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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lesson not learned

Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor

Philosopher George Santayana once said that, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Unfortunately, what is currently happening in the U.S. regarding the incarceration of immigrants and the separation of children from their families is nothing new. The U.S., as historian Richard Hofstadter points out, has a longstanding tradition of nativism that is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic, resulting in "the paranoid style in American politics."

The U.S. however, was a country built by immigrants.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klauser, the senior Reform rabbi in the U.K., has recently drawn a grim parallel between Trump's immigration policies and earlier historical events that resulted in the holocaust (UK Guardian, 23 June 2018). This process uses language to dehumanize and stigmatize immigrants by calling them "animals", "vermin", "invaders", or "rapists." In short, immigrants are dehumanized which, in turn, allows them to be victimized.

What is going on in the U.S., and various European countries, regarding refugee-immigrants and their families is unconscionable, and contrary to religious principles, as well as ethics and decency. Pope Francis and some other religious leaders have, blessedly, spoken out against Trump's immigration policy that separates children from their families.
The immigration policies now being pursued by the Trump administration are nothing new. Specifically, in the U.S. The McCarran Act, 1950, also known as the Emergency Detention Act, 1950, provides for the emergency detention of certain categories of people. The act tightened alien exclusion and deportation laws allowed for the detention of allegedly dangerous, disloyal, or subversive people in times of war or internal emergency.

Significantly, the act provided for the financing and construction of internment camps for radicals and subversives. During the turbulent Vietnam era U.S. President Nixon considered using this legislation to round up and intern blacks, radicals, and feminists in these camps. Subsequently, the USSC declared various sections of the act unconstitutional, and funding was withdrawn.

"We live in interesting times," an ancient Chinese saying goes. Anti-immigrant sentiment is now increasing throughout Europe and racialist policies set an ugly tone. But what is politically and ethically unacceptable and morally repulsive to me is that my Jewish coreligionists refuse to speak out publicly against Trump and his immigration policies. Why?

Israel's far-right Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman has since 2004 publicly proposed that Israeli-Arabs, 25 per cent of the population, be rounded up and expelled from Israel, or be stripped of their civil rights to create an "ethnically pure Jewish state" (Times of Israel, June 25/18 and New Arab, Feb13/17). Some public opinion polls show that half of all Israeli's agree with that policy. So what is the difference between Trump's immigration policies and Lieberman's? Why the silence within the Jewish community?

For a group that invokes the slogan, "Never again," it would seem that we Jews have learned little from our own history.

Richard Deaton

Stanley Bridge

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