Jews Are Hated Because They’re Terrible at Failing

When success becomes “white privilege,” it’s open season on the Jews.
November 29, 2023
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The alarming rise in Jew hatred across the United States, and especially on college campuses, has left many people bewildered. How could this be? After all, Jews have contributed so much to America– why would they attract so much animosity? And why has it risen so sharply in the last few years?

In a recent lecture in Los Angeles, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Bret Stephens brought up a societal shift that has especially hurt the Jews: the reframing of success as “white privilege.” At a time when the corrosive notion of “systemic racism” has permeated our culture, the new sinners have been dominated by those who are “white” and successful. If you fall into that privileged camp and haven’t learned to virtue signal, watch out.

This notion of connecting success to the bourgeois status of privilege undermines the very American ideal of meritocracy—the idea that those who work hard are more likely to succeed. This is clearly bad news for the Jews. The Jewish ethos since we first arrived in this country has been to work hard and aim for success. Must we now fail in order to be liked? It’s not a question Jews want to answer.

Indeed in this new social landscape, Jews are in a lose-lose position. When the white and successful are stereotyped as the new oppressors, Jews are seen as the most privileged whites, the ultimate oppressors.

That’s why Jew haters tend to get hysterical when a tragedy like October 7 disrupts that narrative. They see 1200 Jews get massacred in Israel, and, instead of showing empathy, they rush madly to the streets to promptly put the Jews back in their place in the forever oppressor club.

It’s not a coincidence that the starkest evidence against that oppressor narrative—posters of Jewish hostages taken captive by Hamas—have been the target of such vitriol. Jews have no right to claim even temporary victim status. The oppressed club has a long waiting list, and Jews are nowhere on the list.

It’s counterproductive to think we can end Jew hatred when so much of that animosity is connected to success envy. Even the vaunted elixir of “education” has a limited effect. Education about what? About the long history of Jew hatred and why it’s so unfair? What if fairness has nothing to do with it?

Instead of fighting back by trying to eradicate the hate, it’s more useful to take the gloves off, as several groups are doing, by using the law to defend Jews against unlawful discrimination and harassment, especially on college campuses. Better to file legal complaints than to simply complain.

Competing in the Victim Olympics is also a losing battle. Regardless of the fact that most hate crimes are against Jews, few people are inclined to buy our claims of victimhood. It doesn’t fit the American Jewish brand, not even when we bring up the six million we lost eighty years ago in the Holocaust. That was then, this is now. In America, the hardwired perception is that Jews are highly successful. They’ve made it. They can handle whatever abuse comes their way.

Things may look bleak at the moment, but in the long run, we know we’d rather be punished for succeeding than rewarded for failing.

It’s clear that even before white privilege became America’s postmodern sin, there was still plenty of Jew hatred to go around, as there has been for millennia. The difference now is that the perception of Jews as the ultimate white privilege sinners has opened the floodgates. It’s now open season on the Jews.

Of course, while bashing those powerful white privilege Jews, the haters are simultaneously bashing everything they hate about America and the West, including that dreaded white patriarchy. Such a deal.

Have you noticed this new level of chutzpah among Jew haters? There’s not only hate and ugliness but a frenzied cockiness, a certainty that they can’t get in trouble. Among the countless examples we’ve seen, I can’t help thinking about that poor math professor at MIT who had no choice but to allow a student to interrupt his class with anti-Israel venom. The sheer brazenness and fearlessness of the student was stunning. He seemed to be enjoying himself.

In a provocative 2013 essay in the British online journal Fathom, philosopher Eve Garrard argued that Jew hatred actually brings pleasure to the haters.

To really understand the hatred, she wrote, “we have to look outside the cognitive domain to the realm of the emotions, and ask: what are the pleasures, what are the emotional rewards which anti-Semitism has to offer to its adherents?”

She cites three principal sources of pleasure: “first, the pleasure of hatred; second, the pleasure of tradition, and third, the pleasure of displaying moral purity. Each of these is an independent source of satisfaction, but the three interact in various ways, which often strengthens their effects.”

It’s strangely discomfiting to hear from a scholar that “anti-Semitism is fun, there’s no doubt about it. You can’t miss the relish with which some people compare Jews to the Nazis, or the fake sorrow, imperfectly masking deep satisfaction, with which they bemoan the supposed fact that Jews have brought hatred on themselves, especially by the actions of Israel and its Zionist supporters, and that they have inexplicably failed to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.”

The eerie pleasure that Jew hatred provides is not something that can be easily erased or wished away. It’s ingrained and immutable, just as the perception that Jews are successful is ingrained and immutable.

The way forward is not to despair but to recognize and incorporate that reality. Given that it’s no use trying to convince the world that Jews are victims, we might as well own our success and double down on our Jewish identity. Better to walk with the strength of the proud than limp with the fragility of the weak. By all means, let’s continue to stay vigilant, to correct the lies, to fight in the courts and protect the safety of Jews everywhere. But it would behoove us not to lose sight of the long game.

Things may look bleak at the moment, but in the long run, we know we’d rather be punished for succeeding than rewarded for failing. Regardless of what the haters call us or the pleasure they get in hating us, we know it’s better for the Jews and for America if we elevate not victimhood but progress and success– white or otherwise.

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