The Jerusalem Post has just published its annual ranking of the world’s 50 most
influential Jews, and I’m sorry but also somewhat relieved to report that I
don’t appear on it this year.
I’m sorry because one of my goals in life
is to inhabit the fever dreams of neo-Nazis, and nothing gets a neo- Nazi going
more than the specter of supernaturally powerful Jews. I’m relieved because, who
really wants to be on a target list? At a certain point, the Post should just
provide home addresses to make the roundup even easier.
I last made the
list in 2011, when I was ranked No. 35.
Eric Cantor, the US House
majority leader, placed significantly ahead of me at No. 13, which I thought was
terribly unfair. On the other hand, I beat Natalie Portman, who came in that
year at No. 38. This was also unfair, but to Portman, who is just a terrific Jew
(2011 was the year she took it to the fashion designer John Galliano for being
an idiot anti-Semite).
Speaking of neo-Nazis: It isn’t entirely clear to
me why the Jewish media (not the “Jewish-dominated media” of those
aforementioned fever dreams, but the press that actually cover matters of
interest to Jews) fetishizes listmaking.
The Forward, a national US
Jewish weekly, publishes a list of the top 50 American Jews (I once made that
one as well, along with Adam Sandler, Sheldon Adelson and a person named Lipa
Schmeltzer, which I halfsuspect is a made-up name). And Newsweek, not
technically a Jewish publication (or really a publication at all anymore),
publishes a list every year of the top 50 American rabbis, which is widely
scorned by all American rabbis except those who make the list.
admit that I’ve benefited in the past from making these lists. What benefits,
you ask? Well, an invitation to guest-edit the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,
plus a Zabar’s gift card. But I’m writing today to ask that these publications
cease compiling lists of Jews.
There are some lists that have helped Jews
in the past, including, most notably, Schindler’s, but mainly Jewish list-making
has been an activity of those who are hostile to Jews.
Mearsheimer, the co-author of The Israel Lobby and an anti-Israel obsessive,
gave a notorious speech in 2010 in which he listed those Semites he considers to
be “righteous Jews,” which, by his definition, meant that small minority of Jews
who work against the existence of the Jewish state.
The category of
“righteous Jew” is Mearsheimer’s perversion of the notion of the “Righteous
Gentile,” an honor bestowed by the Jewish community on gentiles who risked their
lives to save Jews in the Holocaust.
(Mearsheimer falls into a special,
unrelated category, that of the “selfrighteous gentile.”) Most Jews, he said,
especially those who lead Jewish organizations, are included in the camp of “New
Afrikaners,” which is self-explanatory. I think.
Then there was the list
put together by Kalle Lasn, the spiritual father of the Occupy movement, who
published in his magazine Adbusters an article titled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They
Are Jewish?” which featured a list of people associated, in Lasn’s mind, with
neoconservatism. Those who Lasn suspected of being Jewish found a little check
mark next to their names. (Lasn got a few wrong, perhaps because of that special
way Jews have of blending in with their surroundings.) So the lists published by
the Post and the Forward always leave me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
Why are these publications aping a practice of non-Jews – singling out Jews for
their special prominence in society? Please don’t misunderstand: I love playing
the “Who is a Jew?” game as much as the next Semite. Scarlett Johansson! Jake
Gyllenhaal! Anthony Weiner! (Okay, you can keep Weiner.) The phenomenon of
disproportionate Jewish representation in many high-profile fields (including,
but not limited to, musical comedy, gastroenterology, the violin, physics, hedge
funds, column-writing and, in an earlier period, professional basketball),
combined with ancient and deeply embedded anti-Semitic ideas that are still
prevalent in some parts of the world, suggests that they should resist the urge
to quantify “Jewish power.”
Especially when the lists are illogical, like
the one just produced by the Post, which can’t decide whether a Jew is powerful
because of his influence within the walls of the world Jewish community or
because of his impact on the world around him. So in the No. 1 spot this year is
Yair Lapid, the Israeli finance minister, who led his centrist party, Yesh Atid,
to a surprisingly strong showing in the most recent Israeli election.
aside the question of whether Lapid is still so powerful in Israeli
Is he really more powerful than Mark Zuckerberg, who doesn’t
even make the top 10? (Zuckerberg’s deputy, Sheryl Sandberg, hits the list at
No. 8, but not mainly for her work at Facebook.) Lapid is more powerful than
Zuckerberg only in the sense that Zuckerberg is not the head of a smallish
Israeli political party. Zuckerberg is No. 16 on the list; Google cofounder
Sergey Brin is No. 6, ahead of the Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, but
behind Anat Hoffman, an Israeli feminist leader trying to reform religious
practices at the Western Wall, which may or may not be a concern of the Post’s
No. 2 most powerful Jew, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who I’m reasonably sure
doesn’t find it entirely useful to show up on lists like this.
superannuated sex doctor Ruth Westheimer, who lands at No. 41, is undoubtedly
pleased to make the list, and I’m reasonably sure that the comedian Jon Stewart
(No. 7) appreciates, if doesn’t quite understand, appearing on any list that
Ruth. It isn’t clear to me that US Supreme Court Justice
Elena Kagan would look kindly upon being ranked only slightly higher than HBO
series Girls creator Lena Dunham (or that she is even aware of Lena Dunham’s
The saving grace of the Post list this year is that an ardent
anti-Semite, studying the standings, will quickly note the absence of Federal
Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (A “No” on Bernanke, but a “Yes” on Diane von
Furstenberg? Please explain), conclude that the list itself is part of a Jewish
conspiracy to confuse those who seek to expose Jewish influence, and move on to
obsessing about the secret Mossad conspiracy behind the Boston Marathon
bombings, or something.
Of course, the real downfall of this year’s list,
apart from its fundamental incoherence, is the unaccountable absence of Natalie
Portman.Jeffrey Goldberg is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own.