This article was originally posted on my website on November 19, 2007, before TOO came into existence. Coming before the 2008 election, it required a bit of updating, but I thought it an appropriate follow-up to Sterling Cooper’s review of Ann Coulter’s Mugged.
Ann Coulter probably wishes she had never said “We just want Jews to be perfected” on the Donny Deutsch show. The ADL was first in line to trace such ideas to a theological tradition that is anathema to Jews—the idea that the New Testament supersedes the Old.
But the best defense is a good offense, so Coulter apparently decided that she understands Jewish interests better than even the ADL. Maybe she’s right, but I don’t think she really understands how Jewish organizations like the ADL think about America.
Ann Coulter asks “How Long Before the A.D.L. Kicks Out All its Jews?” Her point is that the ADL is a leftist activist organization that is dangerous for Jews—dangerous because the left is “increasingly dominated by people conniving in the destruction of Israel.” The ADL also opposes public manifestations of Christianity but is in favor of appeasing Muslims in the U.S. by using the Koran to swear in public officials. It also promotes other leftist causes that she imagines are bad for Jews: gun control, gay marriage, illegal immigration — “You know, all the issues that have historically kept the Jews safe.”
Oddly, while she goes after the ADL for condemning critics of Muslim immigration, she can’t bring herself to oppose legal immigration in general. I suppose that even a “conservative” like Ann Coulter would not want to intimate that our present legal immigration policy is bad for anyone, much less Jews. Opposing legal immigration is so far beyond the mainstream that even Coulter can’t bring herself to condemn the ADL for being a major player on the pro-open borders lobby. Coulter seems to think that masses of illegals, mainly Mexicans, are bad for Jews, but there’s no problem importing masses of Africans and Asians as long as they aren’t Muslim.
But if all these peoples are to be allowed to immigrate (legally, of course) en masse to the United States, how does Coulter think that the Christian culture that she seems to think is so desirable can be maintained? Why just go after Muslims? The common sense of it is that our open borders immigration policy puts the entire culture in play. If Christianity is to have any special place at all, it will have to fight for it, and, given the demographic trends, its long term prospects aren’t good.
The fact is that Coulter has found a safe neocon niche that manages to condemn the Muslims without raising any really basic questions on the direction of our culture. She was a prime participant in David Horowitz’s pro-Israel inspired Islamo-fascism Awareness Week. While devoting his life to ethnic activism on behalf of Israel, Horowitz clearly draws the line at European-Americans having any sense of their own ethnic identity and interests. Obviously, that’s a line that Coulter is quite unwilling to cross as well.
But the deeper issue is whether Coulter is right that a rational understanding of Jewish interests would make them foursquare Republicans: “The survival of Israel is inextricably linked to the survival of the Republican Party and its evangelical base.” But the Israel Lobby is entirely bipartisan, and even if they wanted to, presidents since Eisenhower who have tried to influence Israel policy against the wishes of the lobby have been uniformly unsuccessful.
If the first Clinton Administration is any indication, the survival of Israel certainly does not depend on a Republican president. Bill Clinton’s Middle East policy positions were staffed by a long list of activists closely linked to the Israel Lobby, including Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former AIPAC official Martin Indyk. Indeed, during the Netanyahu years of Likud rule (1996-1999), “the American government seemed sometimes to be working for the Israeli Prime Minister as it tried to convince (and pressure) the Palestinian side to accept Israeli offers.”
Hillary Clinton, the Democrat frontrunner, is a close second among all presidential candidates in support for Israel—trailing only Rudy Giuliani who has recruited a “who’s-who” list of neocon pro-Israel, anti-Iran hawks, including Norman Podhoretz, author of World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism.
[Note, 10/21/2012: Coulter’s argument is perhaps improved by the tensions between the Obama administration and Israel over a war with Iran. But, as Stephen Walt has pointed out, demanding that the U.S. go to war with Iran is a “one hell of a big ask”; it is not at all clear that a post-G. W. Bush Republican administration would have acceded to these demands. Indeed, it appears now that Mitt Romney is scaling back his strategy of bellicosity on Iran because such a war is unpopular with voters, essentially agreeing with Obama.
A senior Republican strategist close to the campaign said Romney was groping for a “version 2.0” of the foreign policy of the Bush era, but one that would more resemble President Reagan’s in the Cold War. It would seek to assert American leadership and values with a powerful military and bold rhetoric, but “with a more cautious view of where and when we use force.” The imperative is to avoid “the mistakes and miscalculations of the last decade. … The Bush foreign policy is a terrible brand.”
Adam Horowitz of Mondoweiss recently noted, “If both Obama and Romney’s policy towards Israel are essentially the same, hasn’t the lobby won out in the end?”
George W. Bush has become persona non grata among Republicans, and Romney desperately wants to avoid the implication that his administration would follow in his Republican predecessor’s footsteps. Instead it appears that Romney will attempt to find a foreign policy edge by stressing things like Obama’s failure to talk with Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly in September and especially the Obama administration’s failings in the Benghazi terrorist incident.
Of course, all bets are off after the election, when all that pro-Israel campaign money will come home to roost and the Israel Lobby and the Israeli government will pull out all the stops in their efforts to destroy Iran. Philip Giraldi has argued that Israel has demanded a guarantee that the U.S. attack Iran after the election in return for Israel not attacking before the election; and Sheldon Adelson would be most unhappy with Romney if all that money was for naught.]
Are the evangelicals really all that important? It’s remarkable how little influence evangelical Christians have in any other area of public life. They can’t seem to stem the de-Christianization that Coulter bewails; but then why should anyone believe that they are essential to U.S. support for Israel? As Mearsheimer and Walt show, the evangelicals, although certainly useful to the lobby, have far less impact than other parts of the lobby.
Coulter notes that “the ADL is more concerned with what it calls the ‘neo-Nazis’ and ‘anti-Semites’ in the Minutemen organization than with people who behead Jews whenever they get half a chance. It’s only a matter of time before the ADL gets around to global warming.” What’s odd about this is that Coulter seems to think that the ADL’s concern about opposition to open borders is just another mindless irrational liberal exercise and as much a Jewish issue as global warming. But the reality is that Jews have always seen an ethnically and culturally homogeneous America as threatening to Jews. This is the subtext of the The Culture of Critique. As her neocon compatriot Elliott Abrams acknowledges, the mainstream Jewish community “clings to what is at bottom a dark vision of America, as a land permeated with anti-Semitism and always on the verge of anti-Semitic outbursts.” As Lawrence Auster notes “as crazy as it sounds, there is something many American Jews fear more in their heart of hearts than Muslim anti-Semitism, and that’s white Christian anti-Semitism.” Abrams notes that Jews have taken the lead in secularizing America because of this fear. (My own interpretation is that it has at least as much do with aggressiveness; see also here). Jewish organizations were also the main force on behalf of the 1965 immigration law that put an end to the idea that America had any ethnic basis.
Nevertheless, besides Coulter and Horowtiz, it is certainly true that a growing chorus of Jewish voices have begun to argue that Muslim immigration is bad for Jews. Stephen Steinlight certainly stands out in this regard, stating, for example, “Privately [American Jewish leaders] express grave concern that unregulated immigration will prove ruinous to American Jewry, as it has for French Jewry, and will for Jews throughout Western Europe. There’s particular fear about the impact on Jewish security, as well as American support for Israel, of the rapid growth of the Muslim population. At the conclusion of meetings with national leaders, several told me, ‘You’re 1000 percent right, but I can’t go out and say it yet.’”
In fact, Steinlight even argues that massive immigration in general is bad for Jews: “Massive immigration will obliterate Jewish power by shrinking our percentage of the population — to a fraction of 1% in 20 years.”
Similar warnings by Jews have also surfaced in Europe where, arguably, the situation is much worse for Jews because of the existence of relatively alienated, unassimilated Muslim populations. Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi, warns that multiculturalism “promotes segregation, stifles free speech and threatens liberal democracy.” Britain’s politics has been “poisoned by the rise of identity politics, as minorities and aggrieved groups jockeyed first for rights, then for special treatment. The process … began with Jews, before being taken up by blacks, women and gays. … [The effect has been] ‘inexorably divisive.’ ‘A culture of victimhood sets group against group, each claiming that its pain, injury, oppression, humiliation is greater than that of others.’”
But thus far, such warnings have fallen on deaf ears. I suspect that the ADL calculates that Muslim immigration has not impaired the power of the Israel Lobby and there is little reason to think that it will in the foreseeable future. In any case, Jewish attachment to a post-European America is a gut emotion that seems to go beyond rational calculation. As Steinlight notes:
The prospect of breaking with the old [pro-immigration] consensus is so wrenching many are effectively paralyzed by it, but it must concentrate their minds wonderfully to know that upholding it endangers the viability of the community whose protection is their raison d’être. They recognize they risk a harsh rebuke by history as those responsible for “losing America” — just as their predecessors have been pilloried for their failure to do more to save European Jewry in the years leading up to and during the Holocaust. American-Jewish leadership is experiencing profound vertigo as it seeks to chart a course through circumstances that appear logical only to a schizophrenic.