Why Jews Are Politically Inept
Jude Wanniski
March 5, 2002


Memo To: Irving Kristol
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: "On the Political Stupidity of Jews"

You surely have seen the news, Irving, that Billy Graham 30 years ago spouted "anti-Semitic" remarks in a private, taped, conversation with President Richard Nixon. We know that Nixon himself had a lot of derogatory things to say about American Jews, because of previously released tapes, but to get the Rev. Graham on record complaining about Jewish dominance of the media is "shocking," at least to Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. I don't think you would be surprised, as I thought of the essay you wrote for Azure magazine back in 1999, "On the Political Stupidity of Jews." As one of the intellectual giants of our time, and Jewish too, you could write such an essay without incurring Foxman's wrath. Your theme was about Jewish hostility to the Christian revival underway and the political foolishness that attitude engendered:

It is fair to say that American Jews wish to be more Jewish while at the same time being frightened at the prospect of American Christians becoming more Christian. It is also fair to say that American Jews see nothing odd in this attitude. Intoxicated with their economic, political and judicial success over the past half-century, American Jews seem to have no reluctance in expressing their vision of an ideal America: A country where Christians are purely nominal, if that, in their Christianity,while they want the Jews to remain a flourishing religious community.

One can easily understand the attractiveness of this vision to Jews. What is less easy to understand is the chutzpah of American Jews in publicly embracing this dual vision. Such arrogance is, I would suggest,a peculiarly Jewish form of political stupidity. For the time being,American Jews are getting away with this arrogance. Indeed, American Christians -- and most especially the rising Evangelical movements -- are extraordinarily tolerant, if more than a little puzzled, by this novel Jewish posture. And the lack of any negative Christian reaction has only encouraged American Jews in the belief that they have discovered some kind of universally applicable formula for dealing with non-Jews.

I agree with all that, Irving, but I believe Jewish political "stupidity" is more fundamental. I've made the argument many times that in order to be politically smart, you first have to know who your friends are and who are your enemies. Because of the way history has unfolded, Jews have no way of knowing, which is what the revelation about Billy Graham reveals. At the time your essay appeared, I had a long talk with Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, a man who has been attacked incessantly by Foxman and the ADL for almost 20 years. I've gotten to know him well over the past several years and long ago concluded that he was a natural friend of the Jews and a natural friend of Israeli Jews. He thinks so too, but has been baffled in trying to figure out why he has gotten nowhere with the Jewish political establishment in his many attempts at reconciliation. I have told him that for at least the last 2000 years, Jews everywhere have confronted hostility, for one reason or another, whether as the "killer of Christ," who was a Jew, or as a "Shylock," charging exorbitant interest on loans.

The point is that when Jews made their living in the financial or commercial Christian world, everyone with whom they did business was "anti-Semitic." Long, long ago, Jewish businessmen decided they were not going to be loved, especially when they came to collect the rent or accounts receivable or foreclose on the mortgage. In recessions especially, the Jew became the scapegoat for economic distress. When Germany went into hyperinflation after World War I, then into depression, it was of little concern to Jewish financiers that Adolf Hitler was anti-Semitic. What's new? This is one of the reasons the Jewish political establishment came to view Farrakhan with such horror. When the ADL and former NYC Mayor Ed Koch called him a "Black Hitler" in 1984, during the Jesse Jackson campaign for President, Farrakhan retaliated with the stories of Jewish financing of the early Nazis, the "big Jews" profiting at the expense of the "little Jews." It was not "anti-Semitic," per se, but it is easy to see why it made the Jewish powers-that-be foam at the mouth. In recent years, with age and wisdom, that rhetoric has cooled, even though the ADL does not pass up any opportunity to make the Nation of Islam suffer financially.

You and I have discussed Min Farrakhan a number of times in recent years, Irving, and you yourself have always been most reluctant to take my word that he is friend, not foe. The only reason I bring it up now is that Israel needs more friends in the Islamic world than it has, and Min. Farrakhan wants to be that friend. The Israeli government of Ariel Sharon and its Jewish supporters in the United States are in the crosshairs of tragic, escalating violence, and as usual do not know whom to trust or whom to believe. In this instance, I believe Jews would get more help from Minister Farrakhan than from Billy Graham. The whole world would benefit.