Harold Zwier, a member of the AJDS Executive put this comment on Galusaustralis in a response to Rabbi Genende’s article. It is reproduced in full with acknowledgement
I am glad to read Rabbi Genende’s article. Robert Magid’s Viewpoint article in the AJN is quite offensive – and broadly so.
His first paragraph targets Jews. “There is a tendency among Jews to wish to appear more compassionate than the rest of society…”
This is classic anti-semitism. It’s not that Jews wish to “be” more compassionate – a tendency to admire – but that Jews wish to “appear” more compassionate – ie. to mask their true feelings behind a facade of compassion.
The language is subtle and very undermining. How would we regard those sorts of comments if made outside the Jewish community?
The 2nd paragraph targets asylum seekers. Magid uses the term “illegal immigration” to cover this entire group. But, as Rabbi Genende points out in his article, “They are neither illegal (there is no Australian law criminalising arrival without visa), nor are they migrants who leave by choice”. In any case, there is nothing illegal about people who have a well founded fear of persecution in their country of origin seeking safe haven in another country.
The 3rd paragraph builds up a classic straw woman. “..supporting a policy of unrestricted illegal immigration is not a moral position; it is a political one..”
There are very few people who argue that immigration should be unrestricted. Australia’s obligation under the refugee convention provides protection for asylum seekers who either:
• meet the United Nations definition of a refugee, as defined in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol (Refugees Convention), or
• are owed protection under other international human rights treaties and conventions which give rise to complementary protection obligations.
(quoted from the Immigration Department website: http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/61protection.htm)
While supporting unrestricted immigration may be a political position, that position is not being debated in the general discussion about asylum seekers arriving by boat. In the case of asylum seekers, the issue is about whether they qualify as refugees.
Magid is doing exactly what he tries to accuse those with whom he disagrees of doing. He engages in a polemic from a political position that uses fear, misinformation and biased language to vilify his opposition.
But Magid’s argument is also confused. He talks about an “un-photographed, unreported, unseen mother and starving child in a refugee camp”, as in some way more deserving of compassion than a mother who seeks to save her starving child from a refugee camp by finding an alternative to staying in that refugee camp.
Magid then adds to his apparent lack of compassion by telling us that memory of the Holocaust has no place in a discussion about refugees fleeing a well founded fear of persecution.
Magid’s final barb is to link asylum seekers (his illegal immigrants) to ghettos, terrorism and of course Muslims.
There are some people in the Jewish community for whom Magid’s article will resonate, but it’s not reflective of the Jewish community that I know.