Everyone is talking about Greg Smith’s smashing explanation of his resignation from Goldman, Sachs, as well they should be. A great moral document, it might actually change the “toxic and destructive” Wall Street environment that so nauseated the 12-year Goldman veteran. (Yes I’m a dreamer).
The Greg Smith statement was Made by the New York Times. If the Times hadn’t published it on the Op-Ed page, it wouldn’t have had near the impact it did. And who knows what the negotiations were like– but maybe Greg Smith wouldn’t have resigned in that fashion if the Times hadn’t published his piece. And to the Times’ credit, it followed up the initial op-ed with a top-of-the-front-page two-column story on Smith.
Back to my headline. The end of Smith’s letter includes this paragraph:
My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.
This paragraph recalls one of the greatest moral stands that the late Tony Judt took in his life– also on the Times Op-Ed page, when he stood up for Walt and Mearsheimer in April 2006 a few weeks after they had published The Israel Lobby in the London Review of Books. Remember, it was a time when people were smearing Walt and Mearsheimer as anti-Semites and saying they were crazy. And Judt thundered, They are right, the paper is “a wake-up call, a reminder of the damage the Israel lobby is doing.”
That Op-Ed included the fact that Judt was Jewish. In a parentheses:
(I know something about [anti-Semitism] , growing up Jewish in 1950’s Britain)
Judt later said that the editors had asked him to insert that phrase. Their logic ws obvious: it gave the piece greater traction inside a dubious Jewish establishment.
How large is the Jewish portion of the establishment? How central is Jewish opinion to the ideas and reforms that can produce social change– in the Middle East or on Wall Street? My own sense is that We make up the bulk of the east coast establishment today. Witness the Daily Beast’s decision to start a blog on Israel/Palestine at which 7 of the 10 writers are Jewish. “It is time for a Jewish conversation that faces—rather than evades—the realities of our time,” Peter Beinart wrote in kicking off that blog. And one of those realities is that a Jewish voice is more powerful than a non-Jewish one in establishment circles.