Tablet has run a piece by Rich Cohen saying that another era of Jewish persecution is around the corner for American Jews. The golden age is over. The Holocaust was so horrifying that the world gave us a break for a while. The piece ends with the image of sharks coming in to feed and is filled with dark premonitions:
I know a little of what my grandparents knew. My worries are older than I am—ancient, the old history closing in.
Much of the evidence for the claim is Obama’s treatment of Israel and the criticism of Israel on U.S. campuses.
The piece is titled “Ebb Tide in the Golden Country, All is not as it was for Jews.” Cohen is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and author of the happy-talk book Israel Is Real.
The horror of the Holocaust purchased us a 70-year vacation from history, though we didn’t know it. We believed the world had changed, as had human nature. Jews remained distinct in the new dispensation, but in a good way—a near-at-hand exotic, a symbol of exile, which we were told was the natural state of modern man. For perhaps the only time in history, you might actually want to be a Jew.
That was the era of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow and then Seinfeld, Cohen says.
To those of us who came of age in these years, the future seemed like it would be more of the same, the present carried on forever.
We were wrong.
If you go online and read the comments on any story about Israel or George Soros or search certain terms on Twitter, you begin to feel the golden age of the American Jews was just a moment in time. Perhaps the old paranoia stirs in me, but I see ominous signs everywhere
His evidence is highly impressionistic; and a lot of it has to do with Israel and President Obama. Do you find this convincing?
President Obama? I don’t blame him, but I do think his disgust with Benjamin Netanyahu, which seems almost physical, as if repelled by the stink of the man, has given certain practitioners the sense that it’s safe to come into the open. It’s a frequent topic of conversation among my friends: Do you feel that chill?…
Then there’s the Iran deal: To get the papers signed, the president must separate from Israel.
Much of the piece is absurd. Where is the evidence that we are seeing Jewish persecution? Where are the quotas that were a feature of anti-semitic societies? (Both NBA teams in the finals are owned by Jews, no one in the U.S. gives a shit).
Cohen is surely right that the golden age is coming to an end. All things must pass. The era of the Jewish meritocracy that gave us three philo-semitic presidents, countless Jewish chiefs of staff and three Supreme Court justices, a Clinton administration “crammed with Jewish appointees,” per David Frum, who was part of Bush’s neoconservative Iraq-war braintrust, which was followed by the J Street “cabal” of America’s alleged first Jewish president, Obama– that era is coming to an end. Hillary Clinton’s tack left is a response to a multicultural Democratic base. Establishments change; Jews won’t have the same political power we had. And we’re probably paying for Iraq the same way the WASPs paid for Vietnam; get out of here.
But as for incidents of anti-Semitism, how many of them come from the Jewish identification with Israel? Cohen says it’s the opposite:
Some attribute the hatred to the policies of Israel. (“Bibi is to blame.”) But this confuses cause and effect. Israel is not the source of anti-Semitism, but a result. Before the Holocaust, it was said that the Jews in their statelessness were the cause of wars and disturbance, the burr under the saddle of mankind, the ghost in the machinery of statecraft. After the Holocaust, it’s said that Israel, the Jewish State, is the burr under that saddle. Though the condition has changed—no state v. state—the conclusion remains the same: It’s the Jews. To me, this is the world settling back into the Jew-loving and Jew-hating equilibrium that was unsettled, for a time, by the Shoah.
I think he is in denial of the fact that the world is upset by the fact that Israel is persecuting millions of Palestinians, and it massacred hundreds of children last summer. And if Israel insists that world Jewry must support it, as Netanyahu and Yair Lapid do; then Jews are going to get blamed for Israel’s conduct. The late Tony Judt and Norman Finkelstein have made this point eloquently. Israel could reduce anti-Semitic violence by not calling itself the Jewish state, Finkelstein said.
[And] official Jewish organizations in the diaspora, they could cease defending Israel’s criminal actions so it won’t appear as if Israel when it carries out these actions is acting in the name of the Jewish people.
Today, non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn’t do. But this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions. Diaspora Jews cannot influence Israeli policies, but they are implicitly identified with them, not least by Israel’s own insistent claims upon their allegiance. The behavior of a self-described Jewish state affects the way everyone else looks at Jews. The increased incidence of attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere is primarily attributable to misdirected efforts, often by young Muslims, to get back at Israel. The depressing truth is that Israel’s current behavior is not just bad for America, though it surely is. It is not even just bad for Israel itself, as many Israelis silently acknowledge. The depressing truth is that Israel today is bad for the Jews.