ADL Chief: History Will Frown on Trump’s Heartless Attack on Refugees

ADL Chief: History Will Frown on Trump’s Heartless Attack on Refugees

We must stand up to remind the Trump Administration and the world – once we were strangers, too. And we must do better.

Opinion - commentary -analysisJonathan A. Greenblatt – Haaretz

History will look back on this as a sad week in the United States of America — as the week that the president turned his back on people fleeing for their lives, in defiance of a proud promise indelibly inscribed on the Statue of Liberty that America will provide safe harbour to the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

President Trump signed an executive order on Friday to stop refugee admissions for at least several months, including shutting the door to all Syrian refugees; drastically reduce the annual cap on refugee admissions to 50,000 annually; and temporarily bar even visitation to the United States of America from some Muslim majority countries.  

With more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, today the world faces the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Sadly, as we in the Jewish community know all too well, shutting the doors to people desperately fleeing for their lives harkens back to the World War II era.

In one of the most infamous cases of American callousness to the plight of Jewish refugees, in 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt turned away the transatlantic liner St. Louis. The ship, which was sailing so close to Florida that the passengers aboard could see the Miami lights, was carrying 937 German refugees — most of them Jews fleeing the Third Reich.

With public opinion against taking in refugees — fuelled by claims that there were Nazi spies hiding among them or that they were a “menace to America,” — the president shut the doors. With the United States of America unwilling to let the ship dock and refusing to take in those aboard, the St. Louis turned back to Europe. Almost a quarter of the passengers aboard were slaughtered in the Holocaust.

Today, orphans and widows in Syria are trapped, caught between the Assad regime’s barrel bombs and the unparalleled brutality of ISIS. Young men and women around the globe are fleeing for their lives, persecuted because they love another person of the same sex or because they are transgender. Political dissidents who have had the courage to speak out in defiance of authoritarian regimes fear for their lives. And the executive order would send them a terrible message: The United States of America will not be a beacon of hope for you. You will not find safety here.

This is perhaps most devastating for the families who will not be reunited.

For people who managed to get through the long and difficult process to be granted refugee status, and who have been waiting in the United States of America until one day their loved ones can join them here, the executive order means that they may never have the moment of reunification for which they have hoped and dreamed. They may never hug or kiss their spouse, their parent, or their child again. Their families may never reach American shores. They may never reach safety at all.

The screening process the refugees already in the United States of America have been through is, in fact, already a very lengthy and in-depth one. People seeking refugee status must first undergo a screening process that includes interviews and background checks with American embassies, the Department of Homeland Security, and domestic and international intelligence agencies. The process takes years. Many do not clear the hurdles and are denied entry.

In fact, achieving refugee status is the single most difficult way to enter the U.S.A. And, despite all of the ugly rhetoric about Syrian refugees, no refugee from Syria has ever committed an act of terrorism here in the U.S.A.

For those of us in the Jewish community whose hearts break for the refugees for whom the order may effectively be a death sentence, this week brings back dark echoes of the past.

Like so many others, my grandfather fled Nazi Germany. He made it to the United States of America  with some of his siblings. But most of his family members — like most European Jews — were not so lucky. My wife fled religious persecution in Iran, finding a home in America where she could live and worship freely. The authoritarian regime in Tehran today still persecutes many of its minorities, including Sunni Muslims, Baha’i and members of the LGBT community, but these individuals likely would find no refuge in the U.S.A. when this [EO] Executive Order goes into effect.

Mark Twain taught us that history may not repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes. So now it is up to us to write a different verse.

The Jewish community must stand up against this heartless attack on refugees, not only because it is the moral and ethical thing to do, but because we know all too well what happens when people fleeing for their lives have nowhere to turn.

We must stand up to remind the Trump Administration and the world – once we were strangers, too. And we must do better.


Jonathan A. Greenblatt is CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On January 30, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    TIE LENGTH: A Worrying Guide to Donald Trump’s State of Mind

    The USA president’s ties have been getting longer over the past year, seemingly in response to how needy he is feeling – and they’re not getting any shorter now he’s in office

    Hadley Freeman – FASHION | The Guardian UK

    I’ve noticed that Donald Trump wears his tie freakishly long.
    – Is there a message here?

    Paul McGilchrist, Colchester

    I’ll be honest, Paul, when I first read your email my immediate reaction was, honestly, his tie-length is the least of my worries about him.

    But then, being the hard-working*, Pulitzer prizewinning**, serious investigative*** journalist I am, I looked into the matter and, damned if you don’t have a point! Jesus, what the hell is up with that man’s ties?

    I began with Trump’s ABC interview, which was screened last week and was less an interview and more a giant scream for help, from Trump and the USA simultaneously. Now, of all the lunacies to have emerged from this firepit of kray-kray, most people have focused on how the president of the United States of America is still insisting that “millions of people” voted illegally, but he telepathically knows none of these nonexistent illegal votes went to him.

    But really, why is anyone surprised by the garbage that comes out of this man’s mouth? Aside from the fact that he’s been spewing sewage for more than 40 years, just look at his tie, for God’s sake! It dangles all the way down to – well, down to a part of his anatomy that Trump mentioned during the campaign, prompting CNN to run the unforgettable headline, “Donald Trump defends the size of his penis.” Feel the pride, America.

    Which brings us back to Trump’s tie size. I have now combed through thousands**** of photos of Trump (fortunately the Guardian pays me £1bn a month*****, so I am just about recompensed for my pains) and this tie thing seems to have started in the past decade.

    Trump has always been a walking ball of neediness. In the 80s and 90s these needs were slaked by women and celebrity. It has only been in more recent years that political clout became his quarry, and there is a very obvious correlation between his need for political respect and the length of his tie.

    In the early Republican presidential debates, for example, he felt as if he had already won just by being up on the podium, and his tie was almost of normal length. But by the time he was debating with Hillary Clinton, and he realised that he had to win this so as not to be a LOSER, his tie was almost down to his knees.

    The worrying – if deadeningly inevitable – takeaway is that Trump is still wearing the long ties, suggesting his neediness remains unsatisfied, despite now being president.

    But then, his obsession with the size of his inauguration and his loss of the popular vote might have given that game away.

    So in conclusion, going by the tie theory (and frankly, we should cling to any theory we can these days) becoming president seems to have made Trump more neurotic, not less, and this makes him lash out more, lose more respect, feel even more insecure and lengthen his ties yet further. Watch the ties, world. And be very, very afraid.

    NB: I included all the asterisks because Hadley was explaining some of this is just “alternative facts” – satire?? Well, Go Girl – they started it! -clyde

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 1, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Angela Merkel is now Leader of the Free World, NOT Donald Trump

    The USA President isn’t motivated by protecting liberal democracy or freedom, his sole ideology is Trumpism: corporate autocracy with a populist façade. And he surrounds himself with white nationalists even more hostile to liberal democracy than he is

    Sunny Hundal | Independent UK

    When Barack Obama revealed that his last phone call as President was to Angela Merkel, reaffirming their alliance and friendship of the last eight years, he wasn’t just saying goodbye. He was handing over his baton. The German Chancellor isn’t just the leader of Europe, she is now the de-facto leader of the free world.

    The thrice-elected, soft-spoken former scientist from East Germany, armed with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, doesn’t just carry the weight of Germany and Europe on her shoulders, but that of defending freedom and liberalism across the world.

    This is not an attempt to be provocative or exaggerate for effect. Donald Trump cannot claim the mantle of “leading” the free world by default. America’s military might is not the only criterion necessary.

    The title also requires the President to be committed to the values of liberal democracy. But unlike his predecessors since the Second World War, it is already clear that Trump has no such inclinations. He is heading, at terrifying speed, in the opposite direction.

    Do I even have to make the case for this? Since his inauguration, Trump has undermined and ignored judges, even though an independent judiciary and a separation of powers is key to a democracy.

    But the ban on immigrants highlighted something far more draconian. If a President can abruptly restrict the rights of USA residents without bothering with lawmakers or even government departments; he, in effect, is an autocrat.

    That is exactly what Trump did and will continue to do. His actions don’t just undermine the rights of all Americans, they undermine the institutions that support American democracy.

    Then there is Trump’s assault on international trade and cooperation. He is already threatening Mexico, China and now the EU. Who will be next?

    We can debate whether globalisation benefits people equally, but only a fool would deny that international trade is a global good. And it can only work if done on an equal, rules-based footing. But Trump doesn’t care for those, he is ripping up international agreements so he can bully smaller countries into submission. That sets a dangerous precedent for the entire world.

    And lastly, there is the Trump administration’s hostility towards the media.

    Regardless of its bias, a thriving democracy needs a media willing to challenge the government. Trump isn’t just hostile to criticism, in his warped world it must be driven by lies and vindictiveness. He is wracked by deep insecurity. When his chief aide Steve Bannon says the media should “keep its mouth shut” – they mean it. They don’t want a free media criticising them at all. These are words that dictators use, not democrats.

    The USA President isn’t motivated by protecting liberal democracy or freedom, his sole ideology is Trumpism: corporate autocracy with a populist façade. And he surrounds himself with white nationalists even more hostile to liberal democracy than he is.

    Having grown up in communist East Germany before re-unification, Angela Merkel is the polar opposite. She doesn’t just recognise the sounds of autocracy, she chose to escape it.

    This is why she has stood up to Trump’s bullying and bigotry, saying on Monday that the “necessary battle against terrorism” did not justify putting “groups of certain people under general suspicion”. The British government in sharp contrast has been slavish and spineless.

    It’s now abundantly clear that the free world needs a new leader. With respect to Justin Trudeau, Canada simply isn’t powerful enough.

    It has to be Angela Merkel.

    Her opponents know this, which is why the pro-Trump, pro-Putin, far-right forces are lining up against her. We know this. And she knows it. It’s time the most powerful woman in the world embraced her new role. The world needs her.

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