Jewish-conspiracy theorist surfaces at Duke

By Phoebe Maltz

The good life. Most people picture seaside vacations, mojitos served by attractive members of one’s preferred sex, and not having a care (or midterm) in the world. Not so for Philip Kurian, a student at Duke University. No, in Kurian’s eyes, the good life is being Jewish in America. There’s nothing quite like it. “It is well known,” writes Kurian in a recent op-ed entitled “The Jews” in his school paper, “that Jews constitute the most privileged ‘minority’ group in this country.” In describing American Jewry, Kurian uses the words “privileged,” “advantages,” “well-funded,” luxury,” and, once again, “privilege.” Being an American Jew certainly sounds pleasant. Perhaps Kurian should think of converting.

Unlikely. When Kurian writes, “We are dealing with a very well-funded and well-organized establishment,” he is not expressing his admiration for this establishment. What we have, I’m afraid, is a good old-fashioned Jewish-conspiracy theorist. “When former-President Bill Clinton nominated his first two judges to the Supreme Court,” notes Kurian, “both were Jews. Remarkable in the slightest? No, of course not.” Certainly not, given that, to a Jewish-conspiracy theorist, Jews control the government, the media, the economy, and so much more. Jews are not statistically overrepresented at elite universities; as Kurian sees it, “four schools have particularly stark Jewish advantages.” For Kurian, it’s not so much that there are many successful Jews in America as that there is “exorbitant Jewish privilege in the United States.” His use of the word “exorbitant” implies that this “Jewish privilege” comes at a cost, presumably, in Kurian’s opinion, to non-Jewish Americans.

Kurian is writing not as a tradition-loving, reactionary outcast at a P.C. university but as a campus liberal. He is concerned not that Jews are taking the place of white Christian students at places like Yale, but that Jews, using our sneaky ability to be both “white” and a “minority,” are putting underrepresented minorities in particular at a disadvantage. “In short, Jews can renounce their difference by taking off the yarmulke. Clearly, this is not a luxury enjoyed by all minority groups.” As I revel in the luxury of my yarmulke-free existence, I’d like to add that Kurian almost makes a reasonable point, then blows it entirely: “What’s worst is that the ‘Holocaust Industry’ uses its influence to stifle, not enhance, the Israeli-Palestinian debate, simultaneously belittling the real struggles for socioeconomic and political equality faced, most notably, by black Americans.”

Ignoring the absurd idea of a “Holocaust Industry”—which I do not have space here to refute—one can give Kurian credit for this much: blacks have had it worse in America than Jews. While much of Europe has long been divided between Jew and Christian, America has been divided, more in the past than today, between black and white, with (most) Jews falling into the second category. Acknowledging that American blacks have suffered more, historically, than American Jews is one thing; saying that “Jewish privilege” is the cause of black suffering is another. It simply has no basis in reality.

Kurian’s piece in the Duke Chronicle, like the article a while back in Adbusters magazine that put an asterisk next to each Jewish name on a long list of “neoconservatives,” has gotten a great deal of attention from those concerned about anti-Semitism. While the more paranoid among us (the Uncle Leos of the world, for those familiar with the show Seinfeld) may cry anti-Semitism if they perceive someone has given them a funny look on line at a supermarket, there are instances when a reasonable person, one who acknowledges that, by and large, America has been “good for the Jews,” can see a problem arising. Kurian argues that “Jews feel the overwhelming sense of entitlement not to be criticized or offended.” And Kurian, for one, is doing his part to criticize and offend; we have to allow him that much. Speaking as a representative of the Jewish conspiracy, controlling the media, as I do, from an unassuming dorm room, I’d like to say that I’m fine with being “criticized or offended” as an individual. It’s when, by virtue of a group membership of which I am neither proud (it was no accomplishment of mine to be born Jewish, or female, or anything else along those lines) nor ashamed (why should I be?), I am implicated as part of a vast, well-funded movement to ruin everything for the “real” Americans, then, yes, I am offended. Well, not so much offended—one cannot take such things personally—as pissed off.