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December 27, 2015 2:27 pm

We Cannot Allow Comparisons of Mideast Refugees to Holocaust Survivors

avatar by Michael Welner

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Muslim migrants off the coast of Malta. Photo: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons.

Muslim migrants off the coast of Malta. Photo: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons.

President Obama recently compared, openly and unreservedly, refugees fleeing allegedly from Syria and seeking resettlement in the United States with Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.

Whether refugees from Muslim countries should be resettled in the United States is a source of lively debate and there are meritorious arguments on both sides of the issue. However, the historical inaccuracy of comparing the refugees traveling via Syria to Jewish Holocaust era refugees is stark and touches on lessons of the Holocaust that must never be forgotten:

1. Jewish refugees were not warring with anyone, and were no threat to anyone. Refugees attributed to Syria are fleeing a war within their own land in which they are on one side or another.

2. Jewish refugees were hunted down to be killed wherever they were. This is not happening to all (or most) Muslims of Syria and neighboring countries who seek emigration.

3. Jewish refugees were literally fleeing for their lives with nowhere in their countries to go. Syrian refugees are fleeing a country with degraded infrastructure for a safer and more normal existence. They also have the option of traveling to neighboring Arab countries — something Jews of the Holocaust did not have.

4. Jewish refugees had no conflict or grievance with the West. The Arab world is in the midst of an open conflict with the West. The United States has been sponsoring some of the fighters operating in Syria. There is no way of knowing whether refugees have allegiance to one faction or another.

5. Jewish refugees were not accompanied by any terrorist problem in America. Islamist terrorism has already expressed itself through those who have immigrated here legally and illegally.

6. Jewish refugee traffic was never exploited to embed people who were simply taking advantage of chaos to slip across borders with criminal or terrorist motivation. That has already been demonstratively the case with the Syrian-Turkish Muslim migration.

7. Jewish refugees had no Jewish homeland to go to. They were stateless people who were unsafe everywhere. The “Syrian” refugee problem overlooks that there are areas all over the Muslim world which could accommodate them culturally, but many of those countries have refused them.

As detrimental and disparaging as President Obama has been to Israel and Zionism, as easily as he has been comfortable resorting to canards about Jewish financial influence, it is easy to leap to criticize the President for such a stunningly ignorant comparison. Closer scrutiny of the discussion, however, demonstrates that even before the President’s public statements, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, provided the US Congress with a letter signed by more than 1,250 rabbis that included the assertion, “In 1939, the United States refused to let the S.S. St. Louis dock in our country, sending over 900 Jewish refugees back to Europe, where many died in concentration camps. That moment was a stain on the history of our country – a tragic decision made in a political climate of deep fear, suspicion and antisemitism… In 1939, our country could not tell the difference between an actual enemy and the victims of an enemy. In 2015, let us not make the same mistake.”

The elephant in the room that this letter overlooks is that the very source of the current American controversy is that, by admission of even trusted intelligence persons in the Obama administration, the United States indeed cannot tell the difference between the enemy and the victims of the enemy. That is the source of our current national security problem. To compare this real dilemma to a climate of 1939 that was nothing more than just visceral hatred for Jews for nothing more than their religion is obscene. That many rabbis are willing to abet such misunderstanding demonstrates, once again, a deep failure of those rabbis to take responsibility for teaching and protecting the fidelity of Jewish history. The horrors of the Holocaust remain unthinkable, even as memories fade with the dying off of elderly survivors. So why is it that rabbis, so designated as leaders of Jewish thought, could display such derelict idiocy in making comparisons of Holocaust refugees to migrants from the Arab world?

In my professional opinion, these behaviors actually reflect on the sickening pathology among Jews of even the most highly educated pedigrees to feel the need, even by resorting to the grotesque, to display their non-denominational compassion. Tikkum Olam, to many, reflects upon the Jewish imperative to help the world beyond those who are Jewish. Others interpret that phrase differently. But it cannot be disputed by anyone that Jewish non-discriminatory philanthropy and with no strings attached is unmatched among religions. We need not prove that we are kind. And for those who feel that Jews need to do a better job of demonstrating this to the Muslim world, consider how much Jewish charity has been offered to Iran and Turkey after natural disasters, only to be refused in order to preserve narratives that demonize Jews. Jews are pilloried not for lack of charity, but because Muslim Arab intolerance is extreme, implacable, and emanates from countries that control their media and can control their peoples by creating fictions of Jewish bogeymen. The purveyors and consumers of said fictions couldn’t care less about the billboarding of Jewish advocacy for Muslims.

How is it then, that the signatory rabbis degrade the special history of their own people? Because flaunting public perception of their sensitivity to others enables them to make personal political statements, massage their vanities for being part of letters published in full page ads, and announce their own bonafides. But while those public personas are their own, no rabbi owns Jewish history such that they have the right to reinvent it.

It would be far more responsible for such rabbis and other prominent Jews to feed their self-interests without resorting to defiling the Holocaust by diluting it or by distorting any of its searing lessons. How pathetic it is that in this day and age, we truly have many Christians who have a greater sensitivity for the legacy of baseless hatred towards Jews than certain rabbis themselves. President Obama can hardly be blamed for insulting the legacy of the Holocaust when so many rabbis utterly fail to respect their own Shoah.

Silence only invites greater latitude with the facts of our painful history. If Holocaust denial bothers you, this crass misuse is not something to overlook without strong response. Like the BDS movement, silence only enables greater latitude. Assertions by Jews that dilute and therefore desecrate the Holocaust must stop. Holocaust trivializing should be limited to Iran and the other visceral haters, rather than daily parlance of the educated in America. The teaching of accurate Jewish history must remain, across all denominations, a litmus test for suitability to minister to others as would be expected from any religion.

The author, a pre-eminent American forensic psychiatrist, is Chairman of The Forensic Panel, and is responsible for such advances as the pioneering of peer preview in forensic examination and standardizing the assessment of the worst of crimes with the Depravity Standard ( )

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  • Geoff Short

    This is a very good article not least because it draws attention to the possibility of Syrians seeking refuge in Muslim countries to the east of Syria. Kazakstan has so far given asylum to 27 Syrians. It is willing to accommodate many more, but the Syrians are insistent on going to Europe – but not anywhere in Europe. It has to be Britain, Germany or Sweden. They won’t consider anywhere else. But if they were truly desperate they would go anywhere they were safe in the same way that German and Austrian Jews did in the late 1930s.

  • Marlene Josephs

    You comment about sending the St. Louis back to Europe. Have you read “While Six Million Died” by Arthur D. Morse, 1967? The St. Louis was one of MANY instances where the US, FDR, State Department, etc. refused to help European Jewry or others who wanted to help!!!

  • I produced a chart of the differences in the two sets of refugees in September:

  • E benAbuya

    Is it not curious that, while Obama and Merkel (inter alia) are quick to create the false equivalence between Jews fleeing from the Shoah and the Arab refugees
    “. . .fleeing a war within their own land in which they are on one side or another.” and “. . .fleeing a country with degraded infrastructure for a safer and more normal existence.”

    The true equivalence is never drawn. That DAESH is an aggressively violent movement with a supremacist agenda that is exactly the same as the Nazis. Or, perhaps worse; in that it has fused its barbarisms with religion.

  • jack webb

    President Obama:
    How could you compare apples with Oranges,America was silent during the Holcaust,
    only very few was allowed in. Thanks to FDR
    Why the big oil countries will not let them in.they have the enough room the alsorb the entire population.
    Why after 4 yrs the are now escaping from the civil war,is all a set up by ISIS and brotherhood gans. to import SHARIA law
    Beware America ,watch what is happening in Europe .

  • steven L

    The Pr. mixed Bias, Ignorance and Ideology. That is a recipe for bad taste.
    The Pr. thought that since Bush may have made a mistake when going in Iraq, he had the duty to make one of his own which is by far much worst than Bush error since it led to ISIS and the migration of Muslims to Europe.
    The road to catastrophe is full of good intentions.
    We CANNOT mixed good deeds with politics.
    Contrary to the “Pfr” claim, Israel (majority Jewish) is far more ETHICAL than ANY other country on this planet, therefore different from all other people.

  • Dean

    Jews here in Canada seem to think that they owe a debt of gratitude to Syria-Iraq-ISIS-Hamas-PA-Hezbollah-Russia-Obama-etc. Many shuls are sponsoring Syrian refugees. Too many with money worked very hard to make sure that Harper, the best friend Israel has ever had, was not elected. They wanted Justin Trudeau who was elected on his promises to bring in 25K (now he has increased the number to 50K) “Syrian refugees,” increase deficits and debt to unmanageable levels, make “climate” his #1 priority and to change Canadian foreign policy to favor “Palestinians.” Tikkun Olam in the shuls now means overlooking the Jews who are being run over and slashed to death by Islamist terrorists and to open their hearts to their enemies. The first thing many of the new refugees are likely to do is work for BDS on campus, help build more Mosques that teach hate for Israel and win political positions from a Canadian electorate that is so daft and naïve that they would tell you that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism (as they have been told by their beloved CBC state broadcasters and their left-wing Liberal and NDP parties. Canadian Jews go along because Leftism is much more important than Israel to all of them it seems.

    • Scott Rose

      *Before* he was elected, Justin Trudeau tweeted that BDS and other anti-Israeli groups have “no place on Canadian campuses.”

  • Normally when I have read about what anti-Semetic fools have said in the past concerning the holocaust I would just let it go. But this comparison of murders and rapists being compared to our people who were just running for their lives really angers me. As a child of a shoah survivor it really hits home. I really am disgusted at the HIAS, as my mother told me it was that organization that helped our family leave Europe. I have read at other sites these “compassionate” organizations get millions of dollars for their compassion! I ask them “how much is life worth to them in the dollars they receive!” Apparently not very much!

    • HIAS gets most of its money from the government now, not from grateful Jews. Obama bought himself a Jewish mask.

  • naomi

    There are properly educated, orthodox rabbis and then there are …’rabbits’, so-called ‘rabbis’, who fail our nation time and time again, as they do on this occasion. They are dangerous because some of the things they are saying are correct and the weight of their title further blinds and stupefies the public, including our own people. Had they stuck to their appeal without the offensive comparison to the Jews in WWII – they might have been approved of.

    The images of crying children in 2014-15 are similar or identical to those of 1939-45; a child in pain is a child in pain – unaware of the reasons for bombardments and mayhem. Adults, though, should have the brains to discern the difference, which the ‘rabbits’ clearly fail to do.

    The western world is missing a golden opportunity to practice what it preaches, namely its quest for truth and democracy. It should exert relentless pressure on the Arab world, blame and shame it, for the treatment of their brothers, whose affinity lies with the culture and religion of the Middle East and definitely not with Europe or America, which was built by Europeans.

    The European Jews sought refuge in countries which were not that different from where they were born and the Middle East would never have accepted them and threw out (to put it mildly) their Jewish citizens in 1948.

    The refugee crisis is a travesty of justice committed by the Europeans, who value political correctness more than truth. For the sake of a short-term solution, they are prepared to sacrifice the future of their identity and everything they hold dear. Let’s hope that the revolts in France, Sweden and elsewhere will bear results soon.

  • Larry Andrews

    Rudolf Hess said the following. “Hitler is Germany and Germany is Hitler”. And, what did Adolf Hitler say? Hitler said the following. “The sworn enemy of the German people is the Jewish race.” No leader of any country has said that Muslims are their enemy. There is no persecution of Muslims by non-Muslims, but there is lots of persecution of Muslims by Muslims. For anyone to compare the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany between 1933-1939, and in countries invaded by Nazi Germany between 1939-1945 when the Holocaust occurred, to today’s situation facing Syrian refugees is a lie, a gross insult to the Jewish people, and a grave injustice to the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust!!!

  • Prof. Dr. Mikhael R. Soranschwarz

    “We cannot”? Dr. Michael Welner and the article are one of the greatest examples – now sit down and swallow the following statement – of the still rare, but rapidly growing fascism of growing Judeo-Ethnoracism directed against the gentile world.

    YES, we can compare! And, yes, we always must compare. Be they facts, events, disasters, catastrophes, historic memories, co-incidents, or even apparently random, disparate phenomens.. Because this is the the main neuro-biologic way we, the people and peoples, learn. Learning in itself is based – in great part – on the comparison mechanism, even comparing the known with the just encountered unknown. Even the most radical of all rapid evolution processes, epigenetics, involves state comparison .
    What Michael Wellner claims is more than 80 % wrong, willful historic deprivation and even depravation.

    “Never again!” must apply also to all Jewish attempts to make out of the Holocaust and its multitude of causes, motors, fuels, factors and players (some with chameleonic roles along the time and space scales) a SINGULARITY.

    It wasn’t, my dear fellow Jews, it wasn’t. It was unique, but not a singularity.
    Holocaust was a unique form of genocide. But not the only one. Specific forms of extermination are defied as genocide, because they have specific common characteristics, while each of the genocides also has unique attributes.

  • This is not the blog of the day…it may be the blog of the year since it deals with so many issues of Jewish misperception of Tikun Olam and the self-delusion of appeasement of the other.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    President Obama and those rabbis who denigrate the role of Jews in the Holocaust should be publicly rebuked for their insensitive, inconsiderate, inaccurate, condescending treatment of both Mideast refugees and migrants and Holocaust survivors. I do not have any doubt that there is malice intended both by President Obama and the rabbis who are out of touch with the history of the Holocaust and do not fully comprehend the predicament of Mideast refugees and migrants. Any comparison between the past victims and the present displaced persons is irresponsible to say the least.

    • Prof. Dr. Mikhael R. Soranschwarz

      To say the least: . Regards ve shalom I think you are wrong and your claims aren’t spectacularly educated.A teacher should know better, IMO

  • Claudia Vignati

    Very well said.

    And plus: arabic refugees do not have any substain from other Arabs and will not kick us out ftom our own nation.
    Each century has its peculiarities.

  • marta mikey frid

    Could not have been said any better!

  • Bravo! Well said……this was needed.
    Thank you.

  • Franklin Delano Paskutnik

    This article should be sent to all rabbis and Jewish leaders in America.Unfortunately most rabbis are not interested in history and its lessons;it is religion that motivates them – religion which they can then interpret (or misinterpret) as it suits them.As Michael Welner so succinctly points out the Holocaust can in no way be compared to the present-day so-called “refugee” situation,where millions of anti-Western Muslims,educated and brain-washed from an early age to hate and despise all infidels and to execrate Jews in particular, are allowed ,without any proper control measures,to enter Europe.I see in this the final demise of Europe’s Jewish community as well.The obvious solution to the “refugee” situation is to force wealthy Muslim countries – far closer to the causes of the problem – to take them in.But this,of course,is not going to happen any time soon.As Dr.Welner points out Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 1940s had no,or very little,choice of where to go : so-called “civilized” nations closed there doors to them as they did not want to create a perceived “Jewish problem” (actually a non-Jewish problem) in their countries.Shame on them forever!Thankfully there is now an Israel which can protect and defend Jews wherever they may be.

    • Prof. Dr. Mikhael R. Soranschwarz

      We, Jews, aren’t much different or better people than all other ME peoples, populatikons, be they refugees already or still not.
      And genocide is genocide. There is one, only one universally accepted definition of “genocide”, and Holocaust is one of its unique instances. Our unique instance is the Holocaust. But Holocaust is not singular as a genocide …
      For all Jews who consider themselves humanists, refugees are refugees, there aren’t better or worse ones. We should be more careful in order to do not create more and more ethno-racist monstrosities.

      • Franklin Delano Paskutnik

        No one in these columns – least of all Dr.Welner – is claiming that Jews are “better” than anyone else,unlike many Muslims who consider non-Muslims as infidels or many fundamentalist Christians who believe that you can only be “saved” and “go to heaven” if you follow Jesus.I,for one,can completely empathize with,for example,the victims of the Armenian genocide : during the First World War,the Muslim Ottoman Turks were responsible for the systematic slaughter of about one and a half million innocent Christians – a terrible crime which modern-day Turkey still refuses to acknowledge.But for me,AS A JEW,the Holocaust stands out as the greatest crime in Jewish history,irrespective of the terrible crimes visited upon other nations and peoples,whose victims those nations have every right to commemorate and mourn.Don’t you think Prof.Dr.Soranschwarz that you should rather focus your anger on those wealthy Arab and Muslim countries who are refusing to take in the Syrian and Iraqi (and other Muslim)refugees instead of attacking your fellow Jews? You see Prof.Dr.Soranschwarz I lost 47(yes forty-seven)members of my family in the Holocaust:they were forcibly removed together with all the other Jews from their little shtetl in Lithuania by the invading Germans,taken to a nearby forest,forced to dig their own graves and then unceremoniously shot.Not a day goes by that I do not think of them.So Prof.Dr.Soranschwarz I will not allow you,or anyone else,to trivialize,minimize or dilute with your specious and irrelevant arguments the significance of the Holocaust to each and every Jew!

  • carol greenwald

    Herzl said in the 1897, “Ja, die Rabbiner sind unser unglueck”, i.e Yes, the Rabbis are our misfortune.” Then as today.

    • Prof. Dr. Mikhael R. Soranschwarz

      Shameful …
      As obscene as : “Die Juden sind unser Unglück!” (“Jews are our misfortune”). Said by Nazis …

      A pity that you aren’t conscientious about the similarity ..

      And BTW: It wasn’t Herzl, it was Isaak Rülf – in a sharp controversy with TWO rabbis, Maybaum and Vogelstern – who invented the most noxious Jewish statement of modern times that 30 years later served the Nazis and their genocidal doctrine.
      In other words: “Juden sind unser Unglück” was inspired by a Jewish Zionist …

      Awful, isn’t it?

      Next time please check your sources or just simply try to stay with on the true side of history…

    • Prof. Dr. Mikhael R. Soranschwarz

      P.S. to my first comment

      It’s my civic duty to publicly accuse you of targeted lying and incitement against the most Jewish part of the world Jewish communities and even against the Jewish people itself.

      This is a clearly antisemitic position, and it is no coincidence that it comes from you, a Board member of the Coalition of Pro-Israel Advocates (COPIA), a mafiotic home to agents of a foreign lobbying power.
      Your statement and article on December 6, 2015 “American Jews Betrayed by Their Leaders. Again” in American Thinker is proof to your fight by all means, including potential violence, against the sheer essence of Jewish culture and tradition, out of a depravated notion of combatant Zionism

  • Shabthai

    Of course not !!

  • Benjamin Weiss

    I think the writer is correct in saying that the plight of the ‘Syrian refugees’ should not be likened to the plight of the victims of the ‘Holocaust’. However Obama is certainly not any worse than the 1250 Rabbis who may or may not be naive in their advocating for the Syrian refugees, comparing their situation to that of the ‘Holocaust’ victims. The Rabbis had good intentions and did not intend to disparage Jews or Israel. Therefore it is unfair to say that the intentions of Pres. Obama’s speech was any different than the 1250 Rabbis’ advocacy for the Syrian Refugees.

  • ted weiss

    so they hate us , want to destroy Israel , hate us the jews with passion , and Obama boy wants us to welcome them here so they can create an intolerant antisemtic anti Israel lobby , mabe join naiac , yea sure sir ssssssssssssss