We do not believe New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd to be an anti-Semite. Nor is she either stupid or unaware of the potential impact of her words. Thus, the blatantly anti-Semitic insinuations in her column of November 11 about the profiteering of what she refers to as “blood-sucking banks” are especially appalling.
Ms. Dowd was reacting to an interview given by Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein to the Sunday Times of London. Even though he believes that his and other financial institutions “have a social purpose” in that they “help companies grow by helping them to raise capital,” which in turn “allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth,” he self-deprecatingly acknowledged that “I could slit my wrists and people would cheer.” He also observed, perhaps ironically, that he was “doing God’s work.”
Blankfein is living refutation of another stereotype that all Jews or investment bankers are smart. Still, his insensitive, bordering on moronic, comments do not give Ms. Dowd the right to revive and recirculate a number of vicious and dangerous anti-Semitic stereotypes. She contrasts the “cycle of greed and concupiscence” of what she calls “Goldmine Sachs” (hint, hint) with the “virtuous” Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism. And just to be certain that no one should miss her point, she concludes by emphasizing that “the bankers who took government money and then gave out obscene bonuses are the same self-interested sorts Jesus threw out of the temple.”
We have heard these terms far too often to let them pass. Anti-Semitic tracts and Web sites are replete with references to “blood-sucking Jews.” And Ms. Dowd is too intelligent not to have realized that the depiction of Jews as greedy money-lenders has resulted in persecution and pogroms over the course of the past two millennia. Ms. Dowd has given new life to such ancient anti-Semitic incitements.
In his 1543 treatise, On the Jews and Their Lies, Martin Luther denounced Jews as “nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury.” Luther went on to deplore that “we let them [the Jews] get rich on our sweat and blood, while we remain poor and they suck the marrow from our bones.”
Along the same lines, Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that the Jew historically “has squeezed and sucked the blood again and again,” and that Jesus “made no secret of his attitude toward the Jewish people, and when necessary he even took the whip to drive from the temple of the Lord this adversary of all humanity.”
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was equally unsubtle when he declared that “Many of the Jews who owned the homes, the apartments in the black community, we considered them bloodsuckers because they took from our community and built their community but didn’t offer anything back to our community.”
We dread the prospect of swastikas smeared outside Goldman Sachs offices, or of learning that some street hood, inspired by Ms. Dowd’s column, broke an observant Jew’s leg shouting “let Goldman Sachs buy you a new leg.”
At a time when a virulent Judaeophobia is on the rise, especially in Europe and throughout much of the Muslim world, politicians, journalists and columnists have a responsibility to refrain from using inflammatory anti-Semitic code words. Our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech does not bestow on any of us a license to incite to bigotry or violence.