Trump refugee ban ‘totally unacceptable’
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Trump refugee ban ‘totally unacceptable’

ENDORSING a plea by Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis for President Donald Trump to stop discriminating against people on the basis of their nationality and religion, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) national chair Mark Leibler has panned the US President’s immigration curbs as “incompetent”.

American Jews protest Trump's refugee ban, Washington Square Park, New York.
American Jews protest Trump's refugee ban, Washington Square Park, New York.

ENDORSING a plea by Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis for President Donald Trump to stop discriminating against people on the basis of their nationality and religion, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) national chair Mark Leibler has panned the US President’s immigration curbs as “incompetent”.

Rabbi Mirvis condemned the new US policy at a World Jewish Relief fundraising event in London on Monday, telling his audience: “We as Jews perhaps more than any others know exactly what it is like to be the victims of such discrimination and it is totally unacceptable.”

Addressing the same event, Prince Charles warned the “horrific lessons” of the Holocaust and World War II “seem to be in increasing danger of being forgotten”.

Leibler told The AJN Rabbi Mirvis’ comments “are sentiments with which I entirely agree”.

Stating the Trump bans “were put together in a rather incompetent way”, Leibler said: “We here in Australia and in the United States are nations of immigrants, and we as the Jewish people certainly know what it means to be refugees.”

And in an extraordinary twist, former US ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, who is Jewish, used strong words to condemn not only Trump’s US travel restrictions but silent bystanders.

The ex-envoy, who served in Canberra for the Obama administration from 2009-13, stated: “I take no pleasure in condemning our nation’s actions. But the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” 

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Anton Block and executive director Peter Wertheim jointly stated they “deplore any policies or remarks that serve to malign legitimate refuge-seekers as a group or preference native-born citizens to naturalised migrants. Such rhetoric or policy is self-defeating and harmful.

“At the same time, it is important not to trivialise the plight of persecuted peoples by classing all people seeking to emigrate from war-torn or politically unstable countries as being refugees,” they stated.

AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein said: “It is important not to overreact by taking steps that are excessive, misplaced or discriminatory in the vital fight against terrorism, including Islamist extremism, or the end result will be both morally unacceptable and counterproductive – of which, unfortunately, the recent, precipitous Trump administration executive orders relating to immigration are clear examples.” 

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich said Trump should adopt “a more balanced and nuanced approach to assist those who are in danger and who legitimately need a safe harbour”.

Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, president of the Rabbinical Council of Australia & New Zealand, said he hoped those responsible for the ban “are motivated solely by unbiased security intelligence and risk analysis. Anything less would be of concern, especially in light of the Torah obligation to help those genuinely seeking refuge from persecution.” 

Rabbi Glasman also noted “the hypocrisy of those who condemn this temporary ban but who have not seen fit to condemn the permanent ban of Israelis from no fewer than 16 countries in the Middle East and beyond”.

The Union for Progressive Judaism is “adamantly opposed” to bans on an ethnic, national or religious basis by “the leading democratic nation”, president Roger Mendelson said.

“The Jewish people have fresh memories of suffering from blanket bans being imposed and entry to refugees being denied,” he reflected.

Further coverage in this week’s AJN.

PETER KOHN

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