By analyzing the concepts of tolerance and of equal rights I have tried to show how the liberalistic emancipation of Jewry, within the ideology of which thousands of contemporaries still live, bore within itself the germs of its own decay. It was not liberal at all. It drove too hard a bargain with us. Yet it could not keep even that bargain. We did, above all in Germany, give the pound of flesh nearest our heart; we tried to pay the unnatural and corrupting price of complete assimilation. German Jews and Austrian Jews are today wandering the bitter roads of earth with not only nowhere to lay their head. That is secondary and temporary. But they are wandering in a void, in a spiritual vacuum. They are German quite or almost quite to the last fibres of their being. They kept nothing in reserve for a day of need. Nothingâ€”no pieties, no memories, no pride, no knowledge, no spiritual life or resistance of their very own. We may save their children in Eretz Israel. They are souls forever lost. They paid the full price exacted by the liberalistic emancipation. With jeering, with contempt, with inhuman cruelty and rancor it has been flung back into their bleeding and tear-riven faces.
You say: that will never happen in America. Here liberalism and the democratic tradition are bone-deep. Very well. In the Anglo-American people that tradition is in truth bone-deep. But America is no longer a purely Anglo-American land; how long will it even be predominantly so? Moreover, it should be said in strictest justice that the bargain of the liberalistic emancipation could not be kept, because it was originally lased upon the false assumption that men could blend with each other to the total elimination of their inherited characteristics. It is not so; it is above all not so with us, with Jews. Not only do we lose an ultimate substance of our own; we return.
I touch a sore point; I touch a sensitive wound. It must be done. There must be, if Israel is to be saved, if we are to emancipate ourselves, if we are not to become pariahs, no more sparing of that wound. The Gentiles could not keep the false bargain of the emancipation. They need not like the Germans and the Austrians have sunk back into primitive savagery. They could have said: “We forced this impossible bargain on you. It cannot be kept. Let us in human kindness and all reasonableness take counsel togetherâ€”you as the injured, we as the aggressors, but both caught in a web of fatality.” According to their own conception of chivalry and fair play and not hitting below the belt, of which all Nordics are so fond in theory that is what they should have done. But the bargain itself they could not keep.
Let us have it out. Let us be clear. Many years ago a distinguished biologist of the University of Vienna said to me: “The Jews are a great people. If all the Jews in Vienna who ought by virtue of both ability and character to be given chairs at the university were to be given them, the faculty would be so predominantly Jewish that the Jews could then just as well take the university over. It would no longer be a university representing us and our specific sense of life and mind.” I do not say the man was right. That is not the word. I do not say he was wrong. He formulated an unescapable part of the so-ness of things. Writhe as you like in your last wind-blown rags of emancipatory self-delusion. This thing is so.
Is it or is it not an open secret that most if not all American institutions of learning have a numerus clausus? Now if more and more Jews storm the doors of the colleges and universities and more and more Jews fit themselves for teaching chairs and, despite all difficulties and hardships, more and more by sheer ability and merit force their way in, will the numerus clausus be lowered, will the psycho-biological irritation of the Gentiles be appeased? Will not, on the contrary, the surfaces of friction be multiplied and the soreness of the friction increase until a day may comeâ€”I say may, not willâ€”when here, too, the Gentiles will say: “We are determined to be masters here; we do not care even for your brilliancy and your wit and your learning.” One thing at least is certain: the more we cry that they have no right to limit or exclude us; the more we call them un-American and undemocratic and blame them for not keeping the liberalistic bargain, the stiffer will grow their resistance drawn from psycho-biological factors deeper than principles or bargains.
What would tend toward a self-emancipatory solution of this single but highly symbolic problem? Go to the institutions in question and ask them openly and frankly to establish the constant proportion of Jews to their total student-body they will admit on absolutely equal terms and how many teaching chairs they will give us. Then pledge yourselves within a definite period of years to establish a university and colleges to which will be admitted exactly the same proportion of Gentiles as students and teachers. Ask, if you like, in addition, that for a ten-year period while the Jewish institutions are being established, the proportion in Gentile institutions be doubled in order that several generations be not lost…. That would be the first rational step not only toward our self-emancipation but to the emancipation of our Gentile friends and fellow-citizens from subtle fears and irrational discomforts. It would clear the murky air. Equals would be treating with equals on a great matter. Equals to equals can be generous. The relation of giver and of suppliant corrupts both.