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Prominent pro-Israel commentator peddles debunked 'race science'

Columnist Bret Stephens
Columnist Bret Stephens

A prominent advocate for the state of Israel has sparked controversy by peddling bogus theories about race which have been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in history. Writing in the New York Times, columnist Bret Stephens, espoused the same discredited ideas concerning eugenics and "race science" that in the past were used to justify xenophobia and genocide, to argue that Jews are more intelligent than other people.

In an article entitled "The Secrets of Jewish Genius," Stephens claimed that it was Jewish prowess in thinking better and smarter than all other races that had set them apart from everyone else.

Citing prominent Jews like Albert Einstein, Benjamin Disraeli and Karl Marx, Stephens asked: "How is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of one per cent of the world's population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?"

"Jews" answered Stephens "have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better". He claimed that non-Jews lacked the capacity of Jews to think differently and that was what set them apart. "Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different," explained Stephens.

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As evidence, he cited a 2005 paper entitled "Natural history of Ashkenazi intelligence" which argued that high IQ scores among Ashkenazi Jews indicated that they evolved to be smarter than anyone else.

The article was met with fierce criticism. Many expressed dismay in seeing a Jewish person advocating the same theories about race used by the Nazi's to vilify and dehumanise German Jews before embarking on a policy of genocide, in an article defending Jewish superiority over non-Jews.

One twitter user was lost for words: "I worked at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for over a year, daily teaching kids about Nazi propaganda and the horror of race science, and if you had told me back then that in 2019, NYT columnist Bret Stephens would be citing a white supremacist to praise eugenics….."

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Journalist Ashley Feinberg asked on Twitter: "A Jew endorsing the idea that certain races are inherently superior to other, lesser races, what could possibly go wrong?"

Some pointed to the implicit logic of the article by pointing out that Stephens was in effect arguing that "Palestinians can have human rights when they start winning Nobel Prizes."

Dozens of other articles and comments poured in denouncing Stephens, who has been a powerful shrill for Israel over the decades. He is often seen using his platform in the Times and elsewhere to defend Israeli aggression and to promote racism against Arabs, Palestinians as well as other minorities.

Espousing the same ideas of race that have been making a comeback with the rise of far-right groups across the globe, Stephens once wrote that there is a "disease of the Arab mind." His articles about Palestinians also peddle similar racist tropes. "Palestinians have been seized by their present blood lust," he wrote in an article for the Wall Street Journal. For good measure, he sensationally suggested that the root cause of what he described as the "Palestinian blood fetish" was due to their "psychotic stage" of development.

In response to the backlash The Times, removed the reference to the 2005 racist pseudoscience article cited by Stephens in his piece and published a lengthy editorial note.

After admitting that the column had "quoted statistics from a 2005 paper that advanced a genetic hypothesis for the basis of intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews," it was claimed that Stephens and the editors came to realise that one of the authors promoted racist views once the piece had been published over the weekend.

The Times defended Stephens saying that he was "not endorsing the study or its authors' views" while acknowledging that "it was a mistake to cite it uncritically".

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