Bret Stephens Pens Jewish Article, Internet Erupts

Bret Stephens Pens Jewish Article, Internet Erupts

Bret Stephens Pens Jewish Article, Internet Erupts

Bret Stephens is a columnist for the New York Times who has a tendency to step on rakes. And he did so on Friday with an opinion column entitled, “The Secrets of Jewish Genius.” Naturally the internet went wild.

Here are some excerpts from Stephens’s opinion piece which triggered the mob:

“. . .how is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?”

“The common answer is that Jews are, or tend to be, smart. When it comes to Ashkenazi Jews, it’s true.”

Hoo boy. And if that wasn’t enough, he added this:

“Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different.”

That didn’t go over well. Cries of “racist” and “eugenicist” erupted. One cartoonist at Twitter published this:

In addition, a Jewish writer at liberal Crooks and Liars raised a Nazi specter when he wrote:

“On this, the 7th night of Hanukkah, Bret Stephens decided to gift his fellow Jews with a screed on Eugenics placing us so high on the pedestal of natural higher intellectual power, Dr. Josef Mengele himself has risen from his grave to apologize.”

Crooks and Liars seemed to channel the British Guardian, which condemned “a column praising Ashkenazi Jews for their scientific accomplishments, which critics say amounts to embracing eugenics.”

So praising a group of people amounts to racism. Please, someone explain that logic.

The Daily Beast pointed out that a study which Bret Stephens quoted was co-authored by a “white nationalist.” Stephens cited a 2005 paper entitled “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence,” in which one of the writers was Henry Harpending, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled as a “white nationalist.” On top of that, the paper’s lead author, Gregory Cochran, expressed “homophobia,” according to the Beast. So therefore the Stephens article was poisoned by racism and bigotry.

And writer Reza Aslan — not Jewish, by the way — simply tweeted his outrage:

“Can someone please explain to me why the f–k Bret Stephens still has a column in the @nytimes?”

Apparently the New York Times should not be publishing articles which touch on sacred identity politics.

Now in case you’re wondering what Bret Stephens means when he references “Ashkenazi Jews,” here’s brief video on Jewish ethnicities. Ashkenazi Jews consist of one portion of a diverse population.

However, Dominic Green, a Jewish columnist for The Spectator points out that Bret Stephens is not talking about Jewish DNA. In fact, Stephens even writes that “brilliance” is not “exclusive to the Jews.”

Rather, Jewish success springs from the environment. In the words of Green:

“. . .the Jewish tradition of Talmudic study, which produced near-universal adult literacy among Jewish males . . . to the cultural imprint of intellectual labor even among secular Jews; to the Jewish emphasis on hard work, family and education; and to the perennial threat of violence, as nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of your neighbors burning you and your children alive in your home.”

“Emphasis on hard work, family, and education” — where have we heard this before? Of course, among Asian-Americans, whose parents also emphasize hard work and studies.

Bret Stephens

Credit: arvind grover/flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0.

So why is it not “racist” or “eugenist” to talk about Asian success? Or the dominance of blacks in track? Or even Germans and their legendary engineering, for heaven’s sake?

Meanwhile, in New York City, attacks on Orthodox Jews happen much too routinely. Earlier in the month a shooter targeted a kosher deli in New Jersey. And late on Saturday night, five Hasidic Jews were stabbed at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, NY. They were celebrating Hanukkah.

But when a Jewish columnist writes an article that praises the success of his people, then he becomes a racist eugenicist. And probably anti-Semitic, to boot. Go figure.


Featured image: Custom USB/flickr/cropped/CC BY 2.0.

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Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

  • Mike-in-Keller says:

    Since the earliest days of the Bible, sons of Abraham have tended to be outcasts. What do outcasts do? They work hard, they get educated — thereby having intellectual tools that those around them do not have but want — they save. Everywhere they went, they were the “smart” ones, not by genetic predisposition, but by cultural action.

    Those are facts. That the Left hates those facts redounds against the Left, not against the Jews.

  • atlman says:

    The best example of why this is “problematic” is Stephens’ exclusion of the Sephardim and Mizrahim, despite those groups having very similar cultural/environmental factors as the Ashkenazim.

    Oh yes, that Sephardim and Mizrahim have accused Ashkenazim of being viciously racist against them makes it even more complex. Israel, for example, only recently stopped treating Sephardim and Mizrahim as second class citizens as per official government policy. It is a huge reason why non-Ashkenazi Jews don’t form political alliances with Ashkenazi Jews in Israel, preferring to create their own political parties or join up with the Labor Party (sort of like our own Democratic Party except even more liberal), and why Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews aren’t counted among Jewish conservatives in America either (basically 100% of Jewish conservatives in America are Ashkenazim). In Israel recently a Sephardim who is on Netanyahu’s team basically acknowledged that she had no real policy role and that she was just there for window dressing/PR purposes – what we would call tokenism – and stated that she was fine with it because it was better than the Sephardim having no representation in Likud and Netanyahu’s administration at all.

    So even within Judaism Stephens’ comments were very problematic. This is a very complicated, sensitive issue that should be treated as such.

  • GWB says:

    Please, someone explain that logic.
    If only they could.

    which touch on sacred identity politics
    Only which touch on them in the right ways.

    @atlman: This is one of the reasons we have to reject prejudice; every group has its own groups, and therefore its own internal differences. Even I have to work to remember this (I’m probably more well-versed in Judaism than many). Of course, it’s also representative of the sin in all of us – including the self-righteous-thru-virtue-signaling.

    @Mike: Sowell covers this in his second big portion of Black Rednecks, White Liberals, where he talks about the “economic middle-man”. These are usually outsiders who are hard workers, but are set outside the “productive” class of artisan and farmer, so become bankers and merchants. And, therefore are despised.

  • pst314 says:

    “Crooks and Liars seemed to channel the British Guardian…”

    You mean “the eponymously named Crooks and Liars”. That blog has been shamelessly peddling lies for a very long time.

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