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

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy