A quick sampling of the anti-Semitism on display among the Occupy Wall Street set yields the flamboyant and aggressive protester who yells,“You’re a bum, Jew” at his yarmulke-wearing interlocutor; the conspiracy theorist who laments that “Jewish money controls American politics,” and warns the Russians not to let the Jews take over Russia too; and the self-described Nazi with the swastika tattoo who regrets that America has been handed over to “other people.” Ah, people power.
The Jew-hatred among protesters and sympathizers is diverse and unapologetic. It is, in fact, atmospheric. Tune in randomly to live television coverage of the spectacle and you’ll see—as I did—placards scapegoating Israel, Zionism, or “Hitler’s bankers.” Check out the continuous flurry of protest-supporting tweets and blog posts, and you’ll get more of the same.
Does anyone recall how hard the media worked to portray the Tea Party as bigoted? The false accusations of racial slurs, the cropped photograph of the gun-wielding Tea Partier—who turned out to be black, the tortured racial interpretation of the Tea Party’s desire to “take the country back”?
Despite the press’s efforts there would be no denying that in the 2010 midterm elections the Tea Party supported a multi-ethnic set of candidates straight out of a Benetton ad. And while Occupy Wall Street enumerates classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the name of progressivism, Herman Cain has become a Tea Party favorite, beating Mitt Romney by 41 percent to 7 among the movement’s supporters.
Where the Tea Party couldn’t be tagged as racist no matter how hard liberals tried, Occupy Wall Street protesters are literally boasting of their Nazi credentials. This striking distinction speaks to the core asymmetry of the two phenomena. The Tea Partiers held up signs that read, “Don’t Soak the Rich”; Wall Street Occupiers’ placards counter: “Soak the Rich.” The purpose of the Tea Party was to get government out of all Americans’ lives. The point of Occupy Wall Street is to scapegoat fellow Americans. And wherever political scapegoating takes place, anti-Semitism is sure to follow.
In a November 2010 COMMENTARY article, Ruth Wisse observed that “the doctrine of anti-Semitism arose in the 19th century not to address the realities of the Jewish situation but to meet the political needs of others and to satisfy the political ends of others.” In the 21st century it serves the same purpose. Wisse wrote: “Anti-Semitism works through the strategy of the pointing finger. Through political prestidigitation, the accuser draws attention away from his own sins…by pointing to the Jews, whose demonically inflated image and luridly portrayed wickedness make them a plausible explanation for whatever ails his regime.” Welcome to Occupy Wall Street.
Anti-Semitism is the preferred métier of the pitchfork crowd. And today as the Manhattan mob heads uptown to protest at the homes of American business leaders (for their “”willingness to hoard wealth at the expense of the 99 percent”) there can be little doubt that that’s whom we’re dealing with.
Outside of immigrant-rich America, class warfare is often synonymous with ethnic prejudice itself. The Jews or the Gypsies or the Southeast Asians simply constitute the class to be held accountable. Class warfare is the pointed finger as economic philosophy. It eats away at the national project, lays waste to the self-reliant citizen, and disguises prejudice as justice. Liberal pundits and leftist intellectuals are at pains to impose upon the protesters a thoughtfulness that just doesn’t exist. In the New York Times, Todd Gitlin wrote, “This new protest style is more Rousseau than Marx.” But in truth there is no new protest style. What we’re witnessing is dumb, ugly, dangerous, and very old. And we will see a lot more anti-Semitism as this toxic swarm grows.