OK, so this story is a little long in the tooth, but given the cast of characters it’s hard to resist. Last week, discussing Norman Podhoretz’s book, Why Are Jews Liberals? in the wake of the Massachusetts election and Obama’s pivot against Wall Street, Rush Limbaugh delivered himself of the following speculation:
To some people, banker is a code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama
is assaulting? He’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people.
And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if
there’s – if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.
Leaping out of his metaphoric seat, the ADL’s Abe Foxman issued a statement calling these “borderline anti-Semitic comments” and explaining:
Limbaugh’s references to Jews and money in a discussion of
Massachusetts politics were offensive and inappropriate. While the
age-old stereotype about Jews and money has a long and sordid history,
it also remains one of the main pillars of anti-Semitism and is widely
accepted by many Americans. His notion that Jews vote based on their
religion, rather than on their interests as Americans, plays into the
hands of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.
Whereupon, Norman Podhoretz sprang into action, claiming El Rushbo was just speaking about “prejudiced people” and anyway was just making Podhoretz’s own point about Jewish voting, and charging Foxman with chutzpah for attacking “so loyal a friend of Israel.” And Limbaugh agreed, saying he was only referring to what “the Jew-haters, the bigots” believe.
As MediaMatters pointed out, that last bit is patently untrue–unless Limbaugh wants to include himself among the Jew-haters. He begins with what “some people think” and then associates himself with the view. His speculation is that Jews–three-quarters of whom voted for Obama–may be having buyer’s remorse because Obama has started attacking their co-religionists on Wall Street. Only someone a lot more familiar with traditional Gentile attitudes about Jews than with the American Jewish community could entertain the idea that the latter would have second thoughts about supporting a candidate who attacks Wall Street bankers. As usual, Limbaugh was channeling the views of the Cape Girardeau WASP elite from which he springs.
As for Foxman, it’s perfectly silly to pretend that American Jews don’t constitute an ethno-religious voting bloc–like Mormons, white evangelicals, Hispanic Catholics, and others. The issue at hand was posed years ago by Milton Himmelfarb, when he quipped that Jews “earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” That reality has caused Jewish conservatives like Podhoretz to gnash their teeth in rage for a generation, and his dreadful book represents one more effort to persuade their co-religionists to behave differently.
Foxman’s own view of things harks back to the crouch that American Jews used to go into when any Gentile would start a sentence with the words “Jews are” and not conclude it with something like “public-spirited citizens who want their children to get the best education possible.” Why shouldn’t Jewish voting be shaped, in some way, by Jewish values and history? In its own way, “on their interests as Americans” expresses as blinkered an account of American Jewry as Limbaugh’s “some buyer’s remorse there.”