On November 14, the Center for Immigration Studies held a meeting in New York to introduce the ground-breaking paper they had just published, Steven Steinlight's "The Jewish Stake in America's Changing Demography". VDARE.COM representatives were there.
After some months of intense bombardment following the publication of Alien Nation an unappealing assessment became unavoidable: the most vitriolic criticism was almost always Jewish. Even sometime friends became reckless in their anxiety to score hits. By comparison, other immigration constituencies were comparatively languid and even (sometimes) reasonable.
Professor Kevin MacDonald has subsequently argued [pdf] that this is the central reality of American immigration history over the decades. The Jewish community has always supplied crucial energy to the pro-immigration forces.
Of course, there have long been Jews active in the immigration reform movement. Norman Matloff, FAIR's Dan Stein and VDARE.COM correspondent Paul Gottfried come to mind. But these, alas, are very much exceptions to the rule.
Consequently, Stephen Steinlight's public rethinking of immigration is very interesting. Steinlight is a respected community leader who for several years was an official of the formidable American Jewish Committee. (The AJC, however, is apparently anxious to be disassociated with his new views.)
Steinlight's paper is well worth reading, if only as a bracing specimen of extreme ethnocentricity. If the American nation had, at just about any point in its history, resolved to think like this, the country would be totally different (and possibly more secure). But, given Steinlight's premise, his argument is perfectly rational. For a Zionist-inclined community to support the importation of a fervently and evidently violently anti-Zionist population is obviously suicidal. For a community profiting from its relative coherence in a generally atomistic society – what Steinlight refers to, startlingly, as a "divide and rule" strategy - to encourage the importation of ethnic groups likely to be at least as clannish is obviously self-defeating. These are the important issues Steinlight raises.
The November 14 meeting was hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies, whose Executive Director, Mark Krikorian, served as moderator. Steinlight credits Krikorian with having influenced his conversion. Both men must have been very disappointed with the outcome: CIS has not even bothered to put an account on its own website. There was no coverage in the news channels in the following weeks.
In the media capital of America, the largest Jewish city in the world, and the bastion of neoconservatism, less than twenty people appeared. A good half were friends and acquaintances of VDARE.COM. From conventional neoconservative circles, only one representative was sighted: Tamar Jacoby, who said nothing and left promptly. On this showing, Stephen Steinlight is going to be very lonely.
Steinlight's presentation was enlivened by his, well, vitriolic denunciation of Patrick Buchanan, Peter Brimelow and Alien Nation– "a book I abominate…entirely objectionable and racist" . No doubt this strategy was designed to ingratiate him with his expected audience. Given the actual audience, it caused the question period to be a mild riot, with vigorous discussion of the ethical quality of this ploy. One of the audience subsequently remarked on the close parallel with the behavior of the newly-arrived neoconservative converts on the right thirty years ago: elimination of the Right's existing leaders and the jettisoning of large segments of their programs; a process seen in microcosm in the recent history of the Goldberg (formerly National) Review.
The second panelist, Philip Kasinitz of Hunter College, was essentially useless, having clearly given the topic little thought. Apart from trying to joke his way through, his contribution was slight, other than ruefully agreeing with Steinlight on the lack of opinion diversity within the Jewish community. He did conclude by suggesting sensibly that it was 'time the country got back to the business of incorporation.'
Fred Siegel of the Cooper Union, the third panelist, was of serious caliber. A scholar rather than an ethnic partisan, he declared himself in 'broad agreement' with Steinlight's call for immigration reform. He offered a number of examples of the problems created by current policy. These included the striking observation that while Wen Ho Lee was (in Siegel's view) clearly guilty and the lucky beneficiary of a over-scrupulous legal system, Asian Americans invariably angrily rejected this.
Siegel clearly knows his American history: Steinlight's flat assertion during questions that America was not 'founded on a WASP basis' provoked him to quietly observe that the Constitution was clearly based on principles rooted in English history. This is a man who could shed much light on the subject if he so chose.
Mark Krikorian opened the discussion period by suggesting that Steinlight was guilty of 'triangulation' and asking if immigration could be analyzed from the point of view of the Jewish community, why could not WASPs do the same? This was so exactly what VDARE.COM had said a few days earlier in commenting on Steinlight that one might almost suspect Krikorian of risking contamination by reading the site.
Steinlight did not appear to have an answer to Krikorian's point. Initially he tried to escape by accusing Buchanan and Brimelow of dishonestly hiding their ethnic interests. When at length brought to face his published denunciation of their concerns, hidden or otherwise, he announced: "Not all identity politics are created equal".
So now we know.
Of course, Steinlight's views, as Siegel clearly thought, are quite ahistorical, sometimes comically so. Answering the final question he roundly denounced the questioner for implying that the Founding Fathers were not multiculturalists: "I don't know the America you're talking about…You don't know what the founders were thinking." The questioner was a trained historian.
The spectacle of an ethnic group coldly calculating its interests is not likely to be attractive to the members of other groups. But the fact is that Jewish immigration enthusiasm has been hugely influential. Any moderation could be decisive in achieving immigration reform. And this would greatly benefit a number of different communities – not least Americans.
Steinlight's intense logic, given his premises, and immense courage - given his peer group - are absolutely necessary requirements for this change. Judging from the response in New York, however, they are far from being sufficient.
December 13, 2001