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OpinionIsrael at War

The end of the Jews of privilege

History has rendered its judgment yet again.

A caricature of former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. Image: Stable Diffusion
A caricature of former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. Image: Stable Diffusion
Benjamin Kerstein
Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor living in Tel Aviv. Read more of his work on Substack at No Delusions, No Despair. Purchase his books here.

Some time ago, I wrote an essay on what I called “the Jews of Privilege”: The Jewish upper class that has always been very ambivalent if not hostile towards Zionism, which was and remains a movement of the Jewish masses.

I believe that the past three months have been devastating to the Jews of Privilege. Put simply, the overwhelming majority of American Jews now understand that the movements, institutions and ideologies of which the Jews of Privilege are an indelible part hate the Jews and want to kill them.

Where the Jews of Privilege will go from here cannot be said with absolute certainty, but if the past is any guide, some of them will wake up and “betray” their class, while the rest will double down on their contempt for the lower orders.

Some of them already appear to be in the midst of this unpleasant process. One is former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. In response to a successful revolt by Harvard University donors who no longer wish to pay the bills for a systemically antisemitic institution, Reich wrote, “As a Jew, I also cannot help but worry that the actions of these donors—many of them Jewish, many from Wall Street—could fuel the very antisemitism they claim to oppose, based on the age-old stereotype of wealthy Jewish bankers controlling the world.”

As we all know, the words “as a Jew” almost invariably preface something detestable, so we should not be surprised by Reich’s statement. Nonetheless, it’s worth examining for a moment, because it shows the terrible impasse at which the Jewish overclass now finds itself.

Reich is something like a quintessential Jew of Privilege. He studied at Dartmouth and Oxford; taught at Harvard, Brandeis and UC Berkeley; and, of course, served at the highest levels of government. During the Clinton years and after, he was a stalwart of the Democratic party’s left-wing and to a certain extent remains so.

Reich, in other words, has been confronted with the terrible reality that he has served and believed himself to be accepted by institutions that have now openly joined the Axis of Antisemitism. Indeed, at Harvard and Berkeley, Reich was housed at two of the main headquarters of the Axis’ professoriate regime: Institutions from which the regime directs its campaigns of intellectual terrorism and enforces its totalitarian dictates.

What this means is that Reich now has two choices: He can accept the awful fact that these institutions and their leaders ruthlessly exploited him while quietly regarding him as a useful subhuman; or he can condemn those Jews who do accept this and have decided to resist.

That he has chosen the latter is not a shock. It isn’t easy to admit that you’ve lied to yourself for your entire life and that a gang of nihilistic fiends played you for a fool. It is devastating to accept that those you considered friends were never your friends and that those you looked down on as your class inferiors were actually right all along.

Indeed, even as he laments the Jewish plebs’ stridency, Reich reveals his own privileged myopia. Were he slightly more courageous, he would be capable of admitting to what, again, he must know: There is no way for Jews to “fuel” antisemitism. The reason is that there is no conceivable way that the antisemites could become any more antisemitic. Their antisemitism is already genocidal. They have nowhere left to go. Maximum antisemitism has been reached.

In such a situation, the Jews have only one choice: To resist the antisemites. When you are faced with a mob of demented psychopaths—and antisemitism is nothing if not demented and psychopathic—all you can do is fight them without quarter. If that means daring to declare yourself in public, then so be it. The only other option is to simply allow yourself to be killed. The Jews have had quite enough of that.

Reich, however, appears to think that the Jews can fight antisemitism by not fighting it. Besides being remarkably counterintuitive, no one who does not believe themselves to be soundly protected by privilege could entertain such a notion for more than a few seconds without dissolving into laughter.

In a certain sense, however, none of this matters; because the truth is that the domination of Reich’s class is almost certainly over. Whether he likes it or not, most American Jews now understand that they can never be privileged, because the privileged can always decide that they are Jews.

They also understand the immensity of the failure of the Jewish overclass. If anyone labored under the delusion that this class was still vital and effective, Oct. 7 and the ensuing orgy of bloodthirsty racism killed it for good and all. American Jewry now realizes that its privileged brethren allowed this to happen because they were weak and they were stupid.

At the moment, the consequences of this realization are somewhat unclear, but it is almost certain that the total marginalization of those Jews who insist on remaining weak and stupid will be one of them. Thus, Reich’s missive is the cry of a dying class, the opiate of the privileged.

While perhaps tragic, this was inevitable. History often renders a terrible verdict on those unwilling to face unpleasant facts. Nor does it tend to reward anyone who considers themselves ineffably superior to those who choose to resist rather than look away.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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