The Zionist Record on Refugees

Historically, Zionists have put the interests of Israel over the humanitarian plight of refugees, even in the face of Nazi Germany and now in shying away from offending President Trump, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

It is a strange story. American Jews (and I expect it is the case with other Jews too) act in solidarity with other discriminated groups only if they, the Jews, resist Zionist leadership. If they follow the Zionist lead, they usually do one of two things: passively support the discriminatory majority or stay silent. This behavior is particularly true when it comes to the issue of immigrants.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C., on March 4, 2014.

I can see the eye-rolling and disgust on the faces of the Zionists who might be reading this analysis. Their reaction is to be expected because it is based on a self-image built on ideology rather than on honest knowledge of their own history. When we look at that history, we see that U.S. Zionist organizations have always played to the prejudices of the power brokers. The results, in terms of ethics and values, have been deplorable.

Here is a telling historical example. In the years leading up to the U.S. entrance into World War II, there was a general consensus on the issue of immigration. Most of the U.S. population was opposed to letting immigrants, most of whom were refugees, into the country. David Schoenbaum tells us in his book The U.S. and the State of Israel that in 1938, the same year as the Nazi pogrom known as Kristallnacht, 83 percent of respondents of a U.S. poll said they opposed any adjustment of immigration laws to allow in more European refugees. A year later, a bill to admit 20,000 mostly Jewish refugee children, above the existing minimal quota, failed in both the House and the Senate.

In part, this anti-immigrant attitude was the result of a Great Depression-era frame of mind that assumed that, even as war loomed on the horizon, unemployment was a permanent problem. And, in addition, the opposition to immigration was a reflection of traditional racism against any peoples whose origins were not the same as the…

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