Adam Garfinkle on the 'Jewcentric' Personality
I receive regular articles emailed from the FPRI (Foreign Policy Research Institute) and yesterday received one in the "Footnotes" series (The Newsletter of FPRI's Wachman Center) with the odd title "Zionism and 'Jewcentricity' in American History" (Vol. 14, No. 12, August 2009). Written by Adam Garfinkle (editor of The American Interest) and based on a fascinating presentation, "The U.S., Zionism, and Israel," at a conference "U.S. Foreign Policy and the Modern Middle East" held in Philadelphia on June 25-27, 2009, the article and presentation are both advance reports from his upcoming book Jewcentricity: Why the Jews Are Praised, Blamed, and Used to Explain Just About Everything (Wiley, September 2009).
As I noted, the article has the odd title "Zionism and 'Jewcentricity' in American History" -- a rather disconcerting title, actually -- but here's Garfinkle's definition of the disconcerting term:
Jewcentricity is the tendency to exaggerate the role of Jews and Judaism in consequential human affairs.As he notes, this can be expressed in antisemitic or philosemitic ways. Indeed, I've long considered these to be two sides of the same coin, and I've noticed that very little is sometimes needed for an individual to flip almost at random from one side to the other.
Mark Twain was a good example of this sort of 'Jewcentric' individual, for he wrote an essay published in Harper's Magazine, "Concerning the Jews" (September 1899), that expressed both attitudes. After writing the arguably antisemitic words that the "Jew is a money getter, and in getting his money he is a very serious obstruction to less capable neighbors who are on the same quest," Twain went on to write these rather more positive, arguably philosemitic words:
The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rule, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away . . . . [T]he Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit together in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now who he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal except the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains.This could, of course, easily flip back over into an antisemitic attitude, for the two attitudes share the view that the Jews play an overwhelming role in world affairs. Interestingly, even Jews can show both tendencies. Recall Garfinkle's definition:
Jewcentricity is the tendency to exaggerate the role of Jews and Judaism in consequential human affairs.In the article, he then immediately observes:
Non-Jews do it, and Jews do it, too. Sometimes the exaggerations are philo-Semitic . . . sometimes anti-Semitic.With that in mind consider our modern-day "Spengler" -- who has recently revealed himself to be David P. Goldman, associate editor of First Things -- for "Spenger" wrote an article published on September 17, 2007 in Asia Times, "It's easy for the Jews to talk about life," in which he expresses positive views that recall Twain's positive remarks about the Jewish talent for survival and success against the odds:
It's easy for the Jews to talk about delighting in life. They are quite sure that they are eternal, while other peoples tremble at the prospect impending extinction. It is not their individual lives that the Jews find so pleasant, but rather the notion of a covenantal life that proceeds uninterrupted through the generations . . . . What makes the Jews different is their unique belief that the Covenant gives them eternal life, a belief grounded, to be sure, by thousands of years of history, and survival against all odds against the depredations of the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Alexandrine and Roman empires, not to mention more recent unpleasantness. It is not changing the baby's diapers or changing grandma's bedpan to which the Jews refer when they speak of delight in life, but rather the idealized, perpetual life of a kinship community.Goldman is of course Jewish, but his 'Jewcentric' views have at times been expressed in less positive ways, for in 1978, he was associated with Lyndon LaRouche and co-wrote an article with Uwe Henke von Parpart for LaRouche's paper New Solidarity (November 18, 1978) titled "Israel Got H-Bomb From Wall Street Zionists -- USLP Readies Dossier" (pdf). The acronym "USLP" stands for "United States Labor Party," which was at that time the name of LaRouche's organization, and Goldman's views in this article are less than positive:
Operating under the cover of partnerships in Wall Street Brokerage Firms, executive positions in industrial companies, and hole-in-the-wall "scientific" firms scattered throughout the New York Metropolitan area, members of the Nuclear Club of Wall Street are the core of the atom spy network of Israel's foreign secret intelligence, the Mossad. These men are the most dangerous traitors in circulation now in the United States. Through their efforts, Israel has the means to provoke a third World War and destroy the United States.The LaRouche organization is known for this sort of conspiracy-mongering. Goldman has long since left that organization, and his views on the role of Jews and Israel have grown far more positive -- as his "Spengler" articles attest -- but he remains a fascinating example of what Garfinkle might refer to as "the Jewcentric personality."
Not that Garfinkle ever mentions Goldman, for the name doesn't appear in Garfinkle's book Jewcentricity: Why the Jews Are Praised, Blamed, and Used to Explain Just About Everything, but the man fits the type.