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Steve Wenick weighs in on US President Donald Trump’s executive order regarding immigration. Wenick defends the policy that Trump has implemented within a week of taking office while rejecting the claims voiced by those who are equating the plight of Syrian refugees being temporarily denied entry by the US to that of the Jews during the Holocaust.

Trump in the Oval Office

Trump in the Oval Office Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

In the Jewish community, a debate has erupted in regard to President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Despite the misleading media headlines, namely, that President Trump is banning Muslims, the fact is the ban only applies to seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia and the ban is temporary. The ban is for a period of 90 days, except for Syria, which as of now is indefinite. 

The purpose of the temporary ban is to give our government time to implement effective vetting procedures to protect our citizenry against attacks from those countries with populations hostile to America. Excluded from the ban are: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Lebanon and Kuwait. Trump also suspended the entry of Syrian refugees for 120 days.

What President Trump has done, in terms of vetting, is analogous to what Israel does when it profiles people boarding planes flying to and from Israel. The difference is Trump announces it to the world and Israel does not. In this world of political correctness, I know that people are struggling with the question of: is what President Trump doing right? I too am questioning and conflicted. However, I am less concerned about doing what is politically correct than I am about doing what is reasonable and realistic for the protection of my countrymen and family.

Now let’s move on to the Syrian refugee situation at hand. There are those who have erroneously equated the plight of Syrian refugees being temporarily denied entry by the United States to that of the Jews during the Holocaust. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Syrian refugees have 22 Arab/Muslim countries to which they can emigrate. Those countries share their Muslim religion and culture. The Jews of Europe had no country of their own; consequently, they had nowhere to go.

It is true that the Syrian refugees are caught in the crossfire of a civil war. The difference is that the Jews of Europe were caught in the crosshairs of their genocide.

Syrians, those of ISIS vintage as opposed to those who are not, (how can one tell the difference?) have and continue to attempt to sneak terrorists and their enablers into the United States, under the guise of being refugees. They only mean to do us harm, as we have unfortunately experienced.

Children in Syria

Children in Syria Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

The Jews of Europe, all of them, only sought safe harbor and intended no harm to the United States. Syrians routinely shout ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ and of course their default mantra de rigueur ‘Death to the Jews’. The Jews of Europe did no such thing. They were silenced by the Nazis, and their all too willing European and Arab accomplices, and the world chose to remain silent.

On the other hand, noted Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy makes the point that on Rosh Hashanah, we Jews utter the words, ba’asher hu sham, translates to, “where they are now,” meaning we should treat people where they are in their situation and state of mind at the moment. The statement does not convey to us any qualification which expresses concern as to what is in a person’s heart or if they have secret sinister motives.

The example he gives is when Abraham banished his wife Hagar to the wilderness along with her young son Ishmael. To shield him from the scorching heat of the wilderness, she placed him in the shade of a tree and then collapsed from exhaustion and thirst. Mercifully, God opened Hagar’s eyes and showed her a lifesaving well, thus He spared her and Ishmael from certain death. God did that in spite of the fact that He knew full well someday the descendants of Ishmael would become bitter enemies of his half-brother Isaac. The story is an unqualified call to stanch the bleeding first, then worry about rehabilitating the future patient (enemy) later.

In light of the Hagar story, consider this: President Trump’s primary responsibility as the President of the United States is to ensure the security of its citizens, first and foremost. Also, his actions are the result of information to which he is privy and we are not. Therefore, for those of us who criticize or support his actions, know that we are only seeing part of the landscape of issues the facts, therefore our opinions should be tempered knowing that we do not know all of the facts The fact that God intervened to save Hagar and Ishmael knowing that Ishmael would be at odds with Isaac seems illogical. But that is only because we do not know all of the facts that make up the rest of the story.

The scales of justice, right and wrong, need to be weighted in favor of the more humane thing to do. What that is, is determined by your values, but for heaven’s sake, above all, respect those with whom you disagree. I suspect that since this debate will not, “gentle into that good night go,” keep it civil and heed the Talmudist who wisely cautioned, “It is better for a man to throw one into a fiery furnace, than to embarrass one’s fellow man in public.”