Does Britain’s Celebration of Its Wartime Rescue of German Jewish Children Reflect a Guilty Conscience?

Nov. 28 2018

This Saturday marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival of 206 Jewish children from Germany to Britain; these were the first of some 10,000 who would arrive over the next eight months, thanks to an effort that came to be known as the Kindertransport. Robert Philpot notes that, while the UK is right to be proud of this effort—without parallel in any other country—this year’s celebrations overlook London’s mixed record when it came to Jewish refugees. Most importantly, when the British government let the children into the country, it made a conscious decision to bar their parents, most of whom perished in the Holocaust:

[T]he focus on the Kindertransport also hides a somewhat guilty national conscience, both about those who were not able to escape to Britain, and the fates—including internment and deportation—which befell some of those “lucky ones” who did, . . . some of [whom] were later designated “enemy aliens” [since they came from Austria and Germany, with which England was at war] and faced internment and deportation to Canada and Australia.

Britain adopted a highly restrictive policy toward migrants throughout the 1930s. No exceptions were made for refugees, meaning that by early 1938 there were only about 10,000 Jewish refugees in the country. . . . The introduction of the notorious White Paper of 1939, which capped Jewish migration to Mandatory Palestine at 20,000 per year, closed off another potential route of escape. “The world is divided into places where [Jews] cannot live and places where they may not enter,” lamented the future Israeli president Chaim Weizmann. . . .

Only after Kristallnacht—in the face of strong public support and with even newspapers which had previously been sympathetic toward the Nazis and hostile toward Jewish refugees rapidly changing their tune—did the numbers of refugees admitted to the UK begin to climb. Even then, however, it is important to remember that the Kindertransport was not a government initiative, but, as Tony Kushner of Southampton University has argued, “a voluntary scheme funded and implemented by the British public.” . . .

[Then-Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain himself wrote privately after Kristallnacht, “I believe the persecution [of Jews in Germany] arose out of two motives: a desire to rob the Jews of their money and a jealousy of their superior cleverness.” So as to leave his correspondent in no doubt as to his own attitude, the prime minister added: “No doubt the Jews aren’t a lovable people; I don’t care about them myself—but that is not sufficient to explain the pogrom.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: British Jewry, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Kindertransport, Kristallnacht, Neville Chamberlain, United Kingdom

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela