DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
With our history, how can we reject the persecuted?

MUCH has been written about the unfair British internment system which confined Jewish refugees, who were fleeing from the Nazis, to camps, regarding them as enemy aliens.

Jewish women who married German Jewish refugees were deprived of their British citizenship and deemed German as they were married to a "subject of a state at war with His Majesty".

Did the British not realise that Hitler and the Nazis were as much at war, if not more, with their Jewish subjects as with the Allies?

The internment camp phenomenon and designation of all German nationals as enemies during the Second World War is an example of dangerously simplistic thinking when it comes to people who happen to have been born in countries which become war zones.

The same stupidity of tarring everyone, victims and oppressors, with the same brush was manifest in President Donald Trump's intended travel ban on anyone coming from one of seven Muslim countries.

If the Second World War was complicated in terms of who was Britain's enemy and who the victim of enemy oppression, then the current Middle Eastern conflicts in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and parts of Africa, are even more so.

The conflict in Syria is probably the most complicated of all.

It began six years ago with the so-called Arab Spring. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is still fighting against democracy supporters who have been joined by around 1,000 different fighting groups, as well as by the so-called Islamic State, as well as world powers like America, UK, Russia, Turkey and even - covertly - Israel adding to the melee.

Caught between all these myriad factions are millions of innocent civilians trying to escape the carnage, who are being exploited by unscrupulous people smugglers offering them dangerous journeys to Europe which is being swamped by the influx.

The sum of the human suffering is incalculable. The situation is further exacerbated by Islamic terrorists who may be using this refugee horde as a cover.

But you don't throw out the baby with the bathwater as anti-immigrant leaders like Trump, Farage, Nuttall, Le Pen, Wilders and other European far-right leaders would like to do, playing on people's xenophobia, prejudice and fears of terrorism.

Europe, especially mainland Europe, has a genuine refugee problem as it is being swarmed by an immigrant influx which is extremely difficult to manage and security vet.

The British Isles have a little more control of refugee immigration, courtesy of the English Channel, and America has much more control of its sea borders, if not its Mexican one.

Contrary to the fake news manufactured by Trump, security vetting of immigrants is already pretty rigorous in America, where the worry is more from home-grown gun crime than from imported terrorism.

In 2014, for every one American killed by terrorists at home or abroad, more than 1,050 died from gun crime.

Yet Trump is right behind the unscrupulous gun lobby despite the devastating effect of gun crime on the American people.

The president is even set on making it easier for those with serious mental health problems to purchase guns.

Trump's travel ban is not only grossly unfair, not thought out, inexpertly implemented and damaging to American businesses, but also an extremely crude attempt to make the American public, or at least the nearly half of it which supports him, even more xenophobic than ever.

The mystery is why, when our Jewish tradition teaches us to love the stranger because we too were strangers, so many otherwise highly intelligent Jews support Trump's constant whipping up of xenophobia.

The irony was that the travel ban was rushed through on Holocaust Memorial Day. Jews, who know all too well the complexities of war and have been caught far too often in the crossfire, should realise that it is vitally important that genuine security concerns should not be exploited to turn our backs on the innocent.

A decent leader should be able to find a much better balance between security and compassion than most countries are currently achieving, including our own with its recent premature ending of the Lord Dubs amendment child refugee scheme.

Fortunately, in most countries in the Western world, there is still a large proportion of the population which still does care about the less fortunate and is not swayed by the ranting of demagogues to become racist and xenophobic.

Let us hope that their voices will continue to be heard in order to make this world a kinder place than it currently is.

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