This article by fellow TOI blogger Eiron Mizrachi has received a lot of attention due to its provocative title and thought-provoking nature. The central claims made in the article are of a piece with the standard stated opinions of large swaths of the political Left in the US and elsewhere.
I’ve written about these claims and arguments before, and would like to make a few logical points in reply to Mizrachi’s specific comments.
A note on terminology: Mizrachi’s post is about discrimination against all (what he calls) non-white Jews, henceforth to be referred to as ‘NW Jews’.
First the obligatory disclaimer. Of course there is discrimination against NW Jews, and there was much more in the early days of the state of Israel. Mizrachi does mention a segment of the population where this discrimination is still especially egregious, viz. the Haredi community. This obviously is terribly wrong. My quarrel isn’t with the general claim that there is Anti-NWism that should be combatted, or with the anecdotes of Mizrahi’s personal experience showing that there is work to be done, it’s with the claim that this discrimination is largely to blame for the real-world disparities Mizrahi cites, and, frankly (in Trump voice), with the general culture they represent [before you correct me, Look at Eiron’s bio. Not gonna fight that fight today].
Let’s take for example the fact of there having been no NW prime ministers of Israel. Mizrahi’s argument from this fact can be presented like this:
Premise 1: There have been 13 different Prime Ministers of Israel.
Premise 2: They have all been of Ashkenazi descent.
Premise 3: NWs have made up a percentage of the population significantly higher than 0.
Conclusion: The representation of NWs among prime ministers is not proportionate to their representation in the population.
Premise 1: NWs are underrepresented in a certain area of achievement.
Premise 2: Races aren’t inherently superior or inferior.
Conclusion: There is discrimination against NWs in that area.
Step 1 is undoubtedly valid, as it is purely mathematical. Step 2 is obviously fallacious because the premises don’t justify the conclusion. I submit that it’s only because of the extraordinary influence of political correctness that anyone can get away with arguing like this.
Clearly there could be reasons other than discrimination for the under-representation of a given group in an area of achievement especially if the group is also a cultural group. Jews are underrepresented in pig farming, not because of discrimination, but because Jewish culture makes is less likely for Jews to become pig farmers.
Here we get into dangerous territory. “Shai, so you’re saying that no NW people have been prime minister because NWs are dumb due to their being racially inferior, you racist bigot @#$% $@# %^&$##$@!”. No, I’m not saying that. There is a middle ground between attributing disparities to discrimination on the one hand, or race on the other hand. It’s called cultural and environmental factors.
I humbly submit that the fact that no NW person has been prime minister yet–although I’m rather sure it will happen fairly soon–has a combination of causes, among them some discrimination (that was much worse in the early days of the state), sheer statistical chance (13 is actually a really small sample) and, mainly, the fact that in the time period from the establishment of the state until now (especially toward the beginning), NW Jews have been less likely, on average, to be qualified to be prime minister, due entirely and utterly, I reiterate, to cultural and environmental factors, and not at all to racial ones.
The fact that the previous paragraph sounds incredibly inflammatory even to me, is, I humbly submit, more of a testament of our collective cultural PC madness (which gives rise to things like Trumpism) than to the wrongness or hatefulness of what I’ve actually said.
Ashkenazi Jews came from Europe, where the vast majority of scientific, technological and social advancement of the modern age was achieved. Sorry. I didn’t make it so, I didn’t ask it to be so, and also don’t deserve or ask for any credit for it, because I wasn’t there and didn’t do any of the work. But these achievements live on in the European culture of which the Jews imbibed much.
NW Jews came from predominantly Arab and Muslim lands. They therefore didn’t have the benefit of witnessing and participating in the aforementioned advancement. This through no fault of their own, of course, but the natural result just is that they will be less likely to be in a position to hold the office of prime minister of a modern technological country.
No one made it this way in order to discriminate against NWs. The perception that someone must have is a common problem with Marxist thinking. There is a reality. Not everything is artificial. Many things that look like they were designed for some specific purpose are merely the by-products of more fundamental realities that have nothing directly to do with the particular results under scrutiny.
If Eiron Mizrahi had just written about how there are still racist attitudes in Ashkenazi Jewish circles, as they’d experienced directly, in an effort to raise awareness of a continuing social problem, I would be all for that. People should be treated as individuals, and if they happen to be qualified for something, it shouldn’t matter what color they are; it’s irrelevant. Discriminating against someone qualified because he/she comes from a certain group, even if this is a cultural group which is less likely to produce qualified people, is racist and abhorrent because the big-picture group dynamics are irrelevant to individuals.
There is still actual institutional discrimination in the Haredi world, and this is a much more severe problem that Mizrahi also correctly points out.
But I know that Mizrahi is working within a larger Cultural-Marxist agenda, and this is a problem. Nowhere is this more evident in the piece than in Mizrahi’s comment: “and how our capitalistic society was founded with the intent of displacing non white people”, referring specifically to the US, but probably meant to apply to Western civilization as a whole.
No, Eiron, capitalism wasn’t founded with the intent of displacing non-white people. It wasn’t ever actually “founded” in some specific place and time. It developed over many years as the most efficient way to produce the most economic benefit for the greatest amount of people, as it incentivizes excellence through personal reward. It has worked much better than any other system because of the reality of things, not because someone decided that it should.