Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East

By Bernard Lewis | Go to book overview

11
The Pro-Islamic
Jews

When Lord Beaconsfield, Prime Minister of England, returned from the Congress of Berlin, he received the somewhat mixed welcome which democratic societies usually offer to their leaders. His achievement, as he saw it, had been to save Turkey from dismemberment by the victorious Russians, and thus to preserve both the peace of Europe and the interests of Britain. For his supporters, he had indeed fulfilled his claim to “peace with honor”; for his opponents, he had brought shame and strife to his country, by pursuing policies which were harmful and wrong.

The dispute was an old and bitter one in English politics. On the one hand were those who believed, in Lord Palmerston’s words, that “the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire are necessary to the maintenance of the tranquillity, the liberty, and the balance of power in the rest of Europe”—and, in addition, that the protection of Turkey against Russia was a vital British interest. On the other, there were those who rejected the Turks as infidels, barbarians, and aliens in Europe and saw no reason to obstruct the Russians in the work of removing them. The quarrel between the Turcophiles and the Turcophobes aroused strong passions and at times split not only the nation but also parties and even families.

Nineteenth-century polemic was notoriously violent in tone, and the controversies on the Eastern Question in particular provide some really outstanding examples of political scurrility. Attacks on E)israeli sometimes contain hostile references to his Jewish origin. These are not on the whole frequent and would not be remarkable in an age noted for uninhibited personal abuse. They can be easily paralleled by similar hostile references to other ethnic and religious groups in the country. It

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