The Recent recrudescence of anti-Semitism in Algiers has faced the Jewish population with a problem which is becoming increasingly important as the agitation against the Jews increases in virulence.
The entire population of Algiers is about five and a half million souls, a million of whom are of European origin. These include 75,0000 Frenchmen and 200,000 Italians, Spaniards, Maltese, etc. Four-fifths of the total population are Mohammedans. Altogether there are only about 10,000 Jews in the whole of Algiers.
So small a proportion is hardly calculated to alarm the rest of the inhabitants of the province; but in Algiers, as elsewhere, there exists a very active group of people who regard the Jew as their chief enemy, because of the fact that he occupies an enviable position both in economic and professional life.
The Jew naturally lays much store on education, with the result that he secures positions of trust in the administrative organs of the country. He is also strongly represented in the municipal bodies in the towns. He is often a municipal councillor, a financial official, a deputy mayor, and even a mayor. In this way, he undoubtedly obtains a certain position of privilege and power.
The Jewish and Mohammedan electors have always worked amicably, side by side, but the difference between the Jew and the Arab is that the Arab is usually indifferent to public affairs, whereas the Jew invariably takes a keen interest in local administration.
The Arab regards himself as the real master of the country, although for the time being deprived of his patrimony by the French. Hence, his somewhat resentful attitude to the Jews, who seem to handle local affairs so much better than he.
In Addition, the Jewish persecutions in Germany have increased the nervousness of the Algerian Arab, who fears that the German Jews might attempt to find a new home in Algiers. Thus, a very big commercial non-Jewish firm recently had to put up with a violent agitation against its management for the alleged and wholly unsubstantiated reason that it contemplated giving jobs to German Jews. This firm has large interests not only in Algiers, but in the whole of North Africa. Fearing the effect of such an accusation among the Arabs, it felt itself compelled to repudiate its alleged intention of employing German Jews as a slanderous invention spread abroad by its competitors.
Further grist for the anti-Se-Semitic mills is provided by the dissensions between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, influencing Arab opinion throughout the whole of North Africa. Local municipal rivalries provide other sources of anti-Semitic propaganda, especially in localities where the Jewish vote has a not inconsiderable influence on the result of the elections and where the defeated party does not hesitate to accuse the Jew of every conceivable crime on the calendar.
Such an appeal to the grosser instincts of the Arab population is all the more effective since the majority of the Arabs, belonging to the poorer non-tax-paying classes of the population, is not entitled to vote in the municipal elections, whereas the Jews, who are regarded as “gate crashers,” belong to the propertied, tax-paying classes who, naturally, enjoy the right to vote.
Lastly, the world crisis is responsible for the spread of anti-Semitism by plunging the agricultural producer in Algeria into a state of hopeless and unbelievable penury, with the result that he becomes susceptible to all sorts of rumors about Jewish machinations against the Arab peasant, chief among which is the accusation that the Jew is a usurer fattening on the blood of the impoverished fellaheen, although, among the hundred known money-lenders in the province, hardly five are Jews.
Actually seventy per cent of the population in the towns depends on its livelihood on charity. To consider them responsible for a crisis of which they themselves are victims, is indeed not without its bitter irony.
But anti-Semitism the world over has always thrived on lies and, unfortunately, it has an easy time in Algiers, because of the fact that the local authorities have so far failed to realize the dangerous implications of an anti-Jewish agitation.