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April 21, 2016 Off

This Passover Let Us Remember That Once We Were Strangers, Too

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Syrian refugee woman reacts while travelling in an overcrowded dinghy as it arrives at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey

This Fri­day night, Jews around the world will gather at Seder tables with friends and fam­ily to tell the story of the Exo­dus from Egypt. We are com­manded to tell the story as if we had per­son­ally fled slav­ery, trans­form­ing the expe­ri­ence from the sim­ple recount­ing of an ancient tale to an exer­cise of empa­thy and reflec­tion on the suf­fer­ing of others.

Today, as 60 mil­lion peo­ple have been forcibly dis­placed from their homes around the world, we face the worst refugee cri­sis since World War II. Many are caught between the ter­ror of the Islamic State and the bar­rel bombs of Assad’s regime and his Iran­ian back­ers in Syria. Oth­ers flee the ter­ri­fy­ing grip of Boko Haram in Nige­ria, or extreme gang vio­lence in Cen­tral Amer­ica. Still oth­ers flee other coun­tries where they are per­se­cuted and tor­tured because of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity. There is one thing that unites all these refugees: No mat­ter their home coun­try, they are flee­ing for their lives and seek­ing safety in new lands.

In place of com­pas­sion and open arms, how­ever, too often refugees have been met with hate­ful rhetoric and closed doors. More than half of U.S. gov­er­nors have either said they will not accept refugees in their states or have asked the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to shut our doors. A bill pend­ing now before Con­gress, the ill-named “Refugee Pro­gram Integrity Restora­tion Act” (H.R. 4731), would dras­ti­cally reduce and cap refugee admis­sions and cre­ate new pro­ce­dures that would sub­stan­tially delay reset­tle­ment for many refugees whose lives are in dan­ger. It would also allow state and local gov­ern­ments who “dis­ap­prove” of a group of refugees to veto reset­tle­ment in their communities.

Shut­ting our doors to those flee­ing extreme vio­lence is un-American. It flies in the face of our val­ues as a nation that has served as a bea­con of hope for those around the world seek­ing a bet­ter life. But, sadly, it is not the first time we have seen this kind of ugly response to a refugee crisis.

For those of us in the Jew­ish com­mu­nity who have fam­ily mem­bers, like my grand­fa­ther, who fled Nazism in Europe, this nar­ra­tive is all too famil­iar. In July 1938—three years after the Nurem­berg Laws had stripped Jews of Ger­man cit­i­zen­ship, deprived them of most polit­i­cal rights, and left hun­dreds of thou­sands of Jews seek­ing inter­na­tional refuge—For­tune mag­a­zine asked Amer­i­cans, “What is your atti­tude toward allow­ing Ger­man, Aus­trian, and other polit­i­cal refugees to come to the U.S.?” Shame­fully, more than two-thirds said we should keep the refugees out.

The fol­low­ing year the St. Louis, car­ry­ing 937 Ger­man refugees—mostly Jews flee­ing Nazi Germany—set sail for Cuba. Most had applied for U.S. visas. Turned away from Cuba, as the St. Louis sailed so close to Florida that the pas­sen­gers could see the lights from Miami, they appealed to Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt to give them safe har­bor. With pub­lic opin­ion opposed to lift­ing the strin­gent immi­gra­tion quo­tas or to mak­ing an excep­tion for the ship’s pas­sen­gers, the St. Louis returned to Europe. Almost a quar­ter of the pas­sen­gers per­ished in the Holocaust.

It was uncon­scionable to turn our backs on Jew­ish refugees flee­ing Europe in the 1930s, just as it is uncon­scionable today to seal our bor­ders to those flee­ing extreme vio­lence around the world.

The temp­ta­tion may be to give into fear and fear-mongering claims that ter­ror­ists will slip into our midst dis­guised as refugees, but Amer­ica has put up the high­est hur­dles in the world for refugees seek­ing entry. In fact, refugee sta­tus is the sin­gle most dif­fi­cult way to enter the United States. Refugees must pass dif­fi­cult and thor­ough screen­ings by the U.S. Depart­ment of State, the FBI, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity, inter­na­tional intel­li­gence agen­cies, and the United Nations. Refugees are not ter­ror­ists. There may be even more that can be done to edu­cate refugees as they seek to inte­grate into our soci­ety, but we must remem­ber that they are peo­ple flee­ing the very same bru­tal­ity we fear.

As we gather around the Seder table, and we tell the story of the Exo­dus as if we too were flee­ing Egypt, may we also have com­pas­sion for those flee­ing bru­tal­ity today. The Passover story is the story of peo­ple flee­ing slav­ery. It is the story of peo­ple seek­ing safety abroad. It is the refugee story. This Passover, may we open our doors to refugees and grant safe har­bor to those flee­ing for their lives. For once we were strangers, too.

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October 12, 2015 28

Why the Holocaust Has No Place in the Gun Debate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

With the cam­paign sea­son in full swing, the debate over gun con­trol laws once again has taken cen­ter stage. As the can­di­dates reacted to the sense­less mass shoot­ing in Ore­gon two weeks ago, an old meme about guns, Hitler and the Holo­caust resurfaced.

The argu­ment goes some­thing like this: If Jews and oth­ers had had freer access to more guns in the run up to Hitler’s assum­ing power and had been able to use those guns to fight back against the Third Reich, then there wouldn’t have been a Holo­caust, or far fewer would have per­ished. This his­tor­i­cal second-guessing is deeply offen­sive to Jews, Holo­caust sur­vivors and those who valiantly fought against Hitler dur­ing World War II. It is, in fact, as many his­to­ri­ans have pre­vi­ously noted, a dis­tor­tion of his­tory itself.

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son was the most recent to make this out­ra­geous point last week dur­ing an inter­view with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Since then, he’s taken a lot of heat, and for good rea­son. But he’s cer­tainly not the first per­son to make the assertion.

ADL has responded to this talk­ing point count­less times since it first sur­faced in 2013, when there were a slew of Holo­caust and Nazi analo­gies as part of the gun debate. But it was a fringe idea then — and it deserves to be rel­e­gated to the fringe now, not given the cour­tesy of a main­stream con­ver­sa­tion. These are the facts:

  • Guns or lack of them did not cause the Holo­caust. The Holo­caust was the prod­uct of anti-Semitism and the moral fail­ure and indif­fer­ence of humans.
  • It is mind-bending to sug­gest that per­sonal firearms in the hands of the small num­ber of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000 remain­ing in Ger­many in 1938) could have stopped the total­i­tar­ian onslaught of Nazi Ger­many when the armies of Poland, France, Bel­gium and numer­ous other coun­tries were over­whelmed by the Third Reich.
  • Despite the over­whelm­ing mil­i­tary force of the Nazi regime, there were thou­sands of brave civil­ians — Jew­ish and gen­tile — who indeed often resisted with every fiber of their being. Unfor­tu­nately, arm­ing every Euro­pean Jew would not have been enough to stop an evil force that was only over­come by the mil­i­tary might of the Allies.

Amer­i­cans are enti­tled to express strong opin­ions about divi­sive issues. But Dr. Car­son and oth­ers should stick to the facts. When you manip­u­late the his­tory of the Holo­caust and use it to score polit­i­cal points, its wholly inap­pro­pri­ate and offen­sive. Espe­cially for the sake of the vic­tims of the Nazi onslaught and their mem­ory, it must stop.

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September 10, 2015 7

Arabic-Language Anti-Semitic “Jewish Encyclopedia” For Sale On Amazon

The Jews, The Illustrated Encyclopedia

“The Jews, The Illus­trated Encyclopedia”

Unlike most ency­clo­pe­dias, which attempt to offer unbi­ased con­tent on a sub­ject, the Arabic-language book, Al Yahood  Al Maw­sua Al Musawra  [The Jews, The Illus­trated Ency­clo­pe­dia] by Dr. Tareq Al-Suwaidan states a dif­fer­ent goal in its intro­duc­tion: to help learn about Jews and “their wicked­ness, trea­son, and decep­tion which they prac­ticed with all nations so not to be deceived by them and by their promises of false peace.”

The book, which is cur­rently avail­able on Ama­zon for $53.00, includes clas­sic anti-Semitic nar­ra­tives, Holo­caust denial, and other fal­lac­ies to defame Jews. The book ded­i­cates entire sec­tions to dis­cussing how Jews con­trol the media and pol­i­tics, while another chap­ter explains how Jews exploit women.

The intro­duc­tion of this ency­clo­pe­dia includes 11 points described as “The Book Goals,” which sum­ma­rize the anti-Semitic nature of this ency­clo­pe­dia. For exam­ple, one goal is “to learn about the most hos­tile ene­mies of the Ummah [Mus­lim nation]” and to “prove with evi­dence that the Jew­ish faith, which was fal­si­fied, encour­ages them to betray and deceive. It plants in their souls that they are a unique group of humans and they are allowed to exploit oth­ers in the most wicked ways.”

Under a sec­tion ded­i­cated to dis­cussing the Holo­caust, the ency­clo­pe­dia states, “Through huge media and pro­pa­ganda cam­paigns, the Jews used what hap­pened at the hands of the Nazis, to a small num­ber of them, to gain emo­tional and finan­cial sup­port from states around the world.” This sec­tion also claims the well-documented num­ber of Jews who were killed in the Holo­caust may have been greatly exag­ger­ated, cit­ing claims the num­ber was not 6 mil­lion, but rather less than 20,000.

The encyclopedia’s first chap­ter about Jew­ish his­tory con­cludes with a text box that sum­ma­rizes„ “This demon­strates that most of the world’s nations couldn’t live in har­mony with the Jews because of the low char­ac­ter­is­tics they carry, such as the ill treat­ment of oth­ers, decep­tion, greed and vorac­ity which keeps resurg­ing over the ages.”

The Jews, The Illus­trated Ency­clo­pe­dia is not the only anti-Semitic book sold by online retail­ers such as Ama­zon. How­ever, noto­ri­ous anti-Semitic books sold online, such as the Pro­to­cols of the Learned Elders of Zion, are often sold with an edi­to­r­ial review, that explains the anti-Semitic nature of the book. ADL is cur­rently in con­tact with Ama­zon regard­ing includ­ing a sim­i­lar edi­to­r­ial review in Ara­bic for The Jews, The Illus­trated Ency­clo­pe­dia to con­tex­tu­al­ize the encyclopedia’s true nature to the Arab reader.

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