I was recently reading a JTA article on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans. It seems that 139 out of the 400 richest Americans are Jews. That makes just about 35% of the total. Given that Jews make up about 2% of the total US population, this statistic tells us something about the American Jewish community.
Exactly what it tells us is open to debate, but what cannot be debated is the aggressiveness with which American Jews have taken their place at the table.
What exactly is this “table” and why should we care about it?
The proverbial “table” is where people go to get heard. It is where they go to stand up and be counted. The “table” is a consolidation of media influence, political influence, cultural influence – well, you get the idea.
Now, it is always a touchy matter to speak about “Jewish power” in the United States. One of the problems is the constant accusatory refrain of “Anti-Semitism.” One does not want to be indicted of attacking Jews by pointing out that the power they have is way beyond their numbers as members of the US population.
There is a sense that this is all about merit and that merit cannot be qualified. It is the simply the innate superiority of the American Jews that makes them succeed as they do.
When pondering this, I received a few e-mails about a conference this past weekend sponsored by a new Jewish advocacy group called J Street. J Street has already made a huge splash in the media – particularly the Jewish media – where it has found itself on the receiving end of some vicious attacks and slanders.
You see, J Street is an Israel advocacy organization that has been designed to act as a Left-Wing foil to the standard groups such as AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the Orthodox Union; all of which are very much to the Right of Center.
For many decades American Jews have been led by a set of institutions that have made Israel advocacy the central tenet of their agenda. Despite the attempts to deny any Jewish conspiracy by partisans like Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel who claim to know nothing of the strong-arm approach of the AIPACs and the others, American Jews know very well what they can and cannot say about Israel.
Just like the great aggressiveness of Jewish businessmen and financiers in the marketplace, so too are the Jewish institutions monolithic and deeply protective of their turf. Not a day goes by when some person is not trapped in the web of the massive tentacles of this institutional Jewish world. Quietly, but effectively, we see a steady stream of Israel-“haters” paraded before us. This week it has been the UN-appointed investigator Richard Goldstone and the Human Rights activist Mia Farrow; both of whom have spoken out in ways that the Jewish groups feel are deleterious to Israel. For this, such people are forced to have their names dragged through the muck and mire of Jewish advocacy. Just do the Google search to see what I mean.
When J Street began to have some traction in this closed-off institutional world, the naysayers began to unload their bile. Opinion pieces in major news outlets were coupled with insider wheeling and dealing to derail the J Street juggernaut. It is in the very pedestrian details of the process that the system of Jewish self-policing takes place. Calls and e-mails to the “right” people serve to build a pressure bubble that begins to eat away at the forward progress of the institutional support for the group.
But as I was mulling over the internal war that is waged daily inside the Jewish institutional world, it became clear to me that this war was being conducted solely as an internal Ashkenazi issue.
Now – as always – presenting the specter of Ashkenazi tyranny is enough to set off massive sparks of fury in the Jewish world. Unlike the way that American Jews approach their task, non-Ashkenazim are trapped in a situation where they are prevented from analyzing the biases and prejudices of the Ashkenazim. What is good for the goose is not acceptable for the gander.
The Jewish advocacy plan is based on identifying those non-Jews whose interests and actions are antithetical to Jews. The primary weapon in this plan is the use of Anti-Semitism as a tool to mark those identified as the “enemy.” The established agenda of the Jewish institutions is clearly set to the point where anyone dealing with the Jewish world knows what it really is. In this highly schematic world, those who present views contrary to those held by Jewish institutions are marked as “Anti-Semites.”
A recent example of this reality involving Sephardic concerns is of note: When the recent book on the Yemenite Babies scandal by Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber was published, I asked one of our readers if they would read it and write a review for the newsletter. When we were discussing the issue, this individual informed me that while he was reading the book in some public place, some of the people around him called him an “Anti-Semite” and “enemy of the Jewish people.”
The binary split between Jew and Arab is taken as axiomatic by everyone – not just Jews. Even Arabs have acculturated to the Ashkenazi-Zionist paradigm of eternal hatred between the two monolithic groups.
When the country of Dubai seeks to open its doors to the outside world, the first thing it does – pace the American Jewish agenda – is to invite in Jewish organizations in order to “Kosher” itself. Accepting as fact that Arabs are Anti-Semites, Dubai feels a burning need to “prove” that it is not Anti-Semitic by calling in the usual suspects and getting them to buy into the scheme.
Can the leadership of an Arab country like Dubai not recall a time where Jews lived in the Arab-Muslim world? Seemingly not! The Dubai government brought CHABAD representatives and other groups such as the American Jewish Committee – Ashkenazi groups with their own ethnocentric perspective on the East.
Now this is all a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Excluding Sephardim from the Jewish institutional world means that there will be no Sephardim of note to invite to places like Dubai and the J Street conference.
Including self-hating Sephardim in Jewish institutions will further serve to marginalize Sephardim and ensure that they are not able to find a place at the Jewish table. To better understand the great importance of the Jewish table, speak to the government of Dubai, members of the US Congress, Palestinian intellectuals like Sari Nusseibeh or others who seek to build bridges with the Jewish world. They can tell you who butters their bread.
The Jewish table is indeed monolithic. Those seated at it are all Ashkenazim. To justify their rule over non-Ashkenazim such Jews point to the fact that they are the majority and that Sephardim should pull themselves up by their bootstraps – just like the Ashkenazim did!