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Dr. Steinlight began his affiliation with the Center for Immigration Studies in 2001 when he was named a Fellow. Since joining Center staff, he has written on the impact of mass immigration on the status and political power of American Jewry. Dr. Steinlight has long experience in community affairs, having been an official at the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, the American Anti-Slavery Group, and the American Jewish Committee. He is a graduate of Columbia College, Columbia University and was a Marshall Scholar at the University of Sussex, England, where he received his doctorate.
The American-Jewish policy establishment is restless, eager for a “good war.” But the one it’s chosen to wage doesn’t rise to the definition. The first offensive was “Progress by Pesach” (Pesach is the Hebrew name for Passover), the counterfeit “civil rights” campaign for illegal aliens, aimed at achieving citizenship for 11-12 million who have repeatedly mocked the rule of law and stolen employment from unemployed and working Americans as the economy hemorrhages jobs, reducing wages and worsening working conditions for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens and legal residents while bloating the profits of its worst exploiters. The campaign also seeks an exponential increase in immigration, a disastrous policy for all Americans and one that particularly threatens Americans who are Jews.
Nor can one readily dismiss the suspicion the bogus good war is being fought, in part, for the Establishment to prove to itself it hasn’t become a relic or phantasm. Phantom armies have been deployed behind the grandiose, collapsing façades of the aging, depopulated Potemkin villages that constitute the secular and religious policy wings of the American-Jewish Establishment.
The misappropriation by Progress by Pesach of the term “civil rights” is morally offensive, ahistorical, and bereft of political and jurisprudential validity. That is no small matter in-itself, particularly when those debasing its currency are self-appointed American Jewish leaders. The honorable, often heroic involvement of many Americans who are Jews in the authentic American Civil Rights Movement should have better educated, or at least chastened, contemporaries. It should not be forgotten that American-Jewish young people constituted nearly 75 percent of those whites who went south for “Freedom Summer” in 1964, and American-Jewish involvement in the movement’s historic court battles, marches, voter registration drives, and even in founding and funding several of its principal organizations was also unparalleled until the movement morphed into African-American identity politics. The misuse of the term “civil rights” has particular salience and a decidedly sardonic character because the impact of illegal immigration has been disproportionately harsh on the African-American community.
But evidently this history pales in comparison to contemporary multicultural fashionability. With drums beating, house-organ and website editorials blaring, and sanctimonious pronouncements flooding its media and resounding from pulpits, the Jewish Establishment and a cadre of far-left independent Jewish groups commenced hostilities with a spring campaign in favor of illegal immigration. Progress by Pesach — which ended ignominiously with scarcely an audible whimper — represented an initial push for an end to immigration raids while pressing the Obama Administration to make “comprehensive immigration reform” a higher, more urgent priority.
One thing is certain: The humiliating failure of Progress by Pesach (about which more below) won’t prevent the zealots from regrouping and trying again to enlist American-Jewish opinion as well as that of other groups in their cause. Their persistence is evidenced by the recent award of $500,000 by the Ford Foundation to the Belfer Center for American Pluralism of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a sponsor of Progress by Pesach. The grant will support advocacy on behalf of “comprehensive immigration reform,” training Hispanic leaders in four states in advocacy skills (given the hostility such top-down relations engendered between well-intentioned Jews and African-American leadership in the course of the troubled, ultimately broken black/Jewish alliance this approach has already been revealed historically to be dangerously fraught), and, finally, for holding a civil “national conversation” — presumably open discussion — among Americans on immigration reform. But this goal cannot be pursed with a scintilla of intellectual integrity by AJC while it simultaneously advocates a polar position on immigration policy. One cannot be an honest convener as well as partisan who has determined at the outset where the discourse will lead.
The likelihood, however, is they will find the project of convincing Jews and other Americans increasingly difficult. There is much brave talk these days by “immigration reform” advocates regarding the President’s commitment to moving “immigration reform” speedily ahead and White House meetings were held with advocates and members of Congress on two consecutive days in late June — raising expectations in some, the New York Times included,1 that this agenda’s time has come. But this is likely little more than wishful thinking, or even desperation. In the wake of these meetings, Rahm Emanuel, whose blunt comments clearly reflect the softer-spoken, more opaque President’s thinking, pronounced his skepticism about immediate action; as he told the press: If we had the votes to pass “comprehensive immigration reform” we’d be seeking a roll-call vote right now, not holding meetings. Emanuel spoke of “next year,” or perhaps the year after. It’s worth remembering that during the Presidential election campaign of 2008, the consummately self-confident, hard-driving Emanuel exhibited unusual caution when approaching this subject. His recognition of the difficulty of the issue and its political pitfalls led him to speak of “immigration reform” as being part of the President’s agenda during his second term. In the wake of Niki Tsongas’ near-defeat to a political unknown in a special election in October of 2007 in Massachusetts’s Fifth Congressional District (an eminently safe Democratic seat under normal circumstances, but Tsongas made the error of announcing her support for driver’s licenses for illegal aliens just days before the election and squeaked out a 51 percent victory), it was Emanuel who sounded the wakeup call. As he told the Washington Post, “For the American people, and therefore all of us, it’s [immigration] emerged as the third rail of American politics. And anyone who doesn’t realize that isn’t with the American people.”2
Gideon Aronoff, chief strategist of Progress by Pesach, preceded the campaign with a purge, targeting anyone opposed to its goals, especially those perceived as persuasive political opponents. Opponents, or rather “enemies” in the Manichean worldview of its leaders, have been the victims of attempted character assassination, assertions of guilt by falsely alleged association, and baseless charges of racism and nativism. The vilification of dissidents was and will remain the responsibility of Gideon Aronoff, President and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), “point man” in the Jewish Establishment on immigration, and recently appointed Chair of the National Immigration Forum (NIF), the leading umbrella organization in the country pushing for open-borders immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens.
Aronoff’s actions likely represent an attempt to ingratiate himself with the more extreme factions within NIF, including Occidentalist racial and ethnic identity groups, several of which, like NIF itself, are creatures of the Ford Foundation, and all of which are little cadres; none is a mass membership organization. This ilk advocates the most balkanizing variety of multiculturalism, one that denies the existence of America or American culture. America (or, perhaps better, “Amerika”) is seen as nothing more than an assemblage of aggrieved diaspora communities, and they support open-borders immigration and the surrender of U.S. sovereignty as deserved punishments for American hegemony. I’m familiar with their worldview from first-hand experience; I’ve heard them rant unguardedly. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) belongs to this coalition, and during my years as its Director of National Affairs I attended NIF meetings as AJC’s representative. I served in many different coalitions in those years: This is the one I detested. Such is NIF’s culture that among the more “mainstream” figures long associated with it is Jeanne Butterfield, longtime executive director of the American Immigrant Lawyer’s Association, and former executive director of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a political arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Partnering with Aronoff in the purge is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the nation’s leading enforcer of political correctness “by any means necessary,” but chiefly by “attack dog research” whose hallmark is not accuracy but the capacity to smear the reputation of opponents through the repetition of scurrilous charges. Its working definition of “hate speech” is broad enough to encompass the espousal of almost any position with which it strongly disagrees. To give the devil its due, it’s certainly made a profitable business of it. The chief tactic HIAS has employed in its McCarthyite campaign is sending poison pen e-mails. The first — the “secret” poison e-mail — signed by Roberta Elliot Wantman, HIAS’s VP for Communications and Media, was sent to the editors of hundreds of Jewish newspapers prefaced with the bolded phrase “Not for Publication” warning them not to accept op-eds opposing “Progress by Pesach,” especially none that might come from my think tank, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and me.
A follow-up e-mail, signed by Aronoff, provides a link to SPLC’s smear. The personal assault pales in significance set against its larger objective: extinguishing freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the Jewish community. Aronoff also sent poison pen e-mails to Jewish organizations I’ve addressed, intended to stifle my freedom of speech through slander. Borrowing language reminiscent of paranoid allegations of ubiquitous “communist conspiracies” in the 1950s, he has characterized my speaking engagements at some 160 Jewish religious institutions and secular organizations, where my remarks have been received with overwhelming enthusiasm and solid agreement, as “attempts to penetrate the Jewish community,” (his community, not mine). “Penetrating?” Having spent three years as Vice President of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ), two years as Director of Education for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, and nearly eight years as Director of National Affairs (domestic policy) and Senior Fellow at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) it is fair to say I’m a community insider. I grew up in the bosom of the Conservative Movement. For 10 summers I attended its Hebrew-speaking Zionist summer camp, Camp Ramah, starting out in Bunk 1 in its Connecticut camp and ending up leading canoe trips in Camp Ramah, Canada. Before my freshman year at Columbia College, I had also spent two summers working on a kibbutz in Israel. I retain continuing, warm and respectful relationships with many prominent figures in the organized Jewish world, American-Jewish public intellectuals and writers, the clergy, and local community leaders.
Politically Correct McCarthyism
Aronoff describes CIS and me as “white supremacists.” The obscene accusation would be comical except for its extreme ugliness. It will also shock David Duke, who seems obsessed with the evil Jew Steinlight; he frequently quotes me and describes me, preposterously to be sure, as “one of the leading Jews in America.”3 Aronoff’s false allegations are meant to cast a shadow over the work of a lifetime dedicated to promoting racial justice, minority rights, and comity. As Director of National Affairs at AJC, some of the highpoints of my “white supremacist” career included: founding and serving as Senior Advisor to the critically-acclaimed commonQuest: The Magazine of Black/Jewish Relations partnered with Howard University; working closely with Wade Henderson of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; meeting regularly with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; taking part in the Ford Foundation’s “Conversations on Race;” playing a key role in defeating Houston’s Proposition A that would have ended affirmative action in city contracts; setting up the first leadership meetings with Hispanic and Jewish leaders to seek common ground; and directing the first publication on Latino/Jewish relations.
Prior to joining AJC, I was Vice President of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) whose “white supremacist” mission is fighting “bias, bigotry, and racism and promoting positive inter-religious relations.” (It was the result of my insistent lobbying that NCCJ’s board added the word “racism” to its mission statement.) At NCCJ, my agenda included a strong focus on issues affecting Native Americans, particularly media treatment; meeting with police chiefs across the country to promote adoption of community-oriented policing; overseeing the development of its “Workplace Diversity Network;” re-designing significant elements of its signature anti-bias residential youth program Camp Anytown; coordinating the first global inter-religious dialogues involving Muslim scholars, primarily key dissident “freethinkers” (meetings were held in England, Germany, and Jerusalem); and producing the largest survey of intergroup attitudes ever undertaken in America, Taking America’s Pulse.
After leaving AJC, my supposed contributions to bigotry were rewarded by my selection by the Soros Open Society Institute and the United States Institute for Peace to go to Macedonia to help maintain the ceasefire in its civil war by bringing together Orthodox Christian and Muslim leadership and seeking changes in its constitution to better protect the rights of minority Muslims. I participated in meetings involving Macedonia’s president, his key advisors, and Orthodox and Islamic religious leaders. Before joining CIS I further exhibited “white supremacist” beliefs as executive director of the American Anti-Slavery Group that seeks to enlighten American public opinion about the persistence of chattel slavery in Sudan and Mauritania, aids in slave rescue, supports refugees from Sudanese slavery in camps in Chad, and seeks to focus attention on the enormity of global trafficking.
Though David Duke may consider me one of the most dangerous Jews in America, that signal honor belongs to Gideon Aronoff. The danger Aronoff represents, however, is not to bigots like Duke but to the basic decency and moral and intellectual integrity of the American-Jewish community; to exercising the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment; to independent-minded Americans who are Jews; and to the most economically and socially vulnerable of our fellow citizens for whom he apparently cares nothing. Illegal aliens that stole across the border last night are dearer to him and more deserving of his moral sympathy and advocacy than are our 14-16 million unemployed or the working poor in the African-American community, who are our fellow citizens with 300 years of history in this country, a great many of them tragic and purgatorial, or the hard-pressed seasonal rural workers of America’s economically depressed farm country; or our impoverished elderly who still must work; or our young people with no more than a high school education seeking their first jobs.
A Coalition of Usurpers
Its tone set by Aronoff’s McCarthyism, few campaigns with a putatively moral premise have begun on so low a note as Progress by Pesach. Though one might have thought HIAS’s unethical behavior would have raised red flags for other Jewish organizations involved in the effort, particularly the two religious denominations headed by clergymen, all were evidently prepared to countenance it. They have forgotten or else chosen not to heed the moral precept that the end is contained in the means. The disturbing truth is that other members of this coalition have engaged in McCarthyite vilification of opponents regarding immigration policy, including Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Union for Reform Judaism, who made a serious error in this regard, tarring many unfairly with a broad brush. (See “Compassion Knows No Borders,” Reform Judaism, Winter 2008.)
Virtually every constituent part of the American-Jewish Establishment engaged in domestic public policy signed onto this effort. The coalition includes the following organizations that HIAS’s website terms “national groups:” the Jewish Center for Policy Analysis (JCPA), a tiny umbrella organization that runs the annual conference for national Jewish organizations with domestic public policy agendas; the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); the American Jewish Committee (AJC); B’nai B’rith International; the Jewish Labor Committee, a small, disappearing old left agency that maintains symbolic ties to the American Labor Movement; Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), a miniscule far-left Boston-based organization; Uri l’Tzedek: the Orthodox Social Justice Movement, another tiny local group seeking recognition in the NYC area and which played a role in exposing ultra-Orthodox hypocrisy over AgriProcessors; the National Council of Jewish Women; the Rabbinical Assembly (the Conservative Movement); Union for Reform Judaism; Women of Reform Judaism (whose membership will be included in an overall figure of liberal members of the Reform Movement); and the Reconstructionist Movement.
In addition to what are styled “national” organizations, the roster of endorsers is given the appearance of grandeur by a motley collection of others (under the heading “endorsed locally” on HIAS’s website) whose numbers range from small to infinitesimal, among them four far-left JCRC’s (Jewish Community Relations Councils) that likely represent a maximum of a few dozen people each; the New York Chapter of AJC (which for reasons best know to itself chose to affiliate separately from its parent organization and may represent a few hundred active members), as well as a smattering of independent far-left groups. These include: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice; MIKLAT: A Jewish Response to Displacement; the Progressive Jewish Alliance; Jewish Community Action; Am Kolel Jewish Renewal Center; Jews United for Justice; and the Chicago-based Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. The total combined membership for all these groups cannot exceed a thousand (a very generous estimate and one only theoretically possible because of the inclusion of AJC’s New York chapter), but these zealots exercise influence on this campaign completely disproportionate to their numbers. Any claim these groups might advance to speak for a significant proportion — or even an impressive-sounding raw number — of American Jews would be not merely dishonest, but delusional. In fact, they represent such a statistical nullity within the Jewish community I cite them only because they are listed as sponsors. In political or ideological terms, the spectrum of opinion of the endorsers of Progress for Pesach, ranges from left-liberal to loony left.
In light of the monolithic, autonomic support by the American-Jewish Establishment for “comprehensive immigration reform” and, more broadly, open-borders immigration, one might infer these views represent those of most Americans who are Jews. Wrong. Taking that inference would constitute an unjustifiable, untenable leap. In the American-Jewish community, as within virtually every other U.S. demographic, a chasm divides the opinion of tiny self-appointed leadership cadres and those of the rank-and-file with regard to immigration policy. As is the case with other demographics, a privileged elite, or, in the case of the tiny leftist groups, a mouthy elite, has usurped the voice of the many. The divide may be slightly narrower among American Jews as a result of nostalgia for a sentimentalized, ahistorical, mythologized version of their immigration story; false analogies resulting from projecting the experience of Jewish immigrants — actually refugees — during the Great Waves who fled pogroms and persecution onto the very different one of contemporary economic immigrants and transnational migrants (predominantly Mexican and Central American) who fail to assimilate, acquire English, or naturalize at a significant rate; as well as the disinformation disseminated by the Jewish Establishment. Nonetheless, the divide is indisputably wide. Unlike the self-proclaimed leadership that approaches open-borders immigration like a sacred cow, the holy of holies in the temple of political correctness, ordinary American Jews do not. They are deeply concerned about the impact of massive immigration on the country they love and on the security of their faith community.
Justified Anxiety vs. Elite Denial
The prominent role of so-called “Jewish defense agencies” (ADL and AJC) in the Progress by Pesach campaign for “comprehensive immigration reform” is particularly disturbing. It represents a betrayal of their raison d’être: protecting the well-being of the American-Jewish community within a nation dedicated to equal justice, democratic decision-making, pluralism, and respect for the rule of law. That historic obligation should remain paramount, especially in an era witnessing a global explosion of anti-Semitism that is a byproduct of mass immigration. But adhesion to political correctness has supplanted it. The “defense agencies” should be profoundly risk-averse in the light of Jewish historical experience, but they are apparently prepared to gamble with the most basic social conditions in what has proven to be the safest nation for Jews in history (Israel excepted) by supporting a transformational demographic leap in the dark. Historical precedent counsels opposition to, strong skepticism of, or, at the very least, wise passivity about this gigantic experiment in social engineering. Instead, the “defense agencies” have endorsed unreservedly a proposition to transform American society radically. Language taken from the Ahl Het recitation (which details the sins we have committed against God) in the afternoon service on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, comes to mind in this context: the phrase in Hebrew is “reetzaht raglayim l’hara.” The English translation is, “The sin we have committed against You by running to do evil.” For Jewish defense agencies to take the lead in running to support open-borders immigration is the policy equivalent of this sin.
Like other Americans, most ordinary American Jews believe illegal immigration and large increases in legal immigration threaten national security, U.S. sovereignty, the social safety net, the dignity of American labor, sane population growth, social cohesion, environmental sustainability, and our quality of life. But Americans who are Jews have an additional, urgent reason for feeling profound apprehension regarding mass immigration: Mass immigration has become the principal global carrier of the contagion of anti-Semitism. The devastating impact of Muslim immigration on Jewish life in Western Europe — with which most American Jews are familiar — ought to represent a blinding, flashing red light for the American-Jewish Establishment that has committed itself to open-borders immigration. But in a strange act of denial, the Establishment has elected to draw no lessons from it. This cannot be excused as ignorance; it is willful, suicidal stupidity, the victory of ideology over common sense.
The Jew-hatred endemic to Islam has, under the banner of contemporary Islamism, become the most virulent form of anti-Semitism since the defeat of Nazism. Like Nazism, it views the Jewish people as its ultimate enemy, the greatest barrier to the fulfillment of Islam’s destiny and hence seeks their total annihilation. For the many experts and lay persons who follow this story, including many ordinary American Jews who come to my talks, the nightly viewing of YouTube videos showing mullahs from Baghdad to Gaza to London calling for the extermination of all Jews is a profoundly sobering, frightening experience, especially as these are the representative voices of the global Muslim community. It is an appalling, unmediated encounter with history in the making. If the Jewish Establishment is in denial or believes that “dialogue” will solve the problem, American Jews are under no illusions about what mass Muslim immigration means. The impact of the Internet is infinitely greater than the reassuring rationalizations offered by spokespersons for organizations to which most do not belong and about which the great majority know nothing.
The wild vituperation of the mullahs as well as members of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian regime, and their Islamist followers throughout the Muslim world is reflected in hard data. In a survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project4 of attitudes toward Jews, unfavorable attitudes toward Jews range from “only” 76 percent in Pakistan and Turkey to 95-97 percent in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. Favorable views of Jews were in the single digits, reaching a high of just 7 percent in supposedly philo-Semitic Turkey. These statistics suggest the level and intensity of Jew-hatred among contemporary Muslims is arguably even higher than it was among ordinary Germans in the Third Reich until the radicalization of the regime’s anti-Semitic policy began, signaled by Kristallnacht, the giant pogrom of November 9, 1938, organized at the very highest levels of state. The indifference by the great majority of Germans to this savage nationwide pogrom evidences the success of five years of systematic Nazi propaganda, especially among the young. Until then, the largest single demographic in German society, the working class, was largely immune to the anti-Jewish campaign, as were working class and middle class Social Democrats. Prior to 1938, anti-Semitism was concentrated principally among the petty bourgeoisie that formed the social base of National Socialism, with the extent of anti-Semitism varying significantly from region to region.5 Though public opinion research was non-existent in the 1930’s and there is no statistical means of proving it, it is probable that not until Nazi anti-Semitic policy went into high gear with the onset of WWII and the systematic mass murder of Jews began, anti-Semitism among ordinary Germans did not approach the level we see among contemporary Muslims. It should also be noted that while the Nazi regime’s Ministry of Propaganda had only five years to incite this level of anti-Semitism, Islam has had 1,387 to indoctrinate its followers.
The disease of anti-Semitism, borne by mass Muslim migration, has spread throughout an increasingly Islamized Europe. It is demographic axiom that a fertility rate of 2.1 children is the minimum required for a culture to sustain itself, and thus the handwriting is on the wall. Demography is much the greatest part of a nation’s destiny, and the fertility rate of Christian Europeans is somewhere around 1.4, a cultural death knell. The Muslim growth rate is conservatively estimated to be three times higher (some demographers have suggested four), and the great majority of Muslims in Western Europe are under age 30, in the most fertile stage of life. Some 30 percent of all Western Europeans under 30 are Muslim.6
Accurate figures for the percentage of Muslims in Western European countries are notoriously hard to find owing to government reticence about releasing numbers; assertions that it does not possess the data because it does not use religion in census gathering (a claim made by the French government); the politicization of these hot-button figures by all camps; and, most importantly, the large number of Muslims entering and residing in Western Europe illegally. Compounding the problem, Muslim countries of origin do not keep statistics for their citizens who leave and live abroad legally or illegally. The problem of illegal immigration likely trumps all others in its ability to frustrate the effort to gain an accurate estimate of Europe’s Muslim population. In The Islamic Challenge in Europe, Raphael Israeli gives great weight to this factor: “the countless illegal migrants tend to baffle the arithmetic and leave many data of this massive human movement in the dark.”7 Indeed, so “dark” is the data that estimates by responsible academics, research institutions, and journalists vary as widely as 20 million to 52 million, though there appears to be a consensus among the most respected research bodies that a figure in the neighborhood of 35 million is about right at present.
Recent studies (cited above) by the Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings, and the National Intelligence Council conservatively predict Europe will be 20 percent Muslim by 2050. Many experts acquainted with the data, including the noted scholar of Islam Bernard Lewis, estimate Europe will have a Muslim majority by the end of this century.8 Muammar al-Qaddafi has remarked that Islam will finally conquer Europe without firing a single shot. On this point, Muammar al-Qaddafi and Mark Steyn agree. It is critical to point out — though it should go without saying — that Europe with a Muslim majority would be politically and culturally unrecognizable, deeply hostile to Western values. Muslim communal leaders, fanatic mullahs who mold Muslim opinion on the street, and the millions of young ignorant pan-Islamists who constitute the vast majority of Muslims in Europe have no desire to become European. Rather, they seek to impose Islamic law in Europe and uproot both its Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment traditions. Their ascendancy would mark the end of Western civilization in its birthplace.
Even in parts of Western Europe with modest current Muslim populations countrywide, the Muslim presence in many of the largest cities, also home to the great majority of its Jewish population, is high — ranging from 10-35 percent in such centers as Antwerp, Berlin, Brussels-Liege, Copenhagen, London, Lyon, Malmo, Marseilles, Oslo, Paris, and Rotterdam.9 Corroborating evidence for these high figures comes from what seems an unlikely source, a Muslim website, Islam in Europe,10 which one might have expected to lowball figures to dispel fears of Islamic religious/ethnic succession. But Islam in Europe, in fact, reports higher numbers than most for several key cities: a 25 percent Muslim population in Malmo, 25 percent in Marseille, 20 percent in Stockholm, and 20 percent in Moscow. This is “balanced,” to some extent, by lower figures for Brussels, Copenhagen, London, Paris, and the Hague, but the latter percentages seem too low. A figure of just 7 percent for Paris, for example, when France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe would be hard to find in any other reliable source. However accurate current guesstimates, there’s no debate about the trend: It will increase exponentially, creating a Muslim demographic tidal wave in urban Western Europe in the near future. According to Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Britain’s leading think tank on immigration, Migrationwatch UK, 100,000 native British left London in 2006 alone, part of an ongoing pattern creating what Sir Andrew calls, “a very unfortunate” apartheid-style segregation of the city. In addition, other demographers predict the immigrant share of London’s population will grow from a very high current percentage of 40 percent to a stratospheric 60 percent within 12 years.11
Life for Jews in these historic settings is already becoming untenable. Muslim anti-Semitism expresses itself in physical assaults on Jews, especially Jewish school children and anyone who can be readily identified as a Jew, such as men wearing the traditional head covering, with attacks reaching into the thousands annually in France; vandalizing Jewish businesses; desecration of synagogues and cemeteries; widespread distribution of the most demonic and violent anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial literature, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; the resurrection of the barbarous medieval blood libel; continuous calls by Islamist mullahs to commit violence and even murder against Jews and Christians; and the recrudescence of pogroms — Muslim riots in Jewish neighborhoods aimed at Jewish homes, businesses, houses of worship, and people — usually coinciding with newsworthy events involving Israel and the Palestinians, Jewish holidays, and even Ramadan.
The upsurge of anti-Semitism generated by Muslim Jew-hatred has been a key factor in a sharp rise in anti-Semitism within Europe’s Christian population, re-awakening its own dormant but latent hostility to Jews, and the “otherness” of Muslims rekindles notions about the “otherness” of Jews. Everywhere in Europe, Muslim organizations have been busy disseminating the Protocols and Mein Kampf, which have once again become best sellers in Europe — as they are throughout the Muslim world — giving renewed life to paranoid conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the world. Islamism, from its inception, borrowed heavily from European fascist sources. The same Pew Global Attitudes survey cited above found unfavorable attitudes toward Jews among 46 percent of Spaniards, 36 percent of Poles, 34 percent of Russians (Russia is home to half of Europe’s Muslims), 25 percent of Germans, and 20 percent of Frenchmen. These figures reflect a significant increase in Christian European hostility to Jews over a very short period. From 2005-2008 there was a 25 percent increase in Spain; in that same period a 9 percent increase in Poland, a 7 percent increase in Russia, and a 5 percent increase in France. Only Great Britain has not witnessed any rise in anti-Semitism during this period, with hostility to Jews holding at a relatively low rate of 9 percent.
I have discussed these developments in detail with several of the most important Jewish leaders in America who now spend much of their time in Western Europe assessing the crisis. It is no exaggeration to state the situation in Europe has become a legitimate obsession. They are uniformly despondent. The phrase I’ve heard repeatedly is that “Jewish life in Europe is finished.” In scores of meetings American Jewish leaders have held with rump Jewish leadership across Western Europe they tell me they routinely encounter people mired in cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, European Jewish leadership will detail the increasingly horrific realities of day-to-day life, but on the other it refuses to face the full implications. They tell me European Jews today are exactly like German Jews in the early to mid-1930s: They are living in denial. They cannot accept the fact — it is an excruciatingly difficult fact to accept — that the Western European chapter of Jewish history is inexorably concluding. American-Jewish leaders are already counseling Western European Jews to relocate to Israel, the United States, or elsewhere in the English-speaking world.
No Implications for U.S. Immigration?
Yet the same American-Jewish leaders who are prepared to face the grimmest facts in Western Europe and forcefully encourage European Jews to do the same are incapable of following their own example with regard to immigration to the United States. Given the magnitude of what is at stake that failure is incomprehensible. The handwriting on the wall may not be precisely the same but it is extremely menacing. If ordinary Jews can decipher it, what makes the Establishment leadership incapable or unwilling? As I have repeatedly pointed out, the mass immigration being pushed by the Jewish Establishment is bringing into the United States the two most anti-Semitic groups in the world in very great numbers: Muslims and foreign-born Hispanics. The threat isn’t speculative: It is clear and present. Yet some unspoken, unnamed fear keeps the Establishment silent. Though the very possibility is painful to contemplate and embarrassing to consider, it is likely the Establishment is more willing to harm their own country and risk the future of their own faith community than offend the gods of political correctness.
It’s also likely some in the Jewish Establishment are beguiled by representatives of the school of thought on global migration that argues nothing can be done to prevent it. Cheap labor, so the argument goes, will inevitably gravitate to the magnets of employment wherever they happen to be. Immigration is perceived as an uncontrollable byproduct of globalization, or something resembling a Hegelian historical force, or even a law of nature. None of this airy-fairy abstract theory of inevitability is true or provable. Immigration policy, like any other social policy in America, is not determined by an iron law or unseen hand. Mass immigration and the toleration of mass illegal immigration result from conscious choices. The choices are made by groups seeking to further their power, influence, ideology, or increase their profits, including, among others, the government of Mexico; the U.S. Administration and members of Congress pandering to Hispanic voters; representatives of ethnic lobbies; corporate interests, particularly in the service sector; the farm lobby; the Chamber of Commerce; environmental groups; and organizations focused on population growth. It is a multilateral policy free-for-all, and all of us, the Jewish Establishment included, are as powerful or as weak as we choose to be.
But for the Jewish Establishment to chose weakness, to surrender its values and interests on the basis of a mistaken theory, to take the wrong side in a policy dispute — in many cases knowing it to be the wrong side — falsely believing the outcome is a fait accompli to which it must adjust in order to survive, to cut the best deal it can with the group prematurely declared the winner — is cowardly and morally and intellectually indefensible. No one can confidently predict the outcome of the battle over immigration policy, and now is the time for American-Jewish leadership to recognize it is not too late to vouchsafe the future safety and security of our country and community. The Establishment must not betray country and community through fear of a chimera. The Jewish Establishment has a choice: It can dismiss that phantasm from its consciousness or collude in bringing to life. Do American Jewish leaders really wish to engage in “shtadlonus” politics once more? That this awful question must be posed suggests we are at a crisis point. There is always time to grovel and practice the accomodationist ghetto politics of the powerless. Have you forgotten this is America, our home, where we are not guests in another man’s house, where we are free citizens with the power to make critical choices about our country’s future and that of our faith community? There is no one we need to placate. We are at home and have many friends. Our surest guide at this hour is our patriotism. This is a plea to American-Jewish leadership to remember that.
In terms of simple willingness to recognize the danger of mass immigration by anti-Semitic groups, the gulf between ordinary American Jews and the Establishment is chasm-like. I have not spoken before a single Jewish audience in which fear of Muslim immigration as well as awareness of Hispanic anti-Semitism does not surface almost immediately — they are right to be deeply worried about both — and ordinary Jews cannot fathom the Jewish Establishment’s logic in supporting their massive immigration. It is not only grassroots Jews who have the capacity to see what is unfolding. Increasing numbers of independent influential American-Jewish thinkers are coming to the same recognition. One of the leading liberal journalists in America, Martin Peretz, publisher of the New Republic, is growing deeply uneasy about jihadist Jew-hatred in the United States. In a letter to John Judis repudiating the latter’s unwillingness to confront the reality of jihadism in America, Peretz wrote the following in the New Republic on January 1, 2009, about an ugly anti-Semitic rally by Muslims (as well as a few extreme leftist hangers-on) in Fort Lauderdale protesting Israeli action in Gaza:
As it happens, jihadism has less deadly manifestations than murder. As the Ku Klux Klan had less deadly manifestations than lynching. This morning I watched a frightening episode in the public life of America. It was a demonstration by, say, 200 Muslim immigrants in Fort Lauderdale against the Israeli air strikes over Gaza. Now, the first amendment protects such demos, and I would not for a moment want to curb them. But I ask each of you to pay attention to the details of what was being shouted. Especially by the young women screaming, “Jews to the ovens.” No jihad in America, huh? Do we want such immigrants in our country? Well, John, do we?12
With regard to both Muslim and Hispanic immigration to the United States, the leadership of the American-Jewish Establishment has shown itself to be breathtakeningly data-averse as well as grossly irresponsible in failing to protect the interests of all Americans and American Jews. Though Muslim immigration to the United States is far lower than in Europe and America’s capacity to acculturate immigrants has been far greater than Europe’s, it would be foolhardy to understate or minimize present and potential dangers. Islam represents a danger to the West worldwide, and that is also true in America: It has not undergone a magical transformation by virtue of being brought to these shores. Muslims are decidedly more “other” than populations of Western-oriented East Asian or Christian immigrants, and a high percentage may well be “unmeltable.” Echoing the concern about “unmeltable” immigrants from the Islamic patrimony, albeit in the European context, in an unusual display of candor on the part of a ranking public official: Austria’s Interior Minister, Liese Prokop, stated in May 2006 that some 45 percent of the Muslim immigrants in Austria are incapable of being integrated into Austrian society and should find another country in which to live.13
The difficulty of Muslim assimilation in America is evidenced by the fact that virtually every organization that represents the Muslim community in this country is Islamist, and many have been shut down as terrorist fronts. Even the Muslim Student Association (MSA), present on hundreds of college campuses in the United States and therefore perceived as “normal” and which receives its financial support in part through “student mandatory fees,” is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the leading self-proclaimed Muslim “civil rights” organization in America, not only has its roots in Hamas, but also has ongoing connections, a point proven beyond any doubt by the prosecutors of the Northern District of Texas when CAIR was named as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the trial in Dallas that investigated the activities of the Holy Land Foundation in support of Hamas terrorism.14 Despite the organization’s success in gulling the unsuspecting and mainstreaming itself by creating a plausible “American” identity — its slick website uses a folksy/hip colloquial American diction — and while members of CAIR have been received in the White House, have participated in major public events, and have access on the Hill, no fewer than five of its employees and board members linked to terrorist activities have been arrested, imprisoned, or deported.15
Though it’s especially difficult for dominant-culture multicultural dilettantes, immigration fetishists, and sentimentalists to believe or admit, many Muslims have not immigrated to America to become Americans; they have immigrated in order to Islamize it, as one of the most publicized “controversies” involving CAIR reveals conclusively. Omar Ahmad, CAIR’s co-founder and chair of its board of directors from its founding in 1994 until he resigned in 2005, spoke at a public conference for Muslims in California on the Fourth of July, 1998, where he made a number of incendiary supremacist statements in his speech titled “How Should We as Muslims Live in America.” The most inflammatory remarks were reported in the local paper, the San Ramon Valley Herald. CAIR’s leadership is normally exceedingly circumspect in all its public utterances and communications — it’s bogus “moderate” image is its most important cache — but Mr. Ahmad’s religiosity was evidently irrepressible on this occasion, and he let down his guard and provided an in-depth view of the Islamist frame of mind. The local paper’s reporter on the scene quoted him as stating “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran ... should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.”16
It took Ahmad five years to recognize he ought to try denying having made these remarks, and he held a press conference where he sought to retract them. The San Ramon Valley Herald’s reporter, Lisa Gardiner, stood by her story. Other examples of the Islamist supremacism that CAIR quietly cultivates within the American Muslim community are illustrated in comments made by Ibrahim Hooper before CAIR was founded. Hooper is now CAIR’s National Communications Director and its public face. In an interview with a reporter for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis in 1993, he stated, “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t want the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future.” He returned to the same theme in a radio interview with Michael Medved in 2003 in which he stated that if Muslims became the majority in the United States at some point in the future it would be a safe assumption they would wish to replace the United States Constitution with Islamic law.17
According to prominent Muslim-born intellectual “free thinkers” such as Jamal Hasan, Tashbih Sayyed, and Khalid Durán — unyielding enemies of jihadism who have had to live in safe houses because of death threats and are astute observers of the rise of Islamism in the West — the great majority of mullahs, the most influential members of any Muslim community, are extreme jihadists in their sympathies. Mark Steyn makes the same point in his big-think, book-length essay America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. He estimates the percentage of radical Islamist mullahs preaching in U.S. mosques as 85 percent, extrapolating from data he asserts has been amassed by undercover agents of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that identified some 80 percent of mullahs in Canadian mosques as jihadists. It must be emphasized this statistic is non-sourced. But a similar, parallel, independent judgment is available from Sheikh Hisham Kabbani, a “moderate Muslim” cleric, who has cited an estimate that some 80 percent of American mullahs are jihadists.18
Suspicion within the Muslim community in America that the FBI surveils mosques, has great numbers of informants in the Islamic community, and that reports of aborted terrorist schemes are actually plots fabricated by FBI agent provocateurs who draw in “innocent” Muslims are so widely believed that CAIR, among other Muslim organizations, has ceased to cooperate with the agency. Several Muslim organizations have also enlisted the help of the ACLU in their campaign against FBI undercover work in their community, including within its mosques.
Despite a multiplicity of flashing lights and screaming sirens warning Americans about the worldview of the Muslim community, some Jewish groups, often local synagogues, Jewish Community Relations Councils, or chapters of national organizations, crave dialogue with Muslims. American Jews love “to dialogue” with virtually anyone, and they have historically projected their own tolerant (if often uninformed) liberalism on all their interlocutors — and continue to do so despite a wealth of evidence that these attitudes are neither shared nor reciprocated. There is a point at which well-intentioned ignorance becomes a positive danger. In the past these naïve people have helped briefly legitimate Muslim figures later revealed to be connected to terrorist groups. The list is long, a reflection of the ultimately futile quest for authentically “moderate” Muslims. When I worked at AJC our expert on American Islam, Judith Barsky, sought to caution Jewish groups about meeting with suspect individuals, almost invariably meeting with resentment by people disappointed at being told not to engage interesting exotics with whom they could showcase their liberalism, and her efforts often failed.
Not content with seeking comity with a group that wholeheartedly wishes their demise, some even make it their business to act as their agents, attacking so-called “Islamophobes,” a nasty epithet for individuals who understand the danger Islam represents and call things by their right names. Only recently the Florida area director of the ADL, one Andrew Rosenkranz, attacked Geert Wilders, the Dutch Parliamentarian who has been risking his life trying to awaken a supine Europe to the future that awaits it. Wilders had been speaking at synagogues across Florida. Rosenkranz condemned him for his alleged “message of hate” which refuses to distinguish between the religion of Islam and jihadism. Making that distinction is, in fact, a more difficult intellectual and theological undertaking that Mr. Rosenkranz evidently understands. Rather than condemning Wilders’ view of the Quran, perhaps Mr. Rosenkranz should actually read it (making a special point to peruse those sections dealing with Mohammed’s extermination of the Jewish tribes of the Arabian Peninsula and commentary on Jews). He should also devote some time to reading some of the readily available and highly readable standard references in this field19 or, indeed, any one of some dozens of current works exposing the anti-Semitic and Machiavellian side of Islam. Rosenkranz’s defense of the indefensible recalls Robert Frost’s definition of a liberal as “someone who cannot take his own side in an argument.”
Though a precise figure for the Muslim population in the United States is hard to arrive at because Muslims over-state their numbers to show they already outnumber American Jews — a reasonable current estimate is approximately four million (this includes a high percentage of African-American converts to mainstream Islam). Though that number is modest, it is already close to the number of American Jews — 5.8 million — and while Jewish fertility is flat, its population aging, and nearly half of Jews intermarry, the Muslim birthrate is much higher. Projecting 25 years ahead, Muslims won’t need to exaggerate their numbers to have a significant influence on American politics. The future is even gloomier. Over time, Muslims will significantly outnumber a Jewish population declining in both absolute and relative terms. The implications for Jewish life in the United States will not be nearly as dire as that of European Jews given the very positive relations and rapidly increasing family bonds between American Jews and American Christians — as well as the generally unfavorable attitudes toward Islam on the part of most Americans — but it will potentially have a serious impact on U.S.-Middle East policy.
The Unmentionable Bigotry: Hispanic Anti-Semitism
The Progress by Pesach campaign supported amnesty, a cessation of ICE raids, and “comprehensive immigration reform.” The core of that legislation is an exponential increase in legal immigration. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation estimated the increase that would have resulted from the stillborn 2006 “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act” (S.2611) would have been in the range of 66-100 million within 20 years.20 Since the principal engine driving immigration is extended family reunification or “chain immigration,” the greatest part of the increase will come from the country whose residents have already established the greatest number of familial and social-economic networks in the United States — Mexico. This is cause for profound concern to Jewish Americans on parochial as well as patriotic grounds. Yet apart from anxious commentary that accompanied two polls ADL released in 2003, nowhere within the Jewish Establishment does one find any echo, let alone explicit mention, of this well-grounded anxiety. Leadership may express fears behind closed doors, but rarely does so publicly. There is, simply, no leadership on this burning issue within the ranks of the Establishment. The disinclination to confront this huge problem may stem, in part, from the nonsense that was gospel in dialogues on race for decades: “People of color” cannot be racist because they lack power. Some of this owes to denial, always a strong element for those who engage in intergroup relations (so much of which is based on duplicity and self-deception on both sides), and a part is fear of further provoking the anti-Semitic Hispanics. Whatever the reason, this gigantically important fact is left out of the equation.
Anti-Semitism is pervasive in Latin American societies. In fact, it is so high that the only group survey research shows harbors more anti-Semitism than foreign-born Hispanics are Muslims. (Even among Europeans we have noted that anti-Semitism is much the highest in Spain, the Mother Country of Hispanic culture.) Those who come from the country that is by far the largest source of contemporary immigration, Mexico, are steeped in a culture of theological anti-Semitism that’s defied the post-Vatican II enlightenment of European and North American Catholicism. Foreign-born Hispanics lack a mitigating history of familiarity with Jews, have little knowledge and no direct or familial experience of the Holocaust, and regard Jews simply as among the most privileged of white Americans. To these sources of prejudice one must add the impact of “Liberation Theology” that identifies with the Palestinians and regards Israelis and their Jewish supporters as fascists and “running dogs” of American imperialism.
The troubling percentage of Hispanics willing to embrace anti-Semitic stereotypes is documented in the largest survey of intergroup attitudes undertaken in the United States, Taking America’s Pulse21 (a project of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, NCCJ) carried out in 1992. It surveyed just under 3,000 respondents in phone interviews lasting 28 minutes, with significant over-samplings for Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans, and Jews. In their responses to the four negative stereotypes of Jews in the survey, Hispanics were, overall, the group second most-likely to affirm their validity after African Americans, and exhibited the highest anti-Semitism of any group that is predominantly foreign-born. Thus, 43 percent of Hispanic respondents, a plurality, agree that, “When it comes to choosing between people and money, Jews will choose money;” 44 percent, again a plurality, agree that Jews “Are more loyal to Israel than to America;” 49 percent, the highest of any group, agree that Jews are “Too preoccupied with their history of persecution, such as the Holocaust; while 37 percent agree that Jews “Have too much control over business and the media.” The findings show African Americans are most likely to hold these classic anti-Jewish views (an average of 47.25 percent), but Hispanics are not far behind with an average of 43.24 percent.
A smaller survey (1,000 respondents) conducted by the ADL22 in 2002 reported almost identical findings as NCCJ with regard to foreign-born Hispanics, showing strong anti-Semitism among 44 percent of respondents. Among U.S.-born Hispanics, 20 percent had anti-Semitic attitudes, a finding ADL chose to hype as hopeful. While the improvement seems impressive at first glance, given the constant replenishment of foreign-born Hispanics from Mexico and Central America and the possibility of an exponential increase in the foreign-born population as a result of “comprehensive immigration reform” (a policy supported by ADL!) the purported “progress” seems ephemeral, at best. Homeland attitudes will be reinforced and reinvigorated by the continuous arrival of the foreign-born into tight ethnic enclaves. It is also the case that a rate of 20 percent still makes Hispanics nearly three times more anti-Semitic than the average American.
At a time when the American-Jewish community was fixated on black anti-Semitism and mourning and dissecting the collapse of the “black/Jewish alliance,” it was startling news to find Hispanics registering almost equal hostility, an attitude that quickly inspired attempts at outreach by Jewish Establishment organizations. I attended several of these early meetings with Hispanic leadership groups and produced the first publication on Hispanic/Jewish relations for AJC. It was clear what they wanted from us: Jewish support for open-borders immigration and amnesty; far less clear was what, if anything, Hispanics were prepared to offer in return.
The Jewish Establishment may seek to justify its support for open-borders immigration as an effort to lessen Hispanic anti-Semitism and buy favor with the Hispanic community or, rather, not the community at large so much as the leadership cadres with which it meets from time to time. But considering the outcome of mass immigration will mean the inevitable nullification of Jewish political power by a group with very high levels of anti-Semitism and a wholly different set of policy priorities, it’s hard to view the Establishment’s support for mass immigration other than through the lens of Lenin’s parable about the capitalist who will sell the rope with which he will be hanged.
Defenders of Jewish Establishment policy argue that when Mexican interest in naturalization increases — currently fewer than 20 percent of the huge number residing here have chosen to become U.S. citizens, most being in effect transnationals rather than immigrants) — they will inevitably undergo the process of Americanization that greatly lessened the anti-Semitism of many Europeans who came during the Great Waves. This line has been advanced by ADL in response to its own grim findings about Hispanic anti-Semitism. But the optimism is entirely unfounded because the institutional structures and ideology that facilitated the process in the past no longer exist. It seems almost quaint to have to point out that there are no longer “Americanization” programs. Groups like the National Immigration Forum headed by Gideon Aronoff regard Americanization as “racist,” “dominant culture supremacist” claptrap. Our brave new world of multiculturalism is founded on the assumption that we aren’t a nation at all and need no common language. It is not only the metaphor of the melting pot that has been tossed into the garbage; the “salad bowl” has joined it there. We have no current metaphor regarding immigration that speaks to the notion that all of us ultimately share a sense of national belonging, that assimilation is a good thing.
In addition, from 1924 until 1965, when the nation’s immigration law was radically changed, there was relatively little new immigration to the United States, allowing time for immigrant groups to acculturate, internalize American values, and discover how to live together as fellow Americans. The civic education we have banished from school curricula played a powerful role in this, as did a host of ethnic pride organizations from the Steuben Society and the Knights of Columbus to the Workman’s Circle, now largely gone or barely surviving with an aged membership, that served as a halfway house between a particular ethnic/cultural identity and a larger sense of national belonging: While they promoted ethnic pride, the balance was on fostering American patriotism. Finally, given Mexico’s contiguity, the deliberate policy on the part of successive Mexican governments to maintain the national loyalty of Mexicans, and the ceaseless nature of immigration from that country — not to mention the exponential population increase we will experience if “comprehensive immigration reform” becomes law — it is not assimilation we can anticipate so much as the constant reinforcement of some of the most atavistic attitudes from that culture, strong anti-Semitism among them.
The Fading Establishment
The organizations that comprise the Jewish Establishment are not only unreflective of the deep concerns about most Jews regarding mass immigration; it is also critical to recognize that only a small, shrinking fraction of American Jews belongs to them. This is truest of the increasingly skeletal secular ones that engage in public policy. One of the most venerable, one of the so-called “Big Three Defense Agencies,” the American Jewish Congress, has all but disappeared within the past year and its survival is uncertain. But the principal religious denominations, Reform and Conservative, are also losing membership at a pace that alarms their leaderships. The Conservative Movement is in crisis at the moment. A letter signed by 12 presidents of congregations who are looking to add 50 more signatories threaten to leave the United Synagogue Movement within 90 days if there is not greater transparency about operations and finances and a more open, less hierarchical approach to governance. The Conservative Movement has recently appointed a new leader to try to cope with institutional drift and slippage in membership. This steady decline is evident across the spectrum of traditional religion in America, whether in mainline Protestantism or in Roman Catholicism, where one in four American-born Catholics leaves the Church. Indeed, the only branch of American Judaism experiencing growth is Modern Orthodoxy, and this is especially true among the young. Like members of every other faith, it is also the case with Jews that the more devout and traditionalist are far less likely to be politically correct.
Contrary to false public perceptions inculcated through classic organizational equivocation about membership or permitting self-serving urban legends to stand uncorrected, none of the secular groups can legitimately call themselves mass membership organizations. This is literally the case with several and true, in effect, for the others. The term “mass membership” is meant to conjure the image of an impressively large number; size itself lending credibility to the notion the organization speaks authentically for the broader community. It is also meant to convey the impression the membership as a whole plays a role in organizational decision-making and is well-informed about the positions the organization holds. None of these is the case within the Jewish Establishment.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) does not have members. No one carries a card that reads, “ADL Member.” Decisions are taken by a small coterie from among its senior staff and board members who operate in the shadow and very much under the thumb of ADL’s charismatic one-man show, Abraham Foxman.
HIAS is hardly a Jewish organization any longer except in name — by far the greatest number of its clients are not Jews. It has a staff of 100 (as a service provider we can assume only a relative handful are involved in policy decisions), 57 board members, and “a generous support base of 14,000.” Its website does not speak of “members.” It is self-evident that its “generous support base” does nothing other than write checks. It is undoubtedly the case that some 15-30 people, perhaps five senior staff (a high estimate) and an executive committee of some 10-25 chosen from its 57 board members make policy decisions. Neither ADL nor HIAS can be called “mass membership” organizations by any definition. Decision-making in these agencies, as is the case with every American-Jewish Establishment organization, is firmly in the hands of a politically correct oligarchic plutocracy.
Smoke and Mirrors: Equivocation About Membership
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), widely regarded as the “dean” of Jewish Establishment organizations, has members, though the actual number is far smaller than it claims. It styles itself a “leadership organization” which can be read to mean, “we are not truly a mass membership organization,” despite periodic assertions to the contrary. In speeches delivered at annual meetings, its leadership occasionally boasts 100,000 members (including “friends” who make donations), but those familiar with the agency — I was a senior staff member for almost eight years — know the figure is grossly inflated. A former senior colleague at AJC in a position to know told me the figure of 100,000 includes almost any person who receives an organizational mailing. In fairness to AJC, it should be noted that many organizations inflate their numbers similarly — it is not a criminal offense — but the fact that this behavior is commonplace doesn’t make it less misleading. The current Director of Membership Services played phone tag with me once, but finally did not see fit to respond to additional voicemails; I suspect a directive not to talk with me was issued from on high. In the JTA piece about the HIAS/SPLC campaign, HIAS’s VP for Media and Communications mentioned that several Jewish organizations contacted her to tell her I had placed calls asking for their membership numbers. Why do I suspect the same person who sent the KGB-like poison-pen e-mails was actually the person who initiated these phone calls?
If one made a point of being highly skeptical about membership claims and coldly analytical in deconstructing AJC’s, the exercise would not be especially difficult to undertake. The only persons who could be called members without doing the least violence to the term are national board members (approximately 200-250) plus the boards and membership of AJC’s 29 chapters (AJC had 32 chapters when I worked there, another indication of shrinkage). The current website of its New York City Chapter, the largest in the country, lists 88 individuals by name. These include seven officers, 67 members of its Board of Directors, and 14 Honorary Board Members. Including its professional staff (they average about three to five and occasionally as many as 10 for the largest chapters), we can state confidently that the New York chapter has some 90+ active individuals. When the chapter holds events — I addressed and attended a goodly number in my eight years at AJC — the audience was comprised of some percentage of those 90+ individuals, never more. Something around the same number would come to events when I traveled around the country. That the typical form these events assumed was that of a parlor meeting in someone’s home speaks volumes about the real numbers. Current staff, speaking on behalf of the agency, have told me some chapters, including New York’s, have as many as 400 members (including “friends”) that donate money.
Conflating “friends,” anyone who has ever sent a check, with “members” who presumably play a more active role in the organization and can actually detail its policies, is standard procedure in Jewish organizations: It pumps up the numbers and gives an inflated sense of policy endorsement. Though the figure of 400 active members is likely an exaggeration, let us take it at face value. In fact, let us go so far as to posit that all 29 chapters, including staff and “supporters,” have 500 active members. That artificially and arbitrarily derived total still leaves the organization with 14,500 active “members” nationwide. AJC’s national office in New York City has a large staff, though the percentage of professionals is small; most AJC employees work in support capacities, and the size of the development department far exceeds that of any department involved in policy or programs. The number of professionals who focus on domestic policy averages four or five. There is also a Legislative Affairs Office in Washington with some 10 professionals and additional support staff, but only three to five work on domestic policy (I am including interns). A great deal of energy and resources are devoted to foreign affairs and Israel-related matters; AJC likes to see itself as the State Department of the organized American Jewish community. Taken together, the national staff cannot exceed 250, of which some 80 percent are non-professionals. This generous guesstimate for staff and “members” gives AJC a total of some 14,750, a very far cry from the 100,000 claimed.
Leaving aside the cold, analytical approach, we are prepared to take a leap of faith. To anticipate the objection untold numbers of actual members somehow have been omitted — an unlikely scenario — we will add an arbitrary 10,000 members actively engaged in chapter or national activities and who know in detail as well as advocate the organization’s policies. That results in a final figure of 25,000, but even this figure is only 25 percent of the total claimed.
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) asserts it is a mass membership body, too, claiming 90,000. However, it is difficult to gauge what this actually means in terms of raw numbers or when trying to assess active involvement by its membership, their role in decision-making, or the degree of knowledge or identification on the part of members with the policy positions it takes. NCJW has separate categories for those associated with it, termed “members,” “supporters,” and “advocates” and it is impossible to get a clear answer on what basis these distinctions are made or how many belong to each. Almost any organization would be thrilled if as many as 30 percent of its membership were genuinely active, so let us be charitable and accept 30 percent of what appears to be an inflated, conflated, confusing total, even though this almost certainly represents a considerable exaggeration.
When asked who makes decisions about such things as the organization’s sponsorship of Progress by Pesach, a professional from NCJW’s membership services department in New York with whom I spoke first drew a complete blank regarding the campaign, then stated she had no clear idea how the decision was arrived at, and finally directed me to pursue the matter with NCJW’s director of Washington operations. (My voicemails to the Washington office were not returned.) A fair conclusion is that we are dealing with another oligarchic decision-making process dominated by a small group of senior administrative officers, wealthy volunteer leadership, and, as usual, a far more ideologically zealous paid senior staff, especially in Washington. NCJW has a president, two vice presidents, a treasurer, and two other chief administrative officers. There is a board comprised of 25 members and a total staff of 28 dispersed among offices in New York, Washington, and Massachusetts. However, only a handful, including the executive director, director of Washington operations, senior legislative associate and the three staff that report to her, plus an assortment of the leading and most political volunteer leadership is likely involved in public policy decisions. The others have portfolios with no policy responsibilities. The decision to join the Progress for Pesach campaign could have been made by some 30 persons, at most.
Paradoxically, it is particularly difficult to say much about the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) in a discussion of membership or when considering in whose name Establishment organizations purport to speak. At first blush this would seem to be a counter-intuitive proposition. Nominally, JCPA is the policy arm of United Jewish Communities, the chief service provider and single biggest organization in the institutional American-Jewish world. In theory, at least, it also “represents” the many Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs) across the United States; these are local entities principally engaged in “intergroup” relations. But public policy is not a priority of United Jewish Communities, whose main work is directing, coordinating, and supporting Jewish charities and social services (in Israel and in the United States, where it focuses its work on Jewish schools, hospitals, care for the elderly, the disabled, needy Jews and non-Jews, new immigrants, synagogues, etc.). It is the Jewish equivalent of Catholic Charities or the Protestant Welfare Board. Frankly, its mission is far too important for it to become embroiled in distracting partisan political campaigns.
JCPA has a miniscule national staff whose principal task is organizing the large annual conference — the Conference — where Jewish Establishment organizations deliberate domestic and foreign policy. It exists in a parasitic relationship to the leading national Jewish organizations, depending on their staffs to do most of its thinking as well as filling the panels at its annual meeting. Its home page speaks of its “leading role” in identifying issues and formulating policy and strategies, but it adds, revealingly, this “unique ability” is a product of “our network of 14 national and 125 independent partner agencies.”
It should be underscored that the “125 independent partner agencies” are the local JCRCs, and JCPA makes no claim to “represent” them, emphasizing the word “independent.” That independence is best demonstrated by the fact that only four of 125 JCRCs chose to lend their names to the Progress by Pesach effort. The local JCRCs are themselves not membership organizations but primarily serve as coordinators of the activity of Jewish organizations in their home communities, including religious institutions. They frequently act as conveners of the many disparate organizations on the ground in any given locality. Some have tiny memberships (perhaps a few dozen at most), but most are entirely staff-driven. The New York Chapter, a monster in comparison to the great majority, has 19 staff total (support included) that services over 60 Jewish organizations in the five boroughs, from charity providers to homes for the aged to religious institutions to Jewish Day School programs, etc. They work at the grassroots level with local organizations, as well as chapters of national ones, but, again, membership in itself is not a component. In most communities across the country, the JCRC may be comprised of no more than three professionals and support staff.
Starting out as a convener — and largely remaining one — some years ago JCPA sought to establish itself as an independent policy shop, something resented by other Jewish organizations, such as AJC, who are doubly irritated that an organization that expects its staff to do much of its work should also, in effect, be competing with them for prominence. JCPA is also notorious for running arguably the most intellectually dishonest policy meetings held since the fall of Soviet Communism — though no enormities occur in their wake, at least to attendees; the typical aftereffect is a bad taste in one’s mouth and a sense of shame about having been complicit in the proceedings. It even refers to its conferences as plenums, perhaps in unconscious recognition of the historical origin of its own excesses. During deliberations dissenting voices are routinely ignored or hushed, and minutes of JCPA meetings, which contain a highly redacted “official” version of what transpired at the plenum, habitually do not record minority views, protests from the floor, or even amendments to resolutions the conveners oppose. One of JCPA’s leaders joined AJC during my time there, and he confirmed these practices are indeed the norm.
Another sponsor of Progress for Pesach is B’nai B’rith, a national membership organization that claims 150,000 “members and supporters.” As noted in the case of the others who make similarly grandiose assertions, the claim is grossly inflated and confusingly conflated. Of that total, it is likely that as many as two-thirds are “supporters,” people who occasionally write checks, and of the remaining 50,000, it is highly unlikely that much above a half are active (by any authentic definition) in the work of the organization. Positing as many as 25,000-35,000 active members is probably a good ballpark estimate.
B’nai B’rith’s national and international agendas are ambitious, but virtually all of them duplicate those of most other Jewish organizations: avoiding overlap would be nearly impossible in what is arguably the most over-organized single community in the United States! The one area where B’nai B’rith’s agenda is unique is its special focus on the rights, economic security, physical well-being, and quality of life of seniors. Its domestic and international policy is formulated and advocated through its Washington-based Center for Human Rights and Public Policy. B’nai B’rith supports “comprehensive immigration reform,” favoring a pathway to citizenship for “law-abiding immigrants” who are gainfully employed. The term “law-abiding” is obviously construed in a highly subjective and, to be charitable, extremely expansive way. The organization is prepared to term as “law-abiding” not only an individual who has violated American immigration law by unlawful entry but is also prepared to apply the term to people who have had to engage in other criminal activities in order to remain illegally: identity theft, the creation and/or use of false documents, lying to law enforcement officers, etc.
Though we have generously posited that B’nai B’rith’s active membership is in the range of 25,000-30,000, it should be stressed that even “active members” appear to have little knowledge of or else are unprepared even to dissimulate enthusiasm for the organization’s position on immigration policy. I have spoken before several chapters, and I find agreement with my opposition to “comprehensive immigration reform” to be virtually universal. It is important to add that at no point during my presentations at B’nai B’rith chapters — not on a single occasion — has a member raised a hand to note I am advocating a policy directly opposite to that of their own organization. Though I cannot be certain, my guess is members have no idea what B’nai B’rith stands for with regard to immigration, and they would be extremely unhappy to find out.
Those familiar with major Jewish institutions will note the omission of several large historic ones, but there are sound reasons for this. First and foremost, they are not sponsors of Progress by Pesach. These organizations do not normally attend JCPA meetings or, with the exception of certain canonical causes, advocate Jewish Establishment policy positions, except with regard to the holy of holies: Israel. They tend to be engaged in Israel advocacy or in social service provision and charitable work through a wide range of projects in support of health care generally, women’s health in particular, education (often for at-risk populations and the poor), and career training principally in Israel, and largely aimed at poor and immigrant populations. Several work in other countries as well, and their clients include Jews and non-Jews.
One of these organizations, Hadassah, the women’s branch of the Zionist Organization of America, claims by far the largest membership of any Jewish organization in the United States: 300,000, distributed among dozens of chapters across the country. But the number of active members cannot remotely approach this total. The vast majority of “members” would be termed “supporters” by other organizations because their involvement consists of paying modest dues, making an occasional contribution to Hadassah’s charitable work (building state-of-the-art medical facilities in Israel and funding service provision on behalf of women’s health in the United States) and receiving organizational mailings. I have spoken before some 20 Hadassah chapters across the country, and by far the largest audience was 200. The typical audience averages about 120, and the organizational business meetings that invariably precede my address strongly suggest those present constitute the core membership of the chapter. As in the case of B’nai B’rith, if we assume that some two-thirds of the members are “supporters” that leaves 100,000. But surely no more than 30 percent of that total could be called active members in the sense of regular participation at events and a substantive knowledge of the work and policy agenda of the organization. Once again we are speaking of approximately 30,000.
An organization with a thoughtful, civic-minded membership and local leadership, Hadassah, sadly, has recently succumbed to the new McCarthyism — despite its self-definition as non-political. Though members would react with outrage and embarrassment if they were aware of this episode, only recently my invitation to address the Alisa Chapter in Monroe, N.J., was cancelled by order of the legal department of the National Office of Hadassah in New York. Since, as noted, I have addressed some 20 chapters of Hadassah before this occurred, several as recently as three months earlier, the cancellation was undoubtedly a consequence of Aronoff’s poison pen e-mails. It is extremely disturbing that his false allegations were accepted at face value, with no effort made to contact CIS or me to refute the slanders. This chilling occurrence is unrepresentative of the organization I know, at least on the local level.
I fear the leadership of Hadassah will not rescind this hasty, ill-considered action. In an article regarding my charge of McCarthyism against HIAS and SPLC in the Forward, a Jewish newspaper with a very modest readership (some 30,000) but with many subscribers who work within the Jewish Establishment, a spokesman for the national office of Hadassah, Steve Rabinowitz, states that since I don’t endorse Hadassah’s policy on immigration I shouldn’t be permitted to speak. My speaking, he argues, would appear to constitute an official endorsement of my views by Hadassah. But this is pernicious nonsense. It is also an ominous statement that shows contempt for the value of free, open discourse about public affairs that is the bedrock of American democracy. It also suggests we are witnessing nothing less than the closing of the American-Jewish mind.
As in the case of B’nai B’rith, despite a multitude of speaking engagements at Hadassah chapters — all received with great enthusiasm and expressions of strong support for my position opposing “comprehensive immigration reform” — on not a single occasion has a member of any chapter noted the fact that Hadassah holds a position directly opposite to mine with regard to amnesty and open-borders immigration. No hand goes up to defend organizational policy, including that of the chair of the chapter. Again, while I did not conduct a survey to discover whether the members actually can cite Hadassah’s organizational policy on immigration, I very much doubt it. Any reasonable observer would come to the same conclusion: There is a gaping chasm between the organization’s “national position” and what the membership knows (or perhaps is permitted to know), attesting to the fact that there is no involvement on the part of membership in framing policy — and no effort on the part of “leadership” to disseminate it.
The Zionist Organization of America has some 30,000 “families” as members, so a final figure is hard to arrive at, but a generous estimate would be perhaps 60,000 members. This group is entirely devoted to advancing Israel’s interests through advocacy on Capitol Hill and mobilizing the American-Jewish community through community relations work, work with pro-Israel Christian groups, and training college students to better defend Israel on college campuses where it has become the favorite target of the left, etc. It is not engaged in domestic public policy. If it were, it would likely find itself out of step with the core organizations of the Jewish Establishment, as its leadership and membership are predominantly right of center on the political spectrum.
Another organization outside the domestic policy orbit is the Women’s ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation and Training). ORT is the largest Jewish NGO in the world devoted to education, especially among poor populations, and it concentrates mainly on vocational training. Its programs, which are rated as excellent by NGO evaluators, are based primarily in Israel, but ORT also does substantial work in Russia, Argentina, and in many countries in Africa. Like the others, it has no interest in U.S. domestic policy. Its active membership is 35,000.
Authentic Jewish-American Opinion: Peering Through the Fog Machine
According to the authoritative Mandell L. Berman Institute’s North American Jewish Data Bank, which draws on demographic studies from several respected research bodies and whose findings are regularly published in the American Jewish Committee’s American Jewish Yearbook, estimates for the total American-Jewish population for the most recent year for which there are findings, 2007, range between 5.2 million and 6.4 million. This is not the place to deconstruct or critique methodological differences or varying religious litmus tests or other measures of Jewish identity that produce these widely differing assessments. For our purposes, we will simply split the difference and posit there are 5.8 million American Jews.
What percentage of Jews is affiliated with the secular Establishment and the main religious denominations supporting Progress by Pesach? To what extent can the Establishment, with its politically correct perspective on issues, immigration foremost among them, be termed “representative” of American Jews? The answers to these questions reveal the American-Jewish Establishment, especially its secular policy organizations, to be nearly as empty as Kafka’s Castle.
Trying to arrive at a precise figure of the total membership of secular national Jewish Establishment organizations sponsoring Progress by Pesach is not possible given the reticence, evasion, and confusion in the membership categories that have been catalogued. Certainly the “official” figures must be taken with a grain of salt. To anticipate the charge numbers are being deliberately suppressed or omitted, but also taking account of the institutional equivocation as well as genuine confusion about numbers of members claimed by the organizations, we will adopt a generous and also very approximate guesstimate of some 200,00-250,000 active members. The organizations that sponsored the campaign will undoubtedly take umbrage at this figure, but it is inarguable we are positing a figure several times their actual number — assuming we are speaking of active members that actually know what the organizations stand for and are prepared to advocate on its behalf.
Let me stress these figures have not sprung fully formed from my forehead. I have discussed these “guesstimates” in detail with several individuals in positions of great responsibility within the American-Jewish Establishment, including regular participants at meetings of the Conference of Presidents, people I have known for years during my career at AJC and after. Without exception, all endorse these estimates; in fact, all shared their pessimism with me about the future viability of these historic agencies and indicated that, if anything, my projected memberships are too high. Mr. Aronoff’s “secret” emails notwithstanding, I am hardly someone “penetrating” the community. I have easy and ready access to Jewish leadership at all levels. (No, I will not share their names; if I did, these individuals would undoubtedly also find themselves candidates for someone’s blacklist.)
The Religious Denominations
The Reform Movement, the largest branch of American Judaism, claims 1.1 million members. The Conservative Movement has approximately 850,000. We will take these figures at face value. The very small Reconstructionist Movement is unquestionably the most politically correct of all Jewish denominations. Membership on its official website is described as “16,000 member households” and, again, we will accept this figure at face value, though how this translates in actual numbers of congregants is guesswork. A significant segment of gay Jews have gravitated to Reconstructionism, and thus “households” in many cases are comprised of one or two adults. But to dispel the notion we are loading the dice, we will err on the generous side when counting politically correct Jews, and will treat Recontructionist “households” as if comprised of a couple with two or three children for a total of 64,000 members.
A large majority of Reform Jews is politically liberal and their clergy are almost invariably to the left of the congregation (a phenomenon, I suspect, that is hardly the case solely among Jews). Reform rabbis, with rare exceptions, are almost uniformly politically correct. Past experience, including attendance at many religious services, strongly suggests the contribution of Reform clergy to Progress by Pesach undoubtedly took the form of sermons that trotted out Leviticus 19:33-34 (“for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt”, etc.)23 for yet another round of sanctimonious eisegesis that likely bored their audiences but harmonized with their worldview; while their Conservative colleagues dusted off their “social justice” sermons which they delivered to largely indifferent or hostile congregants. Given the emptiness of their quivers in terms of knowledge and understanding of the issue, the rabbis ran out of ammunition quickly. Once they’ve butchered Leviticus for the umpteenth time, demonstrated their ignorance of immigration history and policy in general and Jewish immigration history in particular, and libeled opponents as xenophobes and nativists, they have nothing else to say. Though a figure of 70 percent likely errs on the generous side, we will posit this is the share of adult Reform Jews that is liberal. It is conceivable something approaching this percentage would support a campaign like Progress by Pesach, at least from the sidelines.
Again, for the record, this figure is not solely the product of my own speculation; it was arrived at following consultation with 10 Reform rabbis, including old friends, several of whom have held national positions in the Reform Movement and in interdenominational bodies of the American rabbinate. There was a solid agreement that the figure of 70 percent is very much on target.
It sometimes happens that my fiercest antagonist at speaking engagements at Reform Temples is the rabbi, something that is not the case at Conservative synagogues. I would prefer to say “opponent” rather than “antagonist,” but if I don’t adhere to the Party Line, the most doctrinaire of rabbis perceive me as an enemy of sweetness and light. On occasion, the rabbi’s persistent interruptions and vehement, uninformed comments have led congregants to ask them to remain silent until I have finished. I was astounded by the hostility and incivility the first time this took place; I became inured to it after several repetitions. Within the politically correct world of the Reform Congregation, dominated by the most extreme exponent of political correctness, the clergy member, there is little room for dissenting opinion. It is deeply dismaying to see people in positions of spiritual authority who believe they are so right they are incapable of countenancing different points of view.
A figure of approximately 30 percent of politically correct adult congregants in the decidedly more politically centrist world of the Conservative Movement is a reasonable one. If we add that 30 percent to the number of active members of secular Jewish organizations and the majority of Reform and Reconstructionist Jews who are liberal, we have a rough approximation of the core of politically correct affiliated American Jews.
The reason for capping the number of politically correct Conservative Jews at 30 percent is the product of consultation with numerous Conservative rabbis (I grew up in the Conservative movement and have retained many ties there), congregational presidents, as well as my personal knowledge that the flock and clergy are at loggerheads over immigration, an insight gained from a wealth of first-hand experience. I would imagine the same is likely the case with regard to other controversial social/political/cultural issues. By far the greatest share of my speaking engagements at Jewish religious institutions have been at Conservative synagogues — dozens across America — while only a relatively modest number have taken place at Reform congregations, a reliable index of the differing political outlooks of the memberships within these denominations. Support for my position on immigration policy at the Conservative synagogues where I’ve spoken is rock solid. An estimate of 75-90 percent support is not an exaggeration, with the handful of those expressing disagreement usually members of Establishment organizations or paid staff. Congregants are invariably riveted by the content of my remarks; voice strong support for my positions; volunteer it is an immense relief to have someone speaking from the pulpit who is not politically correct or an Establishment representative; and tell me, often with great emotion, they are enormously relieved to hear someone say aloud what the majority thinks but has either been subtly pressured or publicly badgered not to say. Typically when I give a speech, well before I’ve concluded laying out the data and providing my analysis, people start interrupting to ask what they can do to help politically.
The endorsement of Progress by Pesach on the part those that head the Conservative Movement — its rabbinate and top leadership — represents the most naked and extreme instance of usurpation of the authentic voice of the affiliated community among the organizations that have signed on. It is no surprise this religious movement is in such serious trouble, with congregations in revolt against its hierarchical, unrepresentative leadership style.
Once we have disaggregated the children (about one-quarter of the Reform Movement), who presumably do not have positions on American social policy, at first glance we have a total of some 798,000 predominantly politically correct Reform Jews. However, that number must be further reduced to subtract a reasonable if modest percentage, some 30 percent of Reform Jews, who are not incorrigibly politically correct on all issues and are likely to have serious reservations about open-borders immigration. (If anything, the size of this minority is understated.) Many members of the audiences I have addressed at some dozen Reform Congregations, which I have no reason to believe are not representative of Reform Jewry, are deeply concerned about illegal immigration and support the enforcement of immigration law rather than amnesty as the solution.
The Incredible Shrinking Cohort of the Politically Correct
These rough calculations leave us with 562,000 Reform Jews who likely hold politically correct attitudes on this issue. For the sake of this exercise, we will posit 100 percent of Reconstructionist Jews are politically correct, but we still need to disaggregate children. That provides a final total of 47,000 politically correct Reconstructionist adults. Once the same percentage of children is disaggregated from the estimated number of politically correct adult members of the Conservative Movement (255,000), we are left with approximately 184,000. As there is undoubtedly overlap between the memberships of the religious denominations and those of secular Establishment organizations (one affiliation often means another, especially among those with strong political convictions), we must take that into account with a modest reduction of 10 percent or 104,300 of the 1,043,000 for a total of 938,700 of the most politically correct affiliated Jews.
This number, admittedly a rough guesstimate on the generous side, represents approximately 16 percent of Americans who are Jews, leaving the remaining 84 percent, a huge majority of more centrist Conservative Jews, a significant minority of Reform Jews who are not politically correct, non-political or else activist politically conservative Orthodox Jews, and the great majority of secular, “cultural,” and unaffiliated Jews outside the tent. Even if we admit a margin of potential error a good deal higher than is typically the case, we are still talking of a very small proportion.
Our figure of 16 percent as the core of the “most politically correct” is remarkably congruent, with minor commonsensical tinkering to gain a more precise image of those who define themselves as “liberal,” with the findings of AJC’s most recent Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion for 2008 with regard to where Jews place themselves along the political spectrum. The survey, conducted by Synovate (formerly Market Facts), used a random sampling of 914 self-described Jews. Only 5 percent of respondents describe themselves as “extremely liberal.” Another 28 percent say just “liberal.” Another 11 percent describe themselves as “slightly liberal.”
To deconstruct AJC’s category just “liberal,” we need to recall that liberalism is a highly subjective term, encompassing allegiances to different things and coming in a great many varieties and gradations. It entails a socio-political-cultural response to matters as distinct as politics, race relations, economic policy, lifestyle, religion and society, the role of science, social issues, freedom of expression, sexual orientation, etc. It’s important for us to try to get a reasonable sense of how large a percentage of this “liberal” cohort sees itself as closer to “moderate” and how large as closer to “most liberal.” In trying to estimate where the greater number would fall, this undifferentiated group needs to be divided, taking account of other data the survey provides. We note that while only 5 percent of all respondents defined themselves as “very liberal” more than twice that number, 11 percent, described themselves as “somewhat liberal.” These responses suggest by far the greatest number avoid identifying themselves on the extreme left end of liberalism. It would thus be reasonable to hazard that somewhat fewer than half of the undifferentiated “liberal group” would be to the far left. Just under half is 12 percent. If we add the 5 percent who define themselves as “very liberal” to the 12 percent one might reasonably guess are closer to the left end of liberalism we have 17 percent, almost the same as our guesstimate of the most “politically correct” using organizational and denominational membership as guideposts.
Though a decent percentage of unaffiliated American Jews are liberal, there is no evidence to suggest they follow the marching orders of the Jewish Establishment. Most have never heard of the organizations that comprise it and have no idea what positions they advocate. Assuming Hadassah and B’nai B’rith are not exceptions to the rule — and there’s no reason to believe they are — it’s not even a given that most members of the organizations that comprise the Jewish Establishment know what public policy positions it takes. More important still, it is very doubtful that the politically correct constitute a majority of unaffiliated American Jews.
If the findings in AJC’s 2008 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion are credible, a clear majority, 56 percent of self-described Jews, characterizes its politics as center-right. (We will return to these findings later.) The guesstimate of 16 percent for the most politically correct is very helpful insofar as it exposes the empty pretension of the American-Jewish Establishment assertions regarding the size of the constituency in whose name it purports to speak. It also suggests the most politically correct tend to cluster within its dwindling ranks. Moreover, the findings also suggest that if a majority of Jews are not already highly skeptical of if not outright opposed to mass immigration — I believe the latter to be the case — they are eminently convertible on this issue.
Leadership Gone Awry
This gulf between self-proclaimed leadership elites and the rank and file — typical of virtually all identifiable religious, social, cultural, ethnic, racial, and political cohorts in America — is accentuated among affiliated American Jews by the unrepresentative, undemocratic, and hierarchical nature of leadership and decision-making in these organizations, religious and secular. Only handfuls of people (we are speaking actually, not metaphorically) normally chosen, not elected, and if elected, elected by a miniscule group of their peers to leadership positions based primarily on the size of their contributions and financial and political connections make all policy decisions, guided by an even smaller cadre of salaried professionals who tend to be ideological zealots and exercise outsized influence on decision-making, even though they are typically far less accomplished and worldly wise than the successful businesspeople on the boards. (Needless to say, the organized Jewish world didn’t invent this institutional model, but it has repeatedly served as a template in the formation of its own organizations.) In some cases we are speaking of 150 persons (though so large a figure is exceedingly rare), in others a few dozen, in others fewer still. It can be no more than 10 members on an executive committee of a board.
Debates over issues never take place within the body as whole. Instead, there are discussions among largely like-minded leadership groups on national boards or subsets of those boards that deal with specialized areas, such as U.S. domestic policy. At the American Jewish Committee, an organization whose workings I know well, its Commission on National Affairs, a subdivision of national board members, makes recommendations to the board as a whole regarding domestic policy. During my tenure it averaged about 150 members and was by far the largest of the commissions. While there was some nominal input by the organization’s chapters, it counted for little unless someone once affiliated with a chapter had been elevated to the commission. But the executive committee of the board (averaging 10-12 persons and invariably politically to the right of the National Affairs Commission) could counter the commission’s policy recommendations. Other departments of the organization’s work (such as Interreligious Affairs) have no “commissions,” and the department head, perhaps one or two other staff members, and several prominent board members take decisions.
That members of Establishment organizations are comfortable being ruled by oligarchies and accept intellectually stifling political/ideological regimentation is one of the genuinely tragic cultural changes within Jewish life in America. What happened to the old affectionate stereotype once based in reality: “two Jews, three opinions?” The intellectual heterodoxy and love of vigorous ideological debate that used to characterize this once-significant source of off-center thought, outsider perspectives, challenging ideas, original ways of knowing, and honorable heresies has yielded to the gray, mind-numbing tones of politically correct conformity.
Dissenters, who were once valued for playing the role of “prophets never honored in their own country,” are no longer welcome in this world, though in fairness it should be added that most cultures, whatever genuflections they make to the glory of intellectual independence, are happiest with conformists. Dissenters are seen as irritants to be harassed, vilified, and removed as quickly as possible. Once outside the organized Jewish world, those who no longer subscribe to its orthodoxies are often the targets of venomous attacks by their policy opponents within. The personal attack on me and the attack on CIS by HIAS and SPLC, discussed earlier, is simply one illustration of this pattern.
Thankfully, this attitude has not yet infected the great majority of ordinary American Jews who lead their lives outside the confines of this self-congratulatory, smug, oligarchic world where critical thinking has all but died, independent thought is suspect, and conformity is ruthlessly enforced. They have graciously welcomed this heretic into their communities. Even those that disagree with me, and some do passionately, have no wish nor do they think it wise or “American” to seek to silence me.
Splits between the politically correct and the more moderate-to-conservative also reflect social and economic class divides within the Jewish world. The national boards of Establishment organizations are unabashedly plutocratic, and the top leadership serving on executive boards or appointed to oversight positions is invariably comprised of the wealthiest members. These wealthy “sophisticated” folk tend to see themselves as chic, cultivated, trendy “citizens of the world,” post-Americans who like to be perceived and see themselves as exemplars of what is intellectually and culturally au courant. These individuals are classic “limousine liberals,” a term that brilliantly encapsulates much of what is most absurd about bogus liberalism. This institutional culture so closely approximates its Platonic essence as to verge continually on self-caricature. This is the Jewish incarnation of what a member of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations meant when he described immigration as the “perfect policy storm” because no other issue so clearly divides the nation’s fiscal and political elite from ordinary citizens.
Widely noted by sociologists and political scientists and long accepted as a truism, achieving greater wealth and social status has not normally translated into greater political or social conservatism among Jews, or much in the way of increased Republican Party membership. The most famous articulation of this sociological anomaly was Milton Himmelfarb’s aphorism that Jews earn like Episcopalians, but vote like Puerto Ricans. But that bon mot has lost a significant measure of its accuracy in recent years. More Jews now define themselves as “moderate to conservative” than as “liberal.” Even the Republican minority is growing, albeit slowly. Himmelfarb’s adage is ripe for replacement by another that says, “Scratch an American Jew and you’ll probably find a Democrat, but you won’t necessarily find a liberal.” This change has not registered to any appreciable extent with Jewish Establishment policy with the exception of general though not yet universal opposition to affirmative action (AJC continues to support “goals and timetables”). However, it is fair to say it is reflected in the public relations campaigns of some Establishment organizations.
Case in point: The American Jewish Committee’s domestic public policy agenda — the primary focus of its membership if not executive leadership or board of governors — is inarguably left-liberal (to the extent such terminology retains meaning). Needless to say, there is no reason for AJC to apologize for its liberalism or to pretend it upholds a different set of beliefs. AJC supports open-borders immigration (including “comprehensive immigration reform” and the Dream Act; opposes E-Verify; supports the Matricula Consular card as a valid ID for illegal Mexican residents of the United States); supports bilingual education for Hispanics; continues, virtually alone in the Jewish Establishment, to support affirmative action; supports reproductive choice as an absolute, including late-term abortion; supports gay rights (though usually short of marriage); opposes school choice; has advocated watering down virtually all legislation proposed to promote national security in the wake of 9/11; and loudly decried alleged enormities suffered by detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Indeed, it upholds virtually any position regarded as a litmus test of left-liberalism. The only thing that makes this otherwise unexceptional list of classic liberal positions noteworthy is the fact that the organization’s PR describes itself as “centrist,” and its top leadership repeats this fiction robotically, although the individuals that comprise it are much too smart not to recognize it is a misnomer.
During my years as Director of National Affairs at AJC, I took part in many meetings where its top leadership expressed strong, even vehement, opposition to the organization’s policies, especially with regard to immigration. Without exception, when top leadership broke with AJC policy it advocated positions widely regarded as more conservative than those endorsed by the organization. However, these sentiments were never publicly expressed — not to the National Affairs Commission, to the Board of Governors, and certainly not to the active membership at large. On one memorably surrealistic occasion, top leadership berated me, as Director of National Affairs, for advocating AJC’s own policy on immigration. I responded that the National Affairs Department advocates but does not set institutional policy and strongly suggested they take their case to the National Affairs Commission, the Board of Governors, and AJC’s Executive Committee to inaugurate a policy change. This never happened. Evidently, none of the principals possessed the requisite civic courage. It is a great shame in light of AJC’s standing within the Jewish Establishment; it is unquestionably the most respected Jewish policy organization in the United States. A shift on immigration policy at AJC would inevitably result in an open debate on this issue across the organized Jewish world — I cannot recall an open debate on anything other than affirmative action in the last 25 years — almost certainly ending in significant change within a majority of organizations in the Establishment and (horrors!) the possible secession of some, such as HIAS.
Given the historical hesitancy among the highest lay and professional leadership at AJC regarding open-borders immigration and in light of AJC’s own official policy proclaiming its support for “generous legal immigration,” it is ironic at best and hypocritical at worst that AJC’s Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Center for American Pluralism received in June 2009 an award of $500,000 from the Ford Foundation to advocate on behalf of “comprehensive immigration reform.” It is also extremely troubling to note the grant is intended, in part, to finance AJC’s providing “advocacy skills-building workshops to Latino leaders and organizations in Arizona, Chicago, Houston, and New Jersey.” As anyone familiar with the troubled history and countless misadventures of black/Jewish relations knows only too well, it was, among other reasons, the perception on the part of many African-American leaders that American-Jewish allies were being “condescending” in proffering advice and “taking over” the leadership of their movement that was a cause — or rationale — for the much of the rancor that ultimately doomed that alliance. It should be noted that Jews who played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement, indeed who were “present at the creation,” perceive this very differently. They were wounded and affronted by these accusations, and what many remember were unrequited feelings of brotherhood, ingratitude, and raw hostility from certain well-known black leaders whose anti-Semitism was of the sort George Bernard Shaw once characterized as the “socialism of fools.” Indeed, whether any such thing as “black/Jewish relations” actually existed beyond relationships between leadership cadres in the two communities or involved anything more meaningful than a series of increasingly deplorable symbolic media spectacles is debatable.
For the record, it is worth noting that Jewish perceptions of ingratitude and black anti-Semitism are supported by key intergroup data. In NCCJ’s 1992 survey Taking America’s Pulse cited earlier, respondents were not only asked whether they affirmed negative stereotypes of various racial, ethnic, and religious groups, but also whether they embraced positive stereotypes. In response to the positive stereotype that Jews “Back Social Justice for Others” there was sharp disagreement among dominant culture white respondents (Catholic and Protestant) who supported the statement by strong majorities of 68 percent and 61 percent, respectively, and Asians at 65 percent — as opposed to blacks at 44 percent and Hispanics at 42 percent. Considering no group in America outside the black community has been more consistently committed to the Civil Rights Movement and justice for African Americans than Jews, who put their resources and bodies on the line, this is a disturbing showing. It also should be instructive. Jews need to understand there is no political benefit to be derived from pursuing “justice” for others. This is not an argument against pursuing justice for its own sake — indeed, the Torah commands it — but it does constitute a political reality check.
Have we learned nothing from the black/Jewish debacle? Once again, armed with Ford Foundation money, one of the nation’s premier Jewish organizations places itself in the highly fraught, tension-inducing position with regard to the largest community of color in America. Further, any American-Jewish organization should be particularly cautious when the Ford Foundation comes bearing gifts in hand, especially grants creating top-down relationships between Jewish organizations and leadership from communities of color. While the causes for the collapse of black/Jewish relations are many, it must always be kept in mind that the chief one is indisputable: the battle and the after effects of the battle in Brooklyn’s Ocean-Hill Brownsville school district between African American advocates of decentralization and community control of schools and the largely Jewish and Jewish-led United Federation of Teachers (UFT) that began in May of 1968. The groundwork for the dispute, the decentralization project, was in operation in three school districts and the funding for the project that set Jews and blacks apart came from the Ford Foundation.
Perhaps AJC’s leadership also feels duty bound to genuflect toward the “vital center” to align the organization — rhetorically at least — with the findings reported by its own Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion. As we have noted, the most recent (2008) asked American Jewish respondents where they place themselves on a political spectrum from “extremely liberal” to “extremely conservative.” The favorite choice is moderate (30 percent), slightly conservative (10 percent), conservative (12 percent), and extremely conservative (2 percent). That adds up to a center-right majority of 56 percent — as opposed to 44 percent that sees itself as slightly liberal (11 percent), liberal (28 percent), or extremely liberal (5 percent). A 10-point spread is a healthy one (in a presidential election that would constitute a landslide), and a clear, if not radical, sign of change within the community. But one would never be able to square the moderate centrism of most Americans who are Jews, assuming these findings are accurate, with the politically correct liberal agenda of the organization that sponsored the poll, whose politically correct default position is that of the entire Jewish Establishment, certainly on immigration.
There’s a useful parallel when one considers the professional career paths of young Jews following their college educations. In the past, an extremely high percentage went on to graduate school, earned doctorates, and entered academia; another high percentage went to medical school; and a comparable percentage to law school. While young Jews are still disproportionately represented in the traditional professions, a much higher number than in the past has gone to business school and then Wall Street. In other words, young Jewish Americans are behaving more like upwardly mobile young Americans of all backgrounds in their career choices. Similarly, the movement of most American Jews from the left to the political center suggests they are becoming more typically American. It may be that the Establishment organizations are hanging onto an earlier and increasingly passé conception of what it means to be an American Jew.
Oligarchies vs. Rank-and-File
One of the easiest ways to observe the divide is by comparing the privileged upper-crusty elderly minority that forms the leadership in the American-Jewish Establishment and virtually the entire membership of an elite organization such as AJC to the same age cohort within a very different social world, one with which I have become extremely familiar through my talks across America: the more economically and socially modest one of Conservative synagogue Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods, B’nai B’rith Chapters, Hadassah Chapters, chapters of Brandeis University Women, local groups at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), groups of young retirees that invite me to golf clubs to speak, etc. The cultures could not be more different. Ordinary American Jews are not upper-crusty in style, conspicuously wealthy, or politically correct, and are most emphatically not post-American.
Unlike some of the more “sophisticated” Establishment organizations, their meetings invariably begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the National Anthem, and a patriotic hymn, such as “God Bless America.” A high percentage of the men in attendance are veterans of WWII and the Korean War (some Vietnam) and proudly wear hats and pins indicating service branches, the names of ships, planes, or helicopters on which they served and unit designations. They also sing the “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem, but there’s no conflict of loyalties. They are first and foremost patriotic Americans, the end products of successful old-fashioned patriotic assimilation, people who have married the Jewish part of their identity seamlessly to their core American one and for whom civic virtue, charity, and loyalty begin at home — attitudes reflected in their hostility to illegal immigration, their very strong belief in playing by the rules, their concern over American sovereignty, and their anger about the wholesale violation of the rule of law.
It will undoubtedly be objected these observations are merely subjective, “literary,” and politically self-serving, and harder evidence is required. The problem with regard to the attitudes of American Jews toward illegal or mass immigration is there is no credible body of survey data on the basis of which one can prove whether or not most American Jews toe the Establishment line, while a great deal of anecdotal evidence suggests they don’t. Though nothing can be proven solely on the basis of anecdotal evidence, it carries evidentiary weight, and my own witness is unparalleled. I have addressed more audiences of affiliated and unaffiliated American Jews nationwide on immigration and immigration policy than any other person, and the great majority of my audiences — as well as the overwhelming majority in each audience — expresses outrage toward the Establishment’s immigration policy rather than affirms it. Frequently all that is required to make converts of old-line supporters of immigration is to acquaint them with the most basic facts regarding the scale of current immigration. It is doubtful that HIAS and SPLC would have conducted a secret smear campaign against me if they did not think I was having a substantial impact on Jewish opinion with regard to immigration policy. They also must recognize how strongly receptive my audiences are likely to be to my message, and don’t wish to have someone come with the purpose of surfacing and giving political expression to their authentic attitudes.
The Jewish Establishment’s near total invisibility within the Jewish community at large as well as its complete lack of influence within it are continually underscored by the fact that my audiences only know what positions the Jewish Establishment advocates because I inform them. (This is even the case when I address the chapter of a national organization with a position on immigration!) When I tell them where the Establishment stands on immigration, the overwhelming majority is stunned and horrified. Though it will come as an unpleasant shock to its leaders and staff, people who live in a self-contained world of great self-importance at a remove from the ordinary life of the community they claim to represent, if they were prepared to look reality in the face they would have to accept that most American Jews know nothing about them. Most American Jews cannot name the organizations that comprise the Establishment, don’t know their leaders, let alone have any idea what they do. The Establishment’s pretension to represent the Jewish community would be merely laughable except for the fact that many on Capitol Hill and in the White House take it at face value. Destroying this misapprehension, constructed over years through smoke and mirrors, is the most important challenge to those of us reject its views.
Cooking the Data: AJC’s Skewed Survey Research on Immigration
The only recent survey data regarding American-Jewish attitudes toward immigration policy are the responses of a small sampling (some 914 self-identified Jews) to two questions in the Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion sponsored by the American Jewish Committee for the years 2006 and 2007. There is one question about what should be done with illegal aliens and four responses, weighted from the outset to prove American Jews are well disposed toward illegal aliens and favor amnesty. Two of the responses constitute illegal immigrant-friendly positions: #2 Remain to work for a limited amount of time (which receives 14 percent approval); #3 Remain to work if they meet certain criteria (which receives 67 percent approval); one is “neutral,” #4 “Not sure (which garners 4 percent); and just one “negative,” #1 Deport all (chosen by 15 percent). It is critical to note that the option “Deport all” is not in the realm of political reality. No one advocates it. It is a meaningless choice, and is given prominence in the survey for one very important reason: It is so Draconian it impels respondents to select a different one.
The key question — what to do about the illegal population — is articulated in equivocal language signaling we’re dealing with a push-poll, one designed to elicit a pre-determined response. The prevarication is so transparent only minimal effort is required to see how the process has been skewed. The survey offers respondents directions explaining what the responses mean, but the actual language of the responses differ. In the deliberately confusing set of instructions to guide respondents in answering the questions, “Remain to work if they meet certain criteria” — the choice the survey seeks to elicit — is explained, or, rather translated, to mean a great deal more than the phrase denotes. The directions tell the survey-taker this response “Entails or allows illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become citizens, but only if they meet certain requirements.” (What those “requirements” might be are neither specified nor hinted at.) If the survey were honestly intended to determine how high a percentage of American Jews actually favor a “pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants” why didn’t the survey employ this clear and familiar phrasing when posing the question? Instead, the actual question, as opposed to the explanation, asks respondents whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to “Remain to work if they meet certain criteria.” The choice respondents are offered makes no mention of citizenship. This is a distinction with a huge difference, a deliberate conflation of two different things, and an effort to confuse the respondent rather than put the question in a straightforward way.
Though the linguistic bait-and-switch raises red flags, it is not the principal reason AJC’s survey is a push-poll. Much more important, AJC’s findings are meaningless because like all push-polls on illegal immigration designed to register pro-illegal immigrant/pro-amnesty sentiment, it does not offer respondents the option that has proven by far the most popular with the American people. That option would provide respondents a genuine solution not likely to be rejected as Draconian: the incremental self-removal of the illegal population as a result of tighter border control as well as stricter enforcement of immigration and immigration-related law within the United States. The shorthand for this approach is “attrition through enforcement.” Unlike AJC, more scrupulous and less nakedly partisan pollsters such as Zogby International and Rasmussen, who do the best and most honest surveying on this subject, offer this choice. Huge majorities — ranging from 67-79 percent — select this option every time it has been offered. AJC is bent on gaining support for amnesty, so attrition is not offered to
The basis of the procedural sleight of hand in which AJC engages — which the option of “attrition” avoids — is offering respondents a false dilemma that places them between a rock and a hard place. The poll limits its choices to two nearly equally unappealing alternatives — wholesale amnesty and wholesale deportation — pushing respondents to select what appears to be the lesser of two evils. While a wealth of survey research tells us most Americans oppose amnesty, not wishing to reward people who show contempt for the rule of law, refuse to play by the rules, and illegally seek public benefits while waving a foreign flag, and realize that granting amnesty inevitably leads to increased illegal immigration, the only alternative offered, wholesale deportation (in AJC’s terminology: “Deport all”), evokes frightening images. It conjures jack-booted Gestapo-like SWAT teams engaged in a mass roundup, loading the illegal population, like Jews during the Holocaust, into boxcars headed to the border. Respondents are unhappy with the first but are horrified by the specter produced by the second. The choice is also chimerical. No one advocates wholesale deportation. It would be morally, politically, and practically impossible in America. This nightmare-like non-choice (in the absence of the far more palatable attrition) is used solely to scare respondents into settling unhappily for amnesty.
Those who see political benefit in advocating legalizing illegal aliens exploit this imagery just the same. Sen. Hillary Clinton did this during her memorably shameful performance at the December 2007 Democratic Primary Debate on NPR when the issue arose. Providing what she knows is a false depiction of what opponents of “comprehensive immigration reform” seek, she described a convoy 1,700 miles long, comprised of 200,000 buses, conveying millions of illegal aliens to the border guarded by armed federal agents. The imagery was one of boxcars headed to Auschwitz, and it was intended to prey upon the pain and fear as well as infuriate particular demographics. The same may be said of AJC, which understands perfectly well the emotional power of the words “Deport All” will have on American Jews who are living only one generation removed from the Holocaust and who have been seared and defined by it.
Juxtaposing responses to the only other query about immigration in the same survey — it asks how serious a problem illegal immigration is — to the findings regarding what to do about it underscores a fundamental incongruence or discontinuity between the concerns people register about illegal immigration and the solution they are pushed to choose. As we’ve noted, the gimmick is to offer respondents no palatable option to express their strong disquiet. The first question asks, “How serious do you think the problem of illegal immigration is?” There are five possible responses. The highest number of respondents (47 percent) regards the problem as “very serious;” the second choice (37 percent) is “somewhat serious;” the third, (16 percent) is “not too serious;” fourth (5 percent) choose “not a problem;” and the final choice (0 percent) responds “not sure.” Thus, 84 percent, a very substantial majority, sees the problem of illegal immigration as “very serious” or “somewhat serious.” Despite the high level of concern the polls register, AJC is careful to make the only “solution” short of amnesty so Draconian it appears worse than the problem so as to “push” Jewish respondents to affirm amnesty.
Based on my unparalleled experience of speaking with American Jews about immigration and immigration policy I have little doubt if “incremental self-removal of the illegal population through tighter border control and stricter enforcement of immigration law” were offered as an alternative, it would trump the equivocal response that does not so much register attitudes about illegal immigration as it plays on deep-seated fear of the potential for the abuse of power by government.
Of course it’s possible — though not probable — a smaller majority than I anticipate would select attrition; perhaps as few as 50 or 60 percent. But even that unlikely scenario ought to constitute a warning to the leaders of the American-Jewish Establishment as well as a reminder about their responsibility to the community. When I worked at AJC, its legal committee had a wise policy that it would file an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case only if a strong majority was in support; it was not sufficient if a mere majority supported it. Shortly after I was hired, AJC’s legal committee debated whether or not to enter Shaw v. Reno, the North Carolina re-districting case that would have established majority-minority districts, some gerrymandered in the extreme. Most members of the committee wished to enter and support the majority-minority district, but a substantial minority (perhaps no more than 30 percent) dissented, arguing this represented legal and philosophical over-reaching of affirmative action. As a result, AJC stayed out of the case. It determined the legal committee could not speak with authority on behalf of the American Jewish Committee. No overwhelming mandate: no full-court press.
Yet with regard to the enormously important issue of immigration policy, one with the potential to transform America forever, the American-Jewish Establishment is taking the opposite approach. To further a goal opposed by a huge majority of Americans of all backgrounds and with no credible statistical evidence at all regarding the attitude of American Jews, small, ideologically zealous elites heading oligarchic organizations are claiming to represent the American-Jewish community in the monumentally wrong-headed “Progress by Pesach” campaign. This campaign explicitly endorses the wholesale violation of the rule of law and shows indifference to America’s most vulnerable citizens at a time of great economic distress. It advances goals that show contempt for America and the safety of its citizens by neglecting the security of our borders. It also risks fundamentally changing the nation’s demography in such a way as to imperil the nation’s values and the security of its Jewish community.
The rump American-Jewish Establishment does not speak for the vast majority of American Jews. It has no basis, no standing, and no right to pretend otherwise. Its shrinking organizations deny it the legitimacy to do so. Given the undemocratic decision-making processes that prevail throughout its small, aging, increasingly irrelevant institutions, it is not even clear whether its positions reflect a majority of its miniscule memberships. The moral equivalent of its claim to leadership would be that of the members of a military junta that have overthrown a democracy.
Abject Failure Cloaked as Progress
Where does the finale of Progress by Pesach fit into this analysis? What does its outcome tell us? The wild claim by a representative of a far-left sponsor of Progress by Pesach, Jewish Community Action, that Progress by Pesach has “been overwhelmingly embraced by the American Jewish community” has been demolished. (It should be noted the likely membership of this Minnesota fringe group might not add up to a minyan, the 10 adult Jews needed to conduct a prayer service.) Indeed, among the strongest proofs the Jewish Establishment is so hollow it gives even Potemkin villages a bad name is the comically minimalist conclusion of Progress by Pesach. In a story in JTA on April 5 titled “Progress Reported by ‘Progress by Pesach,’” appearing just three days before the symbolic culmination of the campaign — the eve of Passover — the effort is shown to have been an abysmal failure, a complete flop, despite the oddly upbeat, bizarrely incongruent tone of the article, written as if JTA were trying to put a brave face on the miserable outcome. The failure of this effort to fire up the Jewish community over immigration policy — the central goal of the campaign — is so staggering it would represent a sharp reprimand to its sponsors, in addition to a shocking embarrassment if they weren’t purblind.
The final act in the farce was a Washington press conference where Gideon Aronoff spoke about the “sea change” in the Obama Administration’s approach to immigration, which, he noted, was the goal of the campaign. This was one of the most transparent attempts on record by a crowing rooster to take credit for the dawn; more flagrant examples of post hoc fallacies uttered for the public record would be difficult to find.
Progress by Pesach sought to arouse the Jewish community to battle on behalf of immigration reform. The result? The culminating moment, following the press conference addressed by Aronoff and attended by a grand total of two Democratic members of Congress, four rabbis, and a crowd of supporters that could fit into a walk-in closet, was the presentation of the final fruit of the campaign: a petition for immigration reform signed by “more than 3,500 people.” More than 3,500! Could that mean as many as 3,510? (Actually not, we shall see.) The figure is so infinitesimal it was impossible not to check and re-check it. Perhaps one had missed a few zeros. Despite all the sound and fury, rousing endorsements by 26 Jewish organizations claiming to speak in the name of hundreds of thousands of American Jews, and notwithstanding all the publicity manufactured by the Establishment and its media flacks, Progress by Pesach ended in a petition with “more than 3,500 signatories.” Based on our estimates above, that number would represent .38 percent of affiliated “politically correct Jews,” just over a third of 1 percent. As a percentage of the adult American Jewish population as a whole it represents .085 percent. And to think all that was required was signing one’s name on a petition available online! No one had to board a bus to a demonstration. No travel was required. In the parlance of TV infomercials, “You could do all this from the comfort of your home.”
The only image that does full justice to so huge an effort leading to so tiny a conclusion is a hippopotamus pushing a pebble. Had Aronoff commanded a Roman legion that suffered so humiliating a defeat (a self-inflicted one at that; he walked his phantom legion off a cliff), honor would compel him to fall on his sword.
The outcome is rendered even more preposterous when one realizes even the meager final figure is inflated through incompetence and fraud. A number of signatories, in essence, voted twice because they are listed several times. This may be a mere computer glitch; we’ll see if HIAS corrects the finally tally. In addition, there are no names next to some spaces on the list, empty lines counted in the total. Some signatories do not appear to be Jewish, such as Aldo Ramos from Brooklyn Center, Minn., and even if one were to grant that Andres Xu is Jewish — it seems unlikely — he also voted twice. Perhaps some of the Hispanic signers have secret Sephardic ancestry, are descended from Maranos, but I doubt this is the case, say, of Lina Rodriguez of Atlanta, Ga. Nor does one have to be American to sign. There are signatories from Israel and Canada. An accurate final total may be closer to 3,000.
In light of Aronoff’s reckless injection of McCarthyism into the life of the Jewish community, an act that already has done and will continue to do great harm over the long run, it is difficult not to feel considerable schadenfreude at the disaster of the campaign he headed and the laughingstock he has made of himself. But that is not the only emotion. The failure of Progress by Pesach says something terribly sad and deeply worrying about the American Jewish community. It is effectively leaderless — despite the many executive directors of a plethora of aging and declining organizations, most with duplicative agendas, that provide an illusion of leadership but are empty suits sitting on the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
No one who cares about the values and interests of the community can contemplate this vacuum impassively. The present leadership lacks civic courage; fails to understand what constitutes leadership; misreads its own dwindling constituencies; is far more attentive to the voices of a minority of aggressive, politically correct zealots than the great majority of the community that is moderate; and, finally, it is often afraid to express its opposition to policies it knows to be mistaken (this is true of many leaders who will not go public with their private opposition to open-borders immigration) despite the fact that breaking with outworn positions carries no risk. All the while the great majority of American Jews have voted with their feet and walked away from their putative leaders and unrepresentative organizations. The decreasing number that bothers watching does so with growing impatience, hostility, wonderment, or, in the great majority of cases, utter indifference.
Though younger Jews (those who wish to retain a primary identity as Jews) are decidedly more conservative than their elders, more religious, and see their religious identity trumping their political one, the expectation they will redeem these organizations would be hasty, at best. We live in the age of Bowling Alone; young people are not joiners. Many are active in their synagogues, but they have turned their backs on the traditional secular organizations and tend to eschew the politics of the policy arms of the religious denominations. Though it is clear Jewish leadership 20 years from now will look and act quite differently, it is far too early to know what kind of institutions or something other than institutions a new crop of leaders will create. It may first require the withering away of the present Jewish Establishment before a new generation can begin to re-conceive what a different Jewish leadership model should look like. Perhaps even the term “Establishment” is an anachronism too suggestive of hierarchical organization. But there will need to be leaders as well as organizations. The American-Jewish community faces serious challenges ahead. One must hope whatever evolves will better serve the community in meeting its needs than the existing ones.
American Jews live in the country with the lowest amount of anti-Semitism on Earth, just 7 percent according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project. (The important historical contribution of the American-Jewish Establishment in bringing this about deserves mention.) The tiny figure of 7 percent itself represents a drop of several points over the last five years at the same time anti-Semitism has markedly increased in Europe, indicating as good as things are now in the United States, its minimal anti-Semitism is trending downward. Only Australia, Britain, and India are in the same statistical territory, suggesting there are indeed cultural and political values deeply imbedded in the nations of the English-speaking world that promote the freest and most tolerant societies. Anti-Semitism, at worst, is a marginal phenomenon in America. In comparative terms, historical or contemporary, it amounts to nothing. Where it does exist it is confined to the least educated, most disaffected, and sociopathic members of racial and cultural minority groups (with a few race-card playing demagogues tossed in for good measure) or among members of the political fringe on the left and right.
The Muslim world of some 1.3 billion people is a living nightmare for Jews; it seeks their individual and collective extinction. Eastern Europe and Russia are rife with anti-Semitism. It persists in countries that witnessed the annihilation of essentially their entire Jewish communities between 1939-1945, often with hordes of local collaborators assisting the Germans, and even at a current high level in countries like Poland that are now essentially Judenrein. Among the oddest cultural phenomena discovered as a legacy of the Holocaust is that for anti-Semitism to exist, living Jews are not even required. Now Western Europe, itself a charnel house for Jews just 64 years ago, will, in a few decades, become a Jewish ghost land once more. The nations that formed the heartland of Western civilization and the birthplace of the Enlightenment have lost all cultural confidence, and lacking it, they will likely become vassal states of a new Caliphate. It sounds surreal as I write it, but the trends are unmistakable.
With the loss of Europe only a question of time, America will at some point in this century become the last great bastion where Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment values can maintain their alliance, their brilliantly productive, humanizing discourse. America is the greatest force for good in the world and, along with other English-speaking countries and Israel, the only safe home for Jews. Of course the great majority of American Jews know all this; they understand intellectually and feel in their gut that America deserves their undying loyalty. They are not post-Americans or candidates for conversion to that empty construct. Their harsh history elsewhere has taught them to distrust those seductive dangerous abstractions “citizen of the world” and “humanity.” They are patriots. The great majority of American Jews recognize that America is the greatest thing that ever happened to the Jewish people, along with the rebirth of Israel.
Though the Establishment elite dabbles in universalism, and some multicultural types cannot listen to the word “patriotism” without hearing “fascism” at worst or “chauvinism” at best, more thoughtful and practical Jews know the fate of the last generation of Jews who chose to be “cosmopolitan.” Stalin put many to death. Those historically ignorant, foolish Jews who still wish to be “citizens of the world” will soon discover their fellow global citizens do not want them. As Jew-Zionist oppressors sucking the blood of Palestinian children, they’re not welcome in the club, however ardently they may wish to become members. Of course some people who are Jewish by Hitler’s definition have joined, but only at the price of betraying all of the allegiances to which they were born.
That the Jewish Establishment is prepared to risk surrendering this bastion — that it will gamble with the future of the freest and most just country on Earth and tempt the fates on a whim of political correctness by supporting an immigration policy guaranteed to make anti-Semitism a central fact of life in the United States — suggests moral, political, historical, and intellectual bankruptcy.
Which inexorably leads to one conclusion: The American-Jewish Establishment cannot engage in a national campaign for amnesty for illegal aliens or “comprehensive immigration reform” in the name of Americans Jews with a scintilla of moral, intellectual, or political credibility. The immigration policy they advocate in our name endangers American culture, values, and interests. It is also synonymous with the mass importation of anti-Semitism. The Establishment should cease speaking in the name of fellow American Jews. We did not elect them to represent us; they are no more than petty oligarchs whom we do not recognize as our “leaders.” The American-Jewish community is not up for sale, and they do not own it. Ordinary Jews turned their backs on the mendacious farce that was Progress by Pesach.
What of basic civic loyalty? Mass immigration is also a zero-sum game that pits impoverished illegal aliens and immigrants against poor and working-class American citizens and legal residents. This is always the case, but the stakes are infinitely higher and the clash of opposed interests far more palpable with the economy is in deep distress. Far from “mending the world,” Progress by Pesach exemplifies callous disregard for the most vulnerable among us by urging American Jews to show greater concern for illegal aliens than struggling fellow Americans. This post-American version of “justice” reflects incomprehensible ambiguity on the part of the campaign’s supporters regarding their conception of national belonging. America and your fellow Americans deserve a great deal more than vacuous, disdainful universalism.
Such confusion over civic identity and ethical priorities does not plague the overwhelming majority of American Jews. Not deracinated elitists, they know they are home, and understand where their sense of right, humaneness, and loyalty begin. Establishment ambivalence over questions of identity as fundamental as membership in the polity and moral responsibility to all its people is final proof it is unfit to lead. Ordinary Jews know the pursuit of justice must never end at one’s borders, but it must surely begin at home. Especially in this best of all possible homes. They have wisely chosen to follow the prophet Jeremiah’s injunction to “seek the peace and welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its peace and welfare you will find peace.”
1 “A Way Forward on Immigration,” The New York Times editorial, June 27, 2009.
2 “GOP Finds Hot Button in Illegal Immigration,” The Washington Post, October 23, 2007.
3 See, for instance, http://www.davidduke.com/general/american-jewish-committee-goes-to-war-a... http://www.davidduke.com/general/is-discussing-jewish-dual-loyalty-anti-... http://www2.davidduke.com/supremacism/preface.shtml; http://www.davidduke.com/general/help-support-david-dukes-jewish-suprema... http://www.davidduke.com/general/david-dukes-state-of-the-union-address_... http://www.davidduke.com/general/david-duke-responds-to-the-oreilly-fact....
5 Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939, The Penguin Press, 2005. See especially the section titled “Towards the Racial Utopia,” pp. 506-610.
6 See “Rising Powers: The Changing Geopolitical Landscape,” a report of the National Intelligence Council 2020 Project, December 2004, http://www.dni.gov/nic/NIC_globaltrend2020_s2.html; Ester Pan, “Europe: Integrating Islam,” July 13, 2005, Council on Foreign Relations, http://www.cfr.org/publication/8252/europe.html; “Roundtable: Immigration Issues in Europe and the United States,” a Conversation with Jose Carreno, Ömer Taspinar and Fareed Zakaria, April 14, 2006, Brookings Institution, http://www.brookings.edu/interviews/2006/0414europe_taspinar.aspx.
7 Raphael Israeli, The Islamic Challenge in Europe, Transaction Books, 2008, p. 17.
8 Bernard Lewis quoted in Die Welt, April 19, 2006, “Europa wird islamisch” (“Europe Will Be Muslim”), http://www.welt.de/print-welt/article211310/Europa_wird_islamisch.html.
9 Soeren Kern, “Europe’s Immigration Superiority Complex,” The Brussels Journal, August 6, 2007, http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2296.
11 “Leaving London,” The Brussels Journal, December 3, 2006, http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/1719.
12 Marty Peretz, “To the Ovens,” in “The Spine” (Peretz’s blog at The New Republic website), January 1, 2009, http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_spine/archive/2009/01/01/quot-to-the-....
13 Raphael Israeli, The Islamic Challenge in Europe, op. cit.
14 See “EVIL EXPOSED: Holy Land Trial Shows Charity’s Hamas Ties,” Steven Emerson, New York Post, October 29, 2007.
15Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2006, pp. 3-20, http://www.meforum.org/916/cair-islamists-fooling-the-establishment.
16 “American Muslim leader urges faithful to spread Islam’s message,” San Ramon Valley Herald, July 4, 1998, http://www.anti-cair-net.org/AhmadStateScanned.pdf.
17 “CAIR: Islamists Fooling the Establishment,” op.cit.
18 Abdul Hadi Palazzi, “The Islamists Have It Wrong,” Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2001, http://www.meforum.org/14/the-islamists-have-it-wrong.
19 For instance, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, Bat Ye’or, Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005; The Dhimmi: Jews & Christians Under Islam, Bat Ye’or and David Maisal, Farleigh Dickinson Press, 1985; The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, Andrew Bostom, Prometheus Books, 2005; The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, Andrew Bostom, Prometheus Books, 2008.
20 Robert Rector, “Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants over the Next Twenty Years,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo #1076, http://www.heritage.org/research/immigration/wm1076.cfm.
21 See a summary at http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/000....
22 http://www.adl.org/anti_semitism/2002/as_survey.pdf, http://www.adl.org/presrele/asus_12/4109_12.htm.