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Jews To The Left of Me, Jews To The Right

Phoebe Maltz comments on The New York Times's discovery that many European Jews are finding new virtues in the European right's political parties. In addition to the considerations Phoebe and the Times bring to bear, it seems worth pointing out here that the contemporary European right isn't much of a right wing. As readers will have noted, I'm pretty firmly on the left in American politics. As readers will also have noted, there's an awful lot of room in conceptual space to the left of where I am. I haven't made a detailed study of it, but it seems to me that in most other countries I would likely find myself on the moderate right or as a swing voter.

Here in the United States, the right has a tendency (once, but mostly no longer, found on the European right) to serve up a mixture of hostility to intellectuals, Hollywood, journalists, academics, and residents of big cities along with valorization of farmers, soldiers, and small-town life that I, at least, find remarkably uncongenial to the values of American Jewry. I rather doubt, at this point, that there's any actual anti-semitism lurking beneath this murky cauldron of anti-semitic tropes, but still, there they are. Or to put it another way, granting that pretty much nobody on the American right seems to hate Jews as such, pretty much everybody on the American right seems to hate the things that, in practice, American Jews do. While remaining unimpressed with the tendency of many on the American (and more on the European) left to see Israel as simultaneously the most evil state in human history and also the root cause of all evils everywhere in the world, I'm equally unimpressed with the Christian Zionist view that Israel must be supported in order to encourage all Jews everywhere to move there in order to hasten the end of the world as we know it.

Like most Jewish Americans, I like America just fine, and am pretty inclined to see my family and I stay right here doing our thing. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that my family (including its non-Jewish element) lives up so happily to stereotype. We all live in the Washington-Boston corridor. We've all worked in the journalism/academia/entertainment complex except Uncle Andy who does have his PhD. Looking all squinty-eyed at our home region while extolling the virtues of Boise and "character" over actual knowledge is not increasing our comfort level. In Europe (or Canada) where such things no longer seem to be a big part of rightwing politics, and where such rightwing support for Israel as exists is less driven by bizarre theological considerations, the left's belief that Ariel Sharon stands next to Pol Pot in the pantheon of history's criminals would carry more weight.

But perhaps I'm just paranoid. I've mentioned this before, but there's an astoundingly awesome passage in American Exceptionalism (pages 172) about American Jewish paranoia:

San Francisco provides strong evidence of how some Jews can totally ignore reality. Polls taken by Earl Raab among contributors to the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation have found that one third agree that a Jew cannot be elected to Congress from San Francisco. His survey reported such results in 1985 when all three members of Congress from contiguous districts in or adjacent to the city were Jewish, as were the two state senators, the mayor, and a considerable part of the city council.
Funny, that. But I think the point stands. San Francisco is good for the Jews, and the Republican Party is bad for San Francisco. The fact that anti-SF sentiment is more likely motivated by hatred of gays and lesbians than of Jews is of little comfort, since we seem likely to get caught in the crossfire. Other Jewish fun facts from Exceptionalism Chapter 5:
Although never more than 3.7 percent of the population, and now 2.5 or less, they have been given one third of the religious representation. In many public ceremonies there is one priest, one minister, and one rabbi [ED: this was written in 1996, have they now been joined by an Imam?]. Strikingly, non-Jews greatly overestimate the size of the American Jewish population. A 1992 national survey conducted for the Anti-Defamation Leage by Marttila & Kiley found the median estimate of the percentage of Americans who are Jewish is 18. Only a tenth perceive them as less than 5 percent. . . .

An analysis of the four hundred richest Americans, as reported by Forbes magazine, finds that two-fifths of the 160 wealthiest Americans are Jews, as are 23 percent of the total list. Jews are disproportionately present among many sections of elites, largely drawn from the college educated. These include the leading intellectuals (45%), professors at the major universities (30%), high-level civil servants (21%), partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington, DC (40%), the reporters, editors, and executives of print and broadcast media (26%), the directors writers and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures from 1965 to 1982 (59%), and the same level of people involved in two or more prime time television series (58%).

One notes that while, generically speaking, the Republican Party is very friendly to rich and successful people, the specific brands of success here correlate extremely closely to American conservatism's most-loathed occupational categories. Lawyers, professors, intellectuals, civil servants, and the dastardly cultural elite.

February 21, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

"Jews To The Left of Me, Jews To The Right"

...here I am, stuck in the middle with...Jew?

There's no way I'm the only one who thought of that.

Posted by: Haggai | Feb 21, 2005 2:59:47 PM

Okay, you knew you were going to get called on that 'virtues of Boise' comment, didn't you?

FWIW, Boise has a thriving university, a Democratic mayor, a significant gay community, two enormous high-tech companies (HP and Micron) and many smaller ones, and more community theater and ethnic restaurants than any other city its size I've seen. (I'm not counting Cambridge since it's actually part of Boston.) It's the site of a wildly successful urban and environmental renewal project, and great hiking and skiing are only a few miles away.

That said, I still want to move out of here. :D But if you're looking for an archetypal Podunk town, you might want to pick something other than Boise.

Posted by: Dan Glick | Feb 21, 2005 3:06:04 PM

"granting that pretty much nobody on the American right seems to hate Jews as such"

This is false. See Robertson, Pat et. al.

Posted by: praktike | Feb 21, 2005 3:10:09 PM

I can't believe Phobe Maltz doesn't find anything extreme about Vlaams Blok!

I was screwing around trying to dig up some links and I find LGF mourning over their banning!

Holy fuck, what the hell happened to the whole anti-anti-semitism bit? I never took it that seriously but these guys embraced Vlaams Blok?!?!?!

Maybe I need to make some reassessments about where we are and fascism!


Posted by: Ed Marshall | Feb 21, 2005 3:17:04 PM

...they have been given one third of the religious representation. In many public ceremonies there is one priest, one minister, and one rabbi...

Not to mention one third representation in corny jokes...

Posted by: tom f | Feb 21, 2005 3:18:07 PM

...many European Jews...

I can never understand what this is about: religion? ethnicity? Nah, some cultural thing, I guess. You are not religious, are you - so how do you identify yourself with everything Jewish, and to what degree? Wouldn't you feel a bit more comfortable with someone like Duncan Black than, say, with the good folks at Brighton Beach in Brooklyn? This is confusing.

Posted by: abb1 | Feb 21, 2005 3:24:26 PM

As readers will have noted, I'm pretty firmly on the left in American politics.

If so, this says more about American politics than it does about MY. Clearly MY's attitudes toward social behavior are pretty solidly liberal, and I guess his comfort with some form of publicly funded safety net is liberal. On the other side of the balance, we have a pretty enthusiastic embrace of globalization and what strikes me as a genuine hawkishness when it comes to national security: overt, covert, you name it.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this more like a centrist hawk than a left anything?

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Feb 21, 2005 3:25:24 PM

I don't think you should be "equally unimpressed" with leftist anti-Israel beliefs and Christian rightist eschatology. The latter has in much more grounded in ethnicity, Jews qua Jews.

Posted by: Toadmonster | Feb 21, 2005 3:36:30 PM

I didn't say there's nothing extreme about that party, just that there's nothing extreme about 5% of Antwerp's Jews giving it their vote.

Posted by: Phoebe | Feb 21, 2005 3:46:15 PM

You don't think there is anything absolutely out of the world nuts about any percentage of Jews going to vote for a party which traces it's direct parentage to one that put Jews on trains to camps, who still sell anti-semitic literature as a fundraising tool, and whose open goal is to expel all non-Flemish residents?

Posted by: Ed Marshall | Feb 21, 2005 4:03:52 PM

...And there's nothing wrong with Jews thinking this way, going back and forth between the "left" and the "right" depending on which side is welcoming to them.

There are simply no 'them', Phoebe, this is all nonsense. Middle Ages ended long time ago, the WWII ended 60 years ago, Jews don't live in ghettos anymore.

There are all thinking independent individuals, some on the left, some of the right, some in the middle; they are not a homogeneous group, don't exaggerate. This is a typical false carass.

Posted by: abb1 | Feb 21, 2005 4:04:06 PM

abb1-
There's a problem with examining macro level group behavior? Or are you just denying that there is any group which can be meaningfully labeled Jews?

Posted by: washerdreyer | Feb 21, 2005 4:12:12 PM

Boise is bumpin', yo.

Posted by: praktike | Feb 21, 2005 4:13:47 PM

Matt-you are aware of a little thign called the Washington Times? Sliglthly ant-Semtic there don't you think?

Posted by: Rob | Feb 21, 2005 4:16:39 PM

And your point is what, exactly?

The figures you quoted (though less than 3% of the population, 40% of the 160 richest Americans are jewish and so are a grotesquely disproportionate number of academia, media, political bureaucrats and high-level legal personnel) might just have a teensy weensy bit to do with a surge in anti-semitism among both the left and the right in the United States as elsewhere.

And though Hollywood created the myth that Organized Crime was the province of the Eyetalians and a stray Irishman or two, the truth is that Israeli retiree Meyer Lansky "organized" crime in the Prohibition era and the Jewish Tribe has been an essential part of it ever since. These histories, mostly written by good Jewish writers without any ethnic axe to grind, are just starting to come out with stories about Julius "Caesar" Stein and Lew Wasserman of MCA who owned 95% of the musicians in the country, Ohio crime boss Moe Dalitz (the real godfather of Las Vegas), and so on. You might want to check these chronicles out.

My real hope and prayer is that ALL TRIBALISM of every sort would just vanish, at least as a way of looking at the world. Otherwise, the humans on this planet aren't going to survive much longer.

Posted by: sfmike | Feb 21, 2005 4:26:16 PM

Washer,
I think there is certainly no problem examining group behavior (in terms of politics) when the group has common economic interest. Or, less so, but at least some obvious common characteristic, like suburbanites, for example. But like I said - go to Brighton Beach and then go to Brandeis campus, go to Berkeley, go to Wall Street - where is similarity, what's the common ground?

Of course you can examine anything you wish, that's perfectly all right, I don't mind at all. Just an opinion.

Posted by: abb1 | Feb 21, 2005 4:26:44 PM

sfmike: "the myth that organized crime was the province of Eyetalians"?
MYTH?
Those are powerful drugs indeed you are taking. Capone? Gambino? Genovese? Bonnano? Columbo? Luchesse? Myths one and all.
Oy.

Posted by: Emma | Feb 21, 2005 4:57:24 PM

"While remaining unimpressed with the tendency of many on the American (and more on the European) left to see Israel as simultaneously the most evil state in human history and also the root cause of all evils everywhere in the world"

As a member of the European (German) left I find this kind of throwaway remark extremely offensive. Same for the Sharon-Pol Pot bullshit. I don't think we've recently had news anchors on national television telling jews to go to israel if they don't like christmas. The idea that the European left defines itself by hatred of Israel is a paranoid delusion.

Posted by: 123 | Feb 21, 2005 5:13:07 PM

abb1,

Do you feel any connection to Russians or the Russian people at all? Even ones who might dress differently than you, wear their hair differently than you, or have different ideas than you on what's important in life?

And even if you don't, do you imagine there are some Russians who just might?


Posted by: SoCalJustice | Feb 21, 2005 5:39:18 PM

sfmike writes: the truth is that Israeli retiree Meyer Lansky "organized" crime in the Prohibition era and the Jewish Tribe has been an essential part of it ever since.

You might want to check out the first thing you write after "the truth." Lansky did try to retire in Israel - yes - but the Israelis kicked him out and gave him back to the U.S. authorities to stand trial.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Feb 21, 2005 5:57:51 PM

It's always funny to see people like squeaky J's Lizzoid minions support a party with anti-semitic roots. The irony.

Posted by: Drew | Feb 21, 2005 6:06:40 PM

[
While remaining unimpressed with the tendency of many on the American (and more on the European) left to see Israel as simultaneously the most evil state in human history and also the root cause of all evils everywhere in the world.
]

Yeah, this was a deliberate strawman.

Nobody on the left sees Israel as better or worse than Apartheid South Africa.

Supporters of Apartheid South Africa could well have accused the left of being seething with Anti-Afrikaaner-ism, or even antiafricanism - which is how that term would translate to English.

At that, all we on the left can do is shrug, and try not to laugh because the people making that charge, in their own minds, are not joking.

Posted by: Jo Gordon | Feb 21, 2005 7:08:38 PM

[
I'm equally unimpressed with the Christian Zionist view that Israel must be supported in order to encourage all Jews everywhere to move there in order to hasten the end of the world as we know it.
]

That's also not a mainstream right idea. Maybe a few wackos believe it, but even in Kansas they teach evolution in schools. These wackos don't drive policy or either major party.

The right supports Israel for the same reason the right supported Apartheid South Africa.

White Americans identify with Afrikaaners and Jews (especially European Jews such as Sharon) more than they identify with Black people or Palestinians.

See, for example, Dick Cheney's famous characterization of Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.

Posted by: Jo Gordon | Feb 21, 2005 7:34:39 PM

Would someone please tell the treasury department that they don't owe this Debt

They apparently didn't get the memo.

Posted by: ladder | Feb 21, 2005 7:38:07 PM

sorry, wrong thread.

Posted by: ladder | Feb 21, 2005 7:38:49 PM

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