Those who have followed developments in the Middle East would likely agree that Israel covers up its war crimes and other human rights violations by regularly invoking its own victimhood. Whether the subject is U.S. aid to the Jewish state or media coverage of the illegal expansion of Israel into the West Bank, one will always find references to the so-called holocaust or claims of anti-Semitism to discredit any criticism. And the results of this assiduous effort to assign guilt are clearly seen as the mainstream media in both the United States and Europe exhibits considerable reluctance to report honestly on what is being done to the Palestinians while politicians in the west sometimes appear to count themselves more as “friends of Israel” than as representatives advancing the interests of their own constituents.
As defenders of all things Israeli go, there is no one more assiduous than Bret Stephens of the New York Times. He is, of course, Jewish, and was the editor of the right-wing Jerusalem Post between 2002 and 2004. The Times employs him as one of its resident conservatives, though he would be better described as a neoconservative. Stephens’ recent piece entitled “California Ethnic Studies Follies” takes aim at California’s controversial diversity program that is being imposed on the state’s public school system.
Stephens’ article is sub-headed “A proposed curriculum magnifies differences, encourages tribal loyalties and advances ideological group think.” While it is clear that “Ethnic Studies,” a precursor to the current Critical Race Theory and similar to programs in a number of other states, does all that and more, Stephens inevitably turns the whole argument around to the alleged victimization of own highly privileged caste, i.e. American Jews.
Stephens gets into it immediately, beginning his piece with “The first time California’s Department of Education published a draft of an ethnic studies ‘model curriculum’ for high school students, in 2019, it managed the neat trick of omitting anti-Semitism while committing it. More than a million Jews live in California. They are also among the state’s leading victims of hate crimes.
“Yet in a lengthy draft otherwise rich with references to various forms of bigotry, there was no mention of bigotry toward Jews. There was, however, an endorsement of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction [BDS] movement, which essentially calls for the elimination of the Jewish state. There was also an approving mention of a Palestinian singer rapping that Israelis ‘use the press so they can manufacture’ — the old refrain that lying Jews control the media.
“The draft outraged many Jews. And they were joined by Armenian, Assyrian, Hellenic, Hindu and Korean civic groups in a statement urging the California Department of Education to ‘completely redraft the curriculum.’ In its original form, they said, the document was ‘replete with mischaracterizations and omissions of major California ethnoreligious groups.’
“Last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would mandate ethnic studies as a graduation requirement in California’s high schools, pending further review of the model curriculum. While some maintained that a critical ethnic studies curriculum was a mistake, and not just for Jews, others took the view that, when it came to those revisions, it was better to be at the table than on it. Progressive Jews helped redraft a curriculum that included two sample lessons on the Jewish-American experience, along with testimonials about Jewishness from the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Dianne Feinstein. A victory? One can still quarrel with the curriculum’s tendentiously racialized view of the American-Jewish experience. But at least the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist dog whistles have been taken out and the history of anti-Semitism has been put in.”
To be sure, Stephens makes some good points about how the California program, which is again going to be voted on by the Board of Education later this month, is indoctrination and not education. But Stephens is also blind to the reality of what constitutes political power in the United States. He observes that the Irish, Poles and Italians apparently do not need to be supported by inclusion in an Ethnic Studies program while he simultaneously accepts that if there is such a thing Jews have to be carefully protected by it. And based on some of his other articles, his view of his own ethnicity seems to go well beyond that and is flattering to him and those who agree with his apparent view that that Ashkenazi Jews are intellectually and genetically superior to other groups.
One can only imagine what the reaction would have been if Stephens had written instead that whites are superior to blacks. And the points that Stephens raises in support of revising the California document to highlight both Jewish suffering and achievements are, of course, extremely self-serving. They are also deliberately deceptive. Yes, Jews have been “victims” of so-called “hate crimes” but the crimes themselves are very rarely violent. It has been demonstrated that many recent so-called anti-Semitic attacks on Jews involve easily recognizable Hasidic Jews and are actually based on community tensions as established neighborhoods are experiencing dramatic changes with the newcomers using pressure tactics to force out existing residents. And after the Hasidim take over a town or neighborhood, they defund local schools to support their own private academies and frequently engage in large scale welfare and other social services fraud to permit them to spend all their days studying the Talmud, which, inter alia teaches that gentiles are no better than beasts fit only to serve Jews.
Much more often “hate crimes” against Jews consist of graffiti or reaction to criticism of Israel for its brutal suppression of the Palestinians. Indeed, there are now organizations at universities like Canary Mission funded by Jewish oligarchs which encourage Jewish students to claim damages from critics while also “exposing them” on campus on behalf of Israel. A Jewish student walking on a college campus who passes by protesters objecting to Israel’s behavior can claim to feel threatened and the incident is recorded as anti-Semitism, for example, and slurs written on the sides of buildings or grave stones, not necessarily the work of Jew-haters, are similarly categorized. In one case in Israel in 2017, the two street swastika artists were Jews.
One is surprised that Stephens does not raise the issue of the “libel” of “Jews and money,” as if the Republicans actually loved a repulsive toad like Sheldon Adelson, who was dedicated to promoting Israeli interests, and bought the GOP foreign policy for $100 million. And Stephens is way over the top when it comes to characterizing BDS as a hate group that seeks to the “eliminate the Jewish state.” The group is explicitly non-violent and does in fact have significant liberal Jewish membership. It seeks to use economic pressure to compel Israel to behave better towards the Palestinians, similar to what produced change in apartheid South Africa.
But the most interesting aspect of the Stephens piece is the demand that Jews be universally recognized for their unique suffering. He considers it a libel when one maintains that Jews control the media…has he looked around the newsrooms at his own paper, the Washington Post, CNN, CBS and MSNBC lately? And as for bigotry and discrimination, how about consideration of the fact that Jews run Hollywood and the entertainment industry, are the wealthiest and best educated demographic in the country, are grossly disproportionate in high status and high pay jobs, and hold many of the top positions in the Biden Administration. Authorities like Professor Alan Dershowitz are quite outspoken in their praise of Jewish power in the United States. And Jewish organizations already receive more than 90% of the discretionary funding from the Department of Homeland Security to “protect themselves.” American Jews hardly seem to constitute a minority that needs more consideration and breaks because it is under siege, so when will Stephens stop whining?
And as for the claim of widespread anti-Semitism, one recalls the comment by former Israeli Education Minister Shulamit Aloni, speaking about calling critics anti-Semites. She said “Well, it’s a trick, we always use it. When from Europe somebody is criticizing Israel, then we bring up the Holocaust. When in this country people are criticizing Israel, then they are anti-Semitic. And the organization is strong, and has a lot of money, and the ties between Israel and the American Jewish establishment are very strong and they are strong in this country, as you know. And they have power, which is okay. They are talented people and they have power and money, and the media and other things, and their attitude is ‘Israel, my country right or wrong,’ identification. And they are not ready to hear criticism. And it’s very easy to blame people who criticize certain acts of the Israeli government as anti-Semitic, and to bring up the Holocaust, and the suffering of the Jewish people, and that is to justify everything we do to the Palestinians.”
Shulamit Aloni has described Bret Stephens and the political culture that he comes out of. Criticizing Israel or the sometimes predatory behavior of American Jews is one of the few remaining total taboos in America. One marvels at the recent account of a basketball player who apparently blurted out the word “kike” while engaged in a video game. Even though he apparently did not know that the word referred in derogatory fashion to Jews, he was suspended by his team and fined $50,000 by Adam Silver the NBA commissioner. Does anyone seriously believe that if he had said “Wop,” “Mick,” “Spick” or “Polack” he would have been punished at all? He was also required to publicly express contrition and forced to go through a counseling session with a representative from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which is, if I might be so bold as to suggest, the U.S. based enforcement arm of the powerful Israel Lobby.
*(Top image: Screenshot courtesy of NYTimes)
*This article was originally published on UNZ Review.