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Where Should Jews Stand On Immigration?

John Derbyshire is a columnist for the National Review, a critic of mass immigration into the US, and has publicly described himself as Jewcy's "shabbos goy." Gideon Aronoff is the head of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the zeyde of all Jewish-American immigration orgs. In this installment of Jewcy's Big Question series, they square off on the question, "Where should Jews stand on immigration?"

From: John Derbyshire To: Gideon Aronoff Subject: An astonishing pattern


I hate to act the Philadelphia lawyer here, but my attention got snagged right away on that word "should."* Where should Jews stand on immigration?

"Should" implies either some desired goal (If you want to ace that interview you should get your hair cut) or moral obligation (You should be patient with very old people). Which "should" are we looking at here? I shall try to tackle both.

Goal-wise, the starting point for discussion is our old pal Kevin MacDonald—to be exact, Chapter 7 of his book The Culture of Critique. The chapter heading is "Jewish Involvement in Shaping U.S. Immigration Policy." Kevin gives a very full account (the chapter, with its notes, is 59 pages long in my 1998 hardback edition) of Jewish efforts, from the late 19th century on, to shape U.S. immigration policy in what American Jews perceived to be their group interests. In a nutshell:

  • Fear of antisemitism was the main force driving Jewish activism on immigration issues.
  • Jewish activists perceived a strong group interest for Jews in making U.S. society as ethnically heterogeneous as possible. To be the lone identifiable ethnic minority in an otherwise homogeneous society would, they believed, be to invite antisemitism.
  • Destroying the WASP hegemony—or, later, the white-European-Christian hegemony—was a key goal. MacDonald: "[T]he historical record supports the proposition that making the United States into a multicultural society has been a major Jewish goal beginning in the nineteenth century." [p. 260]
  • There was a contradiction (MacDonald says an insincerity) at the heart of this program, in that while the propaganda for more immigration stressed the harmonious blending of many ethnicities into a "proposition nation," many of the propagandists—MacDonald cites Israel Zangwill as an example—were themselves ardently ethnocentric, opposed to (for instance) Jew-Gentile intermarriage.
  • "[T]he rejection of national interest as an element of U.S. immigration policy" was "a hallmark of the Jewish approach to immigration," says MacDonald [p. 288] Again: "Reflecting the long Jewish opposition to the idea that immigration policy should be in the national interest, the economic welfare of American citizens was viewed as irrelevant…" [p. 292]

Thus MacDonald. Is he right? Certainly the extraordinarily tenacious attachment of American Jews to liberal immigration policies calls for some explanation, and social commentators aren't exactly vying with each other to provide one. Faute de mieux, I think MacDonald's explanation is a pretty good one. I would qualify it with two points:

  • Practically all of that chapter deals with the period 1881-1965. The subsequent 42 years have seen much dilution—assimilation, in fact!—of Jewish identity in the U.S. As Yuri Slezkine notes in his book The Jewish Century: "In 1940, the rate of outmarriage for American Jews was about 3 percent; by 1990, it had exceeded 50 percent."
  • In MacDonald's view, there is never anything of idealism or selfless charity in anything Jews do. All is Machiavellian group self-interest. He convinces me that group self-interest is indeed in play, but there is more to human beings than that. The Jews one actually knows seem to be moved at least in part by genuine idealism.

It remains the case that the generality of American Jews, certainly among the commentariat, are very hostile to immigration restriction. They believe that wellnigh unrestricted immigration from absolutely everywhere is … is what? Good For The Jews? That would be MacDonald's interpretation. My own impression, talking to these people, is that they actually believe it is good for the U.S.A. Indeed, given that most of present-day immigration is of either (a) Muslims, who are antisemitic almost to a man, or (b) Latin Americans, which is to say, people from countries where antisemitism is more common, and more frank, than it ever was in the U.S.A. (where do they think all the old Nazis retired to?)—given that, the persistence of extravagant pro-immigration sentiment among American Jews today is rather astonishing. Perhaps the only explanation can be that Jews have so thoroughly internalized the Good For America justification that it overrides the understanding—which they must surely possess—that it is Bad For The Jews.

And it should be said, of course, that there are now numerous exceptions to all the above—many American Jews, including some prominent and activist ones, who are off the old reservation on immigration issues—Stephen Steinlight, for example.

So: If the "shoul
d" in our title implies a goal, and the question mark invites us to offer suggestions for attaining that goal, we need to know what the goal is. MacDonald would say that the goal is Jewish group self-interest, best attained by making Jews just one minority in a nation of minorities, a multiculturalist bouillabaisse, arrived at via unrestricted mass immigration from everywhere. I myself would be more charitable. For many Jews, I believe, the goal is a better U.S.A. Some, apparently really believing the catch-phrases about "diversity," "vibrancy," "nation of immigrants," and so on, truly think that the country will be improved by floods of immigrants from everywhere. Others, like Dr. Steinlight (I wonder what motives MacDonald would ascribe to him?) disagree.

So much for a goal-directed "should." What about a moral-obligation "should"? All matters of interest, Jewish-group or other, aside, what is the right stand to take, the good and moral stand?

As a conservative, I would say that the right stand, for Jews or any other Americans, is the one that conserves. That is to say, it is the one that best keeps intact our national values, our national coherence, and our national interests.

It is simply not true that our national values have always included openness to immigration from everywhere. Until the 1965 Act—which is to say, for 82 percent of our nation's history—they never did so. (And even that Act included quotas on immigration from Latin America.)

How it improves our national coherence to import an entire new racial minority, doubling our opportunities for racial discord, is mysterious to me. (And if you don't think Hispanics are a race, you had better go argue with them about it. Their main lobbying organization is called National Council of The Race).

Our national interests, like those of any other nation, center on peace, prosperity, and domestic tranquillity. On the last of those three, I have made my opinion plain. I think that "diversity" is a bust, and that we should solve the race problem we have—have always had—before introducing another one. On peace there is little to say. A nation as powerful and remote as the U.S.A. has not much to fear in the way of existential threats. Since the entire Muslim world is currently hostile to us, and inclined to express its hostility in acts of civil terror, I do think it is foolish of us to permit Muslims to settle in our country, and I think I would think this more intensely if I were Jewish. The prosperity issue is one where we can have real debate. Does unrestricted mass immigration from everywhere make us richer? I myself am persuaded by the arguments of, for example, George Borjas and Robert Rector that it does not, but I acknowledge that there are some cogent arguments on the other side.

In summary: If "should" implies means to an end, it depends on the end: Good For The Jews, or Good For America? If "should" calls on a moral obligation, then as a conservative, I would say that the obligation is to conserve those qualities that made us a good, strong, just, and prosperous nation, and not to endanger those qualities by embarking on dramatic demographic adventures.

* This post has been modified since publication.

NEXT: Let's Roast Some Old Chestnuts

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