Page 152 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Piety meant more to him now. In earlier years, he had tended to
shy away from Jewish orthodoxy as “a web of intellectually inde­
fensible formalism,” but that had all been before “the great study”
to which, one learns from
Mid-Channel
(1929), he gave himself in
Europe on his return from Eretz Yisrael. During the late 1930s
Lewisohn declared himself “a conservative nationalist Jew with a
yarmelke
ready in his pocket and a
mezuzah
on each door of his
house.” He was “religiously a conservative Jew; metaphysically
. . . very ‘rightist’; . . . a radical Zionist, hoping for the liquidation
of the greater portion of the diaspora . . . ” He still held to
bi-nationalism, but by the fall of 1938, with so much of Central
Europe in Nazi hands, he had turned his back on pacifism.
“Those who burned the synagogues and tortu red innocent
people to death on
Kristallnacht
cannot retrace their moral steps.
Their
will
has receded to a lower level. And since life on all levels is
dynamic, the wicked
must
become more wicked.” War in this
context was “a gleam of hope . . . At least now we can act.”
Not only his pacifism, his bi-nationalism too was a casualty of
the 1930s. Now he felt constrained to dismiss the Arabs of Pales­
tine as “semi-barbarians” and insisted that the “only solution” to
the Arab problem was “peaceful collaboration on the part of the
Arabs with the civilization we are building.” The war and the ever
bleaker prospects of European Jewry made for a more aggressive,
more militant Zionist stance on Lewisohn’s part. No more would
he be heard to advocate a Zionism divorced from political power.
The function of Zionism, he contended now, was “to politicize the
Jewish people.” The Jews had to be transfigured into a people
willing its own life, “and a will to life is and must be . . . a will to
political power.” Of course he was not unaware of the distance he
had come: “It is a great pity that we must stoop to the world’s level
of brutality and that our cause can not reasonably prevail by
virtue of its inherent truth and right.”
Lewisohn’s militancy asserted itself most astringently against
“what was once Christendom.” The Christian West had “let the
Jewish people be destroyed; without a quiver they saw the foulest
crime in all history done.” There was but one thing of value Jews
could gain from the Christian world — recognition of their right
to “an undiminished and undivided Eretz Yisrael.” Christendom
owed this to the Jews, for whose martyrdom it bore so immense a
guilt.
As the Axis tide ebbed, Lewisohn realized that the struggle for