What are American Jews thinking?
The American-Jewish response to the [temporary immigration ban against six Muslim countries] seems to be out of sync with both the facts and experience. According to Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, virtually every prospective Syrian immigrant to the U.S. has been educated in institutions that portray “Jews as morally corrupt,” pit “all Muslims everywhere against non-Muslims anywhere,” and mandate violence against apostates “ as a religious duty.”
Nevertheless, American Jews who identify with the political left favor allowing as many Muslim immigrants into the country as possible, leading many other Americans, Jews and Gentiles, to wonder why the left-wing American Jews would want to admit individuals who are known to despise them and either want them killed or relegated to second-class status, dhimmitude, according to Shari’a law.
The left-wing Jews who favor mass Muslim immigration into the U.S. do not express moral outrage when Jewish Israelis are prohibited from entering most Muslim-dominated countries, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. They do not question if it is acceptable for six of the seven countries listed by President Trump in his original executive order to ban entry to holders of Israeli passports. The liberal-Jewish community has not responded as to why this double standard is tolerated.
Leaders of the Reform Movement in the U.S. justify their opposition to Mr. Trump’s executive order on immigration based on the conviction that Jews “know the impact that xenophobia and religious profiling have on all people whose lives are endangered by exclusionary laws.”
To bolster their argument, the Reform leaders cite a passage from Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:33: “We have not forgotten our charge: When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
First, this is a misstatement of the Scripture which refers to those “strangers” already residing in the midst of the Israelites. It does not refer to unknown prospective enemies. Furthermore, attempting to compare the “stranger” in the Torah to Muslims seeking refuge in the U.S. is simply an inexcusable distortion of the Biblical text. The “stranger” is a halachically converted Jew, living in the land of Israel, who has renounced idol worship and is now focused on Torah study. The Torah warns against disparaging converts in any way, but, rather, demands that they be embraced with love and treated as valued members of the Jewish community.
Further, the Reform misreading completely omits the Jewish concept of the “rodef,” an individual who is pursuing another for the purpose of murder. Identifying an individual as a “rodef” empowers potentially lethal action against an attacker.
In short, by “stranger,” the Torah does not refer to someone with a different religion, legal system, culture, and traditions, who wants to immigrate to the land of Israel and maintain that foreign way of life with the ultimate goal of forcing that religion on the Jewish public. Attempting to draw a universal, modern-day “humanistic” message from this passage is misleading.
Another left-wing ploy is the attempt to use the Holocaust to justify welcoming thousands of unvetted Muslim refugees into the U.S. However, equating President Trump’s executive order to the “paper walls,” the bureaucratic and administrative minutiae used by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep Jews from seeking a haven in the U.S. during World War II, is historically inaccurate. In that case, the U.S. State Department, under Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, thwarted Jewish immigration to America by creating a quota system of regulations and obstacles that were practically insurmountable.
Widespread antisemitism, nativism, and a policy of “America First” were the primary forces behind this campaign to exclude Jews. The word “refugee,” which implied “alien” to the bureaucrats and “secret agent” to the military, were immorally and dishonestly used to rationalize barring Jews.
Additionally, some members of Congress and the American public believed Jews coming from Eastern Europe were radicals, perhaps even Communists, who would become a “fifth column” in the U.S.
In any case, there is no evidence of any terrorist acts committed by Jewish refugees against the American homeland during the period 1933-1945, rendering the alleged comparison by liberal groups moot. The European Jews who sought refuge in the U.S. did not want to transform America into a Jewish state in which Jewish laws would be the law of the land, imposed on Americans, whether they liked it or not. To the contrary, most Jews viewed America as Die Goldene Medina (The Golden Land), where they would be free from oppression, able to live in a democratic society, practice their religion and traditions freely, and raise their children to be good Jews and responsible citizens of the U.S.
Nevertheless, the liberal groups’ attempt to use this comparison calls for a further analysis of exactly what happened to thwart the entry of Jewish would-be refugees into the U.S. during World War II.
On June 26, 1940, Mr. Long informed Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berl and the State Department Advisor on Political Relations James Dunn that the department was able to “delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length” the entry of Jewish immigrants to the U.S. This could be accomplished, he said, by “simply advising our Consul to put every obstacle in the way and to resort to various administrative advices [sic] which would postpone the granting of visas.”
Each Consul throughout the world had extensive discretion in determining eligibility of those who had applied to enter the U.S., using the limitations provided in the LPC (“likely to become a public charge”) clause of the 1917 immigration act. Under LPC, a refugee could easily be denied entry if the Consul arbitrarily decided the candidate might become reliant on the U.S. government for subsistence.
Within existing U.S. quotas at the time, more than 153,000 immigrants could have gained entry into the country annually between 1933 and 1945. Had the law been properly implemented, more than 1.8 million people would have been admitted, a far higher total than the approximately 200,000 who were actually allowed into the U.S. during that entire 12-year period. Most of the slots permitted by the quotas were left unfilled because Mr. Roosevelt supported the State Department’s determination to reduce severely the number of people entering the U.S.
Summarizing the callous and unconscionable behavior of the American government’s immigration policy during World War II, historian Henry Feingold recalled the explanation a rabbi once gave to Rep Emanuel Celler (D-NY), a Jewish member of the House Judiciary Committee: “Had six million cattle been slaughtered, there would have been some outcry, at least from animal lovers. But, in the case of fellow human beings, there was only eerie silence.”
Unlike the Muslim refugees who, at best, are seeking to enter the U.S. simply to avoid a civil war rather than join a resistance group to fight against ISIS, the Jews of Europe sought refuge in the U.S. because the Nazis—and even many of the resistance groups who opposed the Nazis—were determined to annihilate them.
Those who would learn from history must be concerned about objective truth and transmitting what actually occurred. They cannot allow individuals and groups who are either ignorant or are actively engaged in pushing their own particular agendas, to obscure a truthful understanding of what happened in the past.
Dr. Grobman, is a Hebrew University-trained historian. This is an excerpt from his article in thejewishvoiceandopinion.com on March 7.