Chief Rabbi’s Trump statement was misinformed nonsense

The UK’s Chief Rabbi Mirvis has condemned Donald Trump’s clampdown on entry to America from seven Muslim Majority countries as, “Totally unacceptable”.

“President Trump has signed an executive order that seeks to discriminate based totally on religion or nationality.

“We as Jews, perhaps more than any others, know what’s it’s like to be the victims of discrimination.”

Chief Rabbi, Lord Jacobovits wrote many times that he was often strongly attacked by Israelis if he said anything that criticised their government with, “If you want to criticize us, come here to live and then do it.”

His response was to say that, as the UK’s Chief Rabbi living in London, he had to live with armed police bodyguards to protect him. When he visited Israel, he needed no such protection. The actions of Israel affect his life and the lives of other Jews in the UK directly. That, he argued is what gave him the right to be critical of Israel’s actions when he felt it appropriate.

For the last six years I have lived in the USA. I have had a deluge of anger directed at me from American Jews over Chief Rabbi Mirvis’ attack on their President. I try to explain what the Office of the British Chief Rabbi is, what it is meant to do and the fact that he very rarely sends what he intends to say for my approval before he says it. But its no good. Americans don’t get our humor or sarcasm very well.

I usually fall back on the simple statement that, “He is the ‘British’ Chief Rabbi and I am Scottish!” This produces a pause and a reboot ! Most Americans confuse the term British with English and they ‘sort of ’ get that Scottish is something different and then they leave me alone.

But this rather echoes Lord Jabobovits’ argument that what you say or do “over there”, affects me “over here” and so I do feel myself, as he did, free to comment and criticize.

The first part of what he said, “The executive order seeks to discriminate based totally on religion or nationality,” is of course totally misinformed nonsense.

The executive order, discriminates against seven Muslim-majority lands. That is not the reason they are selected. They were identified by President Obama precisely for the reason that they have the cancer of Islamic Terrorism, (Al Qaeda, ISIS etc.) thoroughly metastasized throughout them. If you read the document, Trump has ordered a temporary travel ban to freeze potential threats and assess the level of threat these states pose.

Unlike his predecessor who refused to link the words “Islamic” and “terrorist” in the same sentence or indeed any sentence, Trump has no difficulty in that regard. It is one of the reasons he got elected.

But the thing in Rabbi Mirvis’ speech that I find anathema was these words, “We as Jews, perhaps more than any others, know what’s it’s like to be the victims of discrimination.”

There are Jews at demos waving banners that proclaim, “Jews Reject Trump”. These people, like the Chief Rabbi, draw parallels between Trump’s closing the door to Syrian refugees and the UK and America doing the same to Jewish refugees before WWII. Of course, Rabbi Mirvis implies that was greatly exaggerated by pointing to the UK’s noble, welcome of ‘Kindertransports’.

A cursory examination of Britain’s unwillingness to accept Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, shows a very different and much less noble account than the one Rabbi Mirvis touts here.

But this parallel is as false as it is profoundly offensive.

The British justification for refusing Jews fleeing Hitler, was the laughable and derisible claim that the Nazis could have insinuated spies among them, claiming to be Jews.

The real motive was British anti-Semitism. As George Orwell wrote in his superb essay, “Anti-Semitism in Britain” published in 1945; there was almost as much Jew hatred in the UK before the war, as there was in Germany. That lie went largely unchallenged at the time though; Jews were scared to do so.

The fact that ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups have placed their agents among Syrian and other refugees from Islamic countries, who have gone on to commit atrocities in the west, is well documented.

Then there is the equally disturbing cases or rape and sexual assault committed in Germany by Syrian refugees.

The think tank, the Gatestone Institute, reported on March 5th 2016:  “Sexual violence in Germany has skyrocketed. The crimes are being downplayed by the authorities, apparently to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.”

“Every police officer knows it is better to keep quiet [about migrant crime] because you cannot go wrong.” — Rainer Wendt, head of the German police union.

The full report makes for sickening reading.

In the case of the Jews refused entry to the UK before the war, the justification was baseless and false. In the case in the case of the Syrians refused entry to the US the justification has a basis and is not.

The Chief Rabbi’s parallel either endorses the old lie that was given for the UK slamming the door in the faces of Jews trying to escape the Final Solution or endorse the new lie that Merkel’s refugees posed no threat and have done very little wrong.

But there is no parallel. No Jews, who were trying to get into Britain were raping or sexually assaulting British women and girls. None were planning violent terrorism against the British State and people. There is no comparison to be made here at all Chief Rabbi. The fact you made one is wrong and regrettable.

The only remaining question is, as Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, what direct affect does the temporary halting of travelers to the U.S. from states with a chronic terrorist problem, have to do with you? If you cannot convincingly answer that, your regrettable comparisons between Jews fleeing the Holocaust and the Syrian Refugee crisis is simply, totally unacceptable.

About the Author
Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein is a broadcaster, writer, author and international lecturer. He left the UK six year ago and is based in New York
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