When Politicians Condemn the Evils of Finance, Even Jewish Leftists Should Be Wary

Nov. 12 2019

In an essay published this summer outlining portions of her economic program, the senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren wrote that “far too often, the private-equity firms are like vampires—bleeding the company dry and walking away enriched even as the company succumbs.” Elyse Wien, although admittedly sympathetic to Warren’s politics, detects a sinister note:

Warren shows no evidence of being . . . an anti-Semite, but she does seem to be a party to the left’s growing reliance on outrage in their search for a bogeyman in the financial elite—a search that invariably appeals to conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites. . . . [I]t’s necessary to step back and examine the roots of the left’s contempt for finance when that contempt extends beyond the specifics of policy to the nature of finance itself. The idea that finance is “vampiric,” that it feeds off the honest productivity of hard workers to extract unmerited earnings, is a sentiment that has direct roots in a long history of anti-Semitism.

The idea that money derived from finance is parasitic because it is not from “productive” labor was developed by medieval Christian natural-law theology but has even older origins in the work of Aristotle. . . . While the political radicals of the 19th century did not explicitly extol natural-law theology, . . . they nevertheless betrayed the influence [of medieval economic thinking] in their emotionally charged distinction between productive and parasitic labor, and the particular vitriol they showed toward both finance and Jews.

For [19th-century] anti-Semites of both the left and right, . . . the political emancipation of Jews was, [to paraphrase Karl Marx], the result of turning the world “Jewish”; the Jews’ freedom was purchased through the immiseration of others. The template created by Marx and other 19th-century thinkers who connected their opposition to finance and capitalism with the purported “Jewishness” of those practices would proliferate in subsequent decades, taking root in cultures outside Europe, as financial capitalism also spread across the globe.

William Jennings Bryan’s 1897 “Cross of Gold” speech is a classic of 19th-century American populism, yet the historian Richard Hofstadter notes . . . that perhaps nothing did more to reinvigorate American anti-Semitism than the frequent allegations that the “Shylocks” and “Rothschilds” controlled the banks that controlled the farms.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Aristotle, Elizabeth Warren, Finance, Socialism

 

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror