The Occupy Wall St. movement and its many offshoots have clearly become creatures of the left. Although it’s hard to say what it was originally, it is becoming the left’s answer to the Tea Party’s angry middle-aged and middle-class White people: angry young, mainly White people worried about their prospects and expressing themselves in left-speak. Locally, the campus liberals at CSULB are promoting Occupy Long Beach, and nationally one hears the likes of Michael Moore on MSNBC touting it. On the other hand, from conservatives there is a reflexive disdain and accusations that OWS movement is funded and organized by activists associated with leftist organizations like the SEIU and ACORN.
There are certainly a lot of reasons to complain about Wall St. The financial meltdown is the greatest elite malfeasance/fraud in memory, and to date none of the high-level perpetrators have been prosecuted–those who made the markets for bundled mortgages given to people who could not possibly repay. The financial meltdown of 2008 continues to reverberate in world economies, resulting in enormously increased debt loads at all levels of government, politically volatile levels of unemployment, and an as yet uncertain outcome.
It’s ironic perhaps that there has been a very visible Jewish presence to the OWS movement. (See “Occupy Wall St. protests taking on a Jewish flavor, ” JTA, Oct. 11, 2011.)
From progressive activists who seek to conflate the protesters’ aspirations with Jewish values to Chabadniks looking for opportunities to have Jews to perform mitzvahs such as sitting in a sukkah, the Occupy Wall Street protests are becoming a fulcrum of Jewish ferment. In Boston and Philadelphia, too, Jewish activists held Yom Kippur services at the site of the demonstrations.
“For many of us, social justice is where we find our Judaism,” said Regina Weiss, the communications director for the Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice. “For many there is no more important way to stand up and express Judaism on the holiest night of the year [Yom Kippur] than to stand with people who are hurting and to stand up for greater equality in the country.”
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What we won’t find among the Jewish protesters is any allusion to Jewish involvement on Wall St. Last Thursday I was driving to work listening to Bill Handel, a Jewish LA-area talk show host discussing the protests. He said he was not angry with Wall St.—“It’s my tribe that controls Wall St. Why would I be upset?” (available here beginning around 24:40) (followed by nervous laughter from his co-host).
Call the ADL! Notify the SPLC!
But of course, since Handel is a Jew, it’s okay for him to say it; there will be no campaigns to get him off the air, although we shouldn’t expect to see his comments picked up by the national media. On some topics, silence is golden.
In fact, of course, Jews do have a dominant position on Wall St., a fact that has not gone unnoticed even by Jewish scholars like Benjamin Ginsberg who noted in his 1999 book The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State that 50% of Wall Street executives were Jewish. It’s doubtless at least that high now, and that number doesn’t really get at the extent of Jewish control of key Wall St. players like Goldman Sachs (Lloyd Blankfein) and JP Morgan Chase (Jamie Dimon). This general topic is discussed in TOO articles such as “Our unethical financial elite” and “Does Jewish financial behavior have anything to do with being Jewish?“.
But don’t expect that the OWS protesters will breathe a word of this—apart from a lonely guy who had to put with a lot of abuse for saying it.
And of course another irony is that the OWS movement has been embraced by the left and vilified by the mainstream right, even though Wall St. typically gives far more money to Democrat causes (see also here) than Republican causes. (Thus far, Wall St. has given more to Republicans this year, but that may well change after the Republican candidate has been decided.) It is well known that in general around 75% of donations to the Democratic Party are from Jews and around 80% of American Jews voted for Obama.