On Monday night, speaking at the University of Minnesota, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro was asked whether he supported the notion that a nation should be demographically and culturally homogenous, prompting him to offer an explanation of the difference between a nation based on a creed, like the United States or Israel, and other nation states based on ethnicity. The young man offering a question at the Q&A following the speech referred to Israel as a “demographically and culturally homogenous” nation, a description that Shapiro debunked, pointing out the vast diversity of the Jewish state. Shapiro also noted that he was uninterested in his ethnic identity as a Jew and only interested in his religious identity, pointing out that Noam Chomsky, along with Bernie Sanders, who are both ethnically Jewish, were “schmucks,” prompting laughter from the audience.
The exchange follows below:
Young man: I preface my question by saying that I admire your work for a number of different reasons and perhaps what I find most admirable about you is your strict sense of ethnic and religious identity as a Jew. Your Jewish background has clearly played a significant role in influencing or shaping the political, social and cultural ideals and values that you have as well as your support for Israel as a nation-state. So I’m wondering, Ben, do you support the classical definition as a nation as being demographically and culturally homogenous, like that of Israel, similar to the definition that American forefathers generally upheld, with exceptions, of course, until the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965?
So, one, I want to correct a mischaracterization; you said I take a lot of pride in my ethnic and religious identity? I take no pride in my ethnic identity; I take a lot of pride in my religious identity. There are a lot of people who have been born Jews who I just don’t care about. Noam Chomsky was born Jewish; he’s a schmuck. (laughter) I don’t care at all. Bernie Sanders, born Jewish: shmuck. (laughter)
The point that I’m making is that religious identity is a different thing because that’s a set of ideas and values. Religion is creedal in the same way the Declaration of Independence is creedal. So when it comes to the definition of a nation, I would say that it is very important that a nation have a creed in common. I’m not particularly interested in having an ethnicity in common. When they say that Israel, for example, is ethnically homogenous, that’s just not true. Israel is filled with Russian Jews and Ethiopian Jews and Yemeni Jews; my wife is a Moroccan Jew. So just because they all have a religion in common doesn’t make them ethnically identical by any stretch of the imagination. Again, it’s pretty hard to find somebody who’s more ethnically non-identical than a Russian Jew and an Ethiopian Jew. So the reason that I believe in Israel as a nation-state is not for ethnic reasons, it’s because of religious observance reasons, that Israel is a place where the religion of Judaism can thrive and be safe, which I think is an important thing.
I think the same thing is true in the United States when it comes to the creed of the United States. I think America is a creedal country; I think it’s what has made America great.
Now that’s not to say that everybody who comes into the country has an equal capacity to assimilate to that creed; the assimilation capacity of people I don’t think has to do much with ethnic identity; I think it does have to do with cultural identity. I think there are cultures that come into the country, people who come from various cultures, who may not be as easily able to assimilate because obviously, that’s just the case. There are people who come in and they already know English; there are people who come in and they’ve already had a history with Western democracy; there are people who come in and they’ve never seen a gay person before and in their old country gay people were caned and killed.
So it’s important to recognize that cultures are not the same thing as ethnicities, and I think it’s a dangerous game to play when we say that ethnicity means culture when they clearly do not mean anything of the sort.