It’s not just holocaust deniers, anti-jewish sentiment is alive and well

It might seem like we fought WW2 to stop it, but anti-jewish sentiment is alive and well in 2019. Defeating it, however, means looking to yesterday as well as tomorrow.

It is like the canary in the coal mine. In a way, that is a good thing. In some respects, history is predictable. And this is a prime example. Before any war, before any major upset in the world, there is always one group copping it before anybody else: Jews. But it only starts with them. After the Jews, there will be the gays, other Others, people speaking out and then you and me. So their story is a cautionary tale for all of us. The Old Testament started with God testing His people (which are Jews, in case you’ve forgotten your Bible classes) with all the plagues available. Then there were Egyptians and Romans and bigger churches, blaming them for killing baby Jesus or a local disaster or whatever else suited them. In the Middle Ages, it was the Black Death they were held responsible for, after which every minor king or lord used the Jews as convenient scapegoats for droughts, fires and to cover up political misdeeds. We know what happened during WWII, but regardless, only months later Australians thought that allowing Nazis into the country was a better idea than accepting Jews. As early as August of 1945, Minister of Immigration Arthur Calwell announced that 2,000 Jews would be granted landing permits on a humanitarian basis. They could only be close relatives of Jewish residents, their entry was conditional and they would only be allowed if they had spent the war in a concentration camp, had been deported or had survived in Europe in a clandestine way. They were also required to get sponsors, who had to guarantee their upkeep for five years. Regardless of the restrictions, there was a lot of push-back, from all sides. Members of Parliament, the RSL and many newspapers called it “preferential treatment”, that was “aggravating the housing shortage”. Ex-Labor NSW Premier Jack Lang even saw it as a “refugee racket”, because these “aliens” were, he thought, all “wealthy people” and shouldn’t be let in. The Liberal Member for Henty pitched in by saying that by allowing Jewish people into Australia the country would become “a dumping ground for people whom Europe has not been able to absorb for 2,000 years”.

Read the article by Ingeborg van Teeseling on The Big Smoke.