Refugees, the Holocaust, and the Danger of Illiterate and Partisan Analogies

Jan. 30 2017

Many of those outraged by President Trump’s executive order severely restricting the admission to the U.S. of people from certain Muslim countries have compared it with Franklin Roosevelt’s callous treatment of Jewish refugees from Europe during the 1930s, a comparison encouraged by the fact that Trump’s order was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day. While calling the president’s move “cruel and bigoted,” Walter Russell Mead and Nicholas M. Gallagher note, and correct, the mix of historical ignorance and political tendentiousness at work in these analogies:

The restrictions that kept out the St. Louis’s passengers, [who were turned away from the United States in 1939 and for the most part later perished in the Holocaust], were written into law in 1924, when the Reed-Johnson Act almost totally cut off immigration to the United States, refugee or otherwise. . . . [Going] far beyond anything we’re seeing (yet) today, [it] cut immigration by over 90 percent, and an almost total ban was imposed on immigrants from central, eastern, and southern Europe that would endure for two generations. Not even the Holocaust could pry the doors open more than a crack; large-scale immigration was not allowed to resume until 1965. . . .

[But the] real problem in the 1930s wasn’t the lack of compassion for Jewish and other refugees; it was the feckless appeasement of Adolf Hitler and the unwillingness to confront him that empowered the Nazi persecution of the Jews and created hundreds of thousands of refugees. So today the true villain of the Syria story—aside from Syria, Russia, and Iran—is the feckless Obama foreign policy that allowed a cyst to metastasize into a cancer, just as Britain, France, and America once allowed Hitler to grow into the master of Europe.

The Obama administration officials and cheerleaders now guilt-tripping the country over its “heartlessness” toward Syrian refugees are giving hypocrisy a bad name. Bad foreign policy is the cause of the heartbreak in Syria today, not bad immigration policy. The world does not need lectures from Susan Rice and Samantha Power on what we should do about Syrian refugees; the best way to deal with refugee flows is to prevent them from happening. The Holocaust was not caused by the Reed-Johnson Act; it was caused by Nazi hatred, enabled by naïve liberal illusions about the “arc of history” that prevented the West from mobilizing against Hitler when he was weak and easily defeated.

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More about: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Holocaust, Politics & Current Affairs, Refugees, Syrian civil war

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank