Illegal Jewish Aliens: Too Jewish, Too White for Jewish Establishment Advocates?

By Stephen Steinlight on July 22, 2011

The old leftwing weekly The Forward, like every national Jewish paper and virtually every regional or local one, adheres to the Jewish Establishment’s line on immigration, advocating an unspecified incarnation of the radically subjective policy termed “comprehensive immigration reform,” denoted increasingly by the less menacing-sounding, more user-friendly appellation “immigration reform.” Virtually identical robotized editorials appear ad nauseam in the Jewish press demanding the passage of “immigration reform,” arguing on the basis of the worst eisegesis, out-of-context and mistranslated quotation torn from Hebrew scripture, as well as allusions to “Jewish social values” as though that abstraction meant precisely the same thing to everyone and carried hard, fast and immediate policy implications reflecting a universal Jewish consensus. These astounding illogical leaps and arrogant assumptions are matched by a suffocating ideological conformity.

But The Forward evidently retains sufficient independence to wander off the reservation occasionally and publish a story dealing with a problematic aspect of immigration unlikely to originate elsewhere in the Jewish media: in this case the fact that several thousand illegal aliens who are Jews currently reside in the United States. Not only is the subject problematic, but the story paints a distinctly unflattering picture of the Jewish Establishment. Not, to be sure, for its being zealous in the pursuit of a bad cause, but for its own brand of hypocrisy with regard to a parochial but revealing aspect of the issue. To its credit, it should also be noted that the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) syndicated the story, giving it wide exposure. “Undocumented Jews Live in the Shadows of U.S. Society: Not the Usual Illegal Alien and Off the Communal Agenda,” by Nathan Guttman is a significant piece, and not solely or primarily for what would seem the most obvious reason: providing readers knowledge they didn’t previously possess.

More than a groundbreaking news story, Guttman has written a thinly-veiled editorial, a terse, surprisingly sharp moral critique of the Jewish Establishment as a whole and per force the organization historically deemed most responsible for protecting Jewish immigrants, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Guttman indirectly berates them – showing as opposed to telling is invariably the more effective means of skewering one’s targets – for the political indifference to their own. HIAS has abandoned wholesale its historical mission by refusing to take up their cause of Jewish illegal aliens publicly and making them part of its political advocacy on immigration. This refusal is particularly telling in light of the fact that HIAS vigorously promotes the interests of every other group that comprises America’s vast illegal population, making an exception only for Jews while embracing groups with the highest levels of anti-Semitism on earth.

Though Guttman is too much a partisan of “comprehensive immigration reform” to make the point, the policy is a disaster for America and emphatically not in the interest of Americans who are Jews, as I have argued on many occasions. One would think the morally adolescent, universalistic, post-American Jewish Establishment must surely recognize this at some level, but in its complacency and blind fidelity to political correctness it ignores it, preferring its not-so-naive “disinterested,” and therefore make-believe higher morality. Its callousness regarding the Jewish illegal aliens is a species of the self-destructive policy they mistake for virtue.

The story thus constitutes a very welcome change from the usual Jewish media approach to immigration-related issues. It is not unsympathetic to the Jewish illegal aliens. But arguing their case is not what Guttman is primarily about. Rather, his purpose is exposing the remarkable failure of empathy of Jewish advocates of “comprehensive immigration reform” for other Jews.

Guttman telegraphs his message about this peculiarly Jewish psychologically problematic self-effacing or, perhaps more accurately, noblesse-oblige moral selectivity in the italicized words that conclude his title: “and Off the Communal Agenda.” The critique is all the more damning because of the reticent tone; the story’s compelling human-interest narratives; the comparison between the humane behavior of the those engaged in the charitable home visitation to the sick of the inward-looking, politically uninvolved ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect as opposed to the disregard shown by the well-heeled politically “compassionate” mainstream Establishment; and, finally, his rhetorical device of allowing the hypocrites to condemn themselves out of their own mouths.

There is also much in Guttman’s piece that is tacitly damning. For the Jewish Establishment figures he interviews -- Gideon Aronoff, President and CEO of HIAS, and Melanie Nezer, HIAS’s senior director for American policy and advocacy -- the story of the Jewish illegal aliens is of course not news. They have known about it all along and have consciously chosen to bury it. Aronoff, the Jewish Establishment’s “point man” on immigration, is evidently keen that this story is not regarded or allowed to emerge as an “issue.” Their various evasions, sometimes virtually incoherent, and senseless rationales are essential components of the indictment.

It is essential to bear in mind that Aronoff’s organization would never, could never, contemplate adopting so indifferent, nonchalant and disengaged an attitude when discussing Hispanic illegal aliens or the Somali refugees, whose highly-questionable resettlement in communities in the heartland suggests indifference at the highest levels to the strong Jihadist presence among that exists among them. The Somali resettlement is an important part of HIAS’s for-profit business; it is government contract work and not charity.

Even more shocking is its collaboration and joint ventures with U.S. Muslim Brotherhood legacy organizations. In a forthcoming piece, we will detail HIAS’s links, and those of Jewish fellow travelers, to such infamous organizations as the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and the Islamic Society of North America, groups whose agenda include proven material support to HAMAS’s annihilationist campaign against Israel, promoting the Islamization of America, and spreading Islamist Jew-hatred. The relationship HIAS has formed with these organizations is aimed at mainstreaming Muslim Brotherhood legacy organizations and increasing Muslim immigration to America.

Collaborating with those bent on destroying Israel and ridding the world of Jews and seeking to augment their numbers in the United States speaks volumes about the intellectual credibility and political and moral judgment of the Jewish Establishment’s “point man” on immigration. HIAS is not working on behalf of Jewish values or interests at all: it is a radical leftist organization disguised in Jewish trappings. As previously noted, in addition to heading HIAS, Aronoff is the current Chair of the National Immigration Forum, an organization whose meetings I attended during my years in the Jewish Establishment. I can personally attest to the extreme views of the representatives of its member organizations, their collective loathing for America, and their common espousal of the most aggressive forms of racial/ethnic identity politics. I do not use the term “anti-American” lightly given the abuse to which it is subject, but no term better describes the National Immigration Forum. Aronoff’s leadership of that body provides further evidence he is a doctrinaire leftist disguised in Jewish trappings.

The sole person working for the Jewish Establishment whom Guttman interviews that comes across as sympathetic is Angela Task, a social worker with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, who counsels Israeli illegal aliens who come to her office in Brooklyn for help and is not primarily a political actor.

Who are these Jewish illegal aliens and how many are there? Guttman tells us that not enough is known about this underground world to posit a more precise guesstimate than stipulating it totals “some thousands,” but he offers a clearer view of its sociological makeup. While all those he discusses come from Israel, they belong to three separate and distinct groups:

  • Opportunistic Russians with some Jewish blood who settled in Israel unenthusiastically during the mass exodus from the former Soviet Union but wished to come to America in the first place and then entered illegally and remained, many for decades, seeking the material advantages that drives most others;

  • Ultra-Orthodox Jews who desire to live in the American enclaves of their respective sects and remain, and, as they used to say in the ads for Hebrew National hot dogs “they obey a higher authority;”

  • Young Israelis in their twenties, most of whom recently completed military service and traveled to South America, a favorite destination for many (along with South East Asia). After spending some months there they head to the U.S. to work illegally to pay for their globe-trotting before returning home. Few members of this group plan to remain for long in the U.S., but those that try quickly discover that the poor economy offers few opportunities and they are also unprepared for the what one characterizes as the “unhelpful” attitude of the Israeli expatriate community and adds, “that the broader American Jewish community is ‘very closed.”

It would appear that far from having been persuaded by the ceaseless harangues from the pulpit by the leftist rabbinate to “love the stranger,” these prosaic, law-abiding American Jews are no more thrilled by illegal immigration from Israel than they are from Mexico or Guatemala. If, to cite Guttman’s opening, many American Jews are reportedly “ashamed” of illegal aliens who are Jewish, so are many Americans of Hispanic heritage of Hispanic illegal aliens who have stigmatized the larger Hispanic community.

One commonality among the heterogeneous Israelis is that all enter on legal visas and then overstay them, disappearing into America like 40-45% of all other illegal aliens. Other common characteristics and experiences are not only shared by the Israeli illegals (most of all for the older Russians) but by the more typical illegal aliens from Mexico and central America: poor language skills, lack of employment opportunities aggravated not only by the present deep recession but the language issue previously cited and outmoded or non-existent skill sets, and their being preyed upon by unethical immigration lawyers who promise everything and deliver nothing.

The Forward’s piece is not without a modicum of comic relief, though the humor is unconscious. We learn the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has begun an ad campaign, complete with a menacing video clip, to deter young Israelis from entering the U.S. illegally. The video includes testimonies by young Israeli illegal aliens caught by law enforcement who describe what it is like to spend time in a U.S. prison before being deported.

Of course no one should enter the U.S. in violation of our laws; take scarce jobs from Americans suffering the worst unemployment since the Great Depression; enjoy public benefits gratis; then commit the ancillary crimes required to remain undetected, including identity theft, the use of false driver’s licenses, lying to law enforcement and employers; and contributing to the wholesale violation of the rule of law and the outrageous devaluation of American sovereignty.

No one is suggesting that Israelis get a pass, and if the ad campaign acts as a deterrent, fine and well. But does the miniscule percentage of illegal aliens who are Israeli justify the need for a campaign of deterrence? One cannot help but wonder whether the State Department conducts such campaigns and produces similar videos for Mexican and Central American audiences. What about the many Muslim countries not on the risible absurd “terror watch list” whose regimes are putatively “friendly” but whose populations hate America, like virtually all the mass murderers of 9/11 who came from our “good friend” Saudi Arabia? If not, and one suspects that’s the case, this Israeli campaign amounts to a bad joke that leaves one wondering about the mindset of the people at State.

At the very outset, Guttman seeks to schematize the moral tension in his piece by laying two categorical assertions side by side, an approach meant to rivet our attention because he believes they are contradictory: (1) robust support for legalizing illegal aliens is pervasive in the Jewish community; and (2) Jews simultaneously avoid and feel “shame” about the presence of Jewish illegal aliens. But his dialectic is faulty because one of the supposedly antithetical theses is demonstrably inaccurate. Like most writers for left/liberal Jewish Establishment publications, he is incapable of avoiding an ideological construction of reality. When it comes to the debate over immigration, this typically takes the form of misstating the attitudes of ordinary Americans who are Jews and then conflating them with those held by the oligarchical leadership of the dwindling institutions that comprise the Jewish Establishment.

Thus he tells us, “The Jewish community’s strong support for immigration reform is fueled largely by memories of the Jewish exodus from Europe at the turn of the 20th century and by a desire to nurture ties with newcomer immigrant communities.” The first part of that statement is simply false, as credible survey data clearly show – in sharp contrast to the manipulative push-polls that for decades enabled Jewish Establishment organizations, whose public policy agenda is clearly far more liberal than the politics of the community it purports to represent, to misstate the attitudes of Americans who are Jews.

Most Americans who are Jews do not support “comprehensive immigration reform.” When given the opportunity to select “attrition through enforcement” in public opinion polls – an option never permitted in any survey conducted or sponsored by a Jewish organization – like every other group of American across the spectrum of the nation’s religious life, they choose it over amnesty. Indeed, in a separate question on attrition as a policy option in one of the largest surveys ever undertaken on the attitudes of Americans to immigration policy conducted on the basis of religious identification, Religious Leaders Versus Members: An Examination of Contrasting Views of Immigration, fully 80% of Jews, a titanic majority, selected it. It should be noted that findings for other religious groups ranged from 89% support to 95%.

Guttman’s dutiful repetition of this lie by the Establishment, now a transparent anachronism, comes across as particularly lame in light of the fact that a recent survey by the “dean” of American-Jewish organizations, the American Jewish Committee, discovered a clear majority of Americans who are Jews support Arizona’s SB1070. It should be noted that the principal responses of the exceedingly angry and unhappy representatives of other Jewish Establishment organizations were: (1) the question should not have been asked; and (2) Jews are too stupid to be able to define “racial profiling.”

As any watcher of network TV news with any political literacy knows, this legislation has been demonized by supporters of open-borders as nativist, racist, fascist, etc. Yet despite this hysterical hyperbolic rhetoric – some of the sort that traditionally resonated with Jews historically targeted by such groups – the support of Americans who are Jews for SB1070 was not affected. The great majority of contemporary Americans who are Jews have undergone successful patriotic assimilation and are fully American. Understandably, like other Americans, they identify first and foremost with fellow Americans in the zero-sum game that is immigration, not with immigrants, and they are not post-Americans but engaged citizens concerned about the national interest and see out-of-control immigration as a threat. In America, at long last, Jews are no longer the quintessential outsiders. Ultra-liberalism, post-Americanism, universalism, and even anti-Americanism may appeal to certain religious, fiscal, cultural, and political elites within the Jewish community, but it no longer exercises a dominant influence on the patriotic majority.

The other opening categorical assertion – Jews support “immigration reform because they wish to nurture ties with newcomer immigrant communities” – removes any residual doubt Guttman is talking about Jewish Establishment organizations, especially their “Intergroup Relations” departments, not ordinary Americans who are Jews. Virtually every “secular” Jewish organization, as well as the Conservative and Reform religious movements, has an ambitious (which is not to say successful) agenda in community relations and/or interfaith endeavors as well as in public policy. At the local level, this is the principal responsibility of the Jewish Community Relations Councils; the JCRC’s are an important branch of the institutional life of local Jewish communities.

But ordinary Americans who are Jews not only do not support “immigration reform” but they have other priorities in their lives apart from the “desire to nurture ties with newcomer immigrant communities.” In any case, “nurturing ties” is the work of institutions and groups; it is not a job for individuals, nor is it a burning issue for the vast majority of ordinary folk. Nor is it everyone’s cup of tea. Even within Jewish Establishment organizations -- and I was Director of National Affairs and then Senior Fellow at the American Jewish Committee for eight years -- only a small number relish encounters or “summits” with leadership cadres from other groups. These often intensely awkward gatherings are characterized by disingenuousness, evasiveness masquerading as reticence, outright lies, crude stereotypes, and thinly-veiled hostility. It is true some naïve “do-gooders” cannot resist the opportunity for dialogue, even with anti-Semites and anti-Americans -- it seems exotic and exciting at first blush -- but even many of the childish utopians eventually become appropriately nauseated.

“Nurturing ties” is most emphatically not what most Americans who are Jews spend their time thinking about or wish to do. If questioned, I suspect they’d reply they think about their work, family life and friends, and would prefer golf, gardening, reading, watching baseball, or going to the movies. Again, it is only the ideological blinders he wears that explains Guttman’s refusal to disaggregate ordinary Americans who are Jews from their putative limousine liberal leaders, and thus the ludicrous claim.

The other half of the dialectic, the antithesis, is far more interesting because it challenges, arguably even subverts, what the article suggests is normative within a Jewish community that has been lumped together and mischaracterized as being in favor of “immigration reform.” For a Jewish community that is portrayed, or rather unconsciously caricatured, as still waxing rhapsodic over its own mythologized immigration history, and which we are told wishes en mass to see that mythic, sentimentalized ahistorical narrative play out unendingly for others, we are surprised to learn “there is another group that has a stake in seeing a comprehensive immigration overhaul adopted, a group the Jewish community hardly deals with, and perhaps is ashamed of: undocumented Jews.”

While it’s necessary to correct the misconceptions or mischaracterization in Guttman’s piece, most of which take the form of absolute generalizations or the faulty dilemma that frames the piece, it requires only minimal alteration to permit the article to accomplish the author’s purpose: exposing hypocrisy. All one needs to do is correctly identify the culprits. Once we understand it is a handful of radical leftist policy professionals with scant concern for Jewish or American values and even less for Jewish and American interests who exercise outsize influence over the moderately liberal plutocrats that run the American-Jewish Establishment and are the chief advocates for amnesty and open borders -- not ordinary Americans who are Jews -- we can place the ambivalence Guttman discovers in context.

Though I admit the following bon mot has become a favorite personal hobby horse, I will cite it once more: Robert Frost’s definition of a liberal as a “man who cannot take his own side in an argument.” It is arguably more applicable to liberal elitist American Jews than any other group. Though understanding precisely why this is the case -- why feeling morally passionate and self-righteous about advancing everyone else’s interests, including those of groups that hate one’s own, is “virtuous” while advancing the enlightened self-interest of one’s own is considered tribal and chauvinistic -- would require the combined wisdom of psychiatrists, historians, philosophers, sociologists, and religious scholars, the fact that it is true is undeniable. That it reflects a curious combination of a sense of detached superiority allied to weak ego strength also seems quite likely. If the preceding sounds insubstantial, try approaching the following comments of Gideon Aronoff logically and see how far logic takes you.

Responding to Guttman’s request for an explanation as to why he, the Jewish Establishment’s “point man on immigration” and chair of the National Immigration Forum, the nation’s most extreme advocacy group for illegal immigration, does not include Jewish illegal aliens in his advocacy, Aronoff states it is “difficult to use them for advocacy because like other undocumented populations, they are largely invisible.” Huh? What? Have we missed something here? If all other “undocumented populations” are equally “invisible” and invisibility is a reason not to advocate on a “population’s” behalf, how is it that he justifies advocating on behalf of other equally “invisible” groups, or, to put it differently, why does he single out Jewish illegal aliens for non-inclusion? To this baffling non-sequitur he adds the abstruse “observation” that the issue of Israelis that leave Israel to settle in America “‘does create some philosophical discomfort’ for the broader Jewish community. But that is a matter that must be addressed eventually by the local communities in which the undocumented Israelis live.” What? How did we get here? How do the two assertions connect?

It is difficult to decide whether Aronoff’s inscrutable and turbid prose is part of a strategy of deliberate evasion -- he knows what he wants to say but realizes it won’t prove persuasive so he hides behind semantically meaningless formulations -- or whether the word salads he produces, often so confused they are impossible to paraphrase, reflect nothing more than poor writing skill. Clearly it is a bit of both.

Guttman’s fine piece makes an irrefutable case regarding the hypocrisy of the American-Jewish Establishment and most particularly Aronoff’s HIAS in its response to Jewish illegal aliens as opposed to its response to all others. But apart from providing Aronoff’s impenetrably nonsensical remarks, Guttman offers little in the way of explanation. He has done an excellent job in showing us the “what” but not so much the “why.” His opening schema is faulty for the reasons we have noted. There is substantial merit in his point about the hypocrisy of being “ashamed” of behavior in one’s own that one tolerates in others -- as we’ve suggested this is a form of noblesse-oblige superiority -- but it is not the whole story. Perhaps it is Guttman’s intention to leave it to his readers to think of additional explanations.
We have provided another: the inevitable hypocrisy that results from pretending to serve one master while actually serving a different one. In this case, the pretense of working in the interest of Jewish and American values and well-being while, in fact, serving a post-American leftwing open-borders agenda that eschews patriotism and includes collaboration with Islamists.

Another unspoken reason why Jews, at least the Jewish illegal aliens in question, are “off the communal agenda” -- meaning, in fact, not of interest to Jewish leftists -- with regard to immigration is, if you will pardon the expression, they are “white.” What makes that reason a powerful but unspoken explanation is that its idiocy is self-evident, especially to Jews who have been one of history’s greatest victims of the pseudo-science of race. I even suspect it secretly shames and intellectually embarrasses many who publicly affirm it -- but they countenance the idiocy and become complicit in it to maintain a mendacious solidarity on the far left.

It should be obvious I am not now speaking of the many Jews of color; I am speaking of those Jews of European Ashkenazi and Sephardic background who, like Southern Italians and other Mediterranean populations, became bona fide whites in American cultural/sociological terms at some point in the past 60-70 years. It is hardly a secret that leftwing political correctness is the flip side of the same coin as multiculturalism.

It cannot surprise anyone living in contemporary America that according to this Balkanizing racialism -- as opposed to healthy, sane traditional pluralism -- the concept of E Pluribus Unum is vilified and rejected. Multiculturalism emphasizes disunity and difference. Racial/ethnic/cultural separateness and its political corollary -- identity politics -- are seen as virtues because the ideal of “national cohesion” is understood by multiculturalists to be no more than a plot against people of color: “national cohesion” is merely another way of articulating the maintenance of white hegemony. In their view, there is, in fact, no American culture. Nor are there any real Americans. “America” is no more than a collection of diaspora communities, and “American” is a phony ideological construct predicated on “dominant culture” whiteness.

This nonsense forms the hub, with spokes of additional nonsense radiating outward which include, among other equally loathsome components, a morally squalid and vicious competition for first place in the victimology race. One would think Americans who are Jews would know better than to countenance a “philosophy” seriously interested in affirming that the Middle Passage was worse than the Holocaust -- to have an interest in pitting one against the other ought to be sufficiently disgusting to cause them to flee -- but many stick around, even learning like good masochists to enjoy the moral stench.

The racialism that lies at the heart of multiculturalism and constitutes a fundamental piece of the American left’s worldview is profoundly Occidentalist. It regards the West -- America most of all -- America’s friends like Israel, white people in general, Jews and non-liberation theology Christians as enemies.

If you are the progeny of one or the offspring of several of the above it is often impossible to bring oneself to hate any and all as “enemies.” But at a minimum it is equally impossible -- an immoral act and a violation of one’s multicultural worldview -- to regard any as fit objects of empathy, sympathy, as people authentically deserving of the help of “progressives.” In multiculturalism’s reverse-racism, coloration remains supreme (most of these putative “leftists” have long ago forgotten about “class”), and brown and black are at the top of the hierarchy of political identification in a vision from which whites have been expelled.

The shocking spectacle of a once traditional but now radical Jewish organization like HIAS in bed with the Islamist enemy, advocating for every other group of illegal aliens while remaining above the fray and entirely indifferent to the plight of Jews in the same circumstance is, finally, inexplicable without recourse to this last component. Even Aronoff’s worst critic can derive no joy from the fact that this last piece of the puzzle is one so barbaric and moronic.

Topics: Jews