Comparing the Trump administration’s new US visa rules to the Holocaust is misguided and outrageous, says Mike Freer MP.

You can’t pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV or go online without seeing blanket media coverage of President Trump’s new tougher visa regulations in the US. I have made it clear that I feel his immigration policies are a stain on the USA and on its proud history. While the ban continues to go through the courts, one interesting detail, that has been largely over-looked, is that the executive order was signed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. What an irony!

However, when you take the time to reflect on the terrible events that took place in Nazi Germany and the lessons for today, one cannot help being appalled at the comparisons between the attempted systemic annihilation of the Jewish people, and a border restriction implemented by a democratically elected government concerned about protecting its citizens. But the comparisons many are making to the Holocaust are outrageous and misguided.

Moreover, making lazy comparisons not only serves to undermine the cause of those genuinely concerned about the negative implications of the visa policy, it also crucially undermines efforts being made to ensure that the real lessons of the Holocaust are learned and the mistakes of the past not repeated today.

Speaking at a joint event with the European Parliament, my friend and constituent, Dr Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress said “The Jewish community in Europe is under attack from far-Right, far-Left and radical Islamists. As ever, the only common cause between these groups is hatred of Jews. The best way for European leaders to commemorate the Holocaust, is not just by talking about the past but by re-committing themselves to a safe future, especially for the Jewish community.” These words could equally be applied to western civilisation now.

One thing that the so-called “Muslim ban” has done is show that the public is willing to stand up for the free society they believe in and help the refugees. When I reflect on my visit to Auschwitz a few years ago, my overwhelming memory is the anger I felt at all those who let this atrocity take place. Next to the town of Auschwitz-Birkenau there is a town called Oswiecim, it had an estimated pre-war population of 12,000 people of which 58% were Jewish. Whilst the town’s people lived and worked peacefully together, after the war started the community’s Jewish population was decimated.  Why didn’t anyone do more to protect what was right, not just in that town but across the world?

Listening to survivors this year in my constituency was as harrowing as it is sobering. We need to work harder than ever to make sure we learn the lessons of the Holocaust. As Moshe Kantor discussed in an audience with Pope Francis, governments and society at large must work together to stand-up to right-wing extremism and challenge hatred wherever it rears its ugly head.

As we reflect on the horrific and unprecedented events that took place in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s, we must ensure that we do not passively stand by and allow extremism and intolerance to flourish again in our midst today, but fight for what we know is right.  I am proud that so many are willing to make their voices heard and defend complete strangers living many thousands of miles away.

While I do not want to draw parallels between today and the 1930’s, we must all remember that Hitler’s rise was not by stealth but rather as the result of an election. War-torn Germany needed a new voice and to take it in a new direction. Along came an individual who put his hand up and offered a new way. The public bought into it and voted, few could have imagined the atrocities that followed, but it is clear the path they sought was change.

In today’s troubled world, it sometimes seems we are in danger of repeating the mistakes of the past. I agree that we must not be complacent and that dangerous seeds are being sowed. However, I would also caution against taking a more apocalyptic view, I am determined that we should all use our voices for good and not seek to undermine the values on which our country has been built.

As Primo Levi famously wrote, “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”  Let us internalise Primo Levi’s harrowing and eternal warning, let us heed the siren calls of Jewish leaders like Moshe Kantor and let us listen to our own conscious so we can ensure we do not sacrifice our democratic principles.

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