Jews and the Modern World
The Emergence of the Jewish Problem, 1878-1939. By James Parkes. (Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 15s.) DR. PARKES warns his readers not to expect a full-scale history of the Jews in the half-century before the war What he offers them is some scholarly studies of certain aspects of the Jewish problem, as he conceives it. His first three chapters deal with Palestine, and his last two with anti-Semitism as a political weapon. The rest of the work is concerned with the Jewish minorities in pre-war Rumania and Poland and in present-day Russia. The significance of the year i878 is that it is the date of the Treaty of Berlin, which, in Article 44, required the newly established Kingdom of Rumania to accept the principle of religious equality. Having little choice in the matter, Rumania bowed to the demand, but, so far as the Jews were con- cerned, disregarded it. In the case of Rumania, Dr. Parkes does not take the story beyond 1914, so that it is a little lacking in topia interest. His other chapters on Eastern Europe have a less anti- quarian flavour, but even 1939 belongs to a dead world. There were then well over 5,000,000 Jews in Eastern Europe ; today there are not much more than about 700,000, and of these a large proportion have but one desire—to get out.
Dr. Parkes' studies help to explain why, but, apart from this, his painstaking analysis of the situation in pre-war Rumania and Poland bears rather a remote relation to present-day realities. In Poland, for example, a Jewish population cf well over 3,0oo,00o has been
reduced by war and massacre to something of the order of ioo,000. Dr. Parkes is incapable of discussing any aspect of the Jewish problem without illuminating it, but since his book was planned the scene has changed so completely that much of what he says about the Jews in Eastern Europe is now of little more than academic interest. This does not detract from the value of his researches as a contribution to the study of Jewish history. He has done a work- manlike job in giving shape and meaning to a series of obscure but not unimportant events never before—at least in English—so fully and so objectively described.
What Dr. Parkes has to say about the Jews in the U.S.S.R. is less authoritative but more interesting, for he is dealing here with a large body of Jews still in existence and with an experiment actually in progress. So tenuous are the links between the Jews of the U.S.S.R. and other Jews that no one really knows to what extent they have preserved their religion ; but Dr. Parkes is certainly right in crediting the Soviet authorities with a genuine desire to integrate them into the fabric of Russian life on a footing of equality. He takes an optimistic view of their future. The writer of a Moscow letter in a recent issue of one of the New York Jewish newspapers strikes a less confident note: " The masses begin to look upon the Jews as a foreign social caste who have not a permanent home of their own and manage to enjoy social privileges."
Dr. Parkes turns to Germany, Austria and France for illustrations of his final topic—modem anti-Semitism as a political weapon. He deals in rather bewildering detail with the complicated manoeuvres of obscure Continental politicians of a generation or two ago. But he may have felt that this was unavoidable if he was to make his point ; but for the accumulated weight of evidence, the story would be incredible. Coming nearer to our own times, he naturally draws most of his material from Nazi Germany, but he might, perhaps, profitably have touched upon some less familiar aspects of the sub- ject, such as the strategy of the anti-Semites in the United States, which provides instructive illustrations of what can be done where astute propagandists are found in combination with a large lunatic fringe. The three chapters on Palestine are rather disappointing, not because there is anything particularly wrong with them, but because on this subject Dr. Parkes has little to add to what has already been said ad nauseam. He devotes a good deal of attention to the interminable wrangle about conflicting promises. On this point he seems to be impressed by the Arab contentions. It would be interesting to know whether he has changed his views on the McMahon correspondence in the light of the recent testimony of Sir Stewart Symes. His approach to Zionism is sympathetic, and he gives the Jews full credit for their achievement in Palestine: " The growth of the Jewish National Home . . . is among the most outstanding pieces of constructive community-building in the sad procession of the inter-war years." What the reader will wish .1) know is how Dr. Parkes thinks that the problem can be solved and the tragedy ended. He answers the question, though rather vaguely, in his epilogue: "A new standard of judgement is required. . . . I suggest that the new basis is the practical basis of need."