In New Guinea, I Hear a Conspiracy Theory About Jews

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 38 Comments

I had a few responses to comments on my post about Jewish superiority. I agree Richard that the narrative has happened before, of Jews having court power and being expelled or worse. But I feel like this history is too controlling here, producing profound mistrust of the Other and a failure to discuss our power openly. We’re not court power anymore anyway; we’re principals. We’re senators and pollsters and media barons and deputy defense secretaries. I am made uncomfortable by the many threats I read on this site and other places, that the goys are going to push us out again, that kind of talk. But we live in a democracy, and elites have to be scrutinized. WASPs were, in my lifetime, which is a more relevant model for me than Egyptian history or biblical myth in shaping how I will respond to the crisis in American foreign policy, which is the basis of this blog. My country has lost its way. This is no myth, this is the absolute reality, and we have torn apart an Arab society and created a holocaust for 100s of thousands. Iraq has my rachmones, Yiddish for compassion…

I apologize for the naked expression of Jewish elitism, but it’s something I grew up with and have to come to terms with and it’s largely uninterrogated in my community. Also: I do believe that people will accept tribal elites if they don’t help wreck the foreign policy. People accept blacks’ overrepresentation in sports…

Richard here is an another important point. I am reading Irreconcilable Differences, a book about the American Jewish relationship with Israel, by Steven T. Rosenthal, published by Brandeis in 2001. I’m just reading the introduction, but a lot of it is about "the vaunted Israel lobby." Rosenthal says that after the 67 War, "the American Jewish community devoted much of its efforts to political lobbying, which was so effective that by 1970 support of Israel had become a foundation of American foreign policy." So Rosenthal is basically saying there that the basis of America’s support for Israel is the lobby. No, I haven’t gotten into this book, but the question arises, Where was this guy when Walt and Mearsheimer were getting smeared? Why didn’t he come forward? If I’m wrong, I will be happy to correct myself, but the point is that there are many Jews who believe a lot of what W&M wrote and they didn’t come forward. They closed rank, even as the Forward editorial cried, In Dark Times Blame the Jews. I find this intellectually and morally nauseating. Why wasn’t W&M an occasion for forums at Yivo with both sides? Or open discussions in the Forward? No, the community with the greatest intellectual tradition of any in this country demonstrated a tribal bankruptcy on the issue. And meantime an Arab society was on fire.

The flip side of this is that Everyone knows something’s going on. Everyone knows the lobby has power, and the failure to have the conversation allows antisemitic conspiracy theories of the sort that proliferate in my comment section–Jews and Israel are responsible for all that is wrong–to flourish. I think those people are wrong and nuts; they far overstate Jewish power. But we should be seeking the truth here, not shutting down debate. If you’re saying, Richard, that this happened before and didn’t work out well, so we’re not going to talk about it, that’s not USA democratic, and I think it actually hurts Jews.

Scott’s golf story is germane; and it reminds me of a conversation I had 3 years ago. I was in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, having a beer by the pool with an Australian New Guinean who ran the hotel I was in and his businessman friend. And the hotel owner said to me, "What is it with your foreign policy and Israel? It’s crazy. We hear that the Jews send their kids to the best schools and get them into key positions in the government and media and make sure that the U.S. will never be balanced. Is that true?" I didn’t have a lot to say to the guy. There was some truth in what he was saying though yes it was a conspiracy theory. And so this image of Jewish power, not entirely inaccurate, is held on the very opposite end of the world by an uninformed small businessmen, and by Korean-American immigrants at a golf course in the U.S. Shouldn’t Jews be a part of that conversation?   

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