Several media outlets have now telegraphed the claim that Ron Paul is anti-Semitic. The New York Times said Paul has support from people with “anti-Jewish” views, and later equated anti-Zionism with white supremacism. This Daily Beast piece by rightwinger Michael Medved said Paul’s newsletter was “studded” with anti-Semitism, making him “untrustworthy when it comes to the serious business of governance.” This Tablet piece by Marc Tracy yesterday began:
“As a Jew, I hope Rep. Ron Paul does not win today’s Iowa caucuses. This isn’t about policy differences, although certainly, say, the Republican Jewish Coalition found enough simply in Paul’s policies—his support for a more isolationist stance, including reducing aid to Israel, and his total lack of concern for Iran’s race to build nuclear weapons—to condemn him. It is the publication in the 1990s of newsletters, under his name and reportedly written by a close adviser, that trafficked in racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism (greatest hits here [link to New Republic]), combined with his refusal to treat this fact as something serious rather than a bugaboo trumped up by his enemies and the mainstream media, or to acknowledge that he was aware of the newsletters’ contents and defended them. It’s his rantings about the Trilateral Commission. It’s comparing Gaza to a concentration camp. You can make a case that President Obama is wrong on Israel, but you can’t in good faith argue that he is motivated by anti-Jewish animus. Ron Paul, by contrast, is not one of our friends….”
“Not one of our friends” suggests the degree to which Paul touches on traditional fears inside the Jewish community of populist politicians. Melvin Urofsky, the historian of American Zionism, touches on this fear in “We Are One! American Jewry and Israel” (1978):
“A four-year study by the Anti-Defamation League released in April 1969 reported a far higher level of lingering anti-Semitism than many analysts had expected…. 37 percent of the American people still retained negative images of Jews [they’re international bankers, or clannish, powerful, ambitious]… Should there be a severe economic dislocation, the survey found, more than 50 percent of the respondents would vote for an anti-Semitic candidate.”
And of course, Philip Roth fantasized about an anti-semitic presidential campaign in his Lindbergh novel, The Plot Against America (2004).
How much of this is paranoia? How much of it historically-justified? Jerry Slater and I are probably going to have a dialogue about this in weeks to come…