In a testament to the myopic quality of Jewish liberalism, a parallel movement known as Occupy Judaism (OJ) has sprung up amidst the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests in New York City and around the country. “We’re going global with this,” said Daniel Sieradski, a New York Jewish activist who took a lead role in organizing a Yom Kippur service close to the Occupy Wall Street protests. The myopia? Sieradski, along with his followers, is apparently oblivious to the historic reality that anti-capitalist movements have always had an element of anti-Semitism attached to them.
It’s a long history. As New American columnist Daniel Sayani points out, the OWS, despite self-professed notions that they are leading a new movement “are merely perpetuating the socialist belief that Jews are to blame for ‘social injustice,’ an idea that began with Proudhon.” Proudhon was a self-professed anarchist who published What is Property? Or, An Inquiry Into the Principle of Right and Government in 1840. He inspired Karl Marx, who maintained a years-long correspondence with the author. In 1844, Marx himself wrote “On the Jewish Question,” (alternatively entitled “A World Without Jews”) in which he blames the Jews for the same “income inequality” and “dollar worship” that irks many of today’s protesters.
Furthermore, Sayani points out, the American Left’s favorite economist, John Maynard Keynes, whose economic policies “of bailouts, central banking, and massive governmental intervention to ‘stabilize’ output over the business cycle” was himself an anti-Semite who once stated, “It is not agreeable to see civilization so under the ugly thumbs of its impure Jews who have all the money and the power and brains.”
Sieradski acknowledges that there are elements of anti-Semitism among the demonstrators, but he considers them a small fringe element that has “chosen to co-opt the protests as an opportunity” to spread such prejudice. But he expressed the hope that he could dispel Jewish stereotypes and “fight those using Jew-hatred,” by his presence at the demonstrations.
Yet he and his followers seemingly undermine that cause. At a Kol Nidre service, the evening service of the Yom Kippur holiday October 7th, Sieradski read a text composed by Zach Teutsch, a DC labor organizer. Part of the message was a relinquishment of personal responsibility, coupled with socialist/Marxist, “evil banker” undertones:
Today, we are thinking about a different kind of commitment made under duress. A big part of our financial crisis was caused by a banking system which misled and pressured, which up-sold and implored us to sign without reading, where fraud was rampant, and where caution was absent. Because of those external problems, many good hardworking people were steered, under a sort of duress, into financial doom while their futures were sold from the rich to the richer.
And undertones of economic enslavement:
Today, as we think about how commitments must be contemplated in the context of right and wrong, of earth and heaven, we know that those notes have no moral weight, that banks can’t and shouldn’t own the futures of people who work, and that it’s time for the bankers to abandon their claims on everyday people’s futures. I will leave it to another [on this day] to think about what this means practically or what policies we should adopt as a country. For today, we should think about the moral content of promises, oaths, commitments, and pledges. Is it right to follow through on these? Is it right to own another’s future?
Here’s another group of folks who concur with Sieradski’s message: “Seriously people, just WHO is our enemy? The unemployed left-wing 25-year-old holding up a sign, OR the (blank) banksters who swindled the American taxpayers out of A TRILLION dollars in the “bailout” scam AND continue to oppress the (blank) Working Class?!?”
Unfortunately for Sieradski and other like-minded followers of Occupy Judaism, the blanks in the above statement are crucial. The term that fills in the blank before “banksters” is “judeo-capitalist.” The word that fills in the blank before “Working Class” is “White.” The group that shares the same philosophical outlook that animates Occupy Judaism? The American Nazi Party.
This classic rant about Jews enslaving the public through the financial system is textbook anti-Semitism, and it fits much of the “Occupy” message almost perfectly. The problem with applying the “Occupy” concept to Judaism, which is lost on Sieradski and co., is that it creates a moral equivalency between what they see as deficits in Judaism and the problems they have with the financial system – which is exactly what the Nazi Jew-haters do.
“Far too many Jewish institutions have solicited money from the very same people who’ve gotten us in this economic mess,” Sieradski said, pointing out that many of those institutions were associated with mega-swindler Bernard Madoff. Yet he noted that those views were his own and not those of the Occupy Judaism movement. He was also quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying, “Most Jewish institutions are dominated by their wealthiest donors, whose views might not be in line with that of the wider Jewish community.” The Jewish Week reported that Sieradski allowed for “the possibility of sit-ins and demonstrations in front of synagogues and Jewish organizations.”
It is also lost on JewishJournal.com columnist MJ Rosenthal, who contends that charges of anti-Semitism with respect to the OWS movement are nothing more than “an ugly old tradition” being exploited by “conservatives in a state of near panic.” The purpose of such charges is “to break the backs of popular movements that threaten the power of the wealthiest 1 percent of our population.” Rosenthal concedes that there have been instances of anti-Semitism on display at Wall Street, but he attributes them to the idea that “mass movements attract all kinds of people, some invariably unsavory.”
Yet Rosenthal omits some inconvenient truths. Anti-Semitic displays have not been limited to New York, like those seen here, where demonstrators have spewed invective at Jews and offered up stereotypical theories regarding Jewish control of mass media, money, and “other areas of production.” Anti-Semitic protesters can be seen here in Los Angeles as well. In LA, signs and speeches reference the narrative shaped by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and its Jewish banker conspiracy theories. And here’s a video of LA Occupy protester Patricia McAllister, who claims to be employed by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Ms. McAllister’s take on the movement? “I think that the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve–which is not run by the federal government–they need to be run out of this country.”
Moreover, Rosenthal cannot possibly sustain his argument that anti-Semitism is an anecdotal part of the Occupy movement now that the demonstrations have been endorsed, not only by the Nazi party as mentioned above, but by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. They have a long and documented history of anti-Semitism impossible to ignore, which ties into the last inconvenient truth of OWS: despite condemnations by both the Emergency Committee for Israel and the Anti-Defamation League, no one as of yet has condemned the anti-Semitic protesters from within the movement.
Tablet columnist Michelle Goldberg attributes this to “the limitations of a leaderless movement.” Yet it is precisely that lack of leadership which makes this movement, not merely limited, but highly exploitable by darker and better organized elements. Tellingly, Sieradski characterizes this flaw as a positive attribute of OWS. “The whole thing is an anarchistic affair, so any affinity group that has an action is welcome to come and do their action,” he says.
Unfortunately, Sieradski and others like him are naive. As New York Times columnist David Brooks writes, the Occupy movement was sparked by Adbusters magazine, whose previous claim to fame was a 2004 essay, “Why Won’t Anyone Say They’re Jewish?” which contended that the “[Jewish] neocons are…the most influencial (sic) political/intellectual force in the world right now,” and that it is “necessary to put them under a microscope. And if we see maleness, whiteness, Jewishness, Zionism or intellectual thuggery there, then let us not look the other way.”
The article further questions the motivation of neo-cons’ support for the Iraq war and what came to loosely be known as the Bush Doctrine, which the article not-so-subtly implied was ginned up by Jewish neo-cons to serve Israel. Oddly enough, the same article notes that “Jews make up less than 2 percent of the American population.” This bears a remarkable similarity to the protesters’ insistence that they represent 99 percent of the country protesting the actions of the other 1 percent. Or as Brooks puts it, “the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent” (italic mine).
Harvard political scientist (and Jewish American) Robert Putnam also dismisses the notion that expressions of anti-Semitism at these demonstrations amount to anything more than anecdotal incidents. “The only people in America worried about that are the Jews,” he contends. That would be some Jews. At this moment, the proponents of Occupy Judaism don’t appear to be worried at all.
It remains to be seen whether or not their lack of concern is warranted, and what they will do if the “anecdotal” anti-Semitic undertones manifesting themselves in two of America’s largest cities grow louder, and/or spread to other Occupy movements around the nation and the world. If they do, the Occupy Judaism proponents may learn a brutally painful lesson: every populist political movement needs useful idiots.
How useful? No matter how progressive and or/anarchistic Occupy Judaism’s members are, one can only wonder if their myopia extends as far as standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Nazis and Communists in order to achieve the “greater good.” OJ adherents might want to peruse a history book or two to see what has happened to Jews when those two groups have assumed the reins of power. No doubt many of the true believers in the Occupy Judaism movement console themselves with the bromide that any similarly cataclysmic chain of events “could never happen here.”
A five minute stroll might be more than illuminating. That’s the time it takes to walk from Zuccotti Park – to the September 11th Memorial.