Don’t compare Jews in ‘30s with today’s refugees


This article was written by a Jewish Star reader from Far Rockaway in response to last week’s column, “Shoah redux: Same flawed rationale.” Last week’s article was part of a point-counterpoint with a column titled “A clumsy launch but perfectly legal.”

In a column last week titled, “Shoah redux: Same flawed rationale,” Albert Kramer asserts a familiar case in opposition to President Trump’s temporary travel ban. That is, the U.S. today is committing the same egregious mistake it did in 1939 when it refused to admit the Jews of the St. Louis due to its strict immigration laws. After having been refused entry by a host of countries, the ship was sent back to Germany, where many of the passengers perished in the Holocaust. The State Department’s reasoning, as Mr. Kramer points out, was its fear that Jewish refugees were actually spies for the Germans and thus presented a national security threat.

It is undeniable, whether or not you support President Trump’s ban, that the State Department’s rationale for refusing Jewish refugees in 1939 was wholly unjustified and utterly bigoted, not based in either facts or reality. This notwithstanding, there is hardly any comparison between Jewish refugees in the 1930s and Syrian refugees today, for a variety of reasons:

Jews are an ethnic group while Syrians are a national one; Jews were never a threat to countries where they sought asylum while it is evident that radical Islamic terrorist organizations such as ISIS have ensconced themselves among Syrian refugees; there was no national conspiracy of German Jews to eradicate entire continents; Jews initially fled Europe because of Nazi persecution, not war; Jews had nowhere else to go while Syrian refugees have at their disposal the entire Middle East and beyond; opposition to Jewish immigration was racial, whereas regarding Syrian refugees it’s a matter of national security; many Syrian refugees are neither Syrian nor refugees—they pose as such to gain the sympathy of the international community; and Jews had communities willing to resettle them while it’s not clear if Syrian refugees are similarly advantaged (in fact, Congress reported that approximately 90 percent of recent Middle Eastern refugees in the U.S. are on food stamps).

Now that I have dispensed with, at least in part, the comparison between Jewish and Syrian refugees, I’d like to discuss the general nature of the President’s ban. Mr. Kramer asserts that the vetting process is so extreme that the ban is essentially superfluous. Such is not the case. The seven countries from which non-citizens are banned — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — have virtually no vetting process in place and/or are enemies of the U.S. What vetting process is there for Yemenite or Somalian refugees? The governments in those countries are virtually nonexistent and, as such, cannot provide us with the adequate information necessary. It is only logical, therefore, that individuals from said countries should not be allowed entry into the U.S. Moreover, these seven countries are also hotbeds of terrorism; coupled with the absence of a robust vetting system, it is patently absurd to admit anyone from these countries.

Mr. Kramer then makes the following claim, “Importantly, with this scrupulous vetting system, not one American has been killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee from Syria or from any of the other six Muslim-majority countries targeted by the current travel ban.” While it is true that no American has been killed by individuals from any of the seven countries, nevertheless, such individuals have been convicted of terror-related crimes, which should be of outmost concern.

The Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, in June 2016, then chaired by new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, released a report on terror cases since the 9/11 attacks. The report found that 380 out of 580 people convicted in terror cases since 9/11 were foreign-born. The report also found that there were at least 72 terrorists whose country of origin is one of the seven included in the President’s ban. Here is the breakup, according to country: Somalia, 20; Yemen, 19; Iraq, 19; Syria, 7; Iran, 4; Libya, 2; and Sudan, 1. Moreover, the report found that at least 17 of these terrorists entered as refugees from these terror-prone countries. Three came in on student visas and one arrived on a diplomatic visa. Also, at least 25 eventually became citizens. Ten were lawful permanent residents, and four were illegal aliens.

The Center for Immigration Studies, in explaining the Senate report, reveals the nature of the crimes committed by these individuals: “Thirty-three of the 72 individuals from the seven terror-associated countries were convicted of very serious terror-related crimes, and were sentenced to at least three years imprisonment. The crimes included use of a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit a terror act, material support of a terrorist or terror group, international money laundering conspiracy, possession of explosives or missiles, and unlawful possession of a machine gun.” Thus, the volatility and extreme danger that permeates the Middle East is itself a sufficient basis for the travel ban.

The only valid comparison one can draw is between Jewish refugees and Christian and Yazidi refugees from the Middle East, not Muslims.

ISIS and other terror groups have embarked on a genocidal campaign to annihilate Christians in the region. It is these people who are on the verge of extinction, and have the closest resemblance to Jewish refugees in the 1930s, which is why President Trump has given them preferential treatment. But if the vetting process is so weak, how does the government know if they’re truly Christian refugees? As ABC reported, “A refugee candidate’s life is scrutinized during an extensive and thorough vetting process, according to multiple immigration experts. In the past, refugee applicants were most likely asked about their religious affiliations only if they had applied for resettlement for reasons of religious persecution,” said Royce Murray, policy director for the American Immigration Council.

Department of Homeland Security officers who conduct the interviews are highly trained to detect inconsistencies. If someone is seeking refugee status for religious persecution and is claiming to be a Christian, the interviewer may ask for evidence supporting his or her claim, Murray said.

Of course the system isn’t perfect and contains some holes, but immigration experts have found this system to be very useful.

So in conclusion: Some may argue that President Trump is repeating the mistakes of the past by refusing entry to Muslim refugees. But by offering special treatment to Christian refugees on the verge of genocidal extermination, he is, in fact, correcting the mistakes of the past, and should be applauded for doing so.