Allegedly, an old borscht belt gag was for the straight man to describe some terrible calamity and then the comic would ask, “Yes, but is it good for the Jews?” It is a question that Jews claim was common in the early 20th century. Whether or not that is true is impossible to pin down, but the sentence does return a lot of good search results, including a few books and long form articles. It fits into the self-deprecating humor popular with American Jews. It’s a form of “owning the insult” common with ethnics 100 years ago.
Like all stereotypes, this one has some truth to it. Jews in the first half of the 20th century invested heavily in policing their ranks and inculcating this sort of attitude, with regards to politics and society. To a lesser degree, Italians, Irish, Poles and other immigrant groups did the same thing. They formed ethnic societies, had their own newspapers, encouraged the better qualities among their people and so forth. Improvement societies were not passive, either. Ethnic leaders were not afraid to shame those who did not toe the line.
Today, the only ethnic solidarity we see is with blacks and Muslims. The former is the old fashioned sort common in the last century. Blacks shamelessly vote their skin in elections and make demands based on group solidarity. Muslims seem to be following a similar route, embracing the grievance culture in order to extort benefits from society. Otherwise, the overt and positive ethnic solidarity, even among Hispanics, is not a popular thing and in the case of whites, one of the few mortal sins of our age.
It is assumed that ethnic or racial solidarity is good for struggling minorities, terrible for majorities and of no use to successful minorities. Black solidarity is encouraged, while white solidarity is forbidden. Asian solidarity is never considered, because Asians have no trouble assimilating and succeeding in modern America. Jewish solidarity, of course, is a dangerous subject. The surest way to get hurled into the void is to be thought of as something less than enthusiastic for the Jews. It’s pretty close to a forbidden subject.
Some on the alt-right see this as proof of a conspiracy by the Tribe to take over society and rule from their secret lair in Manhattan. Whether or not 2% of the population should be in charge of a big country like America is a topic worth debating, but some of what goes on with the alt-right, however, makes it sound like Jews are super-intelligent space aliens sent to enslave the goyim. Magic Jew Theory is just a nutty as Magic Dirt Theory. Even so, placing Jews outside the realm of legitimate debate is probably not good for the Jews.
The reason, is it makes self-policing nearly impossible. It is impossible to not notice that when the NeverTrump clown car comes to a stop, the guys who pile out are wearing beanies. The whole NeverTrump thing looked like a Chinese restaurant on Christmas, because all of the outspoken members were obviously Jewish. People notice these things, no matter how much you scream at them about the sin of noticing. When guys like Bret Stephens write things like this, it’s as if he is trying to elicit The Backlash™.
Fifty years ago, Jewish leaders would have put the brakes on their members going in for the sort of stuff we see from the neocons. We know this because the guys who invented neoconnery fifty year ago, explicitly rejected this stuff. Communism was bad for the Jews and a strong and free America was good for the Jews, so they signed onto Buckley’s thing and started voting Republican. In other words, worrying about what was good for the Jews resulted in Jews policing their ranks, which was good for the Jews.
Put another way, David Horowitz was probably onto something when he called out Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew.” The final paragraph of that piece is an explicit appeal to ethnic solidarity in the service of policing the ranks. Horowitz got a lot of grief over it, but he was probably right. Trump is good for the Jews, but reigning in suicidal crackpots is even better for the Jews. The worst possible thing that could happen to Jews in America is if the other 98% think the Jews are not on “our side.”
The predictable retort to this is “How come no one ever says this about the Finns or the Irish? There are people opposed to Trump and the New Right who are not Jewish.” If the NeverTrump cult was 90% Irish, people would notice that too, but it is not and further, the Irish are not wildly over-represented in the ruling class. There is simply no getting around the fact that Jews are unique among American ethnic groups in that they have come to dominate parts of the ruling class and punch way above their weight in others.
There’s little doubt that the culture is shifting with regards to the role of Jews in America and how to discuss it. The alt-right has a lot of well known anti-Semites and the whole Nazi meme thing. The people doing the most to enable and encourage this are the cosmopolitan crackpots like Bret Stephens. They are the anti-Semites best friend as they go out of their way to prove all of their claims. If you were trying to stir up hostility to Jews, you could do a lot worse than having Bret Stephens as your poster boy.
It is not just the Right, which has always been accused of harboring impure thoughts about the Chosen People. The Left are increasingly hostile to Jewish interests. When a Jewish professor is pilloried for not groveling to blacks on his campus, it means that identity politics on the Left will exclude Jews. Democrats are shamelessly hostile to Israel and they are actively courting Muslim voters, even going so far as to try and put Keith Ellison in as chair of their party. The result of this is inevitable.
Not being a member of the Tribe, it is hard to know if a return of self-policing is possible or desirable by those in the Tribe. Jews may simply be facing a different sort of ethnic decay that ended Irish and Italian solidarity. Even so, Jews are different. Unlike other ethnic groups, Jews are wildly over represented in the ruling classes. That means they will inevitably be subject to greater scrutiny. There’s also the natural phenomenon of people mocking and resenting their betters. Exactly no one loves their boss.
It’s why ruling classes have always tried to hold themselves to higher standards. It has always been understood that the trade-off for power and status is scrutiny and public judgement. It also meant public punishment for those who failed to live up to the elevated standards. Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic, stood stoically as his two sons were executed for treason in the Tarquinian conspiracy. That is very high price to pay for power, but it is what is required of those who get to rule over us.
The example of Brutus is not simply that sacrifice, often terrible sacrifice, is the price of power. It’s that sacrifice in support of the culture, in support of the common beliefs of the people, is the price of power. The unwritten contract between the rulers and the ruled is that the rulers will do what is required to uphold the cultural structures that define the people, as they are the foundation upon which the elite stand. Brutus could not be Brutus, unless he and his blood were subject to the rules of the Republic.
America has been more than good for the Jews. It has been the greatest place, in the history of man, for the Chosen People. So good, in fact, that the country deserves a place next to Cyrus the Great in the pantheon of non-Jewish heroes of the Jewish people. As a result, Jews have a special obligation to the country. Like ruling elites everywhere, in all times, they have a duty to defend the culture that is the foundation of their status. That means sacrifice. A little self-policing is not too much to ask. It would be good for the Jews.