Sunday, April 10, 2011

Anti-Semitism in the U.S.: Is It Coming Back Again?

I've posted about this before, but more evidence keeps coming my way. What I'm taking about here exists in the U.S, in the so-called "blogosphere." 

Anti-Jewish blogs--I don't know the exact number--now blame the Jews for our financial crisis of the past years. But one particularly hate-filled blog,  claims that our great Jewish Patriot, Haym Saloman, created our "Jewish Supremacist: country by helping to finance--and help win-- the American Revolution.

Is history repeating itself?  Should we be paranoid? Personally, I'm not in a position to know.

Historically, Jews have been repeatedly expelled from what they thought were their homes: from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisitions of the 1400s, from Britain in the 1700s and, of course, from the Middle East. Jews think they have a home only to be expelled, burnt at the stakes, shoveled into the fires of concentration camps. (That the same might apply to the Palestinians, for example, does not make it less true for the Jews.)

It's ever the same claim: Jews are held responsible for their role as "financiers." Historically, it's because of their role as "money lenders" the only livelihood available to them in countries which barred Jews from most professions. Christians and Muslims, whose own religions forbade money lending, turned to Jews to help finance their business ventures--and then resented them for the "help."

I love William Shakespeare, but his "Merchant of Venice," provides us with the prototype of the evil money lender: Shylock extends a loan to Antonio (via a third party). It's interest- free, but contains one proviso: if Antonio does not repay the loan, Shylock has the recourse of extracting a pound of flesh from him. As it turns out, poor Antonio can't repay the loan. Hence, a public outrage. And Shylock's appeal: "If you prick me, do I not bleed too?"

When economic times go sour, as they have world-wide these past frightening years, Jews are convenient, but misplaced, scapegoats. 

True, some of the investment houses were founded by Jews, but hardly all of them. For every Goldman Sachs you've gone a Merrill Lynch, once a bastion of Catholicism. I haven't done a survey, but think of all the overseas banks, such as Allied Irish Bank who, again hardly Jewish, participated in the same conduct. Bernie Madoff, a psychopath, happened to be a Jew. His mostly Jewish clientele lost their life savings. But even Madoff, who's in prison for life, did not bring down the financial system.Think of Anthony Mazillo,  the driving force behind the sub-prime mortgage crisis.  Remember too: the financial sector of our economy is essential to business creation and jobs, whatever its recent antics.

That aside, only a small portion of U.S. Jews obtain their livelihood from finance.  Jews dominate the sciences. A mere 1 percent of the world's population, Jews receive about 25 percent of all the Nobel prizes in science each year. Perhaps because of our Talmudic roots, many Jews-- even those, like me, who are unobservant-- have been steeped in the work ethic. Thus, many Jews are drawn towards scholarship and academic distinction. Some have become great novelists (Saul Bellow, Phillip Roth and others). Other composers. They contribute generously to hospitals and museums.

To such statements about Jewish academic accomplishment,  the retort is inevitable. "But Jews 'own' those institutions." 

This rejoinder highlights the ignorance of this breed of anti-semite. Great universities, such as Harvard and Columbia, were originally WASP enclaves that did not accept Jewish students.  Hence, the wonderful City College group of the 1930s--the "Jewish Harvard"--that fostered the Jewish intellectuals of the 1930s and 1940s. Think, too, of FDR's cadre of Jewish intellectuals. During that intense period of worldwide anti-semitism. FDR, himself a product of the WASP conclave, saw the intelligence of such Jewish greats as Felix Frankfurter.  It is only in relatively recent times that Jews, including my parents, me,  my children--have received degrees from Harvard, Columbia, Stanford.

In my limited investigations (I don't really have the time for more), the current breed of anti-semites in the U.S. are "losers" (think Hitler) who prefer to scapegoat the Jews than embrace the complexities of present-day economics. Jews are not the cause of unemployment, decline in home values, etc. Many, though, are its victims.

In the blogging universe, I have found what I call  "loser anti-semites," They are themselves lazy, unmotivated, unable to hold a job. Certainly, most of the unemployed, including many Jews, are jobless through no fault of their own. But for this breed of anti-semite, it's easier to blame "the Jews."   Perhaps these bigoted folk should stop blogging about their hatred of Jews, and go out into the cruel world, find a job, start a business, do whatever it takes.

Am I  being a "Jewish Supremacist" in my own work?  I don't think so. I'm merely informing readers what most don't know: that Jews of colonial America, despite their small numbers, are the forgotten heroes of the American Revolution. At this, I work 12-hour days.

The success of my venture will not be judged in purely monetary terms.

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