[Marxism] What are the origins/ reasons for the emergence of right-wing Jewish intellectuals in America?
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jan 19 07:36:48 MST 2006
The New York Times, May 5, 1982
Books Of The Times
By Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
JEWS WITHOUT MERCY. A Lament. By Earl Shorris. 191 pages. Anchor/Doubleday.
BY ''Jews Without Mercy,'' the title of his sixth book and third work of
nonfiction, Earl Shorris means the so-called neoconservatives - Norman
Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glaser, Midge Decter, Sidney Hook and so
forth. Why these particular people are ''Jews Without Mercy'' may not be
immediately apparent to a reader of Mr. Shorris's ''Lament.''
Similarly obscure at first is why neo-conservatives are considered by Mr.
Shorris to be descended from Big Eddie, the fast-talking, shady,
liquor-dealing villain of the author's introductory reminscence, in which
Mr. Shorris is disillusioned as a young boy when the directors of his
synagogue present Big Eddie with the presidency in exchange for the
donation of a community center.
''I did not begin to cry,'' writes Mr. Shorris, ''until Big Eddie stood up,
so red in that somber garden, shaking the hands of the men around him,
while the beadle of our synagogue stood in the aisle at the end of Big
Eddie's pew holding the tallith for him. Big Eddie took the tallith as if
it were a scarf, looping it around his neck. He said no blessing, he did
not kiss the beginning and the end of the embroidered words, he did not
cover his head. He strode down the aisle to take his prize, running up the
five steps to the bimah with the aggressive bounce of a nightclub singer
beginning his show.''
What has Big Eddie to do with neo-conservatism, we wonder? What has
neo-conservatism to do with Judaism and mercy? By and by, everything
becomes clear, as Mr. Shorris wends his way from anecdote to memory to
diatribe to talmudic disputation and back again. Stripped of its
embellishments, his argument is finally very simple: The neo-conservatives
have embraced a set of beliefs wholly at odds with what it means to be a Jew.
''Capitalism is good for the Jews,'' goes the first of some 55 ''tenets''
that Mr. Shorris lists as a characterization (and caricature) of
neo-conservatism. The last of these tenets is that ''Overriding the ethical
question for Jews is survival, which can only be guaranteed through the
unabashed pursuit of Jewish interests; in other words, to get what you
want, do whatever you have to do.''
But Judaism prohibits ''the seeking of power, fame, and wealth,'' Mr.
Shorris insists. ''The laws of the corners of the field, of gleaning, of
the jubilee year, and so on, have the explicit purpose of limiting wealth
and redistributing it to achieve greater equality of outcome.
''The Jewish view of how to treat the poor and the 18th century liberal
view (even when it comes from David Ricardo, Smith's Jewish disciple), have
nothing in common,'' Mr. Shorris continued, referring to Adam Smith.
''Calvinism is a direct contradiction of Hebrew Scripture, which states
that God loves the poor.'' In short, Jews who embrace capitalism are ''Jews
Obviously, objections can be raised to Mr. Shorris's polemics. For one
thing, neo-conservatism is presented in its worst and most oversimplified
aspect, and is in fact not exclusively a Jewish preoccupation. (What about
William Barrett, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to
mention only some of the most obvious exceptions?)
For another thing, it would seem that Mr. Shorris is condemning far more
than neo-conservatism when he argues that capitalism is antithetical to
Jewish ethics. Must all Jews necessarily be Socialists? Does some equation
between Judaism and socialism explain why the author gave his son a trip to
the Soviet Union in place of a bar mitzvah? (It should be quickly added
that it was the son and not the author who picked Russia as the trip's
destination, and that ironically, as Mr. Shorris describes it, the main
lesson of the journey turned out to be the bravery of Soviet Jews who defy
the Communist regime by practicing their religion. Still, the point remains
that something in the boy's upbringing led him to choose Russia over a bar
But in defense of Mr. Shorris: his case is far more complex than such a
brief review can make it sound. In fact, it is a subtle but passionate
attempt to excavate the deepest meanings of Judaism. Indeed the book is
worth far more as the testament of a Jew with mercy than it is as an attack
on his opponents.
Still, Mr. Shorris does score a number of obvious points against those Jews
who have endorsed neo-conservatism. Writing at least half a year ago, just
before his book would have to have gone to the printer in order to have
been published now, Mr. Shorris warned of the pitfalls of being ''court
Jews'' to the Reagan Administration. ''What proof did'' the
neo-conservatives ''have that Reagan had any inclination to follow the
special view of Israel as a moral issue that has characterized American
foreign policy for more than 30 years? They knew his view of human rights:
He was not even neutral; he was more than willing to trade a few lives to
keep an anticommunist regime in power, and neither he nor his Ambassador to
the United Nations ever specified that they be non-Jewish lives.''
In an article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, called ''The
Neo-Conservative Anguish Over Reagan's Foreign Policy,'' Norman Podhoretz,
the archvillain of Mr. Shorris's story, in effect concedes his critic's
point. One only prays that the direr warning of Mr. Shorris's ''Lament''
will never have to be recalled: ''A Jew without mercy is a man prior to the
covenant; he belongs to the horde; he invites the desert.''
More information about the Marxism