Guilt-trip politics is rearing its ugly head this election season, as the searing trauma of the Holocaust is being used to try to turn Canadians - particularly, Canadian Jews - against Stephen Harper this election season.
Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase “None Is Too Many”. It was coined by Toronto History professors Hesh Troper and Irving Abella in their 1983 book, None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933-1948 to describe the xenophobic attitude of the Canadian government in the William Lyon Mackenzie King era.
While Jews often attribute the quote to Mackenzie King himself, it is actually part of a second-hand anecdote reported to Troper and Abella, attributed to an anonymous immigration official in Ottawa. According to their unverified account of the incident, when asked how many Jews would be allowed to immigrate to Canada after the war, the unnamed immigration official apparently replied “None is too many”.
Led by the lawyers who operate the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, an organization that fights antisemitism in the name of the now-deceased Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, the Liberal Jewish community is using the loaded phrase and its emotional implications to turn the Syrian refugee crisis into a battering-ram against Stephen Harper.
Even before FSWC President Avi Benlolo released his statement last week calling on Canada to open the floodgates to Syrian refugees in the name of “Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) during this High Holiday season for Jews, I saw several liberal Jews in my circles using “None is Too Many” in beating up the Prime Minister over refugees and immigration. It’s become the knee-jerk reaction to any defense of the Conservative government’s record and platform.
In the name of fairness, I’d like to take apart this meme, and set the record straight for my fellow Jews being misled by this guilt-trip.
1) “None is Too Many” had nothing to do with the MS St. Louis, and the MS St. Louis had little to do with the Holocaust. Many in the Jewish community and elsewhere falsely believe that “none is too many” was said in connection with Canada’s refusal to accept the 900 German Jews on the St. Louis in May 1939, who were turned away from landing in Havana after a sudden change of refugee policy by Cuban President Bru.
Both the US Democratic President Roosevelt, and Canada’s Liberal PM Mackenzie King, refused to let the boat dock at American or Canadian ports, and thus it was forced to return to Europe. Contrary to the mythological tale of the St. Louis that many repeat to this day, the passengers were not sent back across the sea to the German death camps. The St. Louis docked back at Antwerp, Belgium on June 17, 1939 – three months before World War II began.
Not a single passenger was returned to Germany, where the Wansee Conference was still nearly three years away from convening. From Antwerp, all the refugees were accepted by free countries. The United Kingdom took 288 passengers, France took 224, Belgium 214, and the Netherlands 181. It is estimated that up to 254 former passengers from this journey did not survive the war years, certainly a tragedy, but hardly the “Canada sent back Jews to the slaughter” narrative that is usually implied.
2) Canada’s refugee policy under Prime Minister Harper is anything but “None is Too Many”. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Canada was a world leader in refugee resettlement in 2014, ranking second only to the United States in admissions (12,300), and first in granting citizenship to former refugees (27,200). In contrast, the Liberal Mackenzie King administration admitted just 5,000 Jewish refugees during the entire period of 1933-48.
3) The Jews of Europe of the 1930s would have presented no national security risk to Canada. On the other hand, it is downright delusional to pretend the same about an immediate importation of tens of thousands of Syrians in 2015.
4) Sadly, there is no realistic way to pluck the truly desperate refugees out of harm’s way at present. Just as it was impossible to get Jewish refugees out of Europe during WWII, it is impossible to get large numbers of targeted minorities out of ISIS territory today without large numbers of boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq. Every conservative I know would be proud to airlift every Yazidi and Christian possible to safety starting now; however, in this age of Obamian leading-from-behind, the free world has no stomach for the only real solution to the enslavement and massacre of these innocents – a war of liberation.
5) Islamic refugees from Islamic civil wars are, frankly, not a Jewish problem. Aside from the aforementioned minority communities under targeted persecution, the vast majority of refugees in this crisis are Muslims from Muslim states in a Muslim-dominated part of the world. The Islamic world is completely hostile to Judaism and the Jewish people, and the concept of persecuted Jews in a similar situation being granted asylum in an Islamic country is laughable. While there are certainly moral imperatives in Judaism to help and welcome your neighbours, there is no admonition – “tikkun olam” notwithstanding – to aid your enemy. In fact, most rabbis would tell you that aiding your enemy is strictly prohibited. (Unfortunately, most liberal rabbis refuse to recognize that Islam’s holy books explicitly target Jews as enemies, but that’s for another day.) There are, however, huge Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen, and Egypt, that would be logical lands for large-scale refugee resettlement.
There’s no doubt that the “None is too many” platitude is going to be seen more and more in the coming weeks, as liberal rabbis from the Reform and Conservative movements will be sermonizing on the topic at upcoming Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. Now that you know the historical inaccuracies and logical fallacies involved in applying it to the current situation in and around Syria, don’t be afraid to challenge the pushers of this meme, and let them know the truth.
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