Lovers of the Jewish people prayed it wasn’t true when the New York Post reported rumors this week that members of a Jewish country club outside Washington were up in arms against the possibility of Barack Obama joining. Alas, now the Washington Post has followed up with a report quoting three emails from Woodmont members objecting to the president as a member because he has allegedly been so hard on Israel, lately at the United Nations.
“He has created a situation in the world where Israel’s very existence is weakened and possibly threatened . . .” longtime member Faith Goldstein wrote on Dec. 26. “He is not welcome at Woodmont. His admittance would create a storm that could destroy our club. ”
When I was growing up I was taught that Jews are smarter than non-Jews. My mother pointed to the holy trinity of Einstein, Freud and Marx and said we had created modernity in the west. We won all those Nobel Prizes. But we had to have our own clubs because we were discriminated against.
Now it turns out we are just as stupid as any other entitled insiders. My in-laws have belonged to a lot of WASPy clubs. They tell me the non-Jewish ones pull these sorts of stunts all the time.
Still, I hope the golf story gets widely circulated and brings mortification on the Jewish establishment, by showing the world what has brought my people down: obedience to Jewish nationalism.
There was another example of goldplated stupidity last Sunday. At the 92d Street Y in New York, a leading Jewish cultural institution, David Makovsky, a distinguished expert at the Washington Institute, in dialogue with a plummy and presentable rabbi, Peter Rubenstein, trotted out a series of lies, mischaracterizations and insults of students who support Palestinians. These activists are “importing” the confrontation from the Middle East rather than “exporting the hallmarks of American society, dialogue, tolerance, pluralism,” Makovsky said. The group Students for Justice in Palestine is rooted in Hamas (“It seemed that they have some roots with Hamas, and it’s coming out of Chicago, a lot of this”). They are not a peace group because they are not for a two state solution. If they refuse to accept the Jewish state, then Jews should not recognize the existence of Palestinians. As for the Jewish group “Jewish Voices for Peace” (not its real name)– they won’t work with SJP and are interested only in a settlement boycott (more poppycock).
The tragedy of Makovsky and Rubenstein’s self-congratulations is not they are wrong. Everyone gets things wrong. The tragedy is that they cannot countenance any rebuttal, and they set the entry price at $36 to make sure no Palestinian riffraff comes in to their Upper East Side club. Barack Obama isn’t welcome at Woodmont and no member of SJP or supporter of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is welcome to say word one at the 92d Street Y. It would shatter their precious worldview.
A few years ago the eminent peabrains of the 92d Street Y even canceled a Palestinian speaker who had the misfortune of having three of his daughters killed by Israel but was going to speak about peace– because there was no Jewish voice to “balance” his presentation on stage.
You can call that a lot of things but you can’t call it intelligent. So the people who prided ourselves on elite status in western intellectual life a generation ago is now reduced to shadow boxing with opponents it refuses to acknowledge as human beings.
The possibility that Makovsky’s American values of “dialogue tolerance and pluralism” might cause young Jews to “export” the idea of separation of church and state to Israel: Makovsky grew up inside religious Jewish life in St. Louis as an ambassador to Israel; and the idea has obviously never crossed his mind.
It’s not just him. Hillel International has so far successfully quashed a student rebellion and decreed that anti-Zionist Jews, or non-Jews, are not welcome through its doors. By the way, Hillel is an organization that says it is devoted to Jewish life on campus. So much for the vaunted Jewish IQ.
Ten years ago another elite NY Jewish cultural institution the Yivo Institute dedicated an evening to the Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer book the Israel Lobby beginning with the invocation from a Harvard buddy who will go nameless that Jews are people of the book who believe that the best ideas win out in open debate. The next 90 minutes witnessed Marty Peretz, Jeffrey Goldberg and Daniel Goldhagen, smearing the ideas in the book as anti-semitic; and Yakov Hirsch, who lately watched the tape, tells me that Not one statement they made about that book was accurate. The highlight of the evening was Goldberg, who has lately been appointed editor of the Atlantic because he is in the estimation of the Atlantic publisher the best journalist of his generation, asserting that the ballbearings lobby has as much power in Washington as the Israel lobby.
Again, people have a perfect right to get things wrong. What they don’t have a right to do is claim that they are having an open debate when the people who don’t believe that about the ball-bearings lobby are not invited to represent.
Never invited. It’s been ten years since the Israel lobby came out and I cannot think of one Jewish space that has invited the scholars to debate their ideas. Yes, Tikkun gave them a hearing in 2007 but Tikkun doesn’t count as establishment. I believe Steve Walt was invited to speak at a class at Brandeis once, that’s all.
The Jewish establishment has determined that these men are wicked so they cannot be heard. This is tragic. Whatever you think of the Israel lobby, it is surely one of the most powerful theories about Middle East policymaking in the years since the Iraq war; and Jews need to engage these ideas. They’re not. They’re above engaging. Not very intelligent.
The reasons they cannot even hear these ideas let alone have a former president in the country club are of course complicated: persecution, ghettoization, self-ghettoization, the need to depend on one another against a hostile world; the cultivation of an understanding of ourselves as a victimized and very vulnerable minority, in spite of the growing evidence of our privilege. That is not the subject of this article.
But today the driver of Jewish mindlessness is Israel’s position against world opinion. The vote in the U.N. that the Woodmont members find so offensive was 14-0-1. Israel’s conduct is now abjured by world opinion, and the Jewish establishment can’t even consider that the critics are right. I have often argued that Zionism was once an ideology of liberation. But those days are long over, and today Zionism dumbs down everything it touches. Makovsky is a decent and intelligent guy; but because he is paid by Israel supporters (notably the Schusterman Foundation) he winds up lecturing Arab students about US traditions of tolerance and dialogue to get them to shut up about apartheid; and none of those Arabs is welcome to rebut his errors.
We once were famous for teaching young people how to think. Today the opposite is the case. Lovers of the Jewish people must pray for the rise of anti-Zionism because it is what will liberate Jews from this madness.