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June 03, 1983 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-06-03

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Disraeli and the Rothschilds Statesman's Role
in Ending the Christians-Only' British Parliament

Benjamin Disraeli mer-
ited and received unlimited
attention on a world scale.
Perhaps a score or more
biographies have been pub-
lished describing his his-
toric career as British prime
minister. Apparently there
is no end to such attention,
as is evidenced in the
newest biography, "Dis-
raeli," by Sarah Bradford
(Stein and Day).
This enriching work has
many merits, noteworthy
the relationship with the
Disraeli made the im-
passioned appeal for the
removal from the statues of
the regulations barring
Jews — non-Christians —
from membership in Parli-
ament. Baron Lionel de
Rothschild had been re-
elected to and constantly
denied being seated in the
House of Commons. Dis-
raeli delivered his dramatic
address in 1849. He was si-
lent in subsequent years
.and the Rothschilds, his
close friends, were angry.
Rothschild finally was ad-
mitted, although in the
House of Lords there still
was the obstruction.
Miss Bradford, in her
superb biography, thus
describes the debate in
which Disraeli played the
historic role:
"The debate on the
Jewish Disabilities Bill
began on Dec. 16, with Rus-
sell arguing for the aboli-
tion of the disputed oath, on
the grounds that religious
opinions should not be a bar
to the enjoyment of civil
liberties which were the
right of every Englishman.
In the ensuing debate
Whigs, Radicals and Lib-
eral Conservatives followed
the Russell line, while the
Protectionists defended the
exclusively Christian char-
acter of the British legisla-
"Sir Robert Inglis, ar-
chetypal Tory and member
for Oxford, led the opposi-
tion to the bill which he
called 'an unmixed evil,'
with a very anti-Jewish
speech. These civil
privileges, he said, which
were not enjoyed by
Englishmen who did not
possess the property qual-
ifications necessary for a
member of Parliament, the
bill proposed to give to 'some
thirty or forty thousand
strangers.' For some, those
names and titles prove them
to be un-English. For those
who, as I believe, can never
be English.' He declared:
" 'Two centuries ago there
was not one single Jew in
this realm of England . . .

they came drop by drop,
preserving their own inher-
ent and insoluble character.
Did we invite them? — did
they come in for our con-
venience? — did they not
come in for their own? . . .
can they ever, as true Jews,
be amalgamated with us?

"Inglis was joined in op-
position by the humanita-
rian but deeply religious
Lord Ashley, who was of-
fended by the implication of
the bill that religion had
nothing to do with politics
and passionately defended
the Christian nature of Par-
" 'He could not com-
prehend how Christianity
could govern their legisla-
tion if a large proportion of
the Members of the Legisla-
ture were persons who not
only doubted, but whose
very distinctive existence
depended upon the contin-
ued, the conscientious, and
persevering denial of the
name of Christ and the pre-
cepts of the great Author of
"Pursuing this line of
argument to its logical con-
clusion, he enquired thun-
derously of John Russell:
. . perhaps his noble
friend intended to admit
everybody. Some years ago
they stood out for a Protes-
tant Parliament. They were
perfectly right in doing so,
but they were beaten. They
now stood out for a Chris-
tian - Parliament. They
would next have to stand
out for a white Parliament;
and perhaps they would
have a final struggle for a
male Parliament . .
"According to the prin-
ciple admitted by the bill,
he said, not only would
Jews be admitted to Par-
liament, but Mussul-
mans, Hindoos, and men
of every form of faith
under the sun in the
British dominions (Con-
servative cheers).'
"Later in the debate, Dis-
raeli, the focus of attention,
rose to speak. It was a
strange occasion for him,
Jewish by blood and Chris-
tian by religion, and, as
Robert Blake has percep-
tively pointed out, the diffi-
culties of the intermediary
position in which he stood
were indicated by the use of
the words 'them' of the Jews
and 'you' of the House of
"He had foreseen that the
argument would publicly
turn on the religious ques-
tion, whatever the under-
current of private anti-
Semitism. His argument,
therefore, aimed at remov-

ing Christian scruples by
pointing out that Judaism
and Christianity were prac-
tically synonymous, that
Judaism was the foundation
of Christianity.
" The Jews,' Disraeli be-
gan, 'are persons who ac-
knowledge the same God as
the Christian people of this
realm. They acknowledge
the same divine revelations
as yourselves.' No doubt
many of the listening
squires did not greatly like
the idea of their Anglican
faith being equated with
that of 'the Ikys and Abys,'
but worse was to come.

"They should be
grateful, Disraeli told
them because, 'They (the
Jews) are, humanly
speaking, the authors of
your religion. They are
unquestionably those to
whom you are indebted
for no inconsiderable
portion of your known
religion, and for the
whole of your divine
knowledge.' At this point
the first outraged cries of
'Oh!' broke out, but Dis-
raeli only warmed to his
theme. 'Every gentleman
here,' he told the as-
tonished House, 'does
profess the Jewish reli-
gion, and believes in
Moses and the Prophets,'
a statement that pro-
voked a chorus of angry
" 'Where is your Chris-
tianity, if you do not believe
in their Judaism?' Disraeli
asked them. He went on:
" 'On every sacred day,
you read to the people the
exploits of Jewish heroes,
the proofs of Jewish devo-
tion, the brilliant annals of
past Jewish. magnificence.
The Christian Church has
covered every kingdom with
sacred buildings, and over
every altar . . . we find the
tables of the Jewish law..
Every Sunday — every
Lord's day — if you wish to
express feelings of praise
and thanksgiving to the
Most High, or if you wish to
find expressions of solace in
grief, you find both in the
words of the Jewish poets.'

"No doubt most of Dis- as a practical politician and, visited him at Hughenden,
raeli's hearers thought he by 1849, the official leader Disraeli spoke to him at
was going much too far, and of the Conservative party in length and 'with great ap-
stirred uncomfortably in the Commons, he was anx- parent earnestness' on the
their seats. When, however, ious to avoid a confrontation subject restoring the Jews
he prepared to launch into between the eman- to Palestine."
yet another paragraph on cipationists and the legisla-
The Jewish background,
the same theme, . . every ture. He no doubt foresaw Disraeli's conversion, the
man in the early ages of the that emancipation must influence of the grandfather
Church, by whose power, or eventually come to pass and which caused retention of
zeal, or genius, the Chris- he thought that the Jews in Jewish associations by
tian fatih was propagated, pressing too hard were Isaac D'Israeli, are among
was a Jew,' the dissidents in doing their cause no good; the interesting biographical
the House lost patience and indeed on one occasion, in incidents recorded by Miss
shouted him down. 'Inter- August 1850, he told them Bradford. She thus traced
ruption' Hansard noted roundly to be grateful for these facts:
what they had already
"At the age of 13, a
"At this, Disraeli too achieved and that they had change took place in Ben-
lost his patience. He no cause to complain of the jamin's life which was to
rounded on his tormen- British legislature.
have far-reaching conse-
tors, telling them in so
"He saw the danger in quences on his future
many words that much of admitting the traditional career. On July 31, 1817
their concern for the implication that to be pro- he was baptized a Chris-
safeguarding of Chris- Jewish was to be anti- tian, his father's intimate
tianity was humbug, and Christian, and, as leader of friend, Sharon Turner,
that the real reason for the Protectionist party he on whose advice Isaac
their opposition to admit- knew that if the measure D'Israeli had taken this
ting the Jews was pure
was to pass, the hackles of momentous step, stand-
anti-Semitic prejudice:
Christian prejudice must ing as godfather. A com-
" 'If one could suppose not be raised against it. His plex combination of cir-
that the arguments we have solution, for both personal cumstances lay behind
heard . . . are the only and practical reasons, was Isaac's decision; trouble
arguments that influence
to stress the historical link had been brewing for
the decision of this question,
between Judaism and some time at the
it would be impossible to
Sephardi synagogue of
conceive what is the reason
'But Disraeli's feelings Bevis Marks as a result of
of the Jews not being admit-
for the Jewish race and an ideological quarrel
ted to full participation in his attitudes towards the between the older mem-
the rights and duties of a Jewish religion were not bers of the congregation
Christian legislature. In
one and the same; be- (such as Benjamin D'Is-
exact proportion to your tween himself and raeli the Elder) who up-
faith ought to be your wish
English Jewry there was held the old ghetto or-
to do this great act of na-
a gulf bridged only by thodoxy, and the propo-
tional justice . . . But you
what Lady de Rothschild nents of the Mendelssoh-
are influenced by the dar-
called 'his strange nian Reform movement
kest superstitions of the
Tancredian strain.' He which had spread from
darkest ages that ever was not interested in the Germany, represented by
existed in this country. It is
plight of the Jews in the younger generation
this feeling that has been
England, the majority of such as Isaac D'Israeli.
kept out of this debate; in-
"In 1813, without consul-
whom lived in conditions
deed that has been kept
of poverty and degrada- tation, Isaac was elected
secret in yourselves . . .
tion, nor apparently was warden of the synagogue.
and this is unknowingly in-
he roused, as, say He declined to serve, un-
fluencing you.'
Gladstone would have willing to take on anything
"He ended defiantly:
been had be been in the which might interfere with
" 'I, whatever may be the same position, by the his literary research, and
consequences — must speak notorious cases of anti- out of sympathy with the
what I feel. - I cannot sit in Semitic persecution in ruling orthodox party at the
this House with any mis- Syria, Russia and even synagogue. A row ensued
and Isaac was fined 40
conception of my opinion on Italy during the forties.
the subject. Whatever may
"As Constance de pounds, then a considerable
be the consequences on the Rothschild recorded, 'he be- sum, for his refusal.
"Furious, he bided his
seat I hold . . . I cannot, for lieved more in the compel-
one, give a vote which is not ling power of a common an- time until the death of his
in deference to what I be- cestry than in that of a father in 1816, when he
lieve to be the true princi- common faith. He said to terminated his connection
ples of religion. Yes, it is as me, as he has said over and with the synagogue, and al-
a Christian that I will not over again in his novels, 'All though remaining a Reform
take upon me the awful re- is race, not religion — re- Jew himself, had all his
children baptized Chris-
sponsibility of excluding member that.'
from the Legislature. those
"But Disraeli was a
Miss Bradford's biog-
who are of the religion in romantic Zionist; in
the bosom of which my Lord Tancred' he talked of 'those raphy of Disraeli surely
and Savior was born.' "
days of political justice merits a place among the
Miss Bradford pro- when Jerusalem belonged most interesting biographi-
vides extensive review- to the Jews.' Four years la- cal sketches published in
ing of the Disraeli novels, ter, when the young Stanley recent years.
and touches upon his
Zionism, in the years
when the World Zionist
Organization was not yet
organized and therefore
was in the dream stage.
The entire Disraeli career
was steeped in Jewish devo-
tion although he was nomi-
nally a Christian. He was a
strong advocate of emanci-
pation for Jews and the
Bradford account is impres-
sive. She wrote:
"Disraeli was not, as the
Rothschilds suspected,
Tel Aviv University's Prof. Mordechai Sokolov
lukewarm in the cause of has ,designed an automobile air conditioning system
Jewish emancipation but, which uses waste heat from the car's engine.

New Automobile Air System

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