Stephen Steinlight – Prophet Without Honor?
On November 14, the
Center for Immigration
Studies held a meeting in New York to introduce
the ground-breaking paper they had just published,
“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)
MacDonald has subsequently
[pdf] that this is the central reality of American
immigration history over the decades. The Jewish
community has always supplied crucial energy to the
Of course, there have long been
Jews active in the immigration reform movement.
Norman Matloff, FAIR`s Dan Stein and VDARE.COM
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
Steinlight`s presentation was
enlivened by his, well, vitriolic denunciation of
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
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
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
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
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
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