The View From Parnassus
May 22, 2008

In choosing the title “Jews and Power” for its second annual New York Festival of Ideas, the Jewish cultural organization Nextbook extended its tradition of provocative juxtapositions. The theme of last year’s festival was “Jesus in Jewish Culture,” historically an extremely touchy subject. But in today’s world, “Jews and Power” may be an even more explosive combination. The Vatican has renounced the old accusation of deicide, and it would take some looking to find a mainstream Christian who hates the Jews because they crucified Jesus. (Mel Gibson is the only name that springs to mind.) But in the era of Walt and Mearsheimer, suspicion of Jewish power — one of the deadliest tropes of 19th-century anti-Semitism — is becoming more, not less, respectable in intellectual and academic circles. So long as a good portion of the left, especially in Europe, can believe that American foreign policy is run by a “cabal” of “neoconservatives” under the sinister influence of Leo Strauss, who use their power to promote Israel’s interests at the expense of America’s, “Jews and Power” will remain a problematic conjunction.