Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Gift for the Antisemite: Bernard Madoff

Ever since I heard about this scandal and the degree to which it impacted philanthropies, particularly but not only Jewish philanthropies, I have been shaking my head in wonder.

How could this man do this to so many institutions which do good things? In addition he hit lots of people, some of them quite rich and some of them in far more modest circumstances. Many are left with nothing.

Madoff is a sociopath. That seems pretty certain.

He is an antisemite's dream. The worst of them could not have dreamt up such a story.

There seems to be no punishment strong enough for this guy.

Ha'aretz's Bradley Burston says exactly what I have been thinking: Christmas came early for the worst of the antisemites this year.


Tzvee Zahavy said...

i have been moderating out the anti-semitic comments to my blog posting about madoff being jewish. there have been a bunch of them, maybe 20-30. but since i asked commenters to refrain from posting such sterotypical comments the number has dropped off.

hockey hound said...

Although not a lesson in prudence, Bradely Burston's article is an example of why the Jewish people are such a fine example for the world to follow: a Jew commits an extremely selfish crime, and the first to acknowledge that the thief is Jewish are the Jews themselves. Not once have I heard from anyone Jewish that this person, this thief, is "not a real Jew."

So unlike the rest of the world, the Jewish people are the first to place their fellow religious as accountable for the crimes they commit. "A righteous man is his own accuser." Not once have I heard that Madoff is "not a real Jew" and that "real Jews do not steal." However, many times have I heard that "real Christians did not take part in the Holocaust" and that "real Muslims do not blow up children in Israeli cafes or behead Western journalists on video." Conversely rather, Bradely Burston writes in Ha'aretz, a famously Jewish newspaper, "He [Madoff] redefines avarice, knowingly and personally bilking charities and retirees in the most classic of con games." This certainly does not sound like a denial of Madoff's Jewishness.

Fact of the matter is however, Madoff's criminal behaviour is a transmogrification of a consolidated Jewish reputation for honesty, an honesty borne millennia ago of the Torah maxim, "You shall not steal."

Only problem with such imprudent honesty is that the anti-Semites will misconstrue the Jewish tradition of accountability as a means to obfuscate the fact that a thief is a thief for no other reason than that he is a thief (I think this is what Prof. Lipstadt meant when she wrote that "Madoff is a sociopath. That seems pretty certain"). It is predictable (as Bradely Burston also forsees) that the anti-Semites will obsess about the fact that Madoff is Jewish and so here (in their malefic imaginations) is proof of Jewish avarice, which, according to the anti-Semite, is far more overpowering than the avarice of non-Jewish thieves.

In Canada and United States at least, this anti-Jewish canard is contrary to a very common and ordinary perception about all thieves, Madoff included, which is that, according to the old proverb, "The thief is sorry he is to be hanged, but not that he is a thief." Which is to say, not only is Madoff a sociopath and a thief, but also that being Jewish by no means made him so, although the Jewish community will be the first to identify him as one of their own. The Jewish community will also be the first to kick his ass over his shoulders.

Your friends are always with you, Prof. Lipstadt. To hell with what the anti-Jewish hatemongers say. I defy their hatred. You of all people should know that honesty always triumphs. (Didn't someone Jewish say that?) Ordinary folks do not forget the immeasurable goodness the Jewish people, in every single generation, have given this world. We are quite aware of the goodness you represent. So, as they say in New York City, "Forget about it!!"

Enjoy your Hannukah tonight, girl!!

With respect, Hockey Hound.

Roman Werpachowski said...

Whatever. Madoff's ethnicity is not really the most important thing here. (BTW, antisemites fail to notice that he stole so much money from other Jews -- so much for "they stick together" myth.) His crime is the best present for people who demand the current economic system to be radically changed (and they have a point...), since it is so vulnerable and unable to self-regulate. The fact that Madoff could cheat so many people for so many years speaks volumes about how financial industry in the US is overseen -- and the US, from all countries, has prided itself of its strict regulation of the financial markets (unlike the UK, for example, which doesn't like to regulate finance).

Madoff story will not change much about anti-semitism, but can help force a radical change in how our financial system works.

Jim said...

I think restraint needs to be shown until all the details of this travesty come to light.

The facts as they stand are not sufficient to determine Madoff's motive. Yes, lot's of people and institutions lost a mind-boggling amount of money. But before we string this guy up, let's look at all the facts.

I also think that it should be noted that as an American Tax Payer, I am being fleeced by all of these bailouts, many of which are going to companies that were playing very similar games with their investor's money. The biggest difference, IMHO, is that Madoff is one person we can put a face to. Who knows what the Lehman Brothers, Goldman or Sachs even look like?

So let's string up Madoff.

Unknown said...

Hockey Hound makes some very good points, but the contrast of the Jewish community's treatment of Madoff to the Christian and and Islamic communities' responses to the criminals from their own ranks is specious.

Islamic terrorists claim to be acting in the name of Islam and Allah. Other Muslims are quite right to denounce Islamic terror practices as unrepresentative of Islam. Madoff never claimed he was acting in the spirit or letter of Judiasm; therefore, there is no cause for Jews to disavow him.

Jews may want to examine the question of whether the Madoff scandal indicates the existence of a parochial Jewish insularity, one which Madoff ruthlessly and brilliantly exploited.
He is a scummy crook

hockey hound said...

"Madoff never claimed he was acting in the spirit or letter of Judiasm; therefore, there is no cause for Jews to disavow him."

No one claimed he was acting in the spirit or letter of Judaism except the anti-Semites.
You're transmogrifying the subject at hand here. The subject is about how anti-Semites will, quite predictably, label Madoff's criminal behaviour as a product of Judaism. The Jews have disavowed Madoff, not only because of the free rein Madoff's criminal behaviour has given them, but also because he has stolen money from people who trusted him.

You call Madoff a "scummy crook" immediately after stating there is "no cause for Jews to disavow him." If there exists "pharochial Jewish insularity," it's probably because Jews have been too often the victims of imprudence like yours.

hockey hound said...

In my last post I wrote, "The Jews have disavowed Madoff, not only because of the free rein Madoff's criminal behaviour has given them..."

It should have read, "The Jews have disavowed Madoff, not only because of the free rein Madoff's criminal behaviour has given the anti-Semites..."