How can this be justified?

Russell Turpin deafbox@hotmail.com
Mon, 1 Oct 2001 22:11:38 -0500


Tony Berkman writes:
> There is a part of me that agrees with everything 
> Russell wrote with regard to Secular states.  But 
> there is another part of me that feels like it is very
> important for Israel to remain a haven for the 
> Jewish people, and I don't know if there is 
> another way ...

Let me be clear: I fully support havens for Jews 
who are oppressed because of their religion. And 
not just one haven; *all* the western democracies 
should share responsibility for this. And not just 
for Jews, but for any group that is terribly 
oppressed. Britain and the US carry a large black 
mark on their record, for failing to provide 
greater refuge to European Jews in the 1930s 
and 1940s. 

The world has changed since the 1930s. There 
are groups who face similar horrors today. But 
they are not Jews. (At least, to my knowledge; 
there may be some group of Jews who now face
this.) There are tribes in Africa who are targeted in 
genocidal wars. There are peoples living in refugee 
camps, evicted from their home, yet allowed no 
other place to go. There are a variety of nations 
where women suffer clitoridectomy, revenge 
murder for "dishonoring" their family, and fiery 
sacrifice when they are widowed. And again, the 
western democracies are failing to provide refuge 
for these groups, largely because they fear even 
a small influx of poor immigrants who have a 
strange culture. 

Israel now shares in this failure. It freely admits 
Jews, mostly from America and European nations, 
where Jews have the same rights as all other 
citizens. So what? These people are not fleeing a 
holocaust. Most of them are not fleeing oppression 
of any kind. This may be politically expedient, but
it is not provision of a refuge.

If Israel wants to honor the memory of the 
holocaust, it would institute a special immigration 
program for people who now face similar 
oppression to what European Jews faced in the 
1930s and 1940s. Despite the fact that they are 
not Jews. And in doing so, it would hold up a 
lamp to the other western democracies. "Look. 
Each year we admit such refugees, the victims
of war and genocide, the world's refuse, to this 
percentage of our population. Now you do the 
same. You, America, whose Statue of Liberty 
directs this. You, England, who failed to do so
for Jews, when it was needed. You, Germany
and Japan, to twice that percentage, in expiation 
for past crime. Look, we admitted 5,000 
Bosnian Muslims fleeing from ethnic cleansing
in Europe. How many, America, have you
admitted?" 

*That* would honor the holocaust.

The moral of the holocaust is NOT that it should 
never again happen to Jews. The moral is that it 
should never again happen to ANY people. Yet 
it is happening. And the rich democracies again 
turn their head, because it is happening to people 
in the third world who are poor and uneducated, 
whom we are afraid to admit.

> The US didn't stand behind Japanese Americans 
> in the not-so-distant past.  What if some situation 
> causes panic and unrest.  How confident are you 
> that the country won't again punish a single group?
 
What causes this is precisely the notion that a
nation is for some people, but not others. History
presents us a choice. The old idea is that people 
are safe when they are in their own nation, but not 
elsewhere, and screw those who have no nation. 
White protestants are safe in America, the Japanese 
are safe in Japan, and the Jews are safe in Israel, 
but none are safe in other nations, and the Kurds
and !Kung and Tlingit are safe no where in the 
world, because they don't have a nation. So each 
group wars until it has enough territory, or until they 
no longer exist, and each nation feels free to 
enact law or policy that favors "its" people.  

Or we can create a world where each government
respects all ethnic and religious groups, even if
its history gives it a homogenous population. And 
yes, I realize that we have a long way to go, and 
that even the western democracies who have gone 
the furthest down this path still have further to go. 

But the choice is clear, and the only way down this 
second path is to reject the first. It seems to me 
this is the lesson of the holocaust. And also of 
related events, such as British and US refusal to 
admit Jewish refugees, and the US imprisonment 
of its Japanese. Maybe I'm seeing it wrong. But 
that's how I read this history.

Russell