Ron Unz: Controversial Writer and Funder of Anti-israel Activists

January 20, 2014

Conservative businessman Ron Unz has stirred controversy over the last year by publicizing ideas that appeal to anti-Semites; offering a forum for writers who demonize Israel and funding several anti-Israel activists, some of whom promote anti-Semitic canards. Though Unz does not appear to be an anti-Semite, he provides support to extreme anti-Israel ideologues and his writings resonate with and are regularly cited by anti-Semites.

Unz’s newest venture, which began in November 2013, is a webzine called The Unz Review. As editor-in-chief and publisher, Unz asserts that he founded the online publication because the mainstream media ignores or conceals certain information and ideas with regard to issues such as foreign policy and race.  In an effort to “remedy this disturbing situation,” Unz has offered a forum for “controversial perspectives” that he says do not reach major newspapers or TV. Although Unz claims that he does not agree with many of the views presented in the webzine, he nonetheless has provided a new outlet for certain writers to attack Israel and Jews.

For example, a January 2014 article on Stanley Fischer who has been nominated to be vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve claims that Jews in the Bush administration were suspected of spying for Israel. The writer, John Taylor, also suggests that Jewish-American political figures put Israeli interests first. A December 2013 article compared Israel to a teenager who received probation after killing a number of people in a car accident while drunk. The writer, Lorraine Barlett, argues that Israel, like the teenager, believes it is superior and commits terrible acts because it knows these acts will go unpunished. She also says that Israel has a warped soul and no moral compass.

The Unz Review emerged a year after another controversial action by Unz. In November 2012, he wrote an article, “The Myth of American Meritocracy,” for The American Conservative, which focuses on Jewish admission to Ivy League schools like Harvard. While Unz does not appear to have anti-Semitic intentions, a number of his arguments appeal to anti-Semites. Unz argues that Jews are overrepresented at prestigious universities even though their achievement levels have been in a downward spiral. He contrasts this situation with that of Asian-Americans, claiming that while the percentage of more qualified Asian-Americans applicants continues to rise, their numbers at elite colleges has remained stable.  Unz additionally claims that 20-25% of students at Ivy League schools are Jewish when Jews make up only 1.8% of college-age Americans.  

Unz claims that the group that suffers the most from the alleged “corrupt” admissions system at Ivy League schools is non-Jewish whites. He asserts that this group makes up “65-70 percent of America’s highest ability students” yet Jews “approximately match or even outnumber non-Jewish whites at Harvard and most of the other Ivy League schools….” He postulates that one reason that Jews are more readily admitted to Ivy League schools is that a large percentage of the schools’ administrators, including university presidents, are Jewish. He writes, “It would be unreasonable to ignore the salient fact that this massive apparent bias in favor of far less-qualified Jewish applicants coincides with an equally massive ethnic skew at the topmost administrative ranks of the universities in question….”

Though Unz qualifies this questionable statement by saying that he has no doubt that these school officials are “honest and sincere and attempt to do the best for their institutions,” he still believes that there is an underlying Jewish bias behind admissions at elite schools. He writes that “unconscious biases or shared assumptions can become a huge but unnoticed problem…and what else can be said when for the last two decades almost all of the leaders of our most elite universities have been drawn from an ethnic community constituting just 2 percent of America’s population?”

Most disturbingly, Unz implies that Jews are an alien presence in the United States. He claims that when Ivy League schools were dominated by White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, that at least that “group was generally aligned in culture, religion, ideology, and ancestry with perhaps 60 percent of America’s total population at the time, and therefore hardly represented an alien presence.” He contrasts this with the Jewish population arguing that “a similarly overwhelming domination by a tiny segment of America’s current population, one which is completely misaligned in all these respects, seems far less inherently stable, especially when the institutional roots of such domination have continually increased despite the collapse of the supposedly meritocratic justification.”

Academics like Nurit Baytch, have disputed Unz’s findings.  Baytch posted an article online debunking Unz’s research in October 2013. Anti-Semites, however, have been quick to embrace Unz’s conclusions in his article.

As might be expected, Kevin MacDonald, an anti-Semitic professor of evolutionary psychology at California State University at Long Beach, praises Unz’s article and uses Unz’s arguments to demonize Jews. In an article in the Winter 2012-2013 issue of The Occidental Quarterly, MacDonald asserts that Unz’s research has “several important messages for White advocates,” saying that the underrepresentation of non-Jewish whites means that this group is “highly discriminated against.” MacDonald claims that Unz’s work reveals that Jews achieve their “elite status” not through merit but through connections, ethnic networking and power. MacDonald writes that Unz’s work mirrors his own thesis that Jewish values are “at odds with the values of the great majority of non-Jewish White Americans.” MacDonald also argues that Unz’s article demonstrates that Jews and non-Jewish whites should be distinguished as two separate groups, particularly because Jews do not “identify with the people and culture of Christian Europe and its offshoots.”

Anti-Semite David Duke also salutes Unz’s research and asserts that “the Zio media image of Jews as being both smarter and harder working that European Americans is a myth.” Duke zeroes in on Unz’s argument that non-Jewish whites are more deserving of admittance to Ivy League schools. Duke writes, “Even though European Americans founded Harvard, America’s most important university, and are 68 percent of the American population, the university is now under powerful Jewish influence. It practices a blatant racist discrimination against better-qualified European American students….”

Duke has also been soliciting funds for a new book he is writing, The Zionist Conspiracy: The Ultimate Threat to America and All Mankind by highlighting Unz’s research on Ivy League admission. He writes that Jewish power “has elements of a tribal, ideological supremacy in concert with a supremacist religion” and adds “how it works can be clearly illustrated in the racist, tribal takeover of Harvard and the Ivy League.”

Unz is involved in other endeavors that raise questions about his views of Jews and Israel. Through the Unz Foundation, a California-based non-profit, he has funded Paul Craig Roberts, an anti-Semitic syndicated columnist. He also posts Roberts’ articles in The Unz Review. Since 2007, Roberts’ columns have increasingly focused on criticism of Israel and Jews and often conjure up anti-Semitic canards, making them popular with fringe publications on both the left and the right. Like many other contemporary anti-Semites, Roberts frames his anti-Semitism as criticism of Israel and the country’s supporters. His published views, however, go far beyond any criticism of Israel’s policies, regularly charging Israeli or Jewish control of the U.S. government and media and comparing Israel to the Nazi regime.

The Unz Foundation has also given grants to Mondoweiss, an anti-Israel blog run by Philip Weiss, which regularly reports on and promotes the initiatives of some of the more prominent leaders and groups associated with the domestic anti-Israel movement, including Ali Abunimah, co-founder of “Electronic Intifada”; Alison Weir, the executive director of If Americans Knew; and Norman Finkelstein, an anti-Israel speaker whom Unz also funds. The blog, which is quite popular in anti-Israel circles, is comprised of articles that feature a wide variety of anti-Israel themes, including claims of Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide, as well as accusations that the pro-Israel lobby retains excessive influence over U.S. foreign policy. Many of the articles written by Weiss on the site include opposition to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and comparisons between the atrocities of the Holocaust and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

In addition, Unz has funded Philip Giraldi, the Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, an anti-Israel group based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for an end to U.S. aid to Israel. CNI is one of ADL’s “Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in the U.S.” Giraldi, who has been the director of CNI since 2010, has authored numerous articles condemning pro-Israel lobbying efforts. In a June 2012 blog post published on a blog called “The Passionate Attachment,” Giraldi agreed with New York City Councilman Charles Barron’s assessment that Gaza is a “death camp” and also called Israel “the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.” Giraldi is the national security editor of The Unz Review.

Unz has also funded CounterPunch, a monthly magazine that features articles written from a radical left-wing perspective. The magazine often publishes anti-Israel or anti-Zionist articles and it has provided a platform for contributors such as Alison Weir; Sherry Wolf, a Jewish anti-Zionist activist affiliated with the International Socialist Organization; Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); and many others.