Second Reply to Nathan Cofnas

I have posted a second reply to Nathan Cofnas, this one on his comments to my first reply. It is long and tedious but I thought I would post the Introduction and an excerpt from the exchange on immigration.


Nathan Cofnas has responded to my reply to his review of The Culture of Critique. Prior to getting into the details of his rejoinder, there are several general points that should be kept in mind.

  1. CofC stands or falls depending on whether I have adequately described certain specific intellectual and political movements as Jewish. In doing so, I focused on movements that were or are influential and provide evidence of their influence. In describing these movements, I focus on the main figures, discuss their Jewish identities and their concern with specific Jewish issues, such as combatting anti-Semitism. I discuss the dynamics of these movements—the authoritarian atmosphere, the guru phenomenon, ethnic networking, and non-Jews who participate in the movement. I am not attempting to discuss all well-known Jewish intellectuals if they are not part of these movements. Thus, I never claim that Marx was part of a specifically Jewish intellectual/political movement, since he died long before the rise of the Jewish left in the twentieth century which is the focus of CofC. Noam Chomsky is a well-known Jewish intellectual, but he doesn’t fit into any of the movements I discuss, and I have never investigated the nature of his Jewish identity (or lack of it) or how he sees Jewish interests. The same could be said for someone like Paul Gottfried who is linked to paleoconservatism. Paleoconservatism is not a Jewish intellectual movement, and indeed neoconservatism, which I argue is a Jewish movement, played a decisive role in the eclipse of paleoconservatism (see “Neoconservatism as a Jewish Movement”). Or one could point to a Jewish supporter of the populist positions of President Trump, but the existence of such a person does not make populism a Jewish movement or erase the effective opposition of the New York Intellectuals to American populism in prior decades as discussed in Chapters 5 and 6 of CofC.
  2. Individual influential Jews or a separate influential Jewish intellectual movement may be critical of a specific Jewish intellectual movement that I discuss. The split beginning in the 1930s between the Stalinist left, which is the topic of Chapter 3, and the Trotskyist left which is a topic of Chapter 6 and “Neoconservatism as a Jewish Movement,” comes to mind. It is possible that opposition to the Israel Lobby may also be reasonably analyzed as a Jewish movement. I have not attempted this, although I have noted in several places that criticism of Israel is increasing among Jews and non-Jews. But in order to establish that critics of Israel constitute a Jewish movement, one would have to pursue the program presented in CofC: discuss whether participants have a Jewish identity and whether they see their activities as furthering Jewish interests as well as explore the dynamics of these movements—whether there is any evidence for an authoritarian atmosphere, the guru phenomenon, ethnic networking, and the status of non-Jews who participate in the movement.

This project would thus go well beyond the “default hypothesis” of Jewish IQ as explaining Jewish involvement in intellectual movements. Such situations may be analogized to arguments between different factions in the Knesset—both dominated by Jews but with different perceptions of Jewish interests.

  1. I am therefore not attempting to develop a general theory of Jewish viewpoint diversity. I am studying certain specific intellectual and political movements that I attempt to establish as influential. I am not trying to develop a theory of why each Jew or most Jews believe what they do—a much more ambitious project. Thus, for example, I have no interest in describing or explaining the diversity of Jewish attitudes on affirmative action—an interesting question, but not relevant to the thesis of CofC which is that certain specific Jewish movements have the features I describe and that they have been influential. Nevertheless, as discussed below, at particular times and places, there is often substantial consensus within the Jewish community on particular issues, e.g., immigration and refugee policy and church-state relations.
  2. My writing in CofC is restricted to the movements discussed therein—movements that I have argued have been influential in the twentieth century and whose influence often extends into the present. In addition to these movements, it may well be the case that I have left out individual influential Jews, such as Steven Pinker, whose Jewish identity and sense of pursuing Jewish interests would bear investigation and may result in a broader perspective on Jewish influence. Pinker’s recent book, Enlightenment Now,[1] is reminiscent of the hostility toward American populism that characterized the New York Intellectuals whose Jewish identities and sense of Jewish interests were discussed in CofC. However, whatever the results of such an investigation, they would be subsumed into the general topic of Jewish viewpoint diversity.

[1] See Ricardo Duchesne, “Steve Pinker’s Anti-Enlightenment Attack on White Identitarians,” Occidental Quarterly 18, no. 2 (Summer 2018): 49–68; in press.

An excerpt from the exchange on Chapter 7:

In my original reply, I noted that Jewish activism was aimed at making White Americans a small minority. Cofnas: The quote above (taken from CofC) provides no justification for the claim that “Jewish activists were promoting making Whites a small minority in [the] country.” The idea that removing the immigration quotas would cause non-white people to come in large numbers was not something that people obviously would have anticipated at the time, given that virtually all immigration was coming from different European countries.

On the contrary, it was already well-known that non-Whites would come in large numbers—hence the Chinese Exclusion Act and the concern of many restrictionists at the time who were worried that immigration would dramatically change the country (Rep. William N. Vaile: “It is a good country. It suits us. And what we assert is that we are not going to surrender it to somebody else or allow other people, no matter what their merits, to make it something different. If there is any changing to be done, we will do it ourselves. (Cong. Rec., April 8, 1924, 5922)).

And during the 1950s, immigration restrictionists emphasized that the U.S. was already under siege from people wanting to immigrate. Senator Pat McCarran in 1953: “Today, as never before, untold millions are storming our gates for admission and those gates are cracking under the strain. The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United States. . . . I do not intend to become prophetic, but if the enemies of this legislation succeed in riddling it to pieces, or in amending it beyond recognition, they will have contributed more to promote this nation’s downfall than any other group since we achieved our independence as a nation.” (Senator Pat McCarran, Cong. Rec., March 2, 1953, 1518)

And where would the 900 million immigrants that Louis Marshall (the key Jewish activist in the 1920s) envisioned come from after the national origins provisions had been gutted? Jewish activism during the entire period from the 1880s to 1965 was aimed at promoting multiracial immigration to the U.S. Recall this statement from the American Jewish Committee quoted from Chapter 7: “Americanism is not to be measured by conformity to law, or zeal for education, or literacy, or any of these qualities in which immigrants may excel the native-born. Americanism is the spirit behind the welcome that America has traditionally extended to people of all races, all religions, all nationalities” (in Cohen 1972, 369). American Jewish Congress had the same perspective:

During this period [1950s] the Congress Weekly, the journal of the AJCongress, regularly denounced the national origins provisions as based on the “myth of the existence of superior and inferior racial stocks” (Oct. 17, 1955, p. 3) and advocated immigration on the basis of “need and other criteria unrelated to race or national origin” (May 4, 1953, p. 3). Particularly objectionable from the perspective of the AJCongress was the implication that there should be no change in the ethnic status quo prescribed by the 1924 legislation (e.g., Goldstein 1952a, 6). The national origins formula “is outrageous now . . . when our national experience has confirmed beyond a doubt that our very strength lies in the diversity of our peoples” (Goldstein 1952b, 5).

Jewish activists opposed the idea that the United States had any ethnic connotations—that the U.S. should be seen as a proposition nation dedicated only to certain ideals. Thus the comment from Joseph L. Blau (1958, 15) writing in a publication of the American Jewish Congress:  “[Horace] Kallen’s view is needed to serve the cause of minority groups and minority cultures in this nation without a permanent majority”—the implication being that Kallen’s ideology of multiculturalism opposes the interests of any ethnic group in dominating the United States.” Note particularly the phrase “no permanent majority. These Jewish activists were maintaining that the U.S ought to be up for grabs ethnically and culturally at a time when an ethnic status quo had been legislated by the 1924 immigration law—a status quo designed to make Northwest Europeans a permanent majority. This type of thinking was already on the table in the 1920s, as exemplified by Maurice Samuel’s opposition to an ethnic conception of the United States:

The well-known author and prominent Zionist Maurice Samuel (1924, 215), writing partly as a negative reaction to the immigration law of 1924, wrote, “If, then, the struggle between us [i.e., Jews and gentiles] is ever to be lifted beyond the physical, your democracies will have to alter their demands for racial, spiritual and cultural homogeneity with the State. But it would be foolish to regard this as a possibility, for the tendency of this civilization is in the opposite direction. There is a steady approach toward the identification of government with race, instead of with the political State.”

Samuel deplored the 1924 legislation as violating his conceptualization of the United States as a purely political entity with no ethnic implications.

We have just witnessed, in America, the repetition, in the peculiar form adapted to this country, of the evil farce to which the experience of many centuries has not yet accustomed us. If America had any meaning at all, it lay in the peculiar attempt to rise above the trend of our present civilization—the identification of race with State. . . . America was therefore the New World in this vital respect—that the State was purely an ideal, and nationality was identical only with acceptance of the ideal. But it seems now that the entire point of view was a mistaken one, that America was incapable of rising above her origins, and the semblance of an ideal-nationalism was only a stage in the proper development of the universal gentile spirit. . . . (pp. 218–219)


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