politics to go

Don’t compare the refugee ban to the Shoah


President Trump’s sweeping orders tightening refugee and visa policies — including suspending almost all refugee admissions for 90 days and indefinitely barring entry for some Syrians — is not especially unusual. President Obama refused to allow Iraqis into the country for six months in 2011, and in 1980 Jimmy Carter banned Iranians from entering the country.

Nevertheless, Trump foes are going crazy, saying the president created his order because he is Islamophobic. They’ve even come up with a ridiculous comparison: “Anne Frank was a refugee also.” Indeed, she was, but the reasons for Trump’s action were totally different from those that prevented Anne Frank and many like her from entering the United States.

Trump’s executive action is designed to prevent terrorists from coming into the U.S. It is temporary, to give Homeland Security time to evaluate and improve its vetting of refugees from troublesome countries. On the other hand, FDR barred entry to refugees simple because they were Jewish and he thought America didn’t need any more Jews — and his ban was permanent. 

In June 2016, CIA Director John Brennan said during congressional hearings that one of the ways terrorists infiltrate western nations is by embedding themselves within groups of refugees. In the case of the Holocaust, the Nazis weren’t embedding themselves with the Jewish refugees. It wasn’t even suspected. The Jewish refugees were kept out because FDR was a bigot; his hatred of Jews caused thousands to be added to the ranks of Hitler’s victims.

In the book “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,” historian Rafael Medoff suggests that Roosevelt failed to take relatively simple measures that would have saved significant numbers of Jews during the Holocaust, because his vision for America was one that had a small number of Jews. In other words, FDR doomed many Jews to suffer, not because he wanted them to die, but because he didn’t want them as neighbors.

In a piece for the Brandeis Center, Medoff shared some of the anti-Semitic statements Roosevelt made when his guard was down.

In 1936, he characterized a tax maneuver by the publisher of the New York Times as “a dirty Jewish trick.” In 1938, he privately suggested to Stephen S. Wise, one of the era’s most prominent American Jewish leaders, that Jews in Poland were dominating the economy and were to blame for provoking anti-Semitism there. In 1939, Roosevelt expressed (to a U.S. senator) his pride that “there is no Jewish blood in our veins.” In 1940, he dismissed pleas for Jewish refugees as “Jewish wailing” and “sob stuff.”

The most detailed of FDR’s statements about Jews was made during his meeting on Jan. 17, 1943, in Casablanca, with leaders of the new local regime in Allied-liberated North Africa. U.S. ambassador Robert Murphy remarked that the 330,000 Jews in North Africa were “very much disappointed that ‘the war for liberation’ had not immediately resulted in their being given their complete freedom.” (Before the war, when the Jews lived under the colonial French regime, they enjoyed rights similar to French citizens. But when the pro-Nazi Vichy French took over the French colonies in 1940, the Jews were stripped o those rights. In 1943, upon the defeat of the Vichyites, the Jews had expected their rights would be restored.)

According to the official record of the conversation (later published by the U.S. government in its Foreign Relations of the United States series), the president replied that “the number of Jews engaged in the practice of the professions (law, medicine, etc.) “should be definitely limited” so as to “eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany.” FDR explained that his plan “would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany.”

“He could have pressed the British to open Palestine’s doors to Jewish refugees,” Medoff wrote. “He could have authorized the use of empty troop-supply ships to bring refugees to stay in the U.S. temporarily, until the end of the war. He could have permitted refugees to stay as tourists in a U.S. territory, such as the Virgin Islands, until it was safe for them to return to Europe. He could have authorized the bombing of Auschwitz or the railway lines leading to it, which would have interrupted the mass-murder process.”

Simply, “He could have quietly permitted the immigration quotas to be filled to their legal limit — that alone would have saved 190,000 lives,” Medoff said.

One of Roosevelt’s most blatant acts of bigotry involved the USS St. Louis filled with Jewish refugees from Germany. The oceanliner’s 937 passengers, refugees, were denied entry into Cuba and then the United States before they were forced to return to Europe, where more than a quarter are thought to have been killed in the Holocaust 

Today, liberals are screaming that any delay or extreme vetting of refugees from terror-prone countries is an act of Islamophobia, even though CIA Director Brennan said during congressional testimony that refugee flows is one the ways terrorists infiltrate western nations. They are even trying to make ignorant comparisons between delaying the acceptance of refugees from terror-prone countries and the barring of refugees fleeing Hitler.

It is nonsensical to compare the two groups of refugees or the belief systems of the two presidents.