Sunday’s protest at Battery Park, Manhattan, began with an impressive Jewish presence, with signs such as “We’re all Jews, we’re all Muslims, we’re all refugees.” But as time went by, it turned into a demonstration of veteran members of Occupy Wall Street, with many signs showing US President Donald Trump with a Hitler mustache. More than sympathy towards refugees, it was an act of disdain towards Trump.
If we thought the polarization of the election campaign would start fading away, the opposite appears to be happening: The crisis is only getting worse, splitting the entire United States.
The Obama administration’s US did not take in masses of refugees either—the million people who received an immigration visa last year included only 85,000 refugees. A total of 12,587 refugees arrived from Syria, and less than 40,000 arrived from Muslim countries altogether. The US was blocked to refugees in general, and to Muslims in particular, during Obama’s days too, and Trump simply blocked it a bit more, for three months, in order to improve the examination and screening processes. The average refugee quota during the days of the Obama administration was 70,000, and Trump has announced a quota of 50,000 for 2017. That’s not a dramatic change.
For the absolute majority of asylum seekers, the new executive order creates no change. In addition, one of the arguments made by Trump’s opponents is that the order was imposed on countries that have not produced terrorists. That’s inaccurate. The stabbing attack in Minnesota, last November, was carried out by a young man from Somalia. Two Iraqis who arrived in Kentucky as refugees planned a terror attack and were arrested. As a result, Obama—he and no other—signed an executive order banning the entry of asylum seekers from Iraq for six months.
The difference between the two presidents is in the rhetoric: Obama spoke pompously, made the right statements to the liberals, but didn’t do much. In fact, the collapse of the Arab world, which is producing millions of refugees, is on him as well. He created a problem, and then failed to deal with it.
The same applies to the leaders of European countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who voiced profound criticism. Europe opened its gates in 2015 and took in more than a million refugees from Muslim countries, but that ended. In 2016, Europe began building separation walls and imposing restrictions.
The problem is not in a change of policy from one end to another, but in the way the executive order was issued. It looks like an instinctive reaction. The immigration workers are a bit helpless, because the order is unclear. Does it apply to people who already have visas? After all, one picture or one story of a young Yazidi woman taken off a flight is worth more than a thousand explanations.
And in general, it’s slightly difficult to understand Trump’s logic: the countries that produce radicalization, Islamization and support for terror are mainly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, yet he didn’t utter a word against them. That is not the way to fights Islamists; it is the way to increase the rift with the Muslims, most of whom are the victims of jihad rather than its supporters.
Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, at the Reform Jews’ biggest synagogue in Manhattan, prepared activities against Trump after the Shabbat morning prayer. And it’s not just Reform Jews. Orthodox rabbis are also feeling uncomfortable with the order that is portrayed as an anti-Muslim move. After all, the Jews are a nation of immigrants. Jews suffered from closed gates. So no, it’s not the same thing, but even symbolic moves are significant.
The immigration policy can be changed. The demand for security checks is justified, but Trump’s order fails to take care of the problem, and there is a problem, includes unnecessary humiliation and is rightly interpreted as a racist move against Muslims.
Israeli politicians should not rejoice. Sunday’s protest at Battery Park included quite a few religious Jews. They represent the majority of Jews. Most Americans likely feel uncomfortable too. So there is no reason to jump on the bandwagon. The Americans are deliberating, they are angry and they are protesting. They can do it on their own. There is no need to poke the Israeli nose in.