History,  Stoppers

American Jews and the Anti Vietnam War Movement

I thought the passage below would possibly be of interest to some readers of this blog for comment:

“No one has failed to notice that in the American student movement of the 1960s, students with a Jewish background played a distinctive role,” Paul Berman has observed. A nationwide survey by the American Council of Education in 1966-67 revealed that the best single predictor of campus protests was a high proportion of Jewish students. Apart from Jews, few American students in the sixties were radical. At the height of the antiwar movement in 1970, only 11 percent of American college students identified themselves as “radical or far left.” The political scientist John E. Mueller speculates that campus leftism had less to do with the supposed innate qualities of intellectuals as a “new class” or “adversary culture” than with the ethnic heritage of Jewish intellectuals:

Outside of a few sections in a few cities, the only easy identifiable places that Jews are found in striking disproportion are the colleges and universities of the land – and very particularly the better ones. Thus the liberalism of those associated with the better universities may not derive from anything endemic in the university situation. Rather, it may stem from the influence of a major subpopulation in the university community inclined toward liberalism and war opposition regardless of its association with the college.

The presence of a substantial radical minority in the American Jewish population accounts for its divergence from the national norm in its attitudes toward the Vietnam War. In 1964, Jews were twice as likely as Protestants and Catholics to favor pulling out of Vietnam altogether – and about half as likely as Protestants and Catholics to agree with the statement “Take a Stronger Stand Even If It Means Invading North Vietnam.” In 1970, when a majority of Protestants and Catholics favored fighting while negotiating or escalating the war, half of the Jewish respondents surveyed favored an immediate pullout. “The only large population group not represented among the combat deaths [in Vietnam] in proportion to their U.S. demographics were those who designated themselves Jewish,” B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley write in Stolen Valor (1988), their study of myths and facts about Vietnam veterans. Although Jews accounted for 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, Jewish men accounted for only 0.46 percent of the war-related deaths in the Vietnam War. The evident explanation for this discrepancy is the use of college deferments by the higher than average proportion of Jewish men in college to avoid military service.

While Jews were overrepresented on the anti-Cold War left in the United States, Catholic politicians and thinkers were disproportionately represented among the leaders of American anticommunism.


Michael Lind, Vietnam the Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America’s Most Disastrous Military Conflict, (The Free Press, 1999), pp.109-110.