Economics meets Antisemitism
On April 27 at approximately noon ET, this article was revised to note that Brian Eno is the English musician and musical producer.
What value should we place on economic analysis from someone with antisemitic views?
That was the question I asked when I viewed an on-line discussion, The Austerity Doctrine in the Time of Coronavirus, which was part of a series called “Let’s Talk it Over” (LTIO) that aired on April 15. It was hosted by Frank Barat – more about him later.
The panel caught my attention because it featured Stephanie Kelton, an economist whose work I admire. She is the most outspoken and articulate advocate of modern monetary theory (MMT).
The discussion itself had no insights that readers of Advisor Perspectives or followers of Kelton have not already heard. It was focused on the need for governments to spend more, through fiscal policy, to support social programs and for that spending to not be constrained by traditional budgetary limits.
However, I was alarmed by the makeup of the panel’s other participants, who I immediately recognized from their track record of antisemitic views: Brian Eno (the English musician and musical producer), Naomi Klein and Yanis Varoufakis.
Indeed, except for Kelton, every current and prior participant in the LTIO series has expressed antisemitic views or supported antisemitic policies.
Let me explain why their views are antisemitic and then come back to the question I raised in my opening paragraph.
Eno, Klein and Varoufakis publicly support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel, as do all previous panelists in LTIO,1 and therefore engage in antisemitism.
BDS advocates focus exclusively on Israel. They do not advocate for boycotts, divestment or sanctions of China for its persecution of its Muslim population, Russia for its aggression against the Ukraine, African countries that allow genital mutilation, or other Middle Eastern countries for their treatment of their female and LGBTQ citizens. They hold Israel, and by extension the Jewish people, to a different standard than any other country. That equates BDS support with antisemitism.
The definition of anti-Semitism has been codified by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in a 38-word definition:
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
The IHRA definition was accepted by its 31 member states, including the European Union. Advocating BDS is not specifically listed under the definition, but the intent of the drafters is clear. The definition lists 11 examples of antisemitic behavior, including, “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” BDS is a double standard and antisemitic.
Brian Eno has not only engaged in antisemitism; he is a Holocaust denier. He has compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to the German treatment of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. That comparison is such an egregious distortion of history that it can only be viewed as an attempt to trivialize and deny the horrors of the Holocaust.
Frank Barat has devoted his adult life to antisemitism. He was the coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine from 2008 until 2014. That is a non-government organization – essentially a kangaroo court – with the sole purpose of finding and prosecuting crimes against Israel. His Twitter page proclaims that he has worked on books with Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappé, Ken Loach, and Marc Lamont-Hill, a “who’s who” of anti-Semites. For example, Davis is a long-time supporter of BDS and has campaigned for the release of Palestinian terrorists who have been convicted of murdering Israeli citizens. Lamont-Hill was recently fired from his professorship at Temple University and from his job at CNN for advocating the destruction of Israel in a speech he gave at the UN.
Given this background, how should we consider their views on economics or any other subject?
Dostoyevsky, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot were noted anti-Semites, but they were great writers. Similar to considering the work of Dostoyevsky, Pound and Eliot, we must acknowledge that the LTIO panelists’ moral character and integrity are compromised, and we should apply an extreme degree of scrutiny and skepticism to anything they say or write. Any reference to their work should acknowledge their antisemitism, and any analysis of their work should ask whether antisemitism has influenced their findings.
Some anti-Semites are unable to perceive their own antisemitism. This does not make their antisemitism excusable.
But keep in mind that the LTIO panelists are not Dostoyevsky, Pound or Eliot. They are marginal voices desperately seeking an outlet to air their views.
As the son of a Holocaust survivor, this issue is personal. I am named after a great uncle who was killed by the Germans, along with most of his family, as the Nazis took power. Antisemitism must be exposed and condemned in whatever form it takes.
As a journalist, I aspire to the highest moral standard and do so with a passion to document and explain shameful activity. I would have written the same article if it were a panel of white supremacists or homophobes. The plight of Jews, Blacks and gays as persecuted groups is not the same, but the moral principle is identical. We should not tolerate the hateful activity of those who profess to offer economic insights.
Robert Huebscher is the founder and editor of Advisor Perspectives.
1 I have not included hyperlinks to document that these people support BDS, because many of those links go to antisemitic web sites, and I do not want to direct traffic to them. If you would like those links, please email me at [email protected]