Your 'Jewish Priorities,' Not Ours: Establishment Responses to the SOTU

By Stephen Steinlight on January 27, 2011

Though Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was mostly right if overly optimistic when he said, "no lie can live forever," many that eventually succumb don't die easily. Some cheat death for a long time because of extraordinary life-support.

One such lie is the myth that a set of shrinking, aging, unrepresentative, oligarchic, plutocratic, and politically correct organizations speaks for a majority of Americans who are Jews, whether on immigration or on other issues. This is despite the fact that findings in survey research conducted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the most venerable of American Jewish organizations, reported in the last three volumes of its "Annual State of American-Jewish Opinion" bear out what many have experienced on an empirical basis: a majority of Jews no longer self-identify as liberal but rather as "right of center," the lie still manages to ensnare many because its useful to several powerful political entities.

This Big Lie is trumpeted ceaselessly by the PR departments and house organs of the Jewish agencies and their thousands of members (an infinitesimal fraction of Americans who are Jews); by liberal Democratic politicians who see personal and partisan advantage in flattering, sustaining, and exploiting it; by an overwhelmingly liberal Jewish clergy who cite it as yet another means of browbeating their congregations into ideological/political conformity; by the mainstream (read liberal) media that shares the worldview of Jewish leadership elites; and finally by the Jewish media itself, whose motives are mixed: some editors parrot the party line out of authentic conviction; some out of fear (those that oppose this or that component, even moderately, face job losses), and others for the most practical of reasons: Jewish publications receive substantial financial subvention from the Jewish Establishment, and they won't risk offending donors.

While there's nothing new about the growing incongruence between the Jewish Establishment's worldview and that of a majority of Americans who are Jews, given the ever-increasing body of data showing that the chasm is getting wider and wider, each repetition of the myth makes it more flagrant, preposterous and risible.

It was inevitable the Big Lie would dominate coverage of President Obama's State of the Union Address by the Jewish press. It was equally predictable coverage would be most doggedly servile in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), the publication that is the equivalent of Pravda for the Jewish Establishment and in effect the house organ for the Jewish Council on Policy Analysis (JCPA), an ultra-liberal umbrella group of Jewish organizations that focuses primarily on U.S. domestic policy.

The deliberately skewed portrayal of the state of opinion among Americans who are Jews – especially on immigration policy – and the even greater intellectual dishonesty of conflating "Jewish priorities" with "Jewish Establishment priorities" – is conveyed in the title of JTA's "lead feature" on the State of the Union: "In speech, Obama misses some Jewish priorities: poverty, abortion rights, Israel".

The reporter, Ron Kampeas, opens the piece ticking off a list of alleged "Jewish priorities" (read Jewish Establishment priorities) the President addressed:

Civility? Check. Clean energy? Check. Health care? Check. Immigration? Check. Education? You bet.

Isolating Iran? That's in there.

Poverty, guns, reproductive rights? Israel? Ummm …

President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night was as notable for what it excluded as what made it in.

Obama abjured the traditional checklist and delivered a speech centered on a grand theme, American renewal, after an election that left government splintered, with a Democratic White House and Senate and a Republican House of Representatives.

"What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow," the president said. "We will move forward together, or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party and bigger than politics."

That was a recipe for stirring rhetoric, but it left out the manna for groups that watch the speech to cheer on their special interests.

Immigration reform as the Jewish Establishment understands it – some version of "comprehensive immigration reform" including amnesty and exponentially increased legal immigration by less-skilled immigrants – is not a "special Jewish interest," at least as the great majority of Americans who are Jews understand their interests. It would appear that there has been nothing less than a revolution in the attitudes of Americans who are Jews towards U.S. immigration policy in recent years. Perhaps – it's at least conceivable – that a decade ago most American Jews may have been where the Establishment remains with regard to immigration, though it should be added that the Jewish organizations which regularly collected the data ran, and continue to run, unreliable, dishonest push polls. But assuming Jewish attitudes towards open-borders immigration once did, in fact, reflect sentimental attachment to an ahistorical understanding of Jewish immigration to America and the false projection of what was largely Jewish refugee experience onto contemporary transnational migrant laborers, the attitudes of American Jews towards immigration policy have profoundly changed. In a poll by the Center for Immigration Studies, one of the largest ever done with the biggest cohort of American Jews ever asked their opinion about immigration, in a direct question 80 percent chose attrition through enforcement as the policy of choice (see Question 5); that is to say, 80 percent chose enforcement as a means of encouraging the self-deportation of the illegal population. As previously mentioned, it was an enormous shock to Jewish organizations when a recent poll by the American Jewish Committee found that a clear majority of Americans who are Jews support Arizona's SB1070, regarded by activists for illegal aliens as draconian in the extreme.

The remainder of the lengthy JTA article is primarily a compilation of politically naive, puerile complaints by the executive directors or policy directors of Jewish organizations for Obama's effort – apparently DOA according to most pundits from left to right – to appear to reposition himself closer to the center. The left (the Jewish Establishment is a prime example) is dissatisfied by his evident refusal to commit political suicide for them by stressing gun control, abortion rights, and advocating huge additional government welfare programs at a time when the nation faces a $1.5 trillion debt; while conservatives see the president's "investment in the future" as yet another Washington-based initiative that will exponentially grow the government, not the economy or American competitiveness.

That JTA, the Establishment's house organ, finds even a rhetorical genuflection to the broader national interest and greater bipartisanship expressed by the president of less importance than "manna for groups that watch the speech to cheer on their special interests" helps explain why the great majority of Americans who are Jews have voted with their feet and abandoned the Jewish Establishment's plethora of organizations. As opposed to Jewish agencies that thrive on accentuating the primacy of separate identity, the overwhelming majority of Americans who are Jews feel fully at home in the United States. They lovingly embrace Jewish civilization and Jewish roots, but they have a still stronger sense of national belonging. They have chosen not to be among those who would fragment America by dividing it among hyphenated groups.