Untimely Observations

Settling Scores


Lest someone misrepresent what I've said about Jews and Israel, let me restate the positions that I've taken more often than I care to recall.

I am not (repeat not) against the Jewish state of Israel. I have apparently upset some readers by suggesting that Israeli sympathizers in the U.S. and in Europe should recognize the equal right of Euro-Americans to have their national identities. If preserving an ethnic national character is good for Jews, it should be equally so for Poles, Russians, Frenchmen, Germans, and Danes. Like the German philosopher Herder, I believe that the spirit of nations is reflected in their epic literature, customs, and political traditions; peoples have a right and even a duty to preserve their national character, as long as it is not asserted aggressively against other countries or aimed at demeaning national minorities that happen to reside in one's land. Needless to say, a respect for minorities does not extend to allowing alien groups to enter and occupy one's country. There is nothing undemocratic (if democracy is understood in its pre-multicultural and pre-managerial state form) about controlling immigration in accordance with national interest. This interest should take into account cultural compatibility as well as economic need.

I am most certainly not an unqualified admirer of either "paleoconservatives" or the "paleoconservative movement." I have argued strenuously over questions of principle with members of this school, and if my critics bother to notice, I have published highly provocative essays that maintain that paleoconservatism is a movement whose time has come and gone. Depicting me as a slavish follower of this movement is plainly absurd.  Indeed I would like to see the citations in which I show such a slavish attitude. And I would like to see quotations from my work in which I indicate that I agree with either Pat Buchanan or Taki in viewing Israel as an aggressor nation that bears sole responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process with the Palestinians. What I have attempted to do is explain why such venerable critics of the neoconservatives hold different views on Israel from mine.

Lest my attackers have not noticed, AIPAC and its neoconservative vanguard are not exactly congenial representatives of Israeli interests. As a 30-year target of these representatives, because of my identification as a "paleo," I can't say I like them any better than does Pat. It is for me entirely conceivable that those who have to deal with the Israeli lobby and its Christian Zionist backers in the U.S. might form a negative opinion about Israeli foreign policy. One can easily make this assumption, without having to attribute to those on the other side anti-Semitic motives. But alas, it seems that my unwillingness to compare Pat and Taki to Julius Streicher has caused me to be typed as a "self-hating Jew."

Contrary to another ill-founded opinion, I am not a yes-man for Kevin MacDonald, whom I supposedly follow because of my irrational attachment to "paleoconservatism." Unfortunately my critics haven't bothered to dig up and read my review essays of MacDonald's thoughtful work. If they did, they would discover that while I agree with his association of liberalism with a Jewish defensive strategy against white Christians, I do not embrace all aspects of his theory.

For example, I ascribe Jewish anti-Christian behavior not to a competition for resources between rival ethnic groups but to Jewish distaste for and anxiety about a once dominant Christian culture. What I have stressed is not Jewish competitiveness directed against the Christian majority but Jewish fear of being persecuted or eventually marginalized by an unpalatable majority group.

But I have also indicated that contrary to MacDonald's argument, those Jews who are least hostile to Christians are the ones who have the least contact with them. The Orthodox, who are truly a "people apart," are the least leftist Jews in the U.S., save for those Jewish immigrants who have lived under Muslim rule. Ashkenazi Jews, and particularly those of Eastern European descent, who arrived in the West later than the German and Sephardic Jews, have the greatest problem feeling comfortable among practicing Christians. They therefore tend to be the most leftist, once they have left Orthodox communities.

Ironically Jews, who are often misrepresented as the most easily adaptable minority group because of their professional successes and role in the cultural industry, bring lots of baggage with them. Noting this may be useful and is not in any way an expression of hate. Although I don't accept entirely his tendentious survey of Jewish history over the last 4000 years, I nonetheless agree with MacDonald's demonstration of the cultural and political role of Jewish elites in contemporary Western societies. I also agree with his judgment that Jewish influence has pushed both national parties as well as the conservative movement toward the left. I would only qualify by adding that other variables may have been even more critical for this development, e.g., the moral, cultural, and professional decline of WASP patricians, the triumph of the civil rights movement (with Christian as well as Jewish support), and the transformation of Christianity into a caricature of Nietzschean slave morality.

Let me confess to one thing my critics have laid on me. I have, indeed, denied something that is so patently stupid that I can hardly imagine any intelligent person believing it. The assertion that Jewish liberalism has nothing to do with Jewish self-awareness or Jewish concern about living among Christians is a declaration worthy of a cretin -- or a Jew in very bad faith. Like my Irish Catholic students and colleagues, whose families still agonize over the Potato Famine and Yankee prejudice, Jewish liberals take their liberal positions for specifically ethnic reasons. MacDonald has marshaled a wealth of quotations in The Culture of Critique that substantiate this point. Have my critics, many of whom live in New York, never run into Jewish liberals ranting about the anti-Semitic Religious Right and about those who want to return to a "Christian America"? I've been noticing such people since my preteen years.

This does not mean that being a liberal in alliance with the multicultural Left is always in the long-range interest of Jews who are trying to preserve a separate ethnic identity. But it does mean that Jews who identify with the liberal Left (as opposed to the neocons) believe they are protecting themselves against an historic enemy, who is still out to get them. As for the alleged incompatibility between  liberalism and the pursuit of Israeli interest, my critics should take up this point with Abe Foxman, the leaders of AIPAC, Rahm Emmanuel, Chuck Schumer, Alan Dershowitz, Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman. There are lots of culturally leftist Jews who are nonetheless passionate advocates for Israel. Although these liberals may not embrace the Zionist cause with the same abandon as my critics, it would be foolish to describe them as anti-Israeli.