‘Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee’

‘Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee’ October 28, 2018

The headline above is in quotes because it is a quotation. It comes from scripture, from a refrain repeated dozens of times throughout the Hebrew scriptures and the Greek New Testament. And the specific English-language formulation of this imperative is a quotation of the motto of HIAS, originally the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

At The Atlantic, James Fallows reflects today on the work of HIAS:

The worst of humanity is cruelty to the weak, and the other. The best is compassion for just those groups. This theme runs through all of the world’s faiths — the Torah and the Talmud, the Bible, the Koran,  their Asian counterparts, and many others all emphasize the obligation of kindness to the stranger. In practice, America has fallen grossly short of that ideal. But in concept, an openhearted inclusiveness is the idea of America: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

What is a group that exemplifies these ideals? The best of religious traditions, the best of American aspirations, the best of human possibility? One excellent example is hias. This is a group that started out, when known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, as a relief-and-resettlement agency for Jewish refugees from Europe in the late 1800s, and has become a tribune for refugees, the persecuted, and the desperate from around the world. …

Why mention HIAS right now? Because its Jewish background (and centrality in the family history of many Jews in America) and its current work in trying to deal with this era’s tired, poor, and desperate were apparently part of the motive that led Saturday’s murderer to gun down people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The gunman represented the monsters who will always be with us. Anyone who emboldened, angered, or egged him on represents the worst in social leadership. HIAS has represented the best — in Jewish values, in American values, in human values.

That gunman had a feverish history on social media that will seem all-too-familiar to anyone who has spent time on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comment sections of newspaper articles, YouTube, or blogs. He was an angry right-wing rageball driven by a free-floating sense of aggrieved entitlement and an unquenchable desire to demonstrate cruelty to the weak, the marginal, the other.

That man found his demonic purpose through the specific directions given him by Fox News and by the president of the United States. His act of war and terror against Americans gathered in a house of worship was guided by Fox and by Trump, who had, for weeks, repeated the lie that a conspiracy of billionaire Jews were funding an invading army of terrorists disguised as refugees and asylum-seekers.

On Friday, the evening before the massacre in Pittsburgh, Trump railed against “globalists” and laughed approvingly when his audience chanted “Soros” and “lock him up.” That was just days after the Jewish philanthropist and favorite bogeyman of the neo-Nazi right had been sent a pipe-bomb by another Trump-loving right-wing comment-section rageball. Just days after a man inspired by the specific hateful rhetoric of Fox and Trump had attempted to assassinate a list of people whose names had been specifically provided to him by the cable network and the president.

This lie about a global conspiracy of Jewish bankers fueling an anti-white invasion is not a new lie. It wasn’t even a new lie back when the Third Reich seized it, refined it, and weaponized it to genocidal effect.

The lie has never made any sense. It has never been supported or supportable by any facts or evidence or reasoning or reasonableness. Those pretending to believe in it will not be persuaded otherwise by appeals to any of the overwhelming facts or evidence or reason or logic they have heretofore chosen to reject. “It is not light that is needed, but fire.”

Nor should we hope for any Joseph Welch moment to shame the liars and pretenders. At long last, it is starkly clear that they have left no sense of decency that can be invoked to check their recklessly dangerous behavior. It is not possible to shame the shameless liars of Fox News or the White House.

But we can vote them out. All of them. Not just the hateful liar-in-chief, but the entire party apparatus that exists now only to empower him. Every member of Congress, every state legislator, every county sheriff, every municipal council member and dog catcher.

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death.

Oh, and we can donate to HIAS here.


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