Fashionable anti-Semitism

A friend in New York (from which I've been away now for several months) shared this:
"From an article in the current issue of the Jewish Week:

Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac," on PBS, recently discussed how famous artists disagreed about French Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus when he was on trial for treason in 1894. Among the artists who supported Dreyfus: Pissarro (my favorite artist, Jewish and socialist), Manet, Monet, and Proust. Among those against Dreyfus: Cezanne, Rodin, Degas (whom I've read elsewhere was rabidly anti-Semitic), Rimbaud, and Jules Verne."
The only thing odd about this is Cézanne, who was a close friend and even disciple of Pissarro, according to an article I saw in El País on the recent exhibition of their works at MoMA (which I unfortunately missed).

Of course, anti-Semites have always made exceptions for their friends. I'm no expert on late 19th century French intellectual history, but I have the impression that fashionable anti-Semitism (which of course has always meant "anti-Jewish", not including the Semitic Arabs) was not, or not always, "racial" but rather a repudiation of allegedly Jewish cultural traits. That is, the view was that a person could escape "Jewishness" by adopting other traits (whereas a Hottentot would always be a Hottentot, no matter how well he spoke or held a fork). That was why an anti-Semite could have a friend of Jewish ancestry but who was not (in the friend's eyes) really "Jewish." And it was why Marx (grandchild of rabbis) could write such cutting sarcasm in his essay "On the Jewish Question".

The Third Reich changed all that, of course. It reverted to the more ancient "racial" view, which always had a constituency in Europe, even in the late 19th century when people like Wagner thought it was just a clever joke to say that the French and the Jews would do civilization a favor by committing suicide.

Image: Paul Cézanne, The Drinker. Oil on canvas, 45.7 x 37.5 cm (18 x 14 3/4 in); The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania.

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