Why Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion or­der is faith­ful to ‘Never again’

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - Comment - Miriam Perl

Acom­mon di­a­tribe swirling around so­cial me­dia and so­cial dis­course is di­rected at Jews who sup­port U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. It goes some­thing like this: “Our own peo­ple were turned back dur­ing the Holo­caust be­cause of closed bor­ders. How can you be so heart­less, dis­pas­sion­ate and cruel when you see this hap­pen­ing again? Doesn’t ‘Never again’ mean any­thing to you?”

But are Jews who sup­port Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der re­ally turn­ing their backs on the sem­i­nal teach­ing of Ju­daism, “You should love your neigh­bour as your­self”? I say no.

For one, those who sup­port the im­mi­gra­tion or­der are, in fact, not sup­port­ing a per­ma­nent ban that tar­gets Mus­lims based on their re­li­gion. The test is not re­li­gion. The test is one’s con­nec­tion to ter­ror­ism. If it were a bona fide Mus­lim ban – that is, one that barred Mus­lims per­ma­nently be­cause of their re­li­gion – then I would ar­gue that those who sup­port it are in­deed be­ing cruel. But it is not.

This fact some­how is lost on so many on the left, be­cause they de­spise Trump. They think he is a buf­foon at best, a racist and a neo-nazi at worst. Ev­ery­thing he does is seen through that prism and is used as ev­i­dence to con­firm the left’s hy­poth­e­sis. But the truth is, Trump’s per­sonal fail­ings of char­ac­ter do not mean he is a racist or that his tem­po­rary travel halt is wrong.

My fa­ther sur­vived a con­cen­tra­tion camp, los­ing five brothers and sis­ters, as well as a step­mother, to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. It changed him in ways that only chil­dren of sur­vivors can at­test to. His ex­pe­ri­ence in­formed ev­ery­thing he did and em­bed­ded it­self sub­con­sciously in my ex­pe­ri­ence as a child, one that was filled with trauma and sad­ness. I have com­pared the Holo­caust to be­ing at the epi­cen­tre of a nu­clear ex­plo­sion, with gen­er­a­tions after­ward feel­ing the tremors.

So I think I can speak with some au­thor­ity when I say that the car­di­nal les­son of the Holo­caust is twofold. The first one surely is com­pas­sion for oth­ers. But there is an­other les­son of the Holo­caust that can­not be ig­nored, one that lies at the other end of the spec­trum – the les­son of be­ing eter­nally vig­i­lant to the rav­ages of hate, a hate that is di­rected, time and again, against the Jewish Peo­ple.

The mantra of “Never again” is a dou­ble-edged sword: we must en­sure that oth­ers do not suf­fer from dis­crim­i­na­tion, in­equity or in­jus­tice. At the same time, we must be cog­nizant of the ha­tred that oth­ers may har­bour to­ward us. To brush the lat­ter aside in one’s pur­suit of jus­tice is sim­ply ir­re­spon­si­ble and fool­ish. Af­ter all, Hitler tapped into a la­tent ha­tred that lurked in the hearts of mil­lions across Europe who ended up act­ing ei­ther as his col­lab­o­ra­tors or si­lent ac­com­plices.

Yes, Syr­i­ans and other refugees are suf­fer­ing greatly. They de­serve our com­pas­sion. But we must also un­der­stand that the re­gion from which they come is steeped in ha­tred for Jews and the West. In fact, former U.S. pres­i­dent Barack Obama listed the seven coun­tries that were ul­ti­mately adopted in Trump’s ban be­cause his ad­min­is­tra­tion de­ter­mined them to be “failed states,” ones that ei­ther ex­port ter­ror­ism and/or have gov­ern­ments that have im­ploded in chaos and cor­rup­tion.

We must bal­ance our God-given mis­sion of com­pas­sion with the need to learn from the lessons of his­tory and cur­rent events. A bal­anced ap­proach is in or­der. Ex­er­cis­ing ch­esed (com­pas­sion) with­out the me­di­at­ing in­flu­ence of gvu­rah (strength) is not what the To­rah teaches. And, I be­lieve, in spite of the dis­or­ga­nized and in some cases ap­palling way that Trump’s or­der was ex­e­cuted, it es­sen­tially rep­re­sents this bal­anced ap­proach that is the true les­son of “Never again.”

The mantra of ‘Never again’ is a dou­bleedged sword

Miriam Perl is a writer and edi­tor. She lives in Toronto, and can be reached at miri­amperl@hot­mail.com.

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