Topic: Liberal Fascism
Anti-Semitism has always been present on the American social scene. But unlike the European brand—a virulent hymn of hate—the American variant sounded in a minor key. To be sure, Jews in America encountered dislike and prejudice—particularly those Jews who emigrated from Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But their reception was not notably different from that accorded to other immigrants. The Irish who immediately preceded them experienced similar discrimination. In the long run, the unique character of American society and the American polity operated to the Jews’ advantage. They faced a good deal of informal discrimination, e.g. quotas for the admission of Jews to elite universities, exclusion form country clubs and business groups, etc. But the kind of open legal discrimination that had long burdened the Jews of Europe was never applied to them in America.
Up to the 1960s, overt American anti-Semitism was confined to the extreme right wing of the conservative movement: that faction of conservatism that could broadly be described as nativist, xenophobic and isolationist. A notorious example is Charles Lindbergh, whose otherwise respectable opposition to US participation in WW II was tinged with a disreputable attitude toward the Jews. One of William F. Buckley’s many valuable services to conservatism was his ejection of such extremists from the movement, e.g. his 1964 excoriation of the John Birch Society and his firing of the late Joe Sobran from National Review in 1993. Thus marginalized, the denizens of the far Right—the paleoconservatives and some libertarians—have nonetheless continued their flirtation with anti-Semitism, as exemplified by the career of Pat Buchanan.
The creation of the State of Israel supplied American anti-Semites with a new twist on their favorite prejudice. From the 1960s onward, the claim that American foreign policy was in thrall to a cabal of Jewish puppet masters gained traction with people like Buchanan and Sobran. A generation earlier, the claim that Jewish financiers dominate Wall Street has been the American Jew hater’s basic article of faith. Now it is claimed in addition that the Jews are running American foreign policy for the benefit of Israel. Ron Paul’s kooky foreign policy views are quite compatible with this paranoid thesis.
Anti-Semitism has also found a congenial home on the Left—which may seem remarkable but really isn’t. Karl Marx himself anticipated that the advent of the socialist paradise would solve the Jewish question (as it used to be called in Europe) by eliminating the Jews as an identifiable group. The tribalism that had enabled the Jewish people to survive centuries of persecution would serve no purpose in a worldwide socialist commonwealth, Marx taught. The persistence of a Jewish national identity stood, therefore, in opposition to the goals of the proletariat.
The appearance of Zionism—conscious Jewish nationalism—brought the tension between socialism and the Jews to a head, this despite the prominent role played by Jews in the international socialist movement. How the anti-Semitism of contemporary progressivism operates in practice will be the subject of my next post in this series.