Skip to comments.The GOP's Jewish Slur
Posted on 10/23/2009 1:07:07 PM PDT by nickcarraway
The Anti-Defamation League is up in arms over two South Carolina Republicans revival of an old stereotype. Peter Beinart asks: Is calling Jews thrifty really so offensive?
This week, in an act of vicious anti-Semitism, Edwin O. Merwin Jr. and James S. Ulmer, chairmen of the Bamberg County and Orangeburg County, South Carolina, Republican parties, respectively, co-authored an op-ed in which they accused Jews of taking good care of their money. Jews who are wealthy, they wrote, got that way not by watching dollars but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. Then they compounded the offense by suggesting that South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint shares those Hebraic virtues. Local Democrats quickly called their statement disgusting and unconscionable, and demanded that they resign. Now Merwin and Ulmer are apologizing like their political lives depend on it, which, of course, they do.
Suggesting that Jews have prospered by cheating gentiles would indeed be anti-Semitic. But suggesting that Jews have disproportionately prospered because theyre honest and frugal, which is what Merwin and Ulmer suggested, is the exact opposite.
I share the outrage at this hate crime. In fact, in an act of solidarity, I too hereby apologize. For my entire life, at bar mitzvahs, around Shabbat tables, even while I was supposed to be davening in shul, I too have accused Jews of possessing good economic habits and prospering as a result. (Though, in my defense, I have never gone so far as to suggest that those good habits were shared by the GOP.) Speaking to Jewish audiences, I have repeatedly defamed my people by recounting Milton Himmelfarbs famous line that Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans. The fact that my fellow Jews invariably reacted to this comment with laughter rather than calls to the Anti-Defamation League is a sign, I suppose, of how widely this cancer extends. Some listeners, I am duty-bound to report, even reprimanded me for suggesting that Jews only earn as much as Episcopalians when, in fact, they insisted, we surely earn more.
Given how widespread this form of anti-Semitism has become, even within the Jewish community itself, it is worth asking: What, exactly, did Merwin and Ulmer do wrong? They spread ancient and vicious stereotypes about Jews, of course. But where is the ancient and vicious stereotype? If its anti-Semitic to say that Jews have disproportionately prospered in the United States, then lets condemn Nathan Glazer, Himmelfarb, and all the other sociologists who have studied the question. That Jews have disproportionately prospered in the United States happens to be manifestly true, which raises the question of why. Suggesting that they have done so by cheating gentilesby prioritizing money over integrity, beauty, or patriotismwould indeed be anti-Semitic. That charge has gotten a lot of Jews killed over the millennia. But suggesting that Jews have disproportionately prospered because theyre honest and frugal, which is what Merwin and Ulmer suggested, is the exact opposite. It is, in fact, the most benign explanation for Jewish economic success. Which is why Jews generally favor it themselves.
I know the objection: Its one thing for Jews to praise Jews, another for those outside the club to talk about this. But why, exactly? The reason its OK for Jews to say that Jews are financially savvy, presumably, is because Jews harbor no ill-intent. But theres no reason to suspect that Merwin and Ulmer harbor any ill-intent either. As far as I know, neither has any history of hostility to Jews. Indeed, they hail from a Republican Party which, although not always kindly disposed to gays, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and atheists, is practically overflowing with philo-Semitism (affection toward Jews). And Merwin and Ulmers own statement was self-evidently philo-Semitic. If they werent praising Jews for their financial acumen, then why were they comparing Jews to their beloved Republican senator, Jim DeMint? Lurking behind controversies like this is the belief that we should assume ill-intent on the part of people who arent members of our club, and thus intimidate them into refraining from any generalizations whatsoever, even when those generalizations are meant as praise. For African-Americans, Native Americans, gays, or even women, perhapswhose entire history in this country has been marked by structural bigotrythis cynicism, while regrettable, is understandable. To praise African Americans for being good at sports or music is indeed toxic given the harm that such stereotypes have done throughout American history. Thus, perhaps if Merwin and Ulmer were party bureaucrats in Latvia, I would be inclined to support muzzling their generalizations about Jews on the theory that we should always assume the worst. But to apply that logic in the United States is to deny the essence of the American Jewish experience, which is that state-sponsored anti-Semitism has been extremely rare. That history has earned American gentiles the assumption of goodwill. In a country that has treated Jews as well as this one, Jews should take pleasure in giving their fellow citizens the benefit of the doubt.
Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily Beast, is a professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.
Old story. Been addresse, with the conclusion that these to jerks are idiots.
I used to work with a Jewish guy who was as stereotypically frugal as you can imagine. I liked hanging with him because he really knew how to get his money’s worth, and get good stuff cheap / free. There’s nothing wrong with that Jewish stereotype - it’s actually something more of us should try to emulate. I wish I was able to be as careful with my money as he was.
Personally, I pinch pennies so much that a booger comes out of Abraham Lincoln’s nose.
I know a wealthy Jew who started with one cab and took turns with his brother driving it. They now own a Transportation company. He is one of the most generous citizens in my home town. Many of our traditions would not be possible without his sponsorship.
I thought they were cheap, not thrifty. Can’t get a damn stereotype correct, I tell ya....
My one time Jewish boss was the bellweather of investments in reverse. He recommended the stock DEC when it was at its highest, just before it went all the way down. He recommended investments in real estate just before real estate tanked. You could always count on the guy!
This Jew(boy) thinks that these whiners protesteth too much. It’s a good aphorism that others would benefit from emulating...SSZ
I know what you mean. Frankly I don’t know where this thing came from.
I know, bad habit of not checking. But I do give the spelling and punctuation police a lot of work.
Republicans are held to a higher standard than democrats. Anything a Republican says can be called racist, and broadcast in the media 24/7. Anything a democrat says, even racist, is called just a botched joke.
“What? Every party has their big Jews on the schedule.”
spell check is you re friend.
yes it is...
I grew up in a city with many Jews. As a group, they were encouraging, friendly and took education as paramount. I would never leave a Jewish home hungry either. Why they vote 80% Democrat when their values (and even their long ago home, Israel) is trashed within that party, is a mystery that I will take to my grave.
As for the statements, I'm Jewish and wasnt the least bit offended.
Have you ever heard of the Armenians? They're the people who buy from the Jews and sell to the Scots and still make a profit!
I remember a good story about a Army lieutenant who met the unit chaplain. Noting the officer’s name on the uniform being Chinese origin, the chaplain bemoaned that when he was stationed in Taiwan, he admired how the Chinese valued education, strong family and hardwork and wished the average American was like the Chinese. The lieutenant reponded by saying that Americans do not have to be like the Chinese to have all these values, Americans need to be like the Americans of old who had Protestant work ethic, Yankee frugality and family values. In other words, American need to be REAL AMERICANS who built this nation. There is no need to look overseas for good values, all we need to do is return to those values we had in the past.
I just don’t get it. If I say someone is hard-working, intelligent, and practices sound economic common sense, wouldn’t they be flattered? Unless I’m conservative and say that about Jews.
When I grew up, my part of Indianapolis was home to most of the local Jewish community, they were my high school friends I hung out with. Great guys. I grew up next to a Catholic parochial school, most of my neighborhood friends were Catholic. (I’m your typical white suburban guy raised in the Lutheran Church). My brother married into an Italian family.
And my whole thought, all my life, has been: “So what?” Honestly, I just don’t see how people can take any of this crap seriously any more.