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The Jewish Establishment

(Reprinted from SOBRANS, September 1995, pages 4–5)
In the early 1930s, Walter Duranty of the New York Times was in Moscow, covering Joe Stalin the way Joe Stalin wanted to be covered. To maintain favor and access, he expressly denied that there was famine in Ukraine even while millions of Ukrainian Christians were being starved into submission. For his work Duranty won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

To this day, the Times remains the most magisterial and respectable of American newspapers.

Now imagine that a major newspaper had had a correspondent in Berlin during roughly the same period who hobnobbed with Hitler, portrayed him in a flattering light, and denied that Jews were being mistreated — thereby not only concealing, but materially assisting the regime’s persecution. Would that paper’s respectability have been unimpaired several decades later?

There you have an epitome of what is lamely called “media bias.” The Western supporters of Stalin haven’t just been excused; they have received the halo of victimhood for the campaign, in what liberals call the “McCarthy era,” to get them out of the government, the education system, and respectable society itself.

Not only persecution of Jews but any critical mention of Jewish power in the media and politics is roundly condemned as “anti-Semitism.” But there isn’t even a term of opprobrium for participation in the mass murders of Christians. Liberals still don’t censure the Communist attempt to extirpate Christianity from Soviet Russia and its empire, and for good reason — liberals themselves, particularly Jewish liberals, are still trying to uproot Christianity from America.

It’s permissible to discuss the power of every other group, from the Black Muslims to the Christian Right, but the much greater power of the Jewish Establishment is off-limits. That, in fact, is the chief measure of its power: its ability to impose its own taboos while tearing down the taboos of others — you might almost say its prerogative of offending. You can read articles in Jewish-controlled publications from the Times to Commentary blaming Christianity for the Holocaust or accusing Pope Pius XII of indifference to it, but don’t look for articles in any major publication that wants to stay in business examining the Jewish role in Communism and liberalism, however temperately.

Power openly acquired, openly exercised, and openly discussed is one thing. You may think organized labor or the Social Security lobby abuses its power, but you don’t jeopardize your career by saying so. But a kind of power that forbids its own public mention, like the Holy Name in the Old Testament, is another matter entirely.

There is an important anomaly here. The word “Jewish,” in this context, doesn’t include Orthodox or otherwise religious Jews. The Jews who still maintain the Hebraic tradition of millennia are marginal, if they are included at all, in the Jewish establishment that wields journalistic, political, and cultural power. Morally and culturally, the Orthodox might be classed as virtual Christians, much like the descendants of Christians who still uphold the basic morality, if not the faith, of their ancestors. Many of these Jews are friendly to Christians and eager to make common cause against the moral decadence they see promoted by their apostate cousins. Above all, the Orthodox understand, better than almost anyone else in America today, the virtues — the necessity — of tribalism, patriarchal authority, the moral bonds of kinship.

The Jewish establishment, it hardly needs saying, is predominantly secularist and systematically anti-Christian. In fact, it is unified far more by its hostility to Christianity than by its support of Israel, on which it is somewhat divided. The more left-wing Jews are faintly critical of Israel, though never questioning its “right to exist” — that is, its right to exist on terms forbidden to any Christian country; that is, its right to deny rights to non-Jews.

A state that treated Jews as Israel treats gentiles would be condemned outright as Nazi-like. But Israel is called “democratic,” even “pluralistic.”

Explicitly “Jewish” organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League enforce a dual standard. What is permitted to Israel is forbidden to America. This is not just thoughtless inconsistency. These organizations consciously support one set of principles here — equal rights for all, ethnic neutrality, separation of church and state — and their precise opposites in Israel, where Jewish ancestry and religion enjoy privilege. They “pass” as Jeffersonians when it serves their purpose, espousing rules that win the assent of most Americans. At the same time, they are bent on sacrificing the national interest of the United States to the interests of Israel, under the pretense that both countries’ interests are identical. (There is, of course, no countervailing American lobby in Israel.)

The single most powerful Jewish lobbying group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which, as its former director Thomas Dine openly boasted, controls Congress. At a time when even Medicare may face budget cuts, aid to Israel remains untouchable. If the Israelis were to begin “ethnic cleansing” against Arabs in Israel and the occupied lands, it is inconceivable that any American political figure would demand the kind of military strike now being urged against the Serbs in ex-Yugoslavia.

Jewish-owned publications like the Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, U.S. News & World Report, the New York Post, and New York’s Daily News emit relentless pro-Israel propaganda; so do such pundits as William Safire, A.M. Rosenthal, Charles Krauthammer, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and George Will, to name a few.

That Israel’s journalistic partisans include so many gentiles — lapsed goyim, you might say — is one more sign of the Jewish establishment’s power. So is the fact that this fact isn’t mentioned in public (though it is hardly unnoticed in private.)

So is the fear of being called “anti-Semitic.” Nobody worries about being called “anti-Italian” or “anti-French” or “anti-Christian”; these aren’t words that launch avalanches of vituperation and make people afraid to do business with you.

It’s pointless to ask what “anti-Semitic” means. It means trouble. It’s an attack signal. The practical function of the word is not to define or distinguish things, but to conflate them indiscriminately — to equate the soberest criticism of Israel or Jewish power with the murderous hatred of Jews. And it works. Oh, how it works.

When Joe McCarthy accused people of being Communists, the charge was relatively precise. You knew what he meant. The accusation could be falsified. In fact the burden of proof was on the accuser: when McCarthy couldn’t make his loose charges stick, he was ruined. (Of course, McCarthy was hated less for his “loose” charges than for his accurate ones. His real offense was stigmatizing the Left.)

The opposite applies to charges of “anti-Semitism.” The word has no precise definition. An “anti-Semite” may or may not hate Jews. But he is certainly hated by Jews. There is no penalty for making the charge loosely; the accused has no way of falsifying the charge, since it isn’t defined.

A famous example. When Abe Rosenthal accused Pat Buchanan of “anti-Semitism,” everyone on both sides understood the ground rules. There was a chance that Buchanan would be ruined, even if the charge was baseless. And there was no chance that Rosenthal would be ruined — even if the charge was baseless.

Such are the rules. I violate them, in a way, even by spelling them out.

“Anti- Semitism” is therefore less a charge than a curse, an imprecation that must be uttered formulaically. Being a “bogus predicate,” to use Gilbert Ryle’s phrase, it has no real content, no functional equivalent in plain nouns and verbs. Its power comes from the knowledge of its potential targets, the gentiles, that powerful people are willing to back it up with material penalties.

In other words, journalists are as afraid of Jewish power as politicians are. This means that public discussion is cramped and warped by unspoken fear — a fear journalists won’t acknowledge, because it embarrasses their pretense of being fearless critics of power. When there are incentives to accuse but no penalties for slander, the result is predictable.

What is true of “anti-Semitism” is also true to a lesser degree of other bogus predicates like “racism,” “sexism,” and “homophobia.” Other minorities have seen and adopted the successful model of the Jewish establishment. And so our public tongue has become not only Jewish-oriented but more generally minority-oriented in its inhibitions.

The illusion that we enjoy free speech has been fostered by the breaking of Christian taboos, which has become not only safe but profitable. To violate minority taboos is “offensive” and “insensitive”; to violate Christian taboos — many of them shared by religious Jews — is to be “daring” and “irreverent.” (“Irreverence,” of course, has become good.)

Jewry, like Gaul, may be divided into three parts, each defined by its borders vis-à-vis the gentile world. There are the Orthodox, who not only insist on borders but wear them. They often dress in attire that sets them apart; they are even willing to look outlandish to gentiles in order to affirm their identity and their distinctive way of life. At the other extreme are Jews who have no borders, who may (or may not) assimilate and intermarry, whose politics may range from left to right, but who in any case accept the same set of rules for everyone. I respect both types.

But the third type presents problems. These are the Jews who maintain their borders furtively and deal disingenuously with gentiles. Raymond Chandler once observed of them that they want to be Jews among themselves but resent being seen as Jews by gentiles. They want to pursue their own distinct interests while pretending that they have no such interests, using the charge of “anti-Semitism” as sword and shield. As Chandler put it, they are like a man who refuses to give his real name and address but insists on being invited to all the best parties. Unfortunately, it’s this third type that wields most of the power and skews the rules for gentiles. The columnist Richard Cohen cites an old maxim: “Dress British, think Yiddish.”

Americans ought to be free to discuss Jewish power and Jewish interests frankly, without being accused of denying the rights of Jews. That should go without saying. The truth is both otherwise and unmentionable.

Joseph Sobran

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