Sartre’s Portrait of the Antisemite

When Orwell read Sartre’s book Antisemite and Jew, which the following text derives from, he went on to publish an uncharitable critique, intending to “give a good boot” to “that bag of wind.” The gist of his critique, which was that the way Sartre generalizes “The” anti-Semite as “always the same kind of person, recognizable at a glance and, so to speak, in action the whole time,” is uncomfortably similar to the way antisemites themselves portray Jews, is worth considering, particularly with respect to the discourse on Islam and Islamophobia that has been going on the past two and a half decades. For instance, one could substitute “Islamism” for “antisemitism” in the following passage: “…antisemitism, even in it’s most moderate and evolved forms, remains a syncretic totality which is expressed by statements which can appear reasonable but which can lead to corporeal modifications,” and this begins to sound like jargon from Sam Harris or the bowels of some Neoconservative think tank.
Sartre’s characterization of antisemitism as a criminal ideology poses a problem for the standard liberal, secular view of society in much the same way that the questions about radical Islam do: can a tolerant society extend it’s tolerance to intolerant worldviews? Or is it appropriate to respond to an eliminationist ideology (such as radical Salafism, Neonazism, and the more extreme elements of fundamentalist Christianity) in kind—that is, by taking an eliminationist approach?
One may also question Sartre’s claim that antisemitism is per se “freely chosen,” by the antisemite, with no external causes. His position, which locates the source of racist ideology entirely in the moral cowardice of the individual racist, are, it seems, overdetermined by his own philosophy of freedom, ignoring historical, economic and sociopolitical conditions that in specific ways have made the Jewish experience an alienated one against what Freud called a compact majority. (See Hannah Arendt for a broader study of the sources modern antisemitism.) For Sartre’s purposes as a psychologist, at least, these conditions are trivial. Because l’existence precede l’essence, he would say, because our identity is not foreordained at birth nor wholly determined by circumstance, it is the individual’s moral responsibility to define themselves. Yet, because this freedom is a terrifying responsibility, which thrusts us into a world devoid of inherent meaning—where “everything that lives is born for no reason, continues living through cowardice, and dies by accident”—most people attempt to flee from this awareness by accepting false identities: the individual becomes a white man, a police officer, or other myriad things, fulfilling a prescribed role rather than facing the burden of creating themselves. As Dr. Johnson said, he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man. The antisemite, the white nationalist, and other such chauvinists, have absorbed themselves entirely into the “genius” of an ethno-national body politic a substitute for individual merit or achievement. On this “genius of the crowd,” Bukowski warned:
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average
but there is genius in their hatred
His portrait of the antisemite is, thus, basically an illustration of his views of radical freedom and the responsibility for self-definition, which is the basis for the moral force of this piece, yet one may not need to buy into it entirely to appreciate some of the choice passages therein. My own feeling is that his views aren’t quite correct in an ontological sense, but there is a moral, or psychological truth to them. As a profile of the authoritarian personality, of it’s fundamental irrationality, this is as good as any. The thing that allows authoritarians to subjugate others is a sense that they are transcendent of the rules that they apply to others, and ultimately, that there are no rules, only arrangements of power. They can impose rigid and even contradictory demands (such as when cops tell demonstrators to disperse while physically obstructing their movement) to fluster and frighten people into subordination. As Arendt explained at length, an greater problem is posed when authoritarian pathos become anti-institutional, and totalitarian movements are formed. In a time where authoritarian leaders are taking charge across the globe, Sartre’s character study, if nothing else, warns us not to expect a fair fight. An important lesson.

If a man attributes all or part of his own or the country’s misfortunes to the presence of Jewish elements in the French community, if he proposes remedying this state of affairs by depriving the Jews of some of their rights or by expelling or exterminating them, he is then said to hold antisemitic opinions.

The word opinion gives us food for thought. It is the word which the mistress of the house uses to end a discussion that is becoming too embittered. It suggests that all judgements are of equal value, thus reassuming and giving an inoffensive cast to thoughts by assimilating them to tastes. There are all kinds of tastes in nature, all opinions are permissible; tastes, ideas, opinions must not be discussed. In the name of democratic institutions, in the name of freedom of opinion, the antisemite claims the right to preach his anti-Jewish crusade everywhere. At the same time, used as we are since the Revolution to seeing each object in an analytical spirit, that is as if it were a whole which can be divided into its component parts, we look at people and characters as if they were mosaics, every stone of which coexists with the others without this coexistence affecting its inherent nature. Thus an antisemitic opinion appears like a molecule which can combine with any other set of molecules without changing itself. A man can be a good father and a good husband, a zealous citizen, cultured, philanthropic and an antisemite at the same time. He may like to go fishing and he may like the pleasures of love, he may be tolerant about religion, full of generous ideas about the condition of the natives of Central Africa—and still despise the Jews. If he does not like them, people say, it is because his experience has taught him that they are bad, because statistics have taught him that they are dangerous, because certain historical factors have influenced his judgement. Thus his opinion seems to be the result of external causes and those who want to study it will neglect the antisemite himself and make much of the percentage of Jews mobilized in 1914, of the percentage of Jews who are bankers, industrialists, doctors, lawyers, of the history of the Jews in France. They will succeed in laying before us a strictly subjective situation determining a certain current of likewise objective opinion which they will call antisemitism, a chart of which they can draw up or the variations of which they can establish from 1870 to 1944. In this way, antisemitism seems to be both a subjective which combines with other tastes to form the person, and an impersonal and social phenomenon which can be expressed by statistics and averages, conditioned by economic, historical and political constants.

I do not say these two concepts are necessarily contradictory. I say that they are dangerous and false. I might, strictly speaking, admit that one might have an “opinion” about the government’s wine-growing policy, that is, that one might decide for this or that reason to approve or condemn the free importation of wines from Algeria. But I refuse to call an opinion a doctrine which is expressly directed towards particular persons and which tends to suppress their rights or exterminate them. The Jew whom the antisemite wants to reach is not a schematic being only defined by his function as in administrative law, or by his position or his acts as in the legal code. He is a Jew, son of a Jew, recognizable by his physical traits, by the color of his hair, his clothing perhaps, and they say by his character. Antisemitism is not in the category of thoughts protected by the right to freedom of opinion.

Moreover, it is much more than an idea. It is first and foremost a passion. Doubtless it can present itself in the form of a theoretical proposition. The “moderate” antisemite is a polite person who gently remarks: “I don’t detest Jews. I simply prefer for such and such a reason that they play a lesser role in the activity of the nation.” But a moment later—if you have won his confidence—he will add the following with more abandon: “You see there must be ‘something’ about the Jews: physically they are irritating to me.” This argument, which I have heard a hundred times, is worth examining. First of all it is the result of using logic dictated by passion. For you can imagine someone saying seriously: “There must be something about tomatoes because I can’t bear them.” Moreover it shows that antisemitism, even in it’s most moderate and evolved forms, remains a syncretic totality which is expressed by statements which can appear reasonable but which can lead to corporeal modifications. Some men suddenly become impotent if they find out the woman to whom they are making love is a Jewess. Some people feel disgust for the Jew, just as others feel disgust for the Chinaman or the Negro. Thus this revulsion is not based on something physical, since you could very well love a Jewess if you didn’t know what race she belonged to, but it reaches the body through the mind; it is an involvement in the mind so deep, so complete, that it extends to physiological as in cases of hysteria.

This involvement is not provoked by experience. I have questioned a hundred people about the reasons for their antisemitism. Most of them limit themselves to enumerating the faults which are traditionally attributed to the Jew. “I hate them because they are selfish, intriguing, hard to get rid of, oily, tactless, etc.”—”But at least you do go with some Jews?”—”Indeed not!” A painter said to me: “I’m hostile to Jews because, with their critical habit of mind, they encourage our servants to become undisciplined.” Here are some more precise experiences. A young actor without talent asserted that asserted that the Jews kept him from having a career in the theater by always giving him servile jobs. A young woman said to me: “I’ve had terrible rows with furriers, they’ve robbed, me, they’ve burned the furs I entrusted to them. Well, they were all Jews.” But why did she chose to hate Jews rather than furriers? Why Jews or furriers rather than such and such a Jew or such and such a furrier? Because she had a predisposition to antisemitism. A classmate at mine at the lycée told me that Jews “irritated” him because of the thousand injustices which “bejewed” social organizations committed in their favor. “A Jew got a scholarship the year I missed it and you’re not going to try and make me believe that the fellow whose father came from Krakow or Lemberg understood Ronsard’s poems or one of Virgil’s ecologues better than I.” But he admitted the next moment that he disdained the scholarship, that it was all a muddle and that he hadn’t prepared for the competition. Thus he had two systems of interpretation to explain his failure, like an insane man who in his delirium pretends to be the King of Hungary but when suddenly put to the test admits that he is a shoemaker. His thinking moves on two planes without the least difficulty. Better still, he will succeed in justifying his past laziness by saying that it would have been too silly to prepare for in which Jews are passed in preference to good Frenchmen. Moreover he was 27th on the final list. There were 26 before him, 12 of whom were accepted and 14 were not. Would he have gotten any further if Jews had been excluded altogether? And even if he had been the first of those who were not accepted, even if by elimination one of the successful candidates he could have his chance to be accepted, my classmate had to adopt in advance a certain idea of the Jew, of his nature, of his social role. And in order to be able to decide that among 26 more fortunate contestants it was the Jew who stole his place, he would apriori have to be the kind of person who runs his life on the basis of emotional reasoning.

It becomes obvious that no external factor can induce antisemitism in the antisemite. It is an attitude totally and freely self-chosen, a global attitude which is adopted not only in regard to Jews but to men in general, to history and society; it is a passion and at the same time a concept of the world. No doubt certain characteristics are more pronounced in such and such an antisemite than in another. But they are always present together and they govern one another. It is this syncretic totality which we must now try to describe.

I stated a few minutes ago that antisemitism presents itself as a passion. Everyone has understood that it is a question of hate or anger. But ordinarily hate and anger are provoked: I hate the person who has made me suffer, the person who scorns or insults me. We have just seen that the antisemitic passion is not of such a nature: it precedes the facts which should arouse it, it seeks them out to feed upon, it must even interpret them it its own way in order to render them really offensive. And yet if you speak of the Jew to an antisemite, he evinces signs of a lively irritation. If we remember, moreover, that we must consent to anger before it can manifest itself, and that we grow angry , to use the correct expression, we must admit that antisemitism has chosen to exist on the passionate level. It is not unusual to choose an emotional way of life rather than a reasonable one. But ordinarily one loves the objects of passion: women, glory, power, money. Since the antisemite has chosen hatred, we are forced to conclude that it is the emotional state that he loves. Ordinarily this kind of feeling is not pleasing: he who passionately desires a woman is passionate because of the woman and in spite of passion: one distrusts emotional reasoning which by every means aims at pointing out opinions dictated by love or jealousy or hate; one mistrusts passionate aberrations and that which has been termed monoideism. And this is what the antisemite chooses first of all. But how can one choose to reason falsely? Because one feels the nostalgia of impermeability. The rational man seeks the truth gropingly, he knows that his reasoning is only probable, that other considerations will arise to make it doubtful; he never knows too well where he is going, he is “open,” he may even appear hesitant. But there are people who are attracted by the durability of stone. They want to be massive and impenetrable, they do not want to change: where would change lead them? This is an original fear of oneself and a fear of truth. And what frightens them is not the content of truth which they do not even suspect, but the very form of the true—that thing of indefinite approximation. It is as if there very existence were perpetually in suspension. They want to exist all at once and right away. They do not want acquired opinions, the want them to be innate; since they are afraid of reasoning, they want to adopt a mode of life in which reasoning and research play but a subordinate role, in which one never seeks but that which one has already found, in which one never becomes other than what one already was. Only passion can produce this. Nothing but a strong emotional bias can give instant certitude, it alone can hold reasoning within limits, it alone can remain impervious to experience and last an entire lifetime. The antisemite has chosen hate because hate is a religion: he has originally chosen to devaluate words and reasons. Since he then feels at ease, since discussions about the right of the Jew appear futile and empty to him, he has at the outset placed himself on another level. If out of courtesy he consents momentarily to defend his point of view, he lends himself without giving himself; he simply tries to project his intuitive certainty onto the field of speech.

A few moments ago I quoted some statements made by antisemites, all of them absurd: “I hate Jews because they teach indiscipline to servants, because a Jewish furrier robbed, me, etc.” Do not think that antisemites are completely unaware of the absurdity of these answers. They know that their statements are empty and contestable, but it amuses them to make such statements: it is their adversary whose duty it is to choose his words seriously because he believes in words. They have a right to play. They even like to play with speech because by putting forth ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutor; they are enchanted with their unfairness because for them it is not a question of persuading by good argument but of intimidating or disorienting. If you insist too much they close up, they point out with one superb word that the time to argue has passed. Not that they are afraid of being convinced: their only fear is that they will look ridiculous or that their embarrassment will make a bad impression on a third party whom they want to get on their side. Thus if the antisemite is impervious, as everyone has been able to observe, to reason and experience, it is not because his conviction is so strong, but rather his conviction is strong because he has chosen to be impervious.

He has also chosen to be terrifying. One is afraid to irritate him. No one but he knows to what extremes his wayward passions will lead him: for this passion has not been provoked from the outside. He holds it well in hand, he lets himself go as much as he wants, sometimes relaxing the reins, sometimes tightening them. He is not afraid of himself: but he reads a disquieting picture in others’ eyes and as he makes his statements his actions conform to this picture. This external model relieves him of the necessity of seeking his personality within himself; he has chosen to be all outside, never to examine his conscience, never to be anything but the very fear he strikes in others: he is running away from the intimate awareness that he has of himself even more than from Reason. But, you will say, what if he were only that way in regard to Jews? If he conducted himself sensibly in regard to all other matters? I answer that this is impossible: here is a fishmonger who, in 1942, irritated the competition of two Jewish fishmongers who made a secret of their race, picked up a pen one day and denounced them. I was assured that in other respects he was kind and jovial, the best son in the world. But I don’t believe it: a man who finds it natural to denounce men cannot have our concept of the humane; he does not even see those who he aids in the same light as we do; his generosity, his kindness are not like our kindness, our generosity; one cannot localize passion.

The antisemite willingly admits that the Jew is intelligent and hard-working. He will even admit that he is inferior to him in this respect. This concession costs him little. He has put these qualities, as it were, in parentheses. Or rather, they draw their merit from the man who possesses them: the more virtues a Jew has, the more dangerous he is. As for the antisemite, he has no illusions about what he is. He considers himself an average man, modestly average, and in the last analysis a mediocre person. There is no example of an antisemite claiming individual superiority over the Jews. But do not believe for a second that this mediocrity is a cause for shame. On the contrary, he is well satisfied with it, I might even say he has chosen it. This man is afraid of any kind of solitude, that of the genius as well as that of the murderer: he is the man of the mob: no matter how short he is, he still takes the precaution of stooping for fear of standing out from the herd and of finding himself face to face with himself. If he has become an antisemite, it is because one cannot be antisemitic alone. This sentence: “I hate the Jews,” is a sentence which is said in chorus; by saying it one connects oneself with a tradition and a community: that of the mediocre man. It is also well to recall that by consenting to mediocrity one is not necessarily humble, nor even modest. It is just the opposite: there is a passionate pride in being mediocre and antisemitism is an attempt to make mediocrity as such a virtue, to create an elite of the mediocre. For the antisemite, intelligence is Jewish, he can therefore disdain it in all tranquility, like all other Jewish virtues: these are all ersatz qualities which the Jews use to replace the well balanced mediocrity which they will always lack. The true Frenchman, rooted in his providence, in his country, carried along by a tradition’ of twenty centuries, having the advantage of ancestral wisdom, guided by proved customs, does not need intelligence. The basis of his virtue is the assimilation of the qualities which the work of a hundred generations has lent to objects which surround him, i. e., property. But it goes without saying that this refers to hereditary property and not to that which one buys for oneself. The antisemite misunderstands the principle of the diverse forms of modern property: money, stocks, etc. These are abstractions, things of reason which ally themselves to the abstract intelligence of the Jew. A stock belongs to no one since it can belong to everyone and then it is a sign of wealth, not a concrete piece of property. The antisemite can conceive of but one type of primitive and landowning appropriation based on a veritable magical connection with possession, in which the object possessed and its possessor are linked by a mystical participation; he is the poet of land-holding. It transfigures the owner, endowing him with a particular and concrete sensitivity. Of course, this sensitivity is not addressed to the eternal verities, to universal values: the universal is Jewish since it has to do with intelligence. What this subtle sense will seize upon is just what the intelligence cannot discern. In other words, the principle of antisemitism is that concrete possession of a particular object magically conveys its meaning. Maurras affirms this: a Jew will always be incapable of understanding the following line of Racine:

“Dans l’Orient desert, quel devint mon ennui.”

And why can I, mediocre, I, understand what the most shrewd, the most cultivated intelligence cannot seize? Because I own Racine. Racine is my language and my soil. Perhaps the Jew speaks a purer French than I, perhaps he knows the grammar and syntax better than I, perhaps he is even a writer: it doesn’t matter. He has only spoken this language for twenty years, and I have spoken it for two thousand years. The correctness of his style is abstract, acquired; the mistakes in French are in conformance with the greatness of the language. Here we recognize the reasoning which Barrès used against scholarship students. Why be surprised? Aren’t these Jews scholarship students? I’ve done nothing to deserve my superiority and I also cannot lose rank. It is bestowed once and for all: it is a thing.

We begin to understand that antisemitism is not simply an “opinion” about the Jews and that it involves the entire personality of the antisemite. We are not done with him yet: for he does not limit himself to furnishing moral and political directives. He is a process of thought and a world-view all in himself. One would in fact be unable to affirm what he affirms without implicitly referring to certain intellectual principles. The Jew, he says, is entirely bad and entirely Jewish; his virtues, if any, become vices simply because they are his virtues, the work that comes from his hands necessarily bears his stigma: and if he builds a bridge, this bridge is bad because it is Jewish from the first span to the last. The same act committed by a Jew and by a Christian is by no means identical in the two cases. The Jew renders execrable everything he touches. The first thing the Germans did was to forbid Jews the use of swimming pools: it seemed to them that if the body of a Jew plunged into this water, it would be utterly tainted. The Jew literally sullies even the air he breathes. If we try to formulate in abstract propositions the principle referred to, this is what we would get: the whole is more than and different from the sum of all its parts; the whole determines the meaning and the true nature of the parts of which it is composed. There is not only one courageous virtue which might be indifferently a part of the Jewish or the Christian character as oxygen combines to make air either with azote or argon and combines with hydrogen to make water: but each person, with his courage, his generosity, his own way of thinking, of laughing, of eating and drinking, is an indivisible totality. That is to say, the antisemite has chosen to resort to the spirit of synthesis as a means of understanding the world. It is the spirit of synthesis which allows him to see himself as forming an indissoluble unity with France as a whole. It is in the name of synthesis that he denounces the purely analytical and critical intelligence of the Jew. But we must point out that for some time both the right and the left, both the traditionalists and the socialists, have brought up synthetic principles in opposition to the spirit of analysis which presided over the formation of the democratic bourgeoisie. The same principles cannot be valid for both groups. The two groups at least make different use of these principles.

Everything becomes clear if we give up expecting the Jew to behave reasonably in conformity with his interests, if we discern in him, on the contrary, a metaphysical principle which forces him to do evil under all circumstances, though in so doing he destroys himself. This principle, as we might expect, is magical: on the one hand it is an essence, a substantial form, and the Jew, whatever he does, cannot modify it any more than fire can keep itself from burning. And on the other hand, since the Jew must be hated and since one does not hate an earthquake or phylloxera, this virtue is also freedom. But the freedom in question is carefully limited: the Jew is free to do evil, not good. He has only as much free will as is necessary to bear the full responsibility of the crimes he commits, but not enough to be able to reform. Strange freedom which instead of preceding and constituting the essence, remains entirely subordinate to it, and which is but an irrational quality of it and yet remains freedom!

There is but one creature to my knowledge, as totally free and wedded to evil and that is the Spirit of Evil, Satan himself. Thus the Jew is assimilable to the spirit of evil. His will, contrary to the Kantian will, is one which desires to be purely, gratuitously and universally evil, it is the will to evil. Evil comes to the world through him; all that is bad in society (crises, wars, famines, upheavals and revolts) is directly or indirectly imputable to the Jew. The antisemite is afraid of discovering that the world is badly made: for then things would have to be invented, modified and man would find himself once more master of his fate, filled with agonizing and infinite responsibility. He localizes all the evil of the universe in the Jew. If nations wage war, it is not due to the fact that the idea of nationalism in its present form involves imperialism and conflict of interests. No, the Jew is there breathing discord—somewhere behind all governments. If there is class struggle, it is not caused by an economic organization which leaves something to be desired: it is because Jewish ringleaders, hook-nosed agitators have seduced the workers. Thus antisemitism is primarily Manicheanism; it explains the course of the world by the struggle between the principles of Good and Evil. There is no conceivable truce between these two principles: one of them must of necessity triumph and the other be destroyed. Look at Céline: his vision of the universe is catastrophic; the Jew is everywhere, the earth is lost, the Aryan must not compromise, he must never make a covenant. But he must be on guard: if he breathes, already he has lost his purity, for the very air which penetrates his bronchi is contaminated. Is this not the sermon of a Cathar? If Céline was able to uphold the socialist theses of the Nazis, it was because he was paid to do so. Deep down in his heart, he did not believe in them: as far as he is concerned, there is no solution except collective suicide, non-procreation, death. Others—Maurras or the Parti Populaire Française—are less discouraging: they foresee a long and often doubtful struggle with the final triumph of a good. It is Ormuzd against Ahriman. The reader has understood that antisemitism does not have recourse to Manicheanism as to a secondary principle of explanation. But it is the original choice of Mainicheanism which explains and conditions antisemitism. Therefore we must ask ourselves what this original choice can mean for a man of today.

Let us compare for a moment the revolutionary idea of the class struggle which antisemitic Manicheanism. In the eyes of the Marxist, class struggle is in no sense the struggle between human groups. The revolutionary adopts the proletariat’s point of view firstly because it is his class and secondly because it is oppressed, because it is by far the largest class and its fate consequently tends to become fused with that of humanity, and lastly because the consequences of his victory will necessarily involve the suppression of classes. The aim of the revolutionary is to change the organization of society. And in order to do this he must of necessity destroy the old regime. But this is not enough. First and foremost a new order must be set up. If, assuming the impossible, the privileged class consented to cooperate with the socialist scheme and if one had manifest proof of its good will, there would be no valid reason to reject its co-operation. And if it remains highly improbable that the privileged class would willingly offer its assistance to the socialists, it is because its very position as a privileged class prevents it from doing so and not because of any internal demon which would force it in spite of itself to do evil. In any case, if fractions of this class detach themselves from it and become part of the oppressed class, they will be judged by their actions, not by their essence. “To hell with your eternal essence,” Politzer once said to me.

The very contrary is the case with the antisemitic Manichean. His emphasis is on destruction. It is not a question of a conflict of interests but of the damage that an evil power causes to society. Behind the bitterness of the antisemite is concealed the belief that harmony will be reestablished of itself once evil has been ejected. His task therefore is purely negative: there is no question of building a society but only of purifying the one that exists. Like the Good Knight, the antisemite is sacred; but the Jew is also sacred in his own way: sacred like the untouchables, like taboo natives. Thus the battle is waged on a religious level and the end of the struggle can only be an act of sacred destruction. The advantages of this position are multiple: first of all it favors sluggishness of mind. We have seen that the antisemite understands nothing concerning modern society, and he would be incapable of inventing a constructive plan; his action cannot be put on the technical level, it remains basically emotional. He prefers and explosion of rage analogous to the running amok of the Malayans. His intellectual activity limits itself to interpretation; in historical events he seeks the sign of the presence of an evil power. Whence these puerile and complicated inventions which render him comparable to the real paranoiac. The antisemite, moreover, canalizes revolutionary thrusts toward the destruction of certain men, not institutions; an antisemitic mob would consider that it had done enough if it had massacred a few Jews and burned a few synagogues. It therefore represents a safety-valve for the ruling classes which encourage it … But, above all, this naive dualism is eminently reassuring to the antisemite himself: if it is only a matter of getting rid of evil, it means that Good is already assumed. There is no reason to seek it in anguish, to invent it, to debate it patiently when one has found it, to prove it in action, to verify its consequences and finally to saddle oneself with the responsibilities of the moral choice thus made. It is not by chance that the great antisemitic uprisings hide a kind of optimism: the antisemite has decided about evil so as not to have to decide about the good. The more absorbed I become in combatting Evil, the less I am tempted to question the Good … When he has fulfilled his mission as the sacred destroyer, the Lost Paradise will rebuild itself. For the time being the antisemite is absorbed by so many duties that he has no time to think about it: he is forever on the verge, he fights and each of his outbursts of indignation is a pretext which distracts him from the anguished search for the good.

But there is more to it and at this point we approach the domain of psychoanalysis. Manicheanism masks a profound attraction to evil. For the antisemite, evil is his lot, his “job.” Others will come later who will be concerned with good, if need be. He is at the outpost of society, he turns his back on the pure virtues which he defends; he deals only with evil, his duty is to unmask it, to denounce it, to establish its dimensions. Thus we see that he is solely worried about amassing anecdotes which reveal the lewdness of the Jew, his cupidity, his ruses and his betrayals. He washes his hands in filth. One should reread Drumont’s La France Juive: this book “characterized by high French morality” is a collection of ignoble and obscene stories. Nothing better reflects the complex nature of the antisemite: since he did not want to choose his own good and, for fear of being different, allowed everyone else’s concept of the good to be imposed upon him, his ethics are never based on the intuition of values or on what Plato calls Love; it manifests itself only by the strictest taboos, by the severest and most gratuitous imperatives. But the thing he contemplates constantly, the thing he understands intuitively and has a taste for is evil. He can thus minutely examine to the point of obsession the description of obscene or criminal acts which trouble him and which satisfy his perverse leanings; but since, at the same time, he attributes them to these infamous Jews whom he treats with disdain he can seek gratification without compromising himself. In Berlin I knew a Protestant whose sexual desire took the form of indignation. The sight of women in bathing suits infuriated him; he welcomed this rage, spending his time in swimming pools. The antisemite does the same thing.

One of the components of his hatred is a deep sexual attraction to Jews. First of all it is curiosity fascinated by evil. But above all, it is connected with sadism. We understand nothing about antisemitism if we do not recall that the Jew, the object of such loathing, is perfectly innocent, I might even say inoffensive. The antisemite is also careful to tell us about secret Jewish organizations, of terrifying clandestine free-masonry. But if he meets a Jew face to face he is most of the time a weak individual who, ill prepared for violence, does not even succeed in defending himself. The antisemite is not unaware of this individual weakness of the Jew which makes him the helpless victim of pogroms. In fact, this situation delights him. Hatred of the Jew is not comparable to the hatred which the Italians felt for the Austrians in 1830 or to that which the French felt the Germans in 1942. In the last two cases it was a queston of oppressors, of hard, cruel and strong men who possessed arms, money, power and who could do more harm to rebels than the latter could have dreamt of doing to them. The sadistic tendency was not an element of this hatred. But since evil for the antisemite is incarnate in these unarmed and harmless men, he never finds himself in the painful necessity of being heroic: it is >amusing< to be antisemitic. One can beat and torture the Jews without fear: the most they can do is appeal to the laws of the Republic: but the laws are not hard. The sadistic attraction to the Jew which the antisemite feels is so strong that it is not unusual to see one of these sworn enemies of Israel surround himself with Jewish friends. Of course he calls theme “exceptional Jews,” he says: “They aren’t like the others.” In a prominent place in the studio of the painter whom I mentioned a little while ago and who in no way reproached the butchers of Lublin, there was a portrait of a Jew who was a dear friend of his and whom the Gestapo had executed. But such protestations of friendship are not sincere, for there is no idea in their conversation of sparing the “good Jews”; and while recognizing some virtues in those they know, they do not admit the fact that their interlocutors might also have met some who were equally good. In fact, it pleases them to protect these few people by a kind of inversion of their sadism; they like to keep before their eyes the living picture of these people whom they despise. Antisemitic women often feel a mixture of repugnance and sexual attraction for Jews. One whom I knew had intimate relations with a Polish Jew. She sometimes got into be with him and let him caress her breasts and shoulders, but nothing more. She got enormous pleasure from the fact that he was respectful and submissive and also from the fact that she divined his violently frustrated and humiliated desire. She afterwards had normal sexual relations with other men. In the words “a beautiful Jewess” there is a specific sexual connotation, very different from that which is understood in the words “a beautiful Romanian,” “a beautiful Greek woman” or “a beautiful American.” The phrase ” a beautiful Jewess” has a kind of flavor of rape and massacre. The beautiful Jewess is the woman whom the Czar’s cossacks drag by the hair through the streets of a flaming village; and the special works devoted to descriptions of flagellation give Jewesses a place of honor. But we do not have to search through esoteric literature. From Rebecca in Ivanhoe down to the Jewess in “Gilles,” not to leave out those of Ponson du Terrail, Jewesses have a well defined function in the most serious novels. Frequently raped or beaten, they sometimes succeed in escaping dishonor by death, but that is as it should be; those who keep their virtue are docile servants of humiliated women in love with indifferent Christians who marry Aryans. No more is needed to show the sexually symbolic importance of the Jewess if folklore.

With destruction of his function, the antisemite—a sadist pure of heart—is in the depths of his soul a criminal. What he desires and prepares is the death of the Jew. Of course, all the enemies of the Jew do not overtly demand his death, but the measures which they propose and which are all aimed at his debasement, his humiliation, his banishment, are the prerequisites of this murder which they are contemplating: they are symbolic murders. Only the antisemite has a clear conscience: he is a criminal with a worthy motive. It is not his fault after all if his mission is to destroy evil with evil; the true France has relegated to him its powers of supreme justice. Of course he does not have occasion to use them every day, but make no mistake: these sudden outbreaks of anger, these thunderous reproaches which he hurls against “kikes,” are so many death sentences. Popular awareness divined this and invented the expression “Jew baiting.” Thus the antisemite has chosen to be a criminal—a pure criminal: here again he evades responsibilities, he has censured his instinct for murder but he has found a way of satisfying it without admitting it to himself. He knows he is bad but since he is doing evil for the sake of good; since a whole people is awaiting deliverance at his hands, he considers himself a sort of bad sacred bull. By a kind of inversion of all values, examples of which we find in certain religions and, for instance, in India, where there is sacred prostitution, it is to anger, hate, pillage, murder and all forms of violence that the antisemite accords respect and enthusiasm; and at the very moment he is drunk with evil, he feels the lightness of heart and the peace afforded by a clear conscience and the satisfaction of duty well done.

The portrait is finished. If many people who willingly admit to hating the Jews do not recognize themselves, it is because they do not detest the Jews. They do not love them either. They would not do them the slightest harm but they would not raise their little fingers to protect them from violence. They are not antisemites, they are nothing, there are no one; and since in spite of everything, one must appear to be something, they murmer, without thinking of evil, without thinking at all, they go about repeating some formulas which they have learned and which give them the right to enter certain drawing rooms. Thus they know the delights of creating an ineffectual ripple, of having their heads crammed with an enormous affirmation which appears to them all the more respectable because they have borrowed it. Here antisemitism is but a justification; the futility of these people is, moreover, such that they willingly abandon this justification for any other one just as long as it be a “distinguished” one. For antisemitism is >distinguished<,. like all the manifestations of an irrational collective soul tending to create a conservative and esoteric France. It seems to all these feather-brains that by repeating at will that the Jew injures the country, they are performing one of those initiation rites which allows them to feel themselves a part of the centers of warmth and social energy; in this sense antisemitism has retained something of the human sacrifice. It presents, too, a serious advantage for those people who recognize their profound instability and who are weary of it: it allows them to assume the appearance of passion and, as is the rule since the advent of Romanticism, to confuse passion with personality. These second-hand antisemites take on, without much cost to themselves, an aggressive personality. One of my friends often cites the example of an old cousin who came to dine with his family and about whom they said with a certain air: “Jules cannot abide the English.” My friend cannot remember ever hearing anything else about Cousin Jules. But that was enough: there was a tacit agreement between Jules and his family. They ostensibly avoided talking about the English in front of him and this precaution gave him a semblance of existence in the eyes of his relatives and at the same time gave them an agreeable feeling of taking part in a sacred ceremony. And if someone, under certain specific circumstances, after careful deliberation and as it were inadvertently, made an allusion to Great Britan or its Dominions, Uncle Jules pretended to go into a fury and felt himself come to life for a moment. Everyone was happy. Many people are antisemites in the same way as Uncle Jules was an Anglophobe, and of course they have not the faintest idea what their attitude really implies. Simple reflections, reeds bent in the wind, they would certainly never have invented antisemitism if conscious antisemitism had not already existed. But they are the ones who, in all indifference, insure the survival of antisemitism and carry if forward through the generations.

We now understand him. He is a man who is afraid. Not of the Jews of course, but of himself, of his conscience, his freedom, of his instincts, of his responsibilities, of solitude, of change, of society and the world; of everything except the Jews. He is a coward who does not want to admit his cowardice to himself; a murderer who represses and censures his penchant for murder without being able to restrain it and who nevertheless does not dare to kill except in effigy or in the anonymity of a mob; a malcontent who dares not revolt for fear of the consequences of his rebellion. By adhering to antisemitism, he is not only adopting an opinion, he is choosing himself as a person. He is choosing the permanence and the impenetrability of rock, the total irresponsibility of the warrior who obeys his leaders—and he has no leader. He chooses to acquire nothing, to deserve nothing but that everything be given him as his birthright—and he is not noble. He chooses finally, that good be ready-made, not in question, out of reach; he dare not look at it for fear of being forced to contest it and seek another form of it. The Jew is only a pretext: elsewhere it will be the Negro, the yellow race; the Jew’s existence simply allows the antisemite to nip his anxieties in the bud by persuading himself that his place has always been cut out in the world, that it was waiting for him and that by virtue of tradition he has the right to occupy it. Antisemitism, in a word, is fear of man’s fate. The antisemite is the man who wants to be pitiless stone, furious torrent, devastating lightning: in short, everything but a man.

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