In the struggle to free themselves from their obligations to the national populations from which they have emerged, the new elites in the West repeatedly appeal to universal human rights. Increasingly, however, it turns out that universal human rights are becoming a tool to undermine particular civil rights anchored in the nation-state. In the name of equality the very category of citizenship – i.e., the distinction between citizens and residents, immigrants, foreign workers and illegal aliens – is progressively eroded.
This is true not only in Israel. Just last month the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the addition of a citizenship question to the upcoming nationwide census conducted in the United States every 10 years. And a little over six months ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which edges toward turning immigration into something approaching a universal right. The European Union applauded this and rumor has it that it is now seeking to have the accord, which is not binding according to international law, made binding on its members states (some of which have already declared that they will not accept it).
The EU’s stance is not surprising, of course, since that organization itself aims at transcending borders. Some even believe, along with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, that borders are “the worst invention ever.”
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It’s no coincidence that most citizens, tied as they are to a local economy, a national language, and a particular political apparatus through which they can exercise control over their collective fate, are less enthusiastic about such a prospect. The more easily mobile elites may imagine a free and uniform global village without national boundaries that is characterized, as George Soros put it once, “not only by the free movement of goods and services but, more important, by the free movement of ideas and of capital.” But if you are more likely to find yourself on the side of “services” than on the side of “capital,” the vision may seem less attractive.
Because in this imagined global village – so comfortable for the rich and lacking in limitations and borders – there will be another missing element, which is crucial: citizenship. Instead of civil rights anchored in the state, all of us will have to make do with a more basic right: the right to move freely from one pasture that has dried up to another that may still have some remains of welfare institutions, left behind by societies formerly bonded by solidarity, which have since vanished from the face of the Earth.
And while the elites look down on all this from airport business lounges, it’s not clear what will be in store for the multitudes who have been uprooted and turned into a uniform gray mass, deprived of a political framework to hold onto or through which to express a political will.
Most citizens are therefore understandably reluctant to join their superiors in singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Instead, they are attempting to hold on to their citizenship in their respective nation-states. And as long as these states defend their sovereignty and remain democratic, the stationary rooted majorities will continue to defend the erasure of their borders.
A globalist elite, therefore, must bypass democracy en route to its globalist dream. As I have had other occasions to say, it has various means by which to subvert the democratic procedure of decision-making: Via civil society organizations that inject the influence of capital into the political arena; by the gradual transfer of sovereignty from elected to appointed bodies; through subjection of political processes to legal ones; by increasing reliance on international law at the expense of state laws; and by supporting international organizations that encroach on the sovereignty of states.
But these mobile elites also seek allies in their struggle against their sedentary fellow countrymen who stubbornly cling to their roots. And these allies can be found in another, much less fortunate population, which is also mobile: Third world labor migrants driven to move by poverty.
By supporting the cause of illegal migrants under the banner of universal human rights the most well-off citizens of Western nations are in effect attacking the concept of citizenship as exclusionary and often as “racist.” They deliberately turn political differences into cultural ones, and cultural ones into biological ones, so as to make them morally unacceptable.
That is why immigration policy is such a contested topic wherever the struggle between internationalist elites and national citizens is taking place: It is a struggle over the right of citizens to determine the boundaries of their collective existence, geographically as well as demographically – a crucial element in their ability to retain control of their common destiny. This then – self-determination, i.e., democracy itself – is now being undermined en route to the global village under the high-minded banner of universal human rights.
What awaits at the end of this road is not a utopia where all of us would have the equally robust rights of citizens. It is a dystopia in which we will all have the diminished rights of permanent migrants.
We get a glimpse of all this from the fact that a whole army of pro-immigration NGOs employ the language of universal rights and compassion in a rather one-sided way. The entire humanitarian arsenal is always brought to a halt at the doorstep of the elderly Israeli woman who is paying the price of the elites’ lofty idealism. Because her neighborhood has turned into a foreign slum, and she can’t afford to move out. When it comes to the poor in our own cities – all of a sudden there is nothing but silence. So it turns out that empathy is not so universal, after all. Somehow, the plight of illegal aliens is a moral banner, while the plight of a poor old lady in south Tel Aviv, is just “racism.”
Such selective empathy is not just an Israeli phenomenon. The views of the enlightened elites are split and fractured in precisely the same way throughout the Western world between empathy for migrants and contempt for natives. Because everywhere in the West the rights of illegal migrants have turned into a tool for curbing the rights of those multitudes of stubborn, backward citizens who don’t deserve their rights – bigots that they are. And what makes them bigots? Their rejection of unlimited immigration, of course, and their inability to see the virtues of the global village. Thus the attack on democratic sovereignty justifies itself as a crusade against bigotry.
But the sedentary masses of national citizens don’t reject the global village because they are racist xenophobes. They have just glimpsed what it is going to look like because they see its beginnings in south Tel Aviv, or the suburbs of the city of Malmo in Sweden, or Saint Denis in Paris or Neukölln in Berlin. This may not affect the affluent suburbs, where elites indulge in feeling morally superior while enjoying access to cheap labor, but others increasingly understand who is going to pay the price.
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