Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

The Closing of Gates . . . The Opening of Doors

This past Friday, January 27, was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Gatherings and services were held around the globe, perhaps most notably in Warsaw, Berlin and Tirana, Albania, were an olive tree was planted during the inauguration of a downtown garden commemorating Albanians who saved Jews during the war.  In Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump commemorated the day by issuing a statement which bewildered some and infuriated many others. Why?  Because the president's contained nary a word about Jews.  Anti Defamation League (ADL) head Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted "@WhiteHouse statement on #HolocaustMemorialDay, misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just 'innocent people.' 

It should be noted that last year at this time, then-President Barack Obama's statement made explicit reference to Jews, declaring, in part "We are all Jews." Ah, but Donald Trump is a great friend of Israel and the Jews; Barack Obama, despitebeing the first and only POTUS to have an ordained rabbi in the family, he is an Israel-hating anti-Semite.  To further trivialize International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Mr. Trump chose this very day to issue an Executive Order barring all refugees from entering the United States for four months — and those from war-ravaged Syria indefinitely.  In signing the Executive Order, the president defended it as being absolutely necessary to prevent “radical Islamic terrorists” from entering the nation.  Trump further said the halt in the refugee program was necessary to give government agencies time to develop a stricter vetting system.  One wonders if he and his team are even aware of how strict the vetting system employed during the Obama years already is; under it's terms, it can already take up to 2 years (or more) for an applicant to receive permission to enter the U.S.  

It would seem that being POTUS has not done a whit for Donald Trump's tone-deafness; it is as obvious as ever.  And despite Reince Priebus' best attempts at diffusing or deflecting the matter of failing to mention Jewish victims of the Holocaust, members of the rational public are becoming increasingly strident in their denunciation of a president and an administration that has only occupied the White House less than a fortnight.  

In an interview with CBN News, the president said persecuted Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee status. "We are going to help them, the president said.  "They've been horribly treated." Yes, this is true, but what about Yazidis? Sufis? Shi'ites living in Sunni-majority countries or vice versa?  When it comes to endangering the lives of whole communities based on their religion or ethnicity, we are all Jews; we are all Copts, Yazidis and yes, we all Muslims.

Strangely, while the travel/entry ban is most stringent when it comes to Syrian refugees - a heck of a lot of whom are in a relocate-or-face-death situation, it does not include any Islamic countries where the Trump Organization has business interests. The president's order makes no mention of - among others - Turkey (where Trump-branded home furnishings are manufactured); the United Arab Emirates (where Trump has licensed his name to a Dubai golf resort, as well as a luxury home development and spa),  Indonesia (the world’s largest majority-Muslim nation, where there are two large Trump-branded resorts underway);  and Saudi Arabia(the home of 15 of the 19  9/11 terrorists where The Trump Organization had incorporated several limited liability companies in preparation for an attempt to build a hotel). 

For many, the logic behind President Trump's Executive Order - which is already fomenting chaos and uncertainty around the world - is clear: if the order keeps even a single potential Islamic terrorist out of the country and saves even a single life, it will have been worth it.  This, it seems to me, is but a reification of the old Barry Goldwater bromide that "Extremism in the face of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." By this logic, if by enacting laws which would keep all assault weapons and multi-round clips out of the hands of the American public even a single innocent life is saved, wouldn't it be worth it?  Unfortunately even if the logic may be unassailable, there is one big difference: Muslims don't have a well-heeled, deep-pocketed lobby; gun-owners do. Muslims aren't in a position to buy politicians - or put the fear of losing the next election in them; gun owners do.

As we have seen over the past 24 hours, push-back from the public and the courts has been both vehement and successful.  Already, the Trump administration has been backing down on terms of this executive order.

Meanwhile, Israel's actions vis-à-vis Syrian refugees and Holocaust Remembrance Day is a horse of a different color - despite how much closer the reality of terror is there than here in the U.S . . . and the fact that a technical state of war exists between the two neighboring countries. For Israel announced that for the first time it would open its doors to 100 Syrian children who have been orphaned as a result of that country's six-year civil war.  Additionally, Israel has admitted more than 2,600 refugees from Syriafor medical care.  Unlike Donald Trump's America - and virtually every other country in the Middle East - Israel is distinguishing itself by extending a welcome hand to orphaned refugees in need. Unlike again, unlike Donald Trump's America and all other Middle Eastern countries, Israel is choosing to save the lives of the most vulnerable victims of the terrible Syrian Civil War and offer them a new chance for life. Tiny Israel, which is vilified by a vast majority of the planet for being apartheid-loving, racist, bloodthirsty and dictatorial is, when all is said and done, far more humane and compassionate than her enemies would have it.

This is the way great - though admittedly imperfect - countries are supposed to act:

They open their doors, rather than close their gates.

Are you paying attention President Trump? 

10 days down, 1,450 to go.

Copyight©2017 Kurt F. Stone