American Jews who have jumped onto the anti-immigration bandwagon should reconsider, Bret Stephens, the New York Times’ pro-Israel columnist, said at a Touro Law Center event last Thursday.
“We too were foreigners in this country, we too are only recently arrived,” Stephens said. “We should think about that when we think of the question of our attitude toward foreigners.”
As “the children of Abraham … we understand the value of independent thinking,” Stephens said at Touro, in Central Islip, on the occasion of receiving the college’s Bruce K. Gould Book Award. Immigrants bring fresh ideas and growth to America, he said.
As a columnist for the Wall Street Journal in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Stephens became an outlier for his criticism of candidate Donald Trump. Moving to the Times, where an anti-Israel slant dominates both news and opinion pages, he again stands out both as a conservative and as a Zionist. Earlier in his career, he was editor of the Jerusalem Post.
In surveying conditions around the world, Stephens explained why the United States needs to fill the role of world policeman — although he emphasized that such a job does not entail getting involved in conflicts indiscriminately, avoiding places where intervention is not welcome.
“It would be lovely if the Brits could do it for us, but they can’t. It would be lovely if the Europeans would do it for us, but they won’t. It would be lovely if the U.N. would do it for us, but they shouldn’t, because when the U.N. sends peacekeepers around the world what usually follows is a trail of sexual assault and non-security,” he said.
Over 70 years, the United States has had the two qualifications necessary to fill the world policeman’s role, Stephens said — “capacity and benignity.”
“You want the cop on the beat not to break anyone’s head but to send a signal to the perverbial good citizens of the world that we’re here and to the protential aggressors of the world that they should watch out,” he said.
“The tragedy of the 1920 and 1930s is that as the U.S. went into a period of isolationism, it opened the door for imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Soviet Russia to destroy the world order,” he said, pointing out that “when we were dragged in, we lost close to a quarter million Americans trying to stamp that out.”
Stephens presented an ominous view of developments in the Middle East.
“Iran and Israel are heading into a war spiral and if I had to place a bet — and my bets aren’t always good — I think Iran and Israel will be at war in Syria by the end of the year,” he said.