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Noblesse Oblige In The 21st Century
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August 04, 2013, 06:32 PM
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From MondoWeiss:

Jewish success– is it ever a story? 

Philip Weiss on July 30, 2013 38 

This morning National Public Radio aired a story on the rivalry between Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen to be the next Fed chairperson, succeeding Ben Bernanke. All three of these economists are Jewish.


Besides Summers and Yellen, Obama is also interviewing for the job a third economist, Donald Kohn.

It is plain evidence of the fact that Jews make up a large segment of the new Establishment, if not the leading segment. 

I had the same impression Friday night, when the nightly news was also filled with Jews. The sex scandals involving San Diego mayor Bob Filner and would-be New York Mayor Anthony Weiner— their pictures opened the NBC news. Then the lead story was food safety, and Nancy Snyderman was interviewing FDA head Margaret Hamburg, then Andrea Mitchell, who is married to a former chair of the Fed, was interviewing Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post about the sex scandals, and at the end of the broadcast they teased David Gregory`s interview on Meet the Press of Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary. All these folks are Jewish or have some Jewish background. They`re all in the center ring. 

In recent months, I`ve heard Peter Beinart, Lester Crown, Jane Eisner, and Jeffrey Goldberg exclaim over Jewish success. Crown said that the acceptance of Jews "in almost everything is unbelievable, just remarkable, every place." But it seems to me that Jews in the media have largely avoided dealing with the implications of our success. They`re embarrassed about it. Or they fear anti-Semitic riots if they say openly what everyone knows. The exception is Marc Ellis, who writes openly about Empire Jews.  

This lack of reflection is unacceptable. Elites are traditionally criticized in the American discourse. It`s the price. David Brooks`s book about the "new upper class" is filled with slams of the previous order, the "WASPs," but has nothing to say about Jews. Nick Lemann wrote a highly-acclaimed book on the meritocracy that described the last ruling elite in religious terms— as "the Episcopacy"— and said that the folks in it got there by birth. It seems to me that the Jewish presence in the establishment merits some scrutiny: what is the role of birth in awarding place in the U.S.? What is the role of social kinship networks? What is the extent of Zionist ideology in the Jewish establishment? And how do successful Zionist Jews justify adherence to an ideology based on separation/colonization when they have done so well here? I`m a liberal and I trust Americans to have this conversation. I don`t remember pogroms against the WASPs.

I`ve written several times about the valuable old concept of noblesse oblige. In essence, it meant that in feudal times, it meant that those on the top of a social order were honor-bound to personally fight to defend the social order, including those lower down in society, in which their privileged position depends. 

Clearly, that concept needs to be updated for a 21st Century in which leading cavalry charges is no longer the most important manifestation of defense of the nation, but a public discussion over what exactly are the responsibilities of the people who have benefited most from living in America, and who they are, is long overdue.

As I wrote in 2008:

American Jews should start thinking of themselves less as oppressed outcasts who need to go for whatever they can get while the getting is good, and start more accurately thinking of themselves as belonging to the best-connected inner circle of the contemporary American Establishment.

Thus, American Jews should realize that, like the Protestant elite of yore, their privileged position as a de facto leadership caste bestows upon themselves corresponding duties to conserve the long-term well-being of the United States—rather than to indulge in personal and ethnic profit and power maximization.

But that`s unlikely to happen until the Jewish elite to begin to tolerate non-Jewish criticism, rather than to continue to try to destroy the careers of critics—or even just honest observers—in what seems to be an instinctive reaction intended to encourage the others.

A group self-image of victimization, combined with a penchant for ideological intensity and powerful ethnocentric lobbies, can lead to bizarre political manifestations—such as the dominant Jewish assumption that proper veneration of their Ellis Island ancestors requires opposition to patriotic immigration reform today.

In contrast, Italian-Americans, who lack institutions such as the ADL, appear to feel themselves freer to make up their own minds about what immigration policy will be best for their American posterity.