Back in the early days of California’s ascendancy, the state was described as “the Jews’ early paradise”, a place where the lack of social norms, and enormous opportunities, were ideal for enterprising people unmoored from conventional business ties. In the years ahead, Jews spearheaded much of California’s banking, garment and later entertainment businesses.
In the ensuing years Jews have also become prominent in real estate and in Silicon Valley. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, is Jewish, as is Mark Zuckerberg. Both Russian refuseniks and venturesome Israelis have played key roles in the Valley. Yet in the Valley, outside of refusals to attend a conference organised by an entrepreneur who criticised Israel, very little has been said about the massacre.
Overall there isn’t much identification with Jewish causes from people like Zuckerberg, whose tribal commitments are tiny compared to his massive efforts elsewhere, notably in influencing elections. Meanwhile gentile executives, like Apple’s Tim Cook, have been particularly reluctant to weigh in too heavily — perhaps not to offend his pro-Palestine Chinese backers — with anything like his passion on climate and other “social justice” causes.
Much of this passivity stems from the reflexively progressive politics that dominate the Bay Area. This makes many Jews wary of groups like AIPAC, the powerful Israel lobby with strong Republican ties. “A lot of them are more concerned with their social justice profile than their Judaism,” longtime Jewish activist and Palo Alto native Nickolas Targ tells me, in an area where “secular progressivism is part of the air.”
The very tech companies that prated most about issues like transgender rights, climate change and George Floyd seem to have become less loquacious when it comes to slaughtering Jews. “A number of leaders who were outspoken for #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo are amazingly quiet on this,” adds Rony Abovitz, a Florida-based tech entrepreneur who has worked closely with firms like Google and competed against Meta. “The PR people pressure CEOs to say nothing (or very vanilla things) so as not to offend global customers.”
This occurs in part to not upset customers who might be sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, despite Hamas. It also reflects their fear, as the Bay Area Council’s Jim Wunderman suggests to me, of their own activist employees, who breathe the same progressive air. In addition, three-quarters of the Valley workforce is foreign, and includes many from Muslim-majority countries like Egypt and Pakistan as well as Palestine.
Ironically this is occurring, as Abovitz argues, as ties between Israel’s “startup nation” and big companies have been expanding. Yet ties to Israel and Jewish entrepreneurs have had little impact on the big shots not only in Silicon Valley, but even in Hollywood. Organisations like the Writers Guild, quick to embrace every fashionable Left-wing cause, have remained noticeably neutral in the current struggle.
Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.