Here’s an essay by an obscure writer in a modest magazine, so don’t treat it as authoritative. Still, in its artlessness, it makes clear the conventional wisdom: some people are above criticism.
Personally, as somebody who has been criticized upon occasion, I find that criticism, while unpleasant, tends to make people better. But the current view is that a powerful ethnic group is too fragile to endure criticism, even self-criticism.
From the Forward:
As a Jew, I Cringed Over Jeffrey Epstein – And Played Into The Anti-Semites’ Hands.
Howard Lovy July 9, 2019
When I heard that Jeffrey Epstein had been arrested on sex-trafficking charges, I cringed. I’m sure I was not the only Jewish person who did, or whose first thought was, Why does this sorry excuse for a human have to be Jewish? And I probably also wasn’t the only Jewish person whose second thought was, Given that he is Jewish, why does he have to have such a Jewish-sounding name?
It’s a natural response to a people who have been hounded by anti-Semites, to cringe when one of our own behaves in such a horrifying manner. …
It may be natural to fear the wrongdoing of our own not just for its moral ugliness but for the attacks against the rest of us that such wrongdoing will surely engender. But it’s also a fallacy. …
As Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt once told me when I interviewed her about her book, Antisemitism: Here and Now, it doesn’t matter how Jews behave. Anti-Semitism is not based on anything rational. Rooted in a mythology of secret Jewish power, money, control, and dual loyalties, anti-Semitism and Jewish wrongdoing have little to do with each other.
We all cringe as Jews when one of our own, with such a Jewish-sounding name, turns out to be a horrible person (and it doesn’t get much more horrible than being a child rapist). But cringing over Jewish deplorables is at the end of the day something of a category error. It’s the wrongdoing, not the Jewishness, that should horrify us.
After all, anti-Semitism is a virus that does not depend on the behavior of actual Jews. They would hate us, anyway. Lipstadt compares anti-Semitism to herpes — “It’s disgusting, but it doesn’t go away. Come a moment of stress in society, come a moment of tension into someone’s life, it can pop up,” she said. Anti-Semitism is the herpes in society. “It keeps asserting itself at times of tension, at times of dislocation, and that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing it.”
Epstein Accuser Says She Was Assaulted In Billionaire Les Wexner’s Home
Alyssa Fisher, July 8, 2019
They hate us when a Jew is successful in the public eye, and they hate us when a Jew is a villain in the public eye. It makes no difference. …
It’s natural to feel shame when one of our own turns out to be a villain, just as it’s natural to feel pride when one of our own is successful in politics, sports or entertainment. The thing is, that shame is playing by the anti-Semites’ rules. It’s assuming a collective responsibility for one man’s actions.
We can reverse engineer a Jewish success story to make it about their Jewish upbringing, but then we have to accept the other side of the coin: Is it his Jewishness that makes Epstein a horrible person? The anti-Semites will say yes (and they already have), but we don’t need to fall into the trap of claiming “Not all Jews.”
Many Jews are especially angry at their fellow Jews who are in the public eye for misdeeds. They are angry because they’re Jews, and so should have had a better understanding of what it means to act unethically. While understandable, it’s still playing by the anti-Semites’ rules.
Howard Lovy is a freelance writer based in Traverse City, Michigan.