The­re­al­refugeep­rob­lem?Big­otry

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - IM­MI­GRA­TION DOU­GLAS MUR­RAY

WHEN THE Euro­pean mi­gra­tion cri­sis reached its lat­est peak ear­lier this year, a Jewish friend said to me: ‘‘This will come round to hurt the Jews — you’ll see.’’ At the time, I dis­missed it. ‘‘The only group this might af­fect are Mus­lims,’’ I replied. He knew bet­ter. ‘‘You’ll see,” he warned. And now I have.

I’ve been writ­ing about the mi­gra­tion cri­sis for a long time. It is a com­plex moral and strate­gic is­sue with few easy an­swers. But some­thing is chang­ing and, al­though I am not Jewish, I like to think I have been enough of a friend and de­vel­oped enough of an un­der­stand­ing of the Jewish com­mu­nity in this coun­try to be al­lowed to is­sue a warn­ing of sorts.

The prob­lem with the mi­gra­tion cri­sis is that the politi­cians are try­ing to fol­low pub­lic opin­ion, but the pub­lic do not know what we want. Do we want to be un­prece­dent­edly gen­er­ous or un­prece­dent­edly fear­ful? Are the in­com­ers like 1930s Ger­man Jews or are they just 21st-cen­tury eco­nomic mi­grants? Most of us think they are a bit of both and so our thoughts fluc­tu­ate. This makes the de­bate not only frac­tious but prone to dan­ger­ous swings.

In the sum­mer, when the tragic photo came out of a young Syr­ian boy washed up on the shores of Tur­key, some vo­cal Euro­peans had a spasm of ‘‘let them in.’’ Oth­ers said, ‘‘be care­ful’’. But the heart over­ruled the head. And can do again. The next turn of the wheel was al­ways go­ing to be when the mi­grants were as­so­ci­ated not with hu­man­i­tar­ian warmth but ter­ror­ist atroc­i­ties. Now they are.

How, then, could a mi­gra­tion of mil­lions of Mus­lim men (in the main) from not only the Mid­dle East but sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, have any neg­a­tive ef­fect on Jews? The first as­pect is ob­vi­ous: among those pop­u­la­tions there will be many who bring the ha­treds and sus­pi­cions of Jews that are in­cul­cated in their home­lands and faith. In time, this will lead to more at­tacks like that on the Jewish school in Toulouse (2012), the Jewish Mu­seum in Brussels (2014) or the Jewish food-mar­ket in Paris (2015). But here, wider pub­lic sym­pa­thy will go to the vic­tims of th­ese at­tacks rather than their per­pe­tra­tors.

Yet an­other theme has bub­bled up which it gen­uinely shocks me to dis­cover. For many Jewish groups and Jewish lead­ers have been tak­ing a con­spic­u­ous lead in wel­com­ing refugees. Some ini­tia­tives – such as that to save Chris­tian chil­dren in the Mid­dle East who are be­ing ‘‘cleansed’’ from the re­gion – are hugely ad­mirable and widely ap­pre­ci­ated. But it is spe­cific and needed. Other ini­tia­tives and state­ments from Jewish lead­ers and groups ap­pear to be wel­com­ing any and all refugees and equat­ing the plight of 1930s Jews with all 21stcen­tury mi­grants. This is not just a mis­read­ing of history but an in­cor­rect ap­pli­ca­tion of history. It also sets up a dan­ger­ous link­age be­tween Jews who are al­ready in Europe and an in­creas­ingly un­pop­u­lar, cur­rent Euro­pean mi­gra­tion pol­icy. Al­low me to re­lay some re­cent per­sonal anec­dotes. They do not add up to an anal­y­sis but they are scents of some­thing I be­lieve is now in the wind.

Dur­ing an episode of Ques­tion Time last month, the his­to­rian Si­mon Schama made a some­what haughty and per­sonal at­tack on my Spec­ta­tor col­league Rod Lid­dle. Specif­i­cally, he chided Rod (who was urg­ing wari­ness of let­ting into the coun­try any­body who wants to come here) for al­legedly turn­ing his ‘‘sub­ur­ban face’’ away from the trou­bles of the world. This was a lit­tle rich, and I said in print that it is all very well for Pro­fes­sor Schama to swan into Bri­tain and tell us to take mil­lions of mi­grants be­cause he can al­ways head back to his well-off (and dis­tinctly white) neigh­bour­hood in the US.

When the piece went vi­ral, the replies in­cluded an el­e­ment that was new and seized on an as­pect of Schama that never occurred to me. ‘‘One law for the Jews, an­other for the rest of us’’ was the nub of it. Well, Schama is a dis­tin­guished pub­lic fig­ure and can say and think what he likes. No­body else needs to feel re­spon­si­ble for him.

A couple of weeks later, the Hun­gar­ian Prime Min­is­ter, Vik­tor Or­ban, got into a row with his coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful son. At a time when Or­ban was un­der huge pres­sure from his elec­torate not to let thou­sands of mi­grants in­tothe­coun­try,he­up­braid­edGe­orge Soros­for­be­ing­be­hindthe­many ‘‘open bor­ders’’ NGOs which were putting pres­sure on Hun­gary. In re­ply, Soros con­firmed that, yes, whereas Or­ban­thought­mi­grants­thep­rob­lem and bor­ders the so­lu­tion, Soros did in­deed think bor­ders the prob­lem and mi­grants the so­lu­tion.

In re­port­ing this ex­change, the same theme emerged. ‘‘It’s all very well for the Jews. They have Is­rael where only Jews can go and all the time they’re de­stroy­ing our own re­li­gious and racial iden­tity in Europe.’’

And an­other theme started to come up which I never thought I’d hear in my life­time: ‘‘Ah — the root­less, cos­mopoli­tan Jew.’’ Search­ing on­line I find that this is in­deed be­com­ing a theme. A video watched hun­dreds of thou­sands of times on YouTube ex­cerpts an in­ter­view with a Jewish aca­demic in Swe­den who ex­plains that Europe ‘‘has not yet learned how to be mul­ti­cul­tural.’’

She goes on: ‘‘Europe is not go­ing to be the mono­lithic so­ci­eties that they once were in the last cen­tury. Jews are go­ing to be at the cen­tre of that. It’s a huge trans­for­ma­tion for Europe tomake.The­yarenow­going­in­toa mul­ti­cul­tural mode, and Jews will be re­sented be­cause of our lead­ing role.’’

This re­mains a mi­nor­ity opin­ion for now. But here comes the big­ger prob­lem. Only seven per cent of Britons sur­veyed in a re­cent poll said they wanted im­mi­gra­tion into Bri­tain to in­crease. It is im­pos­si­ble to say what di­rec­tion Europe is go­ing to go in the near fu­ture, and we are all go­ing to have to be on our guard and spend time coun­ter­ing big­otries and ha­treds that could spill out in any di­rec­tion. But the open-heart­ed­ness of so many Jews must also be coun­tered by more vo­cal and vis­i­ble even-head­ed­ness. In par­tic­u­lar, this con­sti­tutes a care­ful warn­ing that it could yet be a prob­lem for Euro­pean Jews if their lead­ers and vis­i­ble fig­ures get ahead of (and are seen to be the pro­gen­i­tors of) a mass move­ment of peo­ples that looks likely in the near fu­ture to go unimag­in­ably sour, thus bear­ing out my pes­simistic Jewish friend’s worst fears.

This will come round to hurt the Jews, you will see

PHOTO:GETTY IM­AGES

Prob­lem: Scores of Syr­ian refugees have poured into Europe

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