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Jews, Sarah Palin, and anti-Semitism

January 14, 2010

Jennifer Rubin has a ridiculous piece in Commentary purporting to explore Jewish people’s special personal hatred for Sarah Palin. Jews, we are told, find her intellect lacking and her values alien, and this in turn is because Jews are overrepresented among the urban, meritocratic professional class. Here are the key passages:

  1. “American Jews are largely urban, clustered in Blue States, culturally sophisticated, with more years of college and postgraduate education than the average American. … It is not surprising, then, that Jews historically have not warmed to politicians who do not project intellectual sophistication.”
  2. “She comes from the wilderness, brags about hunting and eating native animals, and is a proud gun owner.”
  3. “Palin and her husband had labored at jobs most professional and upper-middle-class Jews would never dream of holding”
  4. “Palin calls herself a “hockey mom” and brags aloud about the athletic prowess of her children, while Jews are more likely to sport “My child Is an Honor Student” bumper stickers.”
  5. “Outside the Orthodox community, where large families are increasingly the norm, having five children, as Palin does, is aberrant to American Jews.”
  6. “Palin’s oldest, Track, has joined the military, while many Jews lack a family military tradition.”
  7. “Trig [Palin’s youngest son, who has Down Syndrome]  was not a selling point with many Jewish women who couldn’t imagine making a similar choice—indeed, many have, in fact, made the opposite one.”
  8. “Popular Jewish and non-Jewish female politicians—from Senator Diane Feinstein to Madeleine Albright to Hillary Clinton—have been modest to the point of frumpiness in appearance and professional in style, and therefore perfectly acceptable to Jewish women who aspired to similar positions of responsibility.”

For the sake of argument, let’s make the (big, somewhat suspect) assumption that Jews are in fact disproportionately put off by Palin. Let’s also make the (even bigger) assumption that Rubin’s sociological claims about the American jewry are true. Appropriately qualified, these assumptions may well be basically correct. Even if Rubin is speaking far too presumptuously, it’s not these assumptions as such that make the piece so repellently anti-Semitic.

The real problem with Rubin’s piece is that it encourages the thought that Jews’ dislike of Palin is some special brand of Jewish hatred rather than an instance of a completely general, unobjectionable feature of human nature: people, whoever they are, tend to be put off on a personal level by political figures they see as having dangerously defective intellects, wrong-headed personal values, and bad or immoral policies. But Rubin intentionally or not insinuates that Jews are especially insular, distrustful, and resentful, that they don’t like Palin because she’s not a member of the Tribe.

She trades on two not-totally-unreasonable premises: 1) that Jews are overrepresented among the urban, meritocratic professional class and 2) that members of the (mostly non-Jewish) urban, meritocratic professional class, Jewish or not, tend to dislike Palin. Of course, the reasonable conclusion from this is that Jews’ Palin-hate is just like everyone else’s Palin-hate (at least everyone else in the urban, meritocratic professional class). There’s nothing distinctively Jewish, or especially unfair, about it.

Sadly, lumping urban Jewish meritocrats in with their non-Jewish comrades will, in the eyes of anti-Semites, only further tar those non-Jews as “culturally Jewish” or some such nonsense. That Rubin’s article may encourage this vile form of anti-Semitic paranoia is its other, bigger tragedy.

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