Jewish Establishment Censorship of Information on Immigration Policy

By Stephen Steinlight on June 5, 2010

It surely comes as no surprise to any one capable of recognizing a push poll that the American-Jewish establishment, employing ones sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), has, for years, faked data regarding American-Jewish attitudes to immigration and immigration policy – very seriously misrepresenting the true state of opinion among American Jews. The establishment's goals are obvious: maintaining an illusion of communal consensus and, even more importantly, conveying a false impression to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

What's fraudulent about the surveys polls is transparent, requiring no comparison with authentic survey research to ferret out: the use of faulty dilemmas, refusal to provide respondents a non-draconian option to register discontent with illegal immigration, and highly equivocal instructions. Still, if any doubt remained regarding the credibility of establishment polling, it was shattered by an intellectually scrupulous survey by the Center for Immigration Studies and Zogby published at the end of last year: "Religious Leaders vs. Members: An Examination of Contrasting Views on Immigration." This survey, which explores the wide chasm dividing the pulpit from the pew with regard to immigration policy across the spectrum of American religious life, is one of the largest ever conducted on the attitudes of Americans towards immigration, and has much the largest cohort of Jewish respondents ever asked about the issue: some 1,700 versus the 900 AJC manipulates to affirm its pre-determined conclusions.

Significant change in attitudes within the American-Jewish community toward immigration constitutes the most counter-intuitive findings in the CIS/Zogby poll. This shift is historic, ending communal consensus (or, given phony establishment data, its appearance) regarding what seemed a quasi-sacred, immutable allegiance. In findings from AJC's push polls in 2006 and 2007, given the choice between a chimerical "Deport All," "Stay for a Limited (unspecificed) Period of Time," and "Remain" (naturalization is not articulated in the choice though the misleading instructions suggests it's implicit), 15 percent chose "Deport All" while 81 percent selected illegal-alien friendly options.

In a stand-alone choice in the CIS/Zogby survey, 80 percent of American Jews select "attrition," an option never offered in polls by the Jewish establishment because it would derail its political agenda by being non-draconian and realistic. As soon as a non-draconian option appears, support for amnesty plummets 64 percent. As noted, AJC's findings in 2006 and 2007 show 81 percent choose illegal-immigrant friendly positions. In the 2009 CIS/Zogby survey, 80 percent choose the rule of law over support for illegal immigrants. That is a 100 percent shift – a sociological earthquake – but the establishment chooses to ignore it.

The ascending trend among American Jews is support for immigration law enforcement only, not illegal immigration, suggesting that profoundly successful assimilation – culminating in a deep sense of national belonging – has led American Jews to identify first with fellow Americans, not immigrants, in the zero-sum game that is immigration, and to place America's national interest above liberal universalistic nostrums.

The smoke and mirrors the establishment employs in its polling is similarly reflected in its preposterous assertion it represents the authentic voice of the American Jewish community. That this wholly false is a source of comfort because the sole positive observation that can be made about the current American-Jewish establishment is that it's dying. The skeletal secular organizations are most obviously moribund – one of the "Big Three," the American Jewish Congress, is akin to Dead Man Walking, and we can anticipate the demise of most, at least in their present form, within a quarter century or so. This collection of Potemkin Villages, whose impressive façades are propped up by rickety scaffolding, is being rapidly depopulated, its memberships aging and shrinking. When I was National Affairs Director at the American Jewish Committee, so-called "dean" of establishment organizations, it was a standing joke among staff that any "young leadership group" comprised members not on life-support.

Though the grandiosity of the Jewish establishment would make the Sun King blush, its pretension amounts to a hill of beans. The vast majority of American Jews has been bowling alone for a long time: they're not affiliated with either religious or secular organizations. A tiny fraction belongs to secular ones, and a modest percentage to religious denominations. Out of some 6 million American Jews, it would be generous to posit as many as 200,000-250,000 belong to secular communal organizations. Just over 2 million belong to the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements combined. Once we've disaggregated minor children (who presumably don't hold positions on immigration policy), remove the large majority of Conservative Jews who are politically centrist or moderately conservative, about a third of Reform Jews who are centrist, and take into account a modestly posited 10 percent overlap who belong to a religious denomination and at least one secular organization, we find the number of politically correct Jews amounts to some just under one million, or not quite 17 percent of the total. However, that small percent is disproportionately represented within the leadership elite of the establishment, are its most active members, and form its staffs – skewing perceptions of Jewish attitudes.

Presiding over this rump empire of declining satrapies is a non-elected, unresponsive, and unrepresentative set of plutocrats. Without exception, every organization is a plutocratic oligarchy with executive boards comprised of the biggest donors – people who labor under the delusion they make policy – but in reality are shepherded along by skillful courtiers, controlling staff "experts," by and large narrow ideologues invariably to the left of the moderately liberal boards. In virtually all of these organizations, arrogant (though outwardly fawning and sycophantic) staffs exercise outsize influence, exerting most of the power. Where this is not the case, an absolute despot of an executive director holds power rather than the oligarchs and their handlers. In the immortal phrase coined by New York City's one and only Mario Procaccino, the leadership of the Jewish Establishment comes very close to attaining the Platonic essence of "limousine liberalism."

So entitled is the tiny leadership of establishment organizations – we are speaking in some cases of boards as small as 10-30 people and rarely more than 100 (in the case of larger boards real power is exercised by an executive committee typically not exceeding 10-12 people) – the organizations don't trouble themselves with even the pretense of democratic or consensual decision-making. The membership at large – whose financial support is eagerly sought if not their judgment – is never consulted about policy decisions.

Most shocking of all is that the membership at large is often not even informed policy exists! This represents the apotheosis of the establishment's bogus mandate. It misleads the community with cooked data; its organizations claim to represent what is, at best, a tiny, diminishing percentage of American Jews; its claim to speak on their behalf is a bald, ridiculous lie; and their dictatorial or aristocratic governance is a grotesque and reactionary form of usurpation.

One example, which I could easily multiply (I could discuss the 90,000-strong B'nai B'rith and make the identical point), reveals the fraudulence of any assertion by establishment organization spokespersons that they speak in the name of the membership. Hadassah, the women's branch of the Zionist Organization of America, claims the largest membership of any American-Jewish secular organization: 300,000. I'd addressed more than 20 chapters on contemporary immigration and immigration policy nationwide, though most in the Tri-State area, before I was blacklisted by Hadassah's National Office for opposing its immigration policy: so much for the storied Jewish tradition of free expression!

Hadassah's legal department forced several chapters to rescind invitations to me to speak, the byproduct of an ugly campaign of slander initiated against me by the scurrilous Southern Poverty Law Center and the Jewish establishment's point person on immigration, Gideon Aronoff, CEO and Executive Director of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Aronoff is now also chairman of the National Immigration Forum, a coalition of ethnic identity groups and post-American organizations that's the most aggressive body in the nation advocating "comprehensive immigration reform." Before backtracking from its slander in a feature article in JTA, a spokesperson for Hadassah defamed me as a racist. But the Anti-Defamation League, which also felt compelled to hit below the belt, never retracted its defamation that had casually labeled me a "suspicious character," based on nothing in particular – though my views on immigration explains the vaguest of libels.

Recently I spoke to a Hadassah chapter in Brooklyn for the second time. I don't know whether Hadassah's National Office's fatwa has lapsed, its writ does not extend to New York City's Outer Boroughs, or the mullahs were simply unaware I'd been invited. I very much enjoyed my second chance to address the wonderful members of that chapter.

Two key points must not go unmentioned when discussing my many speaking engagements at Hadassah chapters. Speaking conservatively, 90 percent of the women in the audience on every occasion not only loved my talks but also found my views on immigration completely persuasive. The other more important point is in the course of addressing more than 20 chapters of the organization, I discovered that not a single member – including the most elderly who've been active in the organization for 50-60 years – had any idea it had an immigration policy. They found out only because I told them about it, and when I told them what it was they were outraged, even horrified. Why does Hadassah's national office think so little of its membership it does not trouble itself to let them in on the embarrassing secret?

The women who join Hadassah are proud Jews and strong supporters of Israel who wish to do something worthy and to see and make friends by being members. They engage in a host of Jewish cultural activities and actions in support of Israel and devote themselves to raising money for new hospitals in Israel and also support projects that advance women's health in America and Israel.

It's fair to say the women of Hadassah know nothing about its domestic public policy; it's also a reasonable conclusion that a conscious decision has been made to keep them in the dark. What's most shameful is that this contempt for its members does not prevent Hadassah's national spokespersons from publicly endorsing "comprehensive immigration reform" in the name of the 300,000 women of Hadassah – rightly assuming few would imagine a prominent organization would resort to such bald-faced duplicity.

The generous, good-hearted women of Hadassah deserve better than this. So does the American-Jewish community as a whole. Once the fossilized establishment is passes from the scene, one hopes a new generation will create a different set of institutions that better reflect American values and honor the political pluralism and intellectual vitality within the American-Jewish community that have survived the establishment's concerted attempt to repress.