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Jews and Cars

Why is General Motors following in the footsteps of Henry Ford?

By and 2.19.02

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Is there a Ford in your future? For many years the answer, if you were Jewish, was "no." For most Jews born in the 1920s and 30s, there was always some uneasiness about buying a Ford automobile. The jungle telegraph of chatter over glasses of tea with spoons in them and housewives gossiping across laundry being hung out to dry, was that Henry Ford Sr. was an anti-Semite. But immigrants, whether they be Jews, or any one of the other myriad of peoples that came to these shores, tended to think of native Americans, or at least those Gentiles who had arrived here before them, as anti-Semites (or whatever).

This was especially true of attitudes toward those who had roots in America going back generations, who spoke without accents or, worse yet, in the antiseptic accents of the Midwest, or whose speech was infused with the elocutionary music of the southern United States. While anti-Semitism and anti-everything else except "us" was indeed present, the fact was that whatever prejudice did exist was often not directed at any specific group because of its place of origin or its genetic makeup; rather, it was just the manifestation of that all too human tendency to exclude others from some enterprise into which, with difficulty, one's own group had achieved entrance. We see this in efforts to exclude or make it harder for new members to join a country club or pass the board when seeking to buy a cooperative apartment. In the case of Henry Ford, however, it was the real thing.

In 1920 Henry Ford, through the Ford Motor Car Company, bought a Detroit hometown newspaper, "The Dearborn Independent," and promptly turned it into an anti-Semitic rag.

In 1922, he wrote about the Jews: There is a super-government which is allied to no government, which is free from them all, and yet which has its hands in them all. There is a race, a part of humanity, which has never yet been received as a welcome part, and which has succeeded in raising itself to a power that the proudest Gentile race has never claimed.

He even blamed music he did not appreciate on the Jews: Popular music is a Jewish monopoly. Jazz is a Jewish creation. The mush, slush, the sly suggestion, the abandoned sensuousness of sliding notes, are of Jewish origin.

Jews responded by buying Chevrolets and Cadillacs. Maybe they should have kept on walking.

The General Motors company has a website (GM.com) where prospective buyers can locate dealerships in the Middle East. The site contains a map defining Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria. Israel is not mentioned by name and appears only in outline. Obviously, in an attempt to solve the Middle East crisis, on the map, the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza are separated from Israel by being in a different color. A visitor to the website can locate GM dealers in most Middle Eastern cities, but not in Jerusalem, although there are dealerships in that city, as well as in 19 other cities in Israel. There are dealerships in Tel Aviv and Haifa, but these cities do not even appear on the map.

It is quite true that there is a Hebrew section to the website listing the dealerships in Israel, but if one read only English or Arabic it would be uninformative. The message is clear: if you are an Israeli, GM will be happy to take your money, but if you are an Arab, the fact that GM sells cars to Jews is a military secret. Even in the Hebrew edition, the dealerships are listed as being owned by UMI Israel, rather than General Motors.

The American Jewish Congress has served upon General Motor's Chairman of the Board John F. Smith, Jr. a vigorous complaint. Since the company sells more cars in America than to Arabs trading in their camels, undoubtedly GM will change the website, if it's not presently in the process of so doing. But because they buckled to pressure here in the United States should not change the way they should be perceived by the American public.

In "Evita" there is a scene where Evita visits Rome and she complains to an elderly gentleman that people are calling her a whore -- referring to her rumored former occupation. The old man replies, "They call me Admiral, but I haven't been to sea in years."

Even if GM changes its website, and begins treating Israel just like the other Middle Eastern countries, it really does not change what obviously are its core beliefs. Or, at least that Arab money and oil (cars cannot run without petrol) caused them to try to disassociate themselves from any connection with Israel. Like a man who proclaims himself a former hunchback, a reality cannot be erased by words or coverups.

Our suggestion is that if you are going to buy a car, open up the yellow pages to Chrysler. Or how about a new Volvo?

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About the Author

Jackie Mason is a comedian.

About the Author

Raoul Felder is a lawyer.