“It is in vain to hope to please all alike. Let a man stand with his face in what direction he will, he must necessarily turn his back on one half of the world.” – George Dennison Prentice
George Dennison Prentice, I’m sure, will always be judged by a majority of readers as hard-hearted and xenophobic. But, as the Yiddish proverb reminds us, even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. His cold counsel, that a man “must necessarily turn his back on one half of the world,” should be immediately adopted by Western governments as a guide to retooling their immigration policies toward Muslim immigrants. What was so wrong then is so right now. That most nations of the Muslim Middle East are refusing to rescue their coreligionists while we in the Western world are, by way of our imprudent immigration policies, being increasingly exposed to the Islamic world’s violent tendencies and cultural anomalies is an absurdity ignored by those heads of state whose responsibility it is to keep their citizens safe from such endangerment.
In their book A Race Against Death, the story of the 28 year-old Hillel Kook, nephew of the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, and his efforts to “help organize the immigration of Jews from Europe to Palestine,” David S. Wyman and Rafael Medoff point out that “in its response to the Holocaust, the United States fell far short of measuring up to America’s basic human and democratic values.” They surmise that “the three main factors that lay behind America’s failed response were the Great Depression, nativism, and anti-Semitism.” The looming irony in today’s Muslim refugee crisis is that the refugees are bringing with them their very own brand of Islamic antisemitism. If the American (or the Canadian) people want to feel redeemed from an antisemitic past, then welcoming into their country people whose religion is notorious for Jew-hatred is not the way to go. Turning away refugees because of economic difficulties and because of the selfish bias of nativism should always be frowned upon. But turning away Muslim refugees because of Islam’s reputation for political violence and imperialistic tendencies is not a policy deserving of shame.
Those fools who equate the situation of the Syrian Muslim refugees of today with the precarious circumstances that hindered the Jews escaping the Nazi Holocaust should be reminded of two things. Firstly, Jews had no country during the Holocaust to call their own, a place where other Jews could have provided sanctuary from their common enemies. Syrian refugees today have multiple countries in the Muslim Middle East to choose from for sanctuary, where Islam is the preponderant religion, in many cases the only religion, and where the egregious cultural practices synonymous with the Muslim Middle East are already in place. Secondly, Jews in interwar Europe were not blowing themselves up in bars and cafes in Berlin and Hamburg or beheading German citizens on YouTube. Jews in interwar Europe were not flying passenger airplanes into skyscrapers or chanting “Death To America!” while burning the Stars and Stripes in public squares. And this is only to profile the two most obvious differences.
Odd that these Muslim refugees and their advocates are offended by so many of us in the West not taking kindly to a hasty infusion of their religio-cultural norms and values into our midst. Even before the Holocaust, the Arabs of the Middle East made it quite clear – by way of pogroms and violence – to the indigenous Jews of what was then known as Palestine that the idea of Jews both already living there or Jews returning to their ancient homeland was anathema to them, that the very definition of the Jew was bête noire to Islam and the Muslim community. It’s not like the Arabs of the Middle East are unfamiliar with the concept of turning away those, both Muslim and Jew, who are disliked simply because of their respective religious beliefs and their cultural norms. The only difference between then and now is that Jews today aren’t begging for refuge from anyone anymore, but, conversely, the Arab Muslim is still entreating and exploiting Western democracies for whatever they can acquire from our tender mercies. In the Middle East some things never change.
In his book The Tail Wags the Dog, Prof. Efraim Karsh writes, “Violence was not imported to the Middle East as a by-product of foreign imperialism but has rather been an integral part of the region’s millenarian political culture.” It is this Islamic brand of “political culture” and “violence” that so many of us here in United States and Canada are determined to keep a safe distance from our future. Any other strategy would be to invite the same destruction upon our half of the world. Better the Muslim Middle East continue to destroy theirs.