Buchanan’s Ivy League Lament


Every era seems to have columnists with a bee in their Sukkah regarding Israel and the Jews. Returning from Westbrook Pegler’s funeral, Murray Kempton said, “I knew he was sick. He wrote [me a seven-page letter] and didn’t mention Ben-Gurion.

Pat Buchanan, defender of “white Christian America,” is our bee de jour.Let’s not blame White Christian America: It’s provided the setting for the greatest Jewish golden age since the Ten Tribes tapped out. But when Buchanan types “white Christian America,” that beautiful phrase turns sinister, the way the Witch in Oz could mangle the word “pretty.”Buchanan’s writing about Jews has been particularly barbed for the better part of the decade and, while no one wants to call Buchanan anti-Semitic, a line has been forming around the corner with people who do a Jackie Mason-like routine that Buchanan is not really an anti-Semite but “almost,” “maybe.

Commentator Fred Barnes once said, depending on definitions, “Pat may qualify.”Elie Wiesel says Buchanan “comes close.

Last Saturday’s Buchanan column “comes close” and “may qualify” again.

It all started in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 16), where an op-ed by Ron Unz pointed out that black and Hispanic enrollment at Harvard is slightly less than their percentage of the U.S. population, leading to protests for better minority representation in the Ivys. The column added that although Asians are only 3 percent of the population, and Jews even less than that, 20 percent of Harvard is Asian-American and somewhere between 25percent and 33 percent is Jewish. (The figure is inexact because Harvard doesn’t keep religious enrollment figures.)

Then Buchanan responded in The New York Post (Nov. 28): if “50 percent of Harvard’s student body is drawn from about 5 percent of the U.S. population. … What emerges is a Harvard student body where non-Jewish whites — 75 percent of the population — get just 25 percent of the slots. Talk about underrepresentation! Now we know who really gets the shaft at Harvard — white Christians.”Buchanan charges, “it is clear that Evangelical Christians, Catholics, Mormons and Muslims are the victims of a bigotry so embedded Harvard cannot see it right in front of its eyes.”If liberals insist on proportional representation, writes Buchanan, then white Christians should denounce Harvard as “bigoted and demand a cut-off of federal funds. … Christians and European-Americans should get into the game and demand their fair share of every pie: 75 percent and no less.”

If elite colleges and grad schools enroll 75 percent of their students from the small Democratic minorities while white Christians and Catholics, who make up 75 percent of the population, are relegated to 25 percent of the seats, there is no doubt who is going to run America in the 21st century,” Buchanan writes.Steve Bayme of the American Jewish Committee told The Jewish Week, “There’s a certain illogic to the piece. He starts out saying that America has always prided itself on the idea that character, ability and excellence should be the criteria for advancement, not gender, race or ethnicity. He then says, since those rules don’t apply, non-Jewish whites should play by the new rules, as well. His column unfairly lumps Jews together with other minorities” that do favor proportional representation, “when Jewish representation there is certainly not the result of affirmative action or quotas.

David Fishman, a professor of Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary specializing in Eastern European Jewry, told The Jewish Week: “I read this kind of stuff in Russian history all the time.” Fishman, who has a doctorate from Harvard, said “this is what Zyuganov, Makashov and Communist anti-Semites are saying right now: ‘Why are Jews disproportionately represented in Russian society?’ When it’s said in Russia, we consider it virulent anti-Semitism.”After complaints poured in from around the states, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, sent a letter to all newspapers carrying Buchanan. Foxman pointed out that Buchanan’s lingering resentment toward the Ivy recruiters of Buchanan’s childhood who seldom offered scholarships to deserving boys from Catholic schools also avoided deserving Jews, Asians, blacks and Latinos, whose success today so disappoints Buchanan.“His piece is a cynical exercise,” writes Foxman, “particularly the nasty innuendo about the over-represented Jews, but not surprising considering the source. Pat Buchanan has often played the demagogue.”

If Jews have everything to lose for themselves by espousing proportional representation for minorities, they better be equally reticent about cheering the arrest of Chile’s Pinochet in Great Britain for crimes in the old man’s past. William Buckley, in The New York Post (Nov. 30), warns that while Pinochet is surely a bad guy, the precedent of arresting the former leader of one country while that leader is in a second country for extradition to a third could be devilish for even good guys: “Is there one living former prime minister of Israel who could dare to travel, given his susceptibility under this kind of scrutiny” and the consensus among so many Arab states and pro-Arab governments that Israel has been in perpetual violation of international laws?

Israelis can’t get a handle on Netanyahu. The supposedly right-wing prime minister is freeing Palestinians from Israeli jails, but arresting the radio voices of the Jewish West Bank.Last week Israel issued criminal indictments against the managers and operators of Arutz Seven, the pirate radio station that’s been the longtime voice of the settler movement. The station, which supported Netanyahu in the last election, is charged with broadcasting without a license. Something it’s done for more years than anyone can remember.Actually, Arutz Seven, which also has a web site featuring Israeli news and a summary of the Arab press, can keep broadcasting on some level since it mostly does so from a ship outside Israel’s territorial waters.A Jerusalem Post editorial (Nov. 26) pointed out that the indictments are unwise, coming “while the settlers’ movement is going through the wrenching process of absorbing the land concessions of the Wye Memorandum.

The editorial added that consideration should also be given the fact that “the managers of Arutz 7 have repeatedly claimed they would be perfectly willing to apply for licenses — if only the law enabled them to do so. … Its broadcasts [gave] voice to a not insignificant sector of the Israeli public that felt that its opinions were not heard frequently enough on government-controlled and monopolized radio. … Indeed, politicians from virtually every corner of the Knesset were regularly interviewed in its news segments without giving the matter a second thought. … There are cases, however, in which common sense leads to the conclusion that the law is more in need of correction than the lawbreakers.”.

Leon Wieseltier, in The New Republic’s “Diarist” slot (Nov. 9), takes a look at the oft-heard phrase: “As the child of Holocaust survivors…” Wieseltier asks, “what special authority, really, do the sons and daughters of the wretched possess? We are not victims. Our parents were victims. We are merely American Jews, the brats of Jewish history. … If I [take a position] as the child of Holocaust survivors, am I right? Of course not. Even my views about the Holocaust gain nothing from the fact that I was weaned on it. Pathos makes nothing true.”