An article which recently appeared in a leading US magazine has alleged that the famous 20th century essayist and author G.K. Chesterton was "obsessively anti-Semite". The article, written by prominent American essay-writer Adam Gopnik, claims that Chesterton's "hatred" of Jews was linked to his Catholicism. (Chesterton became a Roman Catholic in 1922).
Gopnik admits that Chesterton condemned the Nazi persecution of Jews, adding however that that he had written that he would tolerate Jews in England "but only if they are compelled to wear 'Arab' clothing". Gopnik, who confesses to love Chesterton's writings states that Chesterton "dreamed of an anti-capitalist, agricultural state overseen by the Catholic Church and governed by a military for whom medieval ideas of honour still resonated, a place where Jews would not be persecuted or killed, certainly, but hived off and always marked as foreigners..."
Gopnik's allegations have been dismissed by Dr William Oddie, whose book Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy will be published in November. While admitting that Chesterton's views on Jews were "eccentric" he holds that they were no different from those of Zionists, who maintained that Jews were exiles and would never be happy until they had their own country. (Chesterton died in 1936 before the state of Israel was created in 1948.) Dr Oddie states that "Gopnik is quoting grotesquely out of context" and that on several occasions in the late 19th century, Chesterton had passionately attacked anti-Semitism and that he particularly disliked the persecution of Jews.
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