Shortly after Nathan Cofnas published his first article on Kevin MacDonald’s Culture of Critique in 2018, I spent a few weeks sketching out a quite extensive ‘skeleton’ for a rebuttal I intended to flesh out and publish at The Occidental Observer. The speed and extent of replies from MacDonald, and, later, Ed Dutton, eventually made me think that my own effort would appear belated and redundant, and so I abandoned the idea even though I felt that some of my own criticisms hadn’t really been touched upon by either MacDonald or Dutton. Afterwards, a number of more minor exchanges and replies took place between these figures, but the repetitive and intransigent nature of Cofnas’s replies, even when faced with clear examples of the weakness of his “default hypothesis,” only increased my apathy and deterred me from getting involved.
It would appear, however, that Cofnas intends to milk as many publications as he can from a single set of poor ideas, as demonstrated by the fact he has now yet again essentially republished his original article, with some very minor tweaks, in Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel. What follows is my perspective on the work of Nathan Cofnas, stripped of the usual academic pleasantries, in the hope that it will offer readers a more clear-sighted insight into the matters under discussion.
Does Kevin MacDonald Omit Contradictory Data and Misrepresent His Sources?
The most obvious methodological problem with the articles produced by Cofnas thus far on the work of Kevin MacDonald is that they are historiographically illiterate. In neither his original 2018 article, nor the 2021 rehash, does Cofnas cite a single volume of serious thematic history on the Jews and their relations with Europeans, or demonstrate in any way that he has consulted one. In none of his essays does he explore in any fashion the second, and most historiographically intensive, of MacDonald’s three volumes, Separation and Its Discontents (SAID) (although he does claim [absurdly] that his critique of The Culture of Critique (CofC) also refutes SAID). Nor does he demonstrate anywhere in his work that he has in fact read it. The expected rejoinder would be that Cofnas is merely a philosopher concerned with biology and ethics, to which one can only respond that while Kevin MacDonald is a professor of evolutionary psychology, he still managed to consult and integrate around two hundred historical monographs when he decided to explore the historical trajectory and behavioral traits of the Jews.
Cofnas, who cites himself and webzines more than monographs, has attempted to escape from having to rely on historiography, much of which is quite frankly damning of everything he’s written, via two primary strategies. The first is that he simply rubbishes MacDonald’s use of historiography, accusing MacDonald of relying on “systematically misrepresented sources and cherry-picked facts.” For such a bold statement, however, Cofnas merely references his own original article as supporting evidence for it, and spends only one paragraph in that original article attempting to prove its veracity, with one of its central pillars being the claim that MacDonald omits evidence that might run counter to his theory of a group evolutionary strategy. In his 2018 article, for example, Cofnas writes of Culture of Critique,
Nowhere in the book does he acknowledge that a great deal of Jewish involvement in politics across time and place has been decidedly opposed to narrow Jewish interests, including Israel. The most influential Jewish radical in history, Karl Marx, held extremely anti-Jewish views.
The implication here, somewhat muddled, is that MacDonald is willing to refer, for example, to Karl Marx as a Jew and a radical socialist, but not as an anti-Semite. It’s an unfortunate example offered by Cofnas, however, because MacDonald does in fact do the latter right at the beginning of his chapter (3) on Jews and the Left. In MacDonald’s own words,
Marx himself, though born of two ethnically Jewish parents, has been viewed by many as an anti-Semite. His critique of Judaism (“On the Jewish Question”) conceptualized Judaism as fundamentally concerned with egoistic money seeking; it has achieved world domination by making both man and nature into saleable objects. Marx viewed Judaism as an abstract principle of human greed that would end in the communist society of the future.
And there is a long footnote to this passage discussing some of the claims made by various scholars regarding Marx’s Jewish identity, the point being that Cofnas’s bald assertion that Marx was an anti-Semite is historically illiterate. So much for “nowhere in the book.” It’s difficult to imagine a clearer and more succinct enunciation and summary of the anti-Jewish aspects of Karl Marx’s thought, which MacDonald then clearly and thoughtfully addresses. Citing Jacob Katz (and as an owner of several volumes by Katz I’ve checked for accuracy), perhaps the foremost mainstream 20th century scholar of Jewish-Christian relations between the medieval and modern periods, MacDonald astutely qualifies his summary of Marx’s anti-Semitism by stressing that “Marx argued against the idea that Jews must give up their Jewishness to be German citizens, and he envisioned that Judaism, freed from the principle of greed, would continue to exist in the transformed society after the revolution.” Cofnas not only doesn’t have a response to this fact, or the source material, his article merely dissembles that it doesn’t exist, or that MacDonald in any case doesn’t make reference to it. Again, this is in the context of Cofnas’s accusation of “misrepresented sources and cherry-picked facts.” Who is really misrepresenting sources in this instance?
The specific accusation that MacDonald had misrepresented and cherry-picked facts had particular resonance for me because the wording was very similar to an old exchange I’d read on H-Net over a decade ago when I first encountered MacDonald’s work. Of the trilogy, I had read Separation and Its Discontents first, and found it nothing less than remarkable. I quickly ordered the other two volumes, and after that began reading ‘around’ the books, as is my inescapable habit with any text, by consulting available scholarly criticism. During this process, I came across the complaints of several Jewish scholars, most prominent among them David I. Lieberman (then, like Cofnas, a doctoral student—in musicology), who would later belatedly admit of MacDonald’s trilogy “I was able to complete a thorough reading and critique of only volume one and some skimming of the other two.” Cofnas, of course, openly admitted in his first essay to not even considering the first two volumes.
Nevertheless, despite evidence of only the most superficial reading, Lieberman and a handful of others made enough accusations (as with Cofnas, these were only rarely or pedantically substantiated) of manipulation of sources in CofC for me to engage in a few days of detective work. I was more or less encamped in my college library at the time and, while I couldn’t consult all of the works listed by MacDonald in SAID and CofC, I was able to find most of the historical works, and ended that few days of research satisfied that MacDonald’s use of the scholarly sources was both accurate and appropriate. I don’t know anything about Cofnas’s methodology in preparing his critique of MacDonald’s work, although it looks like no more than a couple of afternoons spent on the internet, but I can say that what he has written is most certainly not original, at least not to anyone remotely familiar with the extensive (and around 20-year-old) H-Net exchanges. In fact, Cofnas comes across as a very pale and embarrassing echo of Lieberman. Has Cofnas simply “borrowed” Lieberman’s accusations of source misrepresentation and cherry-picking, assuming them to have more substance than they in fact do? This is anyone’s guess, although I’m fairly certain of my own opinion on the matter.
I think it would be beneficial to closely examine at least one of the major original H-Net “manipulation/omission” accusations in order to explore more deeply the way these Jewish students have approached both MacDonald and the source material. In a 2001 post titled “MacDonald’s citations and silences,” Lieberman focuses heavily on MacDonald’s discussion of Jewish support for communism in Poland between 1939 and 1945. In fact, the vast majority of his discussion of putative source manipulation concerns this one narrow area. Lieberman writes,
Kevin MacDonald’s discussion of Jews in Communist Poland [“Jedwabne,” 16 Feb 2001] continues to exhibit the tendencies I explore in my Occasional Paper on his citations to Jaff Schatz: principally, MacDonald bases conclusions on isolated quotations drawn from his sources, ignoring contradictory data that appears in those same sources. MacDonald’s conclusion: “Jews were correctly perceived as more welcoming of the Soviets after the 1939 invasion and as more loyal to the Communist regime after 1945.” I have already noted that MacDonald’s generalizations about Jewish group loyalty to the postwar Communist regime in Poland rest heavily on his omission of large-scale Jewish emigration as a factor in assessing Jewish loyalty. Schatz reports figures that show a decline in the Jewish population of some two-thirds between 1945 and 1949, information MacDonald withholds from his readers. (Schatz, 1991, 203, 207, 208). [emphasis added]
The first problem with this critique should be obvious. Here we have Lieberman accusing MacDonald of lifting quotes out of context, who then, without the slightest hint of irony, proceeds to refer to just a single, context-less sentence from MacDonald. Cofnas performs much the same charade, and it is as tedious as it is pathetic. In CofC, MacDonald in fact spends ten pages discussing Jews and Polish communism, in which there is much nuance and several streams of argument, which Lieberman would have us dismiss because the Jewish student is unhappy with the way in which MacDonald summarizes some of it. If we read Lieberman’s critique more closely, we see that his problem is not with the first half of the sentence, since on that matter Lieberman has nothing to say. And nor should he have something to say, since it is scholarly consensus (not to mention common sense) that Polish Jews in 1939, temporarily or otherwise, found the communists the better option between the more anti-Semitic National Socialists and the equally anti-Jewish Polish Nationalists. The problem then, is with MacDonald’s assertion that Jews remaining in Poland after 1945 were correctly perceived as more loyal to the Communist regime. Here, Lieberman makes the case that this is incorrect because MacDonald hasn’t taken into account Jewish emigrants. Again, to be absolutely clear, Lieberman is unhappy that in a discussion of loyalty to the Communist regime among Jews in Poland, MacDonald is not discussing Jews who emigrated. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence sees no contradiction in MacDonald’s treatment of the subject here. MacDonald’s argument is primarily that Jews are highly ethnocentric and are flexible strategists in pursuing their interests. The majority of Polish Jews after 1945 saw their group and individual interests better served in emigrating, primarily to Israel. And here we have a repetition of Cofnas’s “nowhere in the book” howler, because contrary to Lieberman’s accusation of omission, MacDonald clearly refers to, and explains, the emigration of “most Polish Jews” to Israel in the course of his discussion of Polish Jews and communism, at the bottom of page 66 (paperback edition).
The accusation of omission, like that of our new Lieberman-lite in relation to Marx, is simply bogus — the result either of blatant lies or of mere “skimming” of the texts these students pretentiously attempt to critique. This just leaves us with the commonsense idea that those Jews who remained and did not emigrate would have likely possessed a particular loyalty to the Communist regime. Lieberman offers no argument to this assertion. And so we see that behind big, bold accusations of source misrepresentation and omission we find nothing but poor reading comprehension and an incomplete study of the texts on the part of the student critics.
This pattern is repeated for all of Lieberman’s accusations, as I discovered more than a decade ago, and which sparked my first correspondence with MacDonald. Where MacDonald is accused of “ignoring contradictory data” we most often find that MacDonald has in fact included the contradictory data and that it has been ignored or missed by critics. In other instances, we find that the ignored “data” is simply the subjective opinion of a historian which MacDonald is by no means obliged to agree with. Lieberman’s charade lasted around two years. Sleepy Nathan Cofnas, with his single paragraph, seems to be attempting a similar challenge but is noticeably “low energy” when compared to his predecessor. Cofnas’s similarly sleepy attempts to challenge MacDonald on post-World War II Poland were discussed extensively in MacDonald’s first (pp. 28–30) and second reply (pp. 31–32).
The “In Default” Hypothesis
Nathan Cofnas has made much of his ‘default hypothesis,” which leaves so much unsaid that it would be more accurately described as the “in default hypothesis.” Cofnas argues that, predominantly due to a higher than average IQ and a tendency toward urban living, Jews will naturally be over-represented in all intellectual movements and activities that are not overtly anti-Semitic. As such, while Jews may be overrepresented in pro-immigration, pro-pluralism organizations and movements, the default hypothesis insists that they will also be overrepresented in nationalist, anti-immigration or restrictionist movements (that are not anti-Semitic) also. There is an inherent implication that these overrepresentations will be, more or less, to the same degree, since Cofnas refuses to discuss the matter in any serious way that might allow for, or explain, why any potential divergence in over-representation might occur.
I tested this hypothesis almost three years ago in a survey of pro-immigration and anti-immigration bodies titled “Jewish Involvement in Contemporary Refugee and Migrant Organizations.” The senior staff directories of the three most prominent anti-immigration think tanks currently in operation in United States were consulted—are the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). At FAIR, four of 52 senior staff members are Jewish, including President Dan Stein, Media Director Ira Mehlman, and Board members Sarah G. Epstein and Paul Nachman. This is a Jewish representation of approximately 7.7%. Across all three major anti-immigration organizations, Jews occupy 5.13% of senior roles. This is a modest over-representation of Jews relative to their proportion of the population compared to many other areas, but may in fact be a very generous figure to settle on as an approximate broader working figure, because Jews were totally absent from the senior levels of every smaller organization consulted. For example, no Jews were/are listed on staff at similar but smaller groups such as American Immigration Control Foundation, California Coalition for Immigration Reform, ProjectUSA, or American Patrol. There is thus a very real possibility that Jews are not over-represented at all in terms of involvement in anti-immigration politics. As well as quantitative data, qualitative data should also of course be considered, especially where it sheds light on the motivations of Jewish members/leaders and how these match, or diverge from, the motivations and goals of their non-Jewish counterparts. One FAIR insider, for example, has remarked of Dan Stein,
FAIR has been described by former board members as “Dan Stein’s 401(k) plan.” It scarfs up most of the immigration patriot money available, especially from timid Establishment foundations, does essentially nothing and spends a lot of its time undercutting and blocking potential rivals. Stein has been running FAIR since 1988, i.e., has presided over a period of continuous defeats for the immigration patriot movement. Activists seriously debate whether he is a mole.
Working within MacDonald’s theoretical framework, in which concerns about anti-Semitism will be primary among Jews of all political hues, a reasonable prediction would be that Jewish representation in anti-immigration movements would be both exceptional in the larger picture of the immigration debate, and, rather than being concerned about traditional America as a whole, will be focused almost exclusively on the exclusion of those immigrants or refugees perceived to be anti-Semitic, especially Muslims from the Middle East. In other words, such representations will be based on what might be termed renegade, minority, or abnormal perceptions of Jewish interests, rather than shared concerns or earnest sympathies with the greater mass of the native population.
In this regard, Ira Mehlman and Stephen Steinlight are especially interesting figures. In a 2012 interview with Peter Beinart, Mehlman is unambiguous in telling his interviewer: “current mass immigration policies are harming the interests of American Jews. … Mass immigration is introducing large numbers of new people to American society who hold far less favorable opinions of Jews.” Similarly, in 2001 Steinlight penned an essay for the Center for Immigration Studies bluntly titled “The Jewish Stake in America’s Changing Demography.” In the course of the essay, Steinlight condemns earlier periods of nativism and restrictionism in the United States, and strongly promotes pluralistic and multicultural ideals. In fact, Steinlight’s only apparent grievance with existing immigration structures is that they have resulted in the fact at some point in the next 20 years Muslims will outnumber Jews, and that Muslims with an “Islamic agenda” are growing active politically through a widespread network of national organizations. This is occurring at a time when the religion of Islam is being supplanted in many of the Islamic immigrant sending countries by the totalitarian ideology of Islamism of which vehement anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism form central tenets.
Such sentiments are essentially neoconservative, itself of course a largely Jewish ideological movement in conflict with native interests, and are entirely predictable within the basic theoretical framework offered by MacDonald, while doing little or nothing to corroborate the default hypothesis offered by Cofnas. Steinlight and Mehlman are primarily concerned by potential increases in anti-Semitism and a decline in Jewish political clout, and not with any broader implications of pluralism, multiculturalism, or White demographic decline which are the primary concerns of the vast majority of White anti-immigration activists. The point here is that MacDonald’s thesis does not require every Jewish academic to cynically use his or her discipline to advance Jewish interests, but that it does advance the idea that Jews will overwhelmingly see support for pluralism and mass immigration as being in their interests. This idea was then tested in relation to Jewish representation in refugee and pro-immigration organizations.
In contrast to a generously assumed overrepresentation of Jews in anti-immigration groups (around 5% at absolute maximum), Jews are nothing short of prolific in influential senior roles in contemporary refugee, asylum, and pro-migration organizations. Significantly, Jews occupy the leadership of all four of the largest and most influential (and nominally secular) organizations active in America today, the International Rescue Committee (President and CEO David Miliband), Refugees International (President Eric P. Schwartz, formerly of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society [HIAS]), International Refugee Assistance Project (Director Becca Heller), and Human Rights Watch (Executive Director Kenneth Roth, and Deputy Directors Iain Levine and Fred Abrahams). The International Rescue Committee works closely with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Division of Refugee Assistance, which was reported in August 2018 as quietly removing its staff directory page. Consultations with the Internet Wayback Machine revealed the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement to be one Carl Rubenstein, an alumnus of Tel Aviv Law School. In 2017, the IRC, in conjunction with Rubenstein’s ORR, resettled more than 51,000 migrants to the United States. Jews are very prominent in the leadership of the IRC. In addition to President and CEO David Miliband, there are at least 30 Jews in senior positions within the organization including
Morton I. Abramowitz (Overseer), Madeleine Albright (Overseer), Laurent Alpert (Board Member), Clifford Asness (Board Member), Betsy Blumenthal (Overseer), Alan Batkin (Chairman Emeritus and Board Member), Michael W. Blumenthal (Overseer), Susan Dentzer (Board Member), Evan G. Greenberg (Overseer), Morton I. Hamburg (Overseer), Leila Heckman (Overseer), Karen Hein (Overseer), Marvin Josephson (Overseer),Alton Kastner (Overseer and former Deputy Director), Henry Kissinger (Overseer), David A. Levine (Board Member), Reynold Levy (Overseer), Robert E. Marks (Overseer), Sara Moss (Overseer), Thomas Nides (Board Member), Susan Petricof (Overseer), Gideon Rose (Overseer), Thomas Schick (Chairman Emeritus and Board Member), James Strickler (Overseer), Sally Susman (Board Member), Mona Sutphen (Board Member), Merryl Tisch (Board Member), Maureen White (Board Member), Jonathan Wiesner (Chairman Emeritus and Board Member), William Winters (Overseer), and James D. Wolfensohn (Overseer).
The Board of the IRC is comprised of 30 individuals, 12 of whom are Jewish, giving a Jewish representation at senior board level of 40%. The Board of Overseers consists of 78 individuals, of whom at least 25 are Jewish, giving a Jewish representation at this level of just over 32%. Since Jews occupy the position of CEO at the IRC, as well as 40% of the senior board and 32% of the lower board, it would be reasonable to assert that they enjoy a dominant role within the organization. This dwarfs any Jewish representation seen in anti-immigration groups, and creates a significant problem in attempting to apply Cofnas’s default hypothesis.
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) came to national prominence when Director Becca Heller brought a class action suit against Trump’s January 2017 travel ban on individuals from certain Muslim countries. Heller, who has described herself as an “intensely neurotic Jew,” was active from the very earliest airport detentions, and was assisted by former Yale law professor Michael Wishnie, also Jewish and a former member of Jews for Economic and Social Justice. The case was later also supported and taken up by the Immigrant’s Rights division of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at the direction of its two Deputy Directors, Lee Gelernt and Judy Rabinowitz, both of whom are Jewish. At IRAP, there are three Jews on the board of the International Refugee Assistance Project: Jon Finer, David Nierenberg, and Carl Reisner. The board consists of 12 members, giving a Jewish representation of 25%. Aside from the board, other influential positions in the organization are held by Jews, including Deputy Legal Director (Lara Finkbeiner), and legal fellow (Julie Kornfeld). Again, this is significantly greater than any Jewish representation seen in anti-immigration groups.
Refugee organizations are also reliant to a great extent on legal assistance provided by “immigrant’s rights” organizations. Here too, Jews appear to be overrepresented by a large margin. For example, Jews comprise just over 14% of overall listed staff at the National Immigrant Justice Center, and dominate the most senior positions. These include Director of Policy (Heidi Altman, former legal director for the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition), Associate Director of Legal Services (Ashley Huebner), Director of Litigation (Charles Roth), and Associate Director of Litigation (Keren Zwick). Maria Blumenfeld, a former senior lawyer for NIJC departed the group for another, almost identical organization, named Equal Justice Works, the Director of which is David Stern, also Jewish. Another interesting organization is the Immigrant Defense Project. Of the 15 listed senior staff, at least four are verifiably Jewish (Development Director Ariadna Rodenstein, Senior Staff Attorney Genia Blaser, Supervising Attorney Marie Mark, and Supervising Attorney Andrew Wachtenheim). This is a Jewish representation at senior level of over 26% — significantly greater than any Jewish representation seen in anti-immigration groups.
At the National Immigration Law Center, 18.5% of its staff lawyers are verifiably Jewish, and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project is under Jewish Presidency (Ty Frankel) and 26% of its board is Jewish (Frankel, Ira Feldman, David Androff, Nathan Fidel, and Andrew Silverman). The Immigrant Legal Resource Center was founded mostly via the efforts of Jewish lawyer Mark Silverman, described here as “one of the very first movement lawyers helping DREAMers.” Its board is under Jewish chairmanship (Lisa Spiegel), and its Executive Director is Eric Cohen, also Jewish. Another organization providing legal support for the pro-immigration lobby is the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Right’s Under the Law. Of its six most senior staff, three are Jewish (Jon M. Greenbaum, Lisa Bornstein, and Samuel Weiss). At the Asylum Advocacy Project, two of the five members of the advisory board are Jewish (Dani Isaacsohn and the above mentioned Michael Wishnie), and its list of donors appears to be at least 40% Jewish.
The Director of Refugee Council USA is Naomi Steinberg. The Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union is the Jewish feminist Donna Lieberman who includes among her ongoing activities “resisting the Trump regime’s attack on immigrant children and refugees,” while its Legal Director is Arthur Eisenberg. The American Immigration Council is under the Jewish Directorship of Beth Werlin, its Research Director is the Argentinian Jew Guillermo Cantor (see a great example of his propaganda here), and its Policy and Media Director is Royce Bernstein Murray. The area director for Refugee Services of Texas in Austin is the Jewish Erica Schmidt-Portnoy. Meanwhile, another Portnoy, Diane Portnoy, Jewish founder and CEO of The Immigrant Learning Center, has demanded that Massachusetts should welcome more Syrian refugees. A similar organization is the Open Avenues Foundation, which has the stated goal of “helping foreign nationals build their unique path to thrive in the United States.” The founder and executive director of Open Avenues is Danielle Goldman, also Jewish.
None of the above takes into account the equally prolific presence of Jews in what might be termed the “propagandistic” elements of the unfolding era of mass migration (e.g., the media), or areas of activism in which Jews act explicitly as Jews (e.g., HIAS, the ADL). There really is no comparison between Jewish involvement in anti-immigration politics, and Jewish involvement in pro-immigration politics. In fact, the only place on earth where one might find ample evidence of the former is Israel – a fact that damns the Cofnas default hypothesis rather than supporting it.
 Cofnas, N. (2018). Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy: A critical analysis of Kevin MacDonald’s theory. Human Nature, 29(2), 134–156.
 MacDonald, K. (2018a). Reply to Nathan Cofnas The Unz Review (March 20, 2018); MacDonald, K. Second Reply to Nathan Cofnas, Revision of April 19, 2018