First, it’s never okay to say that Jews own Wall Street because:
1. It’s not true.
2. It’s an anti-Semitic trope.
Unfortunately such are not the standards held by those criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement as anti-Semitic, for whom the rules are:
1. You can say that Jews own Wall Street—or anything else about Jews—as long as you are a “friend of Israel.”
2. On the other hand, if you are part of a supposedly leftist movement, of which an unrepresentative smattering of participants make the same assertion to the displeasure of all others present, then your entire movement will be branded anti-Semitic.
Take a look at a statement made by Rush Limbaugh last year, in which he explained that Jews who voted for Obama may now have “buyer’s remorse” because Obama was supposedly going after Wall Street:
There are a lot of people, when you say banker, people think Jewish. People who have, uh, prejudice, people who have—um, uh, you know—what’s the best way to say—a little, little prejudice about them. To some people, bankers is code word for Jewish. And guess who Obama’s assaulting? He’s assaulting bankers! He’s assaulting money people! And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.
Let’s parse this statement:
“[W]hen you say banker, people think Jewish.”
I don’t know about Rush, but when I hear “banker,” I think banks.
“People who have prejudice, people who have...you know...a little prejudice about them.”
No harm in a little prejudice, I guess.
“To some people, bankers is code word for Jewish. And guess who Obama’s assaulting? He’s assaulting bankers! He’s assaulting money people!”
Here Limbaugh plays a rhetorical trick. He evokes a premise, but—recognizing the premise would get him into trouble—credits the premise to “a lot of people” and “some people.” He even says that the premise carries “a little prejudice.” Yet after attributing this idea of “bankers = Jews” to people other than himself, Limbaugh proceeds to draw a conclusion on the basis that the premise is correct:
So I wonder if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.
You can only “wonder” this if you accept the premise that “bankers” and “money people” are synonymous with “Jews,” and that Jewish public opinion sways with the temperament of Wall Street.
Moreover, his conclusion is preceded with the following:
And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish.
He states this as a fact. The fact by itself is meaningless: there may or may not be a lot of Jews on Wall Street, and their representation may be proportionately higher or lower compared to wider demographics, but what is the purpose of making such an assertion? In Limbaugh’s context, it establishes a correlation between Jews and the gears of capital, which supports his conclusion that Jews may be experiencing “buyer’s remorse” from Obama’s supposed attack on the Jewish institution known as Wall Street.
So we have a classic anti-Semitic statement, only slightly veiled, of the sort that we are told is popular at Zucotti Park.
Immediately after Limbaugh’s statement was broadcast, the ADL’s Abe Foxman criticized it as “borderline anti-Semitic” and called on Limbaugh to apologize. In response, a number of prominent Jewish commentators and Jewish institutions rushed to Limbaugh’s defense.
Let’s take a look, then, at how these institutions defended Limbaugh, and compare it to how Occupy Wall Street has been tarred by the same accusations. Notice also how the subject often changes from whether something anti-Semitic has been said, to whether one is sufficiently pro-Israel.
The ZOA on Limbaugh
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) stated:
We are puzzled and shocked by Abe Foxman’s wrong, confused and irresponsible attack on the strongly pro-Israel Rush Limbaugh... not only were Rush Limbaugh’s comments not anti-Semitic, but Rush Limbaugh is in fact one of Israel’s strongest supporters.
“Limbaugh was simply telling the truth,” explained the ZOA, because “some prejudiced people could have interpreted this as an Obama attack against Jews.” However it wasn’t “some prejudiced people” who thought this. Limbaugh actually said, “So I wonder if...” That is, Limbaugh cited the stereotype not to decry it but to use it as the basis for a personal opinion.
The ZOA then called on the ADL to leave Limbaugh alone and instead denounce Desmond Tutu for the latter’s criticisms of Israel.
The ZOA on Occupy Wall Street
But when it came to Occupy Wall Street, the ZOA issued a press release calling
upon President Barack Obama, Congress and other public figure to explicitly condemn the manifestations of anti-Semitism that have figured prominently in the demonstrations of the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters....Various protesters are seen addressing the assembled crowds saying such things as “Jews control Wall Street.”
Which was essentially what Limbaugh said. Moreover, the only reason “the manifestations of anti-Semitism have figured prominently” in OWS was because groups such as the ZOA had been amplifying those isolated instances of anti-Semitism. However, halfway through the press release, the content shifted to criticisms of Israel:
Protesters, some of them anti-Zionist Jews, told the student newspaper that Israel uses U.S. tax dollars to occupy Palestine...
Pamela Geller on Limbaugh
Referring to Limbaugh as a “a great and wonderful friend of the Jews,” Pamela Geller stated:
Foxman has come out repeatedly against one of the greatest friends of the Jews and Israel, my friend the Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders....I took Foxman out for his attacks on our dear and precious friends of Israel, the Evangelicals...He demonizes the Christian groups that love Israel but is kissing the ass of Islamic jihad....
As a passionate, proud Jew, I stand with Rush Limbaugh and would take up against Foxman in a heartbeat...As for Rush, he is beyond delicious. He has such a yiddische heart, I’d marry him under a chupa :).
Pamela Geller on OWS
In contrast to her creepy defense of Limbaugh, Geller’s posted a video of a lone anti-Semitic protester being heckled by a crowd that has surrounded him and then commented:
“Jewish bankers” and such sounds eerily like pre-war Germany.
Neocons on Limbaugh
On the Commentary website, Norman Podhoretz criticized Foxman for his “vile attack” and his “chutzpah to denounce Rush Limbaugh as an anti-Semite,” claiming that
Mr. Foxman has a long history of seeing an anti-Semite under every conservative bed while blinding himself to the blatant fact that anti-Semitism has largely been banished from the Right in the past forty years, and that it has found a hospitable new home on the Left, especially where Israel is concerned...[Foxman] should apologize for the defamatory accusation of anti-Semitism that he himself has hurled against so loyal a friend of Israel as Rush Limbaugh.
Michael Ledeen chimed in:
[Limbaugh wondered] if Jewish voters are having buyer’s remorse regarding Obama. They certainly should, both because of Obama’s striking nastiness to Israel and of his attacks on “greedy bankers” (which Rush mentioned), free broadcasting, and of course the crusade against American medicine, all enterprises in which Jews have long flourished.
Wait, Jews have long flourished in “greedy banking”? Actually Limbaugh did not use the term “greedy bankers.” More Ledeen:
Rush should be a hero to Foxman and American Jews...Foxman has relentlessly attacked American Evangelicals—arguably the most pro-Jewish and pro-Israel people in America...
Neocons on OWS
Multiple articles on the Commentary website pushed the OWS anti-Semitism theme. In a piece decrying Occupy Wall Street’s “anti-Semitism problem,” Abe Greenwald wrote:
Anti-Semitism is the preferred medium of the pitchfork crowd. And today as the Manhattan mob heads uptown to protest at the homes of American business leaders (for their “willingness to hoard wealth at the expense of the 99 percent”) there can be little doubt that that’s whom we’re dealing with.
Later in Commentary, Alana Goodman posted the viral video produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI). The video warns of an “anti-Semitic/anti-Israel...
Mark Levin on Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh isn’t anti-Semitic; in fact, some of his best friends are Mark Levin. Here’s Rush explaining Levin’s position:
I have to tell you, folks, one of my closest friends is Mark Levin. Everybody knows this. Mark Levin is Jewish. Mark Levin is disgusted with Abraham Foxman.
Mark Levin on OWS
In an interview Levin told the Daily Caller:
I am appalled that Democrat politician after Democrat politician, including the president and vice president, are embracing these protests, even claiming to understand their supposed concerns and motivations, when so many of these people are using, among other things, anti-Semitic slurs of the oldest kind...It is appalling and I hope the public takes note.
Israelist groups on Limbaugh
A letter to Foxman signed by American Friends of Likud, CAMERA, Emunah of America, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, National Council of Young Israel, Religious Zionists of America and Z Street stated:
We are deeply dismayed by the unfounded criticism of the talk show commentator’s observations. While one may agree or disagree with Mr. Limbaugh’s views on many subjects, his outspoken support for Israel has been eloquent, informed and undeniable.
Israelist groups on OWS
The National Conference on Jewish Affairs, a new organization affiliated with Z Street, issued a press release calling on Jews involved in Occupy Wall Street to
remember that the scapegoating that results from class warfare rhetoric has historically made Jews a target and endangered our community. There has always been anti-Semitism, but in our lifetime we have never heard in this country, as we are hearing now, such open and brazen calls against Jews. We ask them to reconsider their support for these protests given that many are using it as a platform to spew the most vile anti-Israel language.
And CAMERA stated:
Whether anti-Jewish rhetoric is on the fringe or more commonplace, it’s clear publicity about the presence of bigots raises concern—including with certain extreme left, anti-Israel elements among OWS advocates.
Andrew Breitbart and friends on Limbaugh
On Twitter, Andrew Breitbart called on Foxman to “apologize to Rush Limbaugh” and included a link to a Ben Shapiro article on Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com website, where Shapiro labeled Foxman’s criticism of Limbaugh
sick, and it’s cynical, and it is myopic in the extreme. While Foxman ignores Islamic anti-Semitism and radical Jew-hatred on the left, he immediately attacks anyone and everyone on the right who even mentions Jews. While he’s busy defending anti-Israel puppet George Mitchell as “fair” and “meticulously even-handed,” he’s ripping Israel defender, philo-Semite and open Christian Ann Coulter as an anti-Semite (I’m personally close friends with Ann, as are Michael Medved and Dennis Prager, to name a few prominent Jews).
Another conservative commentator associated with Breitbart, Jeff Dunetz, referred to Foxman’s accusation as “rubbish”:
As a long-time listener of the show, and someone who tends to wear his “yarmulke on his sleeve,” I have never heard Limbaugh utter something that caused me to think he was a Jew-hater....Perhaps [the ADL] should spend a little more of its time on its primary mission, stopping REAL anti-Semitism in the world.
Andrew Breitbart and friends on OWS
The same Ben Shapiro decried
the OWS’ complacency with regard to anti-Semitism in its midst.... the hard left still buys into the discredited notions [that] Jews supposedly plotted the takeover of the world economy...[that] Jerusalem is supposedly the capital of the Jew/banker conspiracy. That sick notion pervades the rhetoric of the OWS rallies. Says one OWS rallier in Los Angeles, “I think the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve … need to be run out of this country.”
Meanwhile Jeff Dunetz on Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com accused Rep. Steve Israel of “abandon[ing] the Jewish State and the Jewish people” by embracing Occupy Wall Street, “whose members have displayed a hatred of both the Jews and the Jewish State.” Another Dunetz piece attempted to connect—through several degrees of separation—OWS participants to a reader comment left on the Adbusters website in 2009, and which evoked “the anti-Semitic meme that Jews own the Banks.”
Bretibart.tv also featured a video interview with a lone OWS protester who just happened to be one of the two anti-Semites featured in the EIC video. In fact, an onlooker can be heard saying, “You’re already all over the internet as being anti-Semitic.”
Limbaugh on Limbaugh
In response to Foxman, Limbaugh claimed that he was simply referring to “Jew-haters out there.” However, in his original statement, he never used the term “Jew-haters” or even “anti-Semites.” Instead he spoke of “some people” with “a little prejudice.” And he used the premises of such people, along with his own inserted fact that “a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish,” to conclude that Jews were having “buyer’s remorse” because Obama was going after “bankers” and “money people.”
Moreover, Limbaugh never explained what he meant by saying, in the same context, that taxes are “anathema to Jewish people.” We can only conclude the obvious: it means what it says.
Limbaugh later stated:
Mr. Foxman, if you really want to go after anti-Semitism, you should first start looking at it on the left and within the Obama administration and within his circle of friends because that’s where you’re going to find it. You’re not going to find any anti-Semitism on this radio show. You’re going to find nothing but love and respect and admiration for the Jewish people and an unwavering support for Israel that has not ever shaken.
Limbaugh on OWS
It is therefore unsurprising that Limbaugh, hoping to finally rid himself of the anti-Semitism charge, would attribute regrettable comments he made just last year to Occupy Wall Street today.
Thus on October 5, he explained Adbusters, whom he credited with starting OWS:
So in their corrupt and perverted minds Jewish money traders, Jewish bankers on Wall Street, why, it’s a natural target.
Compare this to Rush’s comments on Obama: “He’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish.”
Then on October 11, Limbaugh elaborated:
There’s a lot of interesting stuff here. Occupy Wall Street now, 99%, that leaves 1%, roughly the percentage of Jews in the population, too.
What, did Glenn Beck do the math?
And Wall Street and bankers have been anti-Semitic code for Jews in this country going back quite a while...
And a lot of people—a lot of people like to think that Wall Street’s all made up of Jewish people .
Could be because they heard it from Rush last year.
They could unleash a bunch of anti-Jewish racism down there if they’re not careful with this, ’cause there’s much more going on here than you just see at the surface.
(I do not mean to let Abe Foxman off the hook. Foxman also has a history of glossing over the anti-Semitism of people he deems good for Israel. In 2003 he presented Silvio Berlusconi with the ADL’sDistinguished Statesman Award for supporting Israel, overlooking Berlusconi’s claims that Mussolini oversaw a “benign dictatorship. Mussolini did not murder anyone. Mussolini sent people on holiday tointernal exile.” When Harry Truman’s 1947 diary was discovered, researchers found an entry declaring, “The Jews, I find are very, very selfish.” Truman also wrote that Jews surpassed Hitler and Stalin in “cruelty or mistreatment to the under dog.” Foxman’s response was to call Truman, who pushed for the establishment of Israel, a “flawed hero” whose anti-Semitism was simply “a product of his time”—a peculiar justification coming from the head of an organization that purports to fight anti-Semitism. And contrary to the claims of his right-wing critics, Foxman has embraced fundamentalist Christian anti-Semites. To Foxman, Jerry Falwell was a “dear friend of Israel,” John Hagee plays a positive role “because of his support for Israel,” and “the pro-Israel perspective of Evangelical Christians is much appreciated,” while their anti-Semitic agenda can “take a backseat to current realities.”)