Muslim Invasion? What increased Muslim immigration could mean for U.S. Israeli policy-and American Jews

By Mark Krikorian on April 17, 2002

National Review, April 17, 2002

There's good news and bad news for American Jews with regard to Muslim immigration to the United States. The good news is that the anti-Semitism on display from Europe's Muslim immigrants and their progeny probably isn't headed for these shores in the immediate future. The bad news is that the inevitable consequence of Muslim immigration will be to weaken U.S. support for Israel.

Over the past couple of weeks, Arab immigrants have been taking the Palestinian intifada to Europe's Jews. Some examples:

  • A Jewish amateur soccer team in a Paris suburb was attacked by a gang of 15 hooded attackers wielding sticks and metal bars.
  • Synagogues have been firebombed in Marseilles and Montpellier in France and in Antwerp and Brussels in Belgium; and attackers crashed two cars into a Lyon synagogue and set fire to one of the vehicles inside the temple's prayer hall.
  • Attackers opened fire on a kosher butcher shop near Toulouse, while a Jewish couple - the woman was pregnant - was beaten in the Rhone region town of Villeurbanne.
  • Two American Orthodox rabbis emerging from prayers in a Berlin synagogue were surrounded by a group of men who, after asking whether the two were Jews, proceeded to beat and kick the rabbis, sending one to the hospital.

As immigration rapidly increases the number of Muslims in the United States, is this kind of thing headed here?

We've actually already had a taste of it here. The most serious attack was the 1994 shooting by a Lebanese cabbie of a van full of Hasidic students crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, killing 16-year-old Aaron Halberstam. Among other attacks, reported in the Anti-Defamation League's 2000 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, was the attempted firebombing by Arabs of a synagogue in the Bronx and beatings of Jews in Brooklyn, where one of the attackers of a rabbi and his wife yelled, "This is for the Palestinians!"

But in the immediate future such attacks are not likely to become as widespread as in Europe, mainly for reasons of socioeconomic class. Here, Muslim immigrants on average have more education and higher incomes than native-born Americans (they are, for instance, twice as likely to have a college degree), the opposite of the situation in Europe, where Muslim immigrants often fill the lowest and dirtiest jobs. And the kind of spontaneous Jew-hating attacks we're seeing in Europe are more likely to be carried out by blue-collar immigrants, rather than doctors and engineers.

Now, it's true that immigrant flows often start highly skilled, but as family-chain migration takes over, the working class ascends. That was the case with Cubans and Vietnamese, whose middle-class refugees from Communism were eventually followed by less-educated job seekers; it also is happening with Indians, as the doctors and engineers who came originally are sponsoring brothers-in-law who set up newsstands and gas stations. Even Central Americans, now among the poorest and least educated of immigrant groups, started out several decades ago as a small but relatively educated group. This process of immigrant skills reverting to the sending country's mean is almost certainly happening with Muslims from the Middle East, and thus over the long term attacks by immigrants against Jewish targets will become increasingly frequent.

In the shorter term, however, the most significant impact of Muslim immigration on American Jews will be abroad - we will see is an erosion of American commitment to Israel's security. Support for Israel has been a cornerstone of our foreign policy, backed by Republicans and Democrats, for close to four decades, but it is increasingly being challenged, partially because of Muslim immigration.

This process is also much farther along in Europe than here; as France's Chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk recently told Le Figaro: "There seems to be a new perspective - an unconscious but very real response by the authorities that there are now between five and six million Moslems in France, but only 600,000 Jews, which means more consideration for the former." But even in the United States, Muslim immigration is helping shape a less pro-Israel policy, for a few reasons:

Votes and Money

The first, and most important, is that more Muslim immigration means more Muslim voters and campaign contributors. This is more than simply a matter of numbers; because politically active Muslims are so focused on changing U.S. policy in the Middle East, and because they are relatively well-educated and prosperous, their intensity and commitment can have a disproportionate affect on policy.

We are already seeing this in both parties. On the Republican side, activist Grover Norquist and Rep. Tom Davis have been loyal advocates of Muslim causes. Davis's role has been more conventional, marked most notably by his shepherding through Congress the bill to require the Postal Service to issue an Islamic religious stamp, inconveniently issued last September. Norquist, on the other hand, has been much more pro-active, claiming last year in The American Spectator that Muslims were responsible for President Bush's election victory. He is a founding director of the Islamic Institute, which received funds from the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim "charity" shut down by the FBI in December. Norquist has also ushered into the White House a collection of anti-Israel groups, including the Council on American Islamic Affairs, the American Muslim Council, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

It's no better on the Democratic side. The anti-Israel Washington Report on Middle East Affairs published last month its mid-term 2001 scorecard for the members of the 107th Congress, and every member of its "hall of fame" was a Democrat (except Bernie Sanders, who might as well be). This included four of the nine House Democrats from Michigan, where there's the greatest concentration of Muslims.

Most notable among Michigan Democrats championing Muslim causes is David Bonior, former Democratic whip and current candidate for governor. He has enthusiastically embraced the Muslim political agenda, especially the effort to force the disclosure of classified evidence used in deportation proceedings - the power to keep such evidence secret has been used by the Justice Department in a handful of cases where the alien being deported has ties to terrorism. Another sign of growing Muslim political power is the fact that Bonior's Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 2001 (H.R. 1266) had 101 sponsors as of Sept. 10, and only one (Alcee Hastings) had the decency to withdraw his name after the attacks.

Perhaps even more disturbing is Bonior's assessment that accepting money from supporters of anti-Israel terrorist groups is no longer politically damaging. Bonior has proudly refused to return contributions from two high-profile apologists for anti-Israel terror groups: Abdurahman Alamoudi, a founder of the American Muslim Council who has publicly declared support for Hamas and Hezbollah; and Sami AlArian, a University of South Florida professor who was fired following revelations about his connections with Islamic Jihad.

As Muslim immigration continues, we can expect to see a lot more David Boniors - politicians who no longer feel the need to burnish their philo-semitic credentials, and in fact might be hurt by such a perception.

Agents of Influence

Muslim immigration can undermine U.S. support for Israel in two other ways, as well. First, Muslim "civil-rights" groups, made possible by mass immigration, provide the most effective long-term vehicle for foreign money and groups seeking to influence U.S. foreign policy. Campaign contributions from foreigners are prohibited, hired lobbyists can be effective but are clearly seen for what they are, and foreign-policy advocacy by wealthy individuals is too often eccentric and irrelevant. But organizations that can claim to be spokesmen for "victimized" Americans, parasitically benefiting from the struggles of black Americans, are more likely to be viewed as legitimate and important participants in the political game - groups like, to select from the list of visitors to the White House, the American Muslim Council, the Islamic Institute, the American Muslim Alliance, the Arab-American Institute, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the American Arab Anti-Defamation Committee, and the Council on American Islamic Relations.

A final, longer-term threat to Israel from U.S. Muslim immigration comes from the possibility of terrorism fatigue. Muslim immigration helps facilitate domestic terrorism, with immigrant communities serving, as Mao might have said, as the sea within which the terrorists swim as fish. The vast majority of Muslim immigrants, of course, are not terrorists; rather, immigrant communities provide unintentional cover for terrorists because of their insularity, just as Italian-immigrant communities generations ago provided cover for the Mafia. And to the extent that domestic Muslim terrorism is explained as a reaction to our Middle East policies, more such acts over time cannot help but erode support for Israel among the American public, even among people well-disposed toward the Jewish state. In effect, domestic terrorism may come to be seen as a cost of our support for Israel, a cost that increasing numbers of people may be unwilling to bear - and it is a cost attributable directly to Muslim immigration.

Even though most Jewish organizations in the United States remain firmly wedded to a policy of high immigration, it appears that Jewish rank-and-file opinion is shifting. The American Jewish Committee's 2001 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion found a large swing toward restriction, from 27 percent supporting some reduction in immigration in 2000, to fully 49 percent in 2001. The fullest exploration of American Jews' rethinking of immigration has been by former AJC official Stephen Steinlight, in "The Jewish Stake in America's Changing Demography: Reconsidering a Misguided Immigration Policy."

U.S. support for Israel at a crossroads - we can continue with our current policy of high immigration and guarantee a steady erosion of support for Israel; or we can reduce immigration, slowing the growth of the Muslim population and allowing America's powerful assimilative forces to work. We can't have both.




Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.