How the U.S. Nixed a Philippine Effort to Save Jews from Hitler

Feb. 24 2020

Near the end of the 1930s, when much of the world had closed its doors to Jewish refugees, the Philippine president Manuel Quezon decided to welcome Jews from Austria and Germany to his country. But the U.S. government, which in 1935 had granted autonomy but not complete independence to the Commonwealth of the Philippines, interfered with his efforts. Rich Tenorio writes:

Quezon wanted to bring tens of thousands of Jews to the Philippines and permanently settle them on the island of Mindanao. [But he] faced internal opposition to his refugee plan within the Philippines. . . . Quezon’s health also hindered his ability [to carry out his plan]; he was battling a relapse of the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him. . . .

“Unfortunately, the Americans rejected the idea,” said [Israel Imperial, the current Philippine ambassador to Israel], adding that a compromise figure of 10,000 was reached—1,000 visas over ten years—but the Japanese invasion of the Philippines brought the program to “an abrupt end.” Imperial said that the number of Jews saved by Quezon is between 1,200 and 1,300.

A new feature film, Quezon’s Game, directed by the Philippines-based Jewish filmmaker Matthew Rosen, may help cement the initiative’s place in history. [There is also a] 2020 documentary, The Last Manilaners, directed by Nico Hernandez, [as well as] a 2012 documentary by the Filipino filmmaker Noel Izon, An Open Door: Jewish Rescue in the Philippines.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Holocaust, Refugees, Righteous Among the Nations, Southeast Asia

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy