A Holocaust Museum Exhibit Goes Out of Its Way to Defend FDR

According to its curator, a new exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum titled Americans and the Holocaust aims to show—among other things—that “even the U.S. president faces constraints.” Yet to Rafael Medoff, the exhibit goes one step further and seems to exonerate Franklin D. Roosevelt for his indifference to the plight of Jews in Hitler’s Europe:

The exhibit defends FDR’s refusal, from 1933 to 1938, to criticize Hitler’s persecution of the Jews publicly. A text panel claims that “the accepted rules of international diplomacy obliged [the U.S. government] to respect Germany’s right to govern its own citizens and not intervene on behalf of those being targeted.” [But] Presidents Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan, and Ulysses S. Grant protested the mistreatment of Jews in Syria, Switzerland, and Romania, respectively. Theodore Roosevelt protested the persecution of Jews in Romania. The U.S. government, under President William Taft, canceled a Russo-American treaty to protest Russia’s oppression of Jews. Woodrow Wilson inserted clauses protecting minorities in the Paris Peace Conference agreements [following World War I]. There was ample precedent for Franklin D. Roosevelt to speak out; he chose not to. . . .

In any event, the president could have aided Jews [trying to escape Europe] without provoking a public controversy by quietly allowing the existing quota [for immigrants from Germany] to be filled. However, FDR permitted that quota to be fully utilized in only one of his twelve years in office, and in most of those years it was less than 25-percent filled. More than 190,000 quota places from Germany and Axis-occupied countries were left unused from 1933 to 1945. . . .

The exhibit [also] does not mention that clergy, professors, and students could have been admitted without regard to number. Nor is there any mention of the proposals for admitting refugees temporarily to U.S. territories such as Alaska or the Virgin Islands.

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More about: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Holocaust, Holocaust Museums, Refugees

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority