Let's name the Jew
By Kevin MacDonald
Over the last year, there's been a torrent of articles on
neoconservatism raising (usually implicitly) some vexing issues: Are
neoconservatives different from other conservatives? Is neoconservatism
a Jewish movement? Is it "anti-Semitic" to say so?
The dispute between the neocons and more traditional conservatives
"paleoconservatives" - is especially important because
the latter now
find themselves on the outside, looking in on the conservative power
Hopefully, some of the venom has been taken out of this argument by the
remarkable recent article by neoconservative "godfather" Irving
("The Neoconservative Persuasion," Weekly Standard, August 25,
With commendable frankness, Kristol admitted that
"the historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would
to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism
in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of
conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy."
And, equally frankly, Kristol eschewed any attempt to justify U.S.
support for Israel in terms of American national interest:
"[L]arge nations, whose identity is ideological, like the Soviet Union
of yesteryear and the United States of today, inevitably have
ideological interests in addition to more material concerns. That is why
we feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival is
threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national
interest are necessary."
If the US is an "ideological" nation, this can only mean that the
motivations of neoconservative ideology are a legitimate subject of
For example, it is certainly true that the neocons' foreign policy fits
well with a plausible version of Jewish interests, but is arguably only
tenuously related to the interests of the U.S. Also, neocons oppose the
isolationism of important sections of traditional American conservatism.
And neocon attitudes on issues like race and immigration differ
profoundly from those of traditional mainstream conservatives -
resemble closely the common attitudes of the wider American Jewish
Count me among those who accept that the Jewish commitment of leading
neoconservatives has become a critical influence on U.S. policies, and
that the effectiveness of the neoconservatives is greatly enhanced by
their alliance with the organized Jewish community. In my opinion, this
conclusion is based on solid data and reasonable inferences. But like
any other theory, of course, it is subject to reasoned discussion and
We shouldn't be surprised by the importance of ethnicity in human
affairs. Nor should we be intimidated by charges of anti-Semitism. We
should be able to discuss these issues openly and honestly. This is a
practical matter, not a moral one.
Ethnic politics in the U.S. are certainly not limited to Jewish
activism. They are an absolutely normal phenomenon throughout history
and around the world.
But for well over half a century, with rare exceptions, Jewish influence
has been off-limits for rational discussion. Now, however, as the U.S.
acquires an empire in the Middle East, this ban must inevitably fall
My views on these issues are shaped by my research on several other
influential Jewish-dominated intellectual and political movements,
including the Boasian school of anthropology, Freudian psychoanalysis,
the Frankfurt School of Social Research, Marxism and several other
movements of the radical left, as well as the movement to change the
ethnic balance of the United States by allowing mass, non-traditional
My conclusion: Contemporary neoconservatism fits into the general
pattern of Jewish intellectual and political activism I have identified
in my work.
I am not, of course, saying that all Jews, or even most Jews,
these movements. Nor did these movements work in concert: some were
intensely hostile to one another. I am saying, however, that the key
figures in these movements identified in some sense as Jews and viewed
their participation as in some sense advancing Jewish interests.
In all of the Jewish intellectual and political movements I studied,
there is a strong Jewish identity among the core figures. All center on
charismatic Jewish leaders - people such as Boas, Trotsky and Freud -
who are revered as messianic, god-like figures.
Neoconservatism's key founders trace their intellectual ancestry to the
"New York Intellectuals," a group that originated as followers of
Trotskyite theoretician Max Schactman in the 1930s and centered around
influential journals like Partisan Review and Commentary (which is in
fact published by the American Jewish Committee). In the case of
neoconservatives, their early identity as radical leftist disciples
shifted as there began to be evidence of anti-Semitism in the Soviet
Union. Key figures in leading them out of the political left were
philosopher Sydney Hook and Elliot Cohen, editor of Commentary. Such men
as Hook, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer and Seymour
Martin Lipset, were deeply concerned about anti-Semitism and other
Jewish issues. Many of them worked closely with Jewish activist
organizations. After the 1950s, they became increasingly disenchanted
with leftism. Their overriding concern was the welfare of Israel.
By the 1970s, the neocons were taking an aggressive stance against the
Soviet Union, which they saw as a bastion of anti-Semitism and
opposition to Israel. Richard Perle was the prime organizer of
Congressional support for the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment which angered
the Soviet Union by linking bilateral trade issues to freedom of
emigration, primarily of Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel and the
Current key leaders include an astonishing number of individuals well
placed to influence the Bush Administration: (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard
Perle, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis Libby, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, David
Wurmser, Abram Shulsky), interlocking media and thinktankdom (Bill
Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Stephen Bryen, John Podhoretz, Daniel Pipes),
and the academic world (Richard Pipes, Donald Kagan).
As the neoconservatives lost faith in radical leftism, several key
neocons became attracted to the writings of Leo Strauss, a classicist
and political philosopher at the University of Chicago. Strauss had a
very strong Jewish identity and viewed his philosophy as a means of
ensuring Jewish survival in the Diaspora. As he put it in a 1962 Hillel
House lecture, later republished in Leo Strauss: Political Philosopher
and Jewish Thinker:
"I believe I can say, without any exaggeration, that since a very, very
early time the main theme of my reflections has been what is called the
Strauss has become a cult figure - the quintessential rabbinical guru
with devoted disciples.
While Strauss and his followers have come to be known as
neoconservatives - and have even claimed to be simply
- there is nothing conservative about their goals. This is most
obviously the case in foreign policy, where they are attempting to
rearrange the entire Middle East in the interests of Israel. But it is
also the case with domestic policy, where acceptance of rule by an
aristocratic elite would require a complete political transformation.
Strauss believed that this aristocracy would be compatible with Jewish
Strauss notoriously described the need for an external exoteric language
directed at outsiders, and an internal esoteric language directed at
ingroup members. In other words, the masses had to be deceived.
But actually this is a general feature of the movements I have studied.
They invariably frame issues in language that appeals to non-Jews,
rather than explicitly in terms of Jewish interests. The most common
rhetoric used by Jewish intellectual and political movements has been
the language of moral universalism and the language of science -
languages that appeal to the educated elites of the modern Western
world. But beneath the rhetoric it is easy to find statements expressing
the Jewish agendas of the principle actors.
For example, anthropologists under the leadership of Boas viewed their
crusade against the concept of "race" as, in turn, combating
anti-Semitism. They also saw their theories as promoting the ideology of
cultural pluralism, which served perceived Jewish interests because the
U.S. would be seen as consisting of many co-equal cultures rather than
as a European Christian society.
Similarly, psychoanalysts commonly used their theories to portray
anti-Jewish attitudes as symptoms of psychiatric disorder.
Conversely, the earlier generation of American Jewish Trotskyites
ignored the horrors of the Soviet Union until the emergence there of
Neoconservatives have certainly appealed to American patriotic
platitudes in advocating war throughout the Middle East - gushing about
spreading American democracy and freedom to the area, while leaving
unmentioned their own strong ethnic ties and family links to Israel.
Michael Lind has called attention to the neoconservatives' "odd bursts
of ideological enthusiasm for 'democracy'" - odd because these
for democracy and freedom throughout the Middle East are also coupled
with support for the Likud Party and other like-minded groups in Israel
that are driven by a vision of an ethnocentric, expansionist Israel
that, to outside observers at least, bears an unmistakable (albeit
unmentionable) resemblance to apartheid South Africa.
These inconsistencies of the neoconservatives are not odd or surprising.
The Straussian idea is to achieve the aims of the elite ingroup by using
language designed for mass appeal. War for "democracy and freedom"
much better than a war explicitly aimed at achieving the foreign policy
goals of Israel.
Neoconservatives have responded to charges that their foreign policy has
a Jewish agenda by labeling any such analysis as "anti-Semitic."
charges have been echoed by powerful activist Jewish organizations like
the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
But at the very least, Jewish neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz, who
were deeply involved in pushing for the war in Iraq, should frankly
discuss how their close family and personal ties to Israel have affected
their attitudes on US foreign policy in the Middle East.
Wolfowitz, however, has refused to discuss this issue beyond terming
such suggestions "disgraceful."
A common argument is that neoconservatism is not Jewish because of the
presence of various non-Jews amongst their ranks.
But in fact, the ability to recruit prominent non-Jews, while
nevertheless maintaining a Jewish core and a commitment to Jewish
interests, has been a hallmark - perhaps the key hallmark - of
influential Jewish intellectual and political movements throughout the
20th century. Freud's commented famously on the need for a non-Jew to
represent psychoanalysis, a role played by Ernest Jones and C. G. Jung.
Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict were the public face of Boasian
anthropology. And, although Jews represented over half the membership of
both the Socialist Party and the Communist Party USA at various times,
neither party ever had Jews as presidential candidates and no Jew held
the top position in the Communist Party USA after 1929.
In all the Jewish intellectual and political movements I reviewed,
non-Jews have been accepted and given highly-visible roles. Today, those
roles are played most prominently by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld
whose ties with neoconservatives go back many years. It makes excellent
psychological sense to have the spokespeople for any movement resemble
the people they are trying to convince.
In fact, neoconservatism is rather unusual in the degree to which policy
formulation - as opposed to implementation - is so
Jewish. Perhaps this reflects U.S. conditions in the late 20th century.
All the Jewish intellectual and political movements I studied were
typified by a deep sense of orthodoxy - a sense of "us versus
Dissenters are expelled, usually amid character assassination and other
This has certainly been a feature of the neocon movement. The classic
recent example of this "We vs. They" world is David Frum's attack
"unpatriotic conservatives" as anti-Semites. Any conservative who
opposes the Iraq war as contrary to U.S. interests and who notes the
pro-Israeli motivation of many of the important players, is not to be
argued with, but eradicated. "We turn our backs on them." This is
the spirit out of which the Anglo-American parliamentary tradition was
developed, and in fact was not endorsed by other non-Jewish pro-war
Jewish intellectual and political movements have typically had ready
access to prestigious mainstream media channels, and this is certainly
true for the neocons. The anchoring by the Washington Post of the
columns of Charles Krauthammer and Robert Kagan and by the New York
Times of William Safire's illustrates this. But probably more important
recently has been the invariable summoning of neoconservatives to
represent the "conservative" line on the TV Networks. Is it
to suppose that this may be somewhat influenced by the famously heavy
Jewish role in these operations?
Immigration policy provides a valuable acid test for the proposition the
neoconservatism is actually a vehicle for perceived Jewish ethnic
interests. I believe I have been able to demonstrate that
pro-immigration elements in American public life have, for over a
century, been largely led, funded, energized and organized by the Jewish
community [PDF file]. American Jews have taken this line, with a few
isolated exceptions, because they have believed, as Leonard S. Glickman,
president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, has bluntly
stated, "The more diverse American society is the safer [Jews]
Having run out of Russian Jews, the HIAS is now deeply involved in
recruiting refugees from Africa.
When, in the middle 1990s an immigration reform movement arose amongst
American conservatives, the reaction of the neoconservatives ranged from
cold to hostile. No positive voice was permitted on the Op-Ed page of
the Wall Street Journal, by then a neoconservative domain. (Perhaps
significantly, a more recent exception has been a relatively favorable
review of the anti-illegal immigration book Mexifornia - whose author,
the military historian Victor Davis Hanson, has distinguished himself by
the extreme hawkishness of his views on the Middle East.) The main
vehicle of immigration reform sentiment, National Review, once a bastion
of traditional conservative thought, was quite quickly captured by
neoconservatives and its opposition to immigration reduced to nominal.
Prior to the post-9/11 U.S. invasion of the Middle East, this
suppression of the immigration reform impulse among conservatives was
probably the single most important contribution of the neoconservatives
to the course of U.S. history.
It may yet prove to be the most disastrous.
Kevin MacDonald is Professor of Psychology at California State