland bent on rejecting them. On December 8th 1934, the Hitler Government ordered the dissolution of the Jewish Youth Group Schwarzes Fahniein (S.F.), this at a time when the Third Reich still had a public policy of allowing separate Jewish cultural structures to exist.
On November 23rd, 1935, the Deutsche Voortruppe (D.V.), a similar group, also had its activities banned. Once again the decision was in conflict with publicly stated Nazi policy. Of course Leftist Jewish Organisations had already been closed down, but the S.F. and D.V. were very far from being Leftist. In fact they represented the last tragic — and as it turned out, futile — attempt by German Jewish Youth to pledge themselves to a fatherland bent on rejecting them. They were both Jewish and passionately German Nationalist.
The S.F. was committed to defeating “materialism, anti-Semitism and Zionism”. It policy regarding Orthodox Judaism was neutral — meaning that you did not have to be Orthodox to be involved — although many members were Practising Jews.
The D.V. on the other hand was decidedly traditional on matters of religion and longed, in the words or its leader Hans Joachim Schoep, only “to serve Germany under any circumstances”. In October 1933 he wrote to German Jews and “acknowledged the momentous achievement of National Socialism by providing the German Population with an alternative to Liberalism and Bolshevism”.
Why then did the Nazis disband these groups? It was not just the apparently bizarre activities of the S.F. and the D.V. which were brought to an end by Hitler’s Government….
The Central Varein (C.V.) the major Jewish communal organisation in the country, and the publisher of C.V. Zeitung, was also a target of Nazi harassment and eventually closed down. Again, the C.V., representing the majority of Germany Jews, was fiercely patriotic and refused to accept a position of separateness in a nation they loved and served.
Finally, there is the awesomely pathetic case of the R.J.F., the Jewish Veterans organisation, composed of many wounded and crippled Jews who had been volunteers for Germany in the First World War. Systematically excluded from life in their homeland, they proclaimed throughout the 1930s in ever more desperate — and, finally, despairing — tones, of their past and present patriotism.
Nazism turned on all the above because it could not tolerate German patriotism amongst Jews. This phenomenon went against all the myths of this hate-filled party. In Nazi fantasy, there were no loyal Jews. Thus Zionists could be tolerated, even encouraged, but not Jewish German Patriots!
National Socialism brought to a tragic end the noble attempt by German Jewry to remain loyal to their religion, while loving and serving their country. The Nuremberg Laws, the Pogroms, Kristalnacht, the deportations and the widespread murder of Jews buried a sincere effort of Jews to be non-conditional patriots. From 1933 onwards the position was forever changed.
The overpowering dominance of Germany in this period eventually corrupted the whole of Continental Europe, Fascist Italy, for example, whilst using ‘nationalistic’ rhetoric to promote imperialism was persuaded to add anti-Semitism to its litany of evil.
The Italian tragedy is even more poignant than the German one, since many of Italy’s Jews had battled to bring Mussolini to power and fought to keep him in office. Yet in due course they were deemed expendable. Their loyalty was repaid by ingratitude, exclusion, hatred and death.
“It is…. a duty imposed by God and no less holy than all the others, in whatever land they shall dwell in, not only to fulfil all the duties which the laws of that land explicitly lay down, but over and above that, to do with thoughts, word an deed everything that can contribute to the weal of the nation…. to give honestly and joyously all that the community demands for the common good from the individual in the way of treasure, energy and wisdom.” (Horeb, PP.460-462)
It is perhaps one of the horrible ironies of the twentieth century that in precisely those two states where Jews tried the hardest to be Patriots — Germany and Italy — was born the most evil and maniacal persecution of Jews by Gentiles.
NATIONALISM AND JEWS
It is because of the horrors of these two national examples, and others like them, that hostile Jewish attitudes towards nationalism were formed. Zionism was also a response to the seeming inevitability of European anti-jewishness; Jews, as well as many Non-Jews, came to view all forms of nationalism as forever tainted by National Socialism, whatever the reality.
The time has come, though, for a reassessment on both sides. It is my belief that Third Positionist ‘nationalism’ is in no way the political heir to an anti-Jewish or imperialist tradition. It is about Distributism, Ecology, Regionalism, Popular Rule, Animal Welfare, European Culture and so on, the support of which is rooted in the highest moral standards of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
A FINAL WORD OF ZIONISM
The Third Position supports self-determination as a means of self expression and fulfilment for all peoples, cultures and races.
Most view theoretical Zionism as inherently imperialistic, whilst all Third Positionists see the refusal of the present Israeli government to grant Palestinians national self-determination as a grave moral fault.
I personally do not view Zionism as inherently imperialistic, as Israeli unwillingness to grant Palestinian statehood is in many cases based on a fear of what might follow. Without a doubt, though, the status quo is horrendous and must be rectified.
The alternative to the tragic situation is, necessarily, the subject of debate and exchange between men of good will. There were and are Jews who oppose Zionism for a complex of reasons, prime examples being individuals like Rabbi Elmer Berger and groups like Neturei Karta. There are also those who style themselves “Non-Imperialist Zionists”, such as Martin Buber and Judah Magnes in the past, and Peace Now and Oz Ve Shalom in the present; these people support the Israeli State but demand that it justly accommodates the aspirations and nationhood of the Palestinian people.
I see, therefore, no reason why criticism of differing Zionist forms should be equated with anti-Jewishness.
A RECIPROCAL RELATIONSHIP
The attempts, periodic throughout European history, to destroy Jewish culture and the Jewish people, can only be condemned by Third Positionists. We abhor the destruction of uniqueness whether racial, cultural or religious. It can only be appropriate for Jews, who have suffered much at the hands of those intent on eliminating their way of life, to view with loathing the slow destruction of the multi-dimensional cultures of the British Isles by Capitalism and Multi-Racialism.
Can we not work for the preservation of all that is good, and be done with the fear and hatred of the past?