Parents and children

Joseph Aaron

The Holocaust analogies have been flying fast and furious.

Thanks to the disgusting, inhumane policy of the Trump administration to fight illegal immigration by separating parents from children, putting many of those children in actual cages, there has been a flood of comparisons to what the Nazis did to the Jews.

Indeed, since Trump took office, there has been a whole lot of demeaning and distorting of the Holocaust, thanks to things like that on the first International Holocaust Remembrance Day he was president, Trump issued a statement that did not once mention the Jews; thanks to his press secretary telling reporters that the Nazis did not use gas on the Jews, totally ignoring Zyklon B which murdered hundreds of thousands; thanks to the fact that Trump said there were some very fine people among the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville, and so on.

But as much as the Holocaust has been in the news in the last 18 months, since news of the forced separation of babies from their mothers and fathers came out, since we began seeing pictures of young children sitting all alone, terrified, since we began hearing audio of the frightened, desperate wailing of these children, some as young as eight months old, there have been all kinds of references to how Nazi-like it all is, how remiscent of what the Nazis did it all is.

Now usually I am very opposed to using the Holocaust to make a political point. As bad as things might be, as reminiscent of the Nazi era as something might be, I think the Holocaust is so sacred, so unique, so unlike anything that has ever happened, that to ever cite it to make a point about anything else, is a desecration, cheapens what the Holocaust is, takes away the power it should have as the most unique event of pure evil in all of human history.

But in this case, while still hesitant, I am inclined to think the Holocaust should be invoked to protest what is taking place in this country. This country, the United States of America, is at this moment, under this president, separating children from their parents, just as the Nazis did.

I know firsthand. When my father and his mother and father and sister were forcibly taken from their Hungarian home in 1944, they were all sent to Auschwitz. The minute they arrived, my father, then all of 14 years old, was immediately separated from his mother and from his sister, who he would never see again. For that same day, his mother and sister, my bubbie and tante, were gassed to death, their ashes thrown on a giant pile, along with the ashes of thousands of other Jews who had arrived that day.

No, the same fate does not await those Central American kids sitting all alone in detention camps. But I must admit it does make me literally sick to my stomach to think of young boys and girls being forcibly taken from their parents. It does remind me of the image I have in my head of my dad standing in Auschwitz as he was separated from his mother and sister.

I found it chilling when I read that some U.S. border patrol officers were telling parents that they were taking their children away for a bath, and then not bringing them back — similar to Jews being told in the Holocaust that they were going to shower, but instead were taken to gas chambers.

Ripping kids from parents is what Nazis do. It is not what America is supposed to do. It is only with Trump that we do so, have the president of the United States justify and defend doing so, have his chief of staff wave it away as if it is no big deal, have his attorney general and secretary of homeland security justify it, saying it’s all the fault of the parents, even obscenely quoting the Bible to justify their justification.

I have read the Torah many times, and not only is there no justification to do what they are doing, it is not too much to say that the very essence of the Bible teaches us to never do such a thing.

And yet it is not Trump who I am mad at. I’ve become so numbed by his behavior, so sickened by so many so called religious Jews who have been and remain his staunchest supporters and defenders, seeing his moving the embassy and killing the Iran deal as excusing all his odious personal behavior, his lying, his demeaning of people, his stripping away of environment and health care and financial protections, his cavorting with and paying off of porn stars, as no big deal. He moved the embassy (which actually he has not done, but more on that some other time) and so even his separating parents from children hasn’t gotten groups like Young Israel and the Zionist Organization, machers like Sheldon Adelson, to utter a peep of criticism. And, of course, Bibi has not said one negative word. He feels free to comment about all kinds of American domestic issues, but this one he is quiet about.

The guy I blame for this is the guy who is more than any other responsible for all of this, namely Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s top aides. If the name Stephen Miller sounds Jewish to you, it’s because Stephen Miller is Jewish, and yet it is he who came up with this so-called zero tolerance policy, came up with the idea of saying if someone tries to get into this country illegally, or even seeking asylum, he will be separated from his children. ‘Deterrence,’ Miller calls it, kind of like how the Nazis called it ‘The Final Solution.’ Sounds so much nicer. Deterrence.

Stephen Miller is a Jew. I don’t care if he does nothing Jewish, doesn’t have a Seder or light Chanukah candles or go to shul on Rosh Hashanah. He is a Jew. And it is he, a Jew, who is the architect of and driving force behind the policy of separating children from their parents.

I have written recently about how many Jews, from Harvey Weinstein to Alan Dershowitz and on and on, have besmirched Judaism the last year or so. But none has been as bad as Stephen Miller. Shandah means doing something that brings shame upon the Jewish people, and this is the mother of all shandahs, shandah on steroids.

Which is why it continues to sadden and shock me how much the prime minister of Israel is trying to be just like the president of the United States. It is almost eerie how much Bibi copies Trump, does just as Trump does, including evicting helpless refugees fleeing hell. Bibi even uses the same language as Trump. Bibi, who is currently under four separate criminal investigations for corruption and yes for collusion, dismisses them all as ‘a witch hunt’ and the media reporting on them as ‘fake news.’ He’s even besmirched law enforcement, savagely attacking the head of the Israeli police as making things up in an effort to get him.

Bibi, like Trump, will one day be gone, but what really worries me is the damage being done to Israeli democracy in the meantime. I’ve previously described how Bibi shut down the Israel Broadcasting Authority because it reported critically on him; how he is trying to pass a law that would allow the parliament, which he controls, to override decisions by the Israeli Supreme Court, thus eroding separation of powers and the primacy of judicial review.

But a couple things the last few weeks showed me just how much he has become a Mini Me Trump.

First was the fact that he was the only Western leader to attend the annual military parade in Moscow. He did so as a personal guest of President Vladimir Putin. Seems just like Trump, Bibi is a buddy of Putin, sees no reason to criticize him, snuggles up to him. The heads of France, Germany, England did not come to the parade, to protest Russia’s behavior in Ukraine. But that didn’t bother Bibi, just as it doesn’t bother Trump. And Bibi went even though Russia is the patron of Syria and of Iran, yes, the Iran Bibi hates so much, the Iran that is in Syria right on Israel’s border, thanks to the help of Putin. But none of that stopped Bibi from going to Putin’s parade.

And then we had the fact that Bibi refused to meet the European Union foreign policy chief. He hasn’t liked some of the things she said, but instead of meeting with her in Jerusalem to give his side, point out where she is wrong, he instead snubbed her, just as Trump snubs anyone and everyone who ever says anything he doesn’t like.

And then we have a parallel to Jared Kushner, the relative who gives the president lousy advice. It was Jared who thought that firing Jim Comey was a good idea.

Well, we just learned that Bibi’s son Yair was the one who pressured Bibi into sending a tweet in support of Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico. The tweet, made in January 2017, led the Mexican government to summon the Israeli ambassador to Mexico for a reprimand. The Mexican government also demanded an apology from Israel.

The tweet said: “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.” Trump retweeted it less than a day later.

Bibi posted the tweet at his son’s urging, despite the opposition of several of the prime minister’s top advisors. “This was an unnecessary tweet, published against the recommendations of all professional advisers,” an inside source said. “Although it is not criminal, it adds up to yet another questionable decision by Netanyahu, some of which have been security related.”

But perhaps most concerning is yet another step in the slow-motion erosion of democracy by Bibi the strongman. He is supporting a bill that would make it a crime to film Israeli soldiers, particularly during clashes with Palestinians. The bill makes filming or publishing footage “with intent to harm the morale of Israel’s soldiers or its inhabitants” punishable by up to five years in prison. The legislation includes both traditional media and social media.

That this is so not democratic, such a violation of freedom of speech, such an attempt to censor those concerned about civil liberties, is seen by the fact that Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit opposes the bill, saying he cannot defend such a law. He also said the Supreme Court would not uphold such a law. (Which is why Bibi is trying to pass that bill that would allow the Knesset to overrule the Supreme Court.)

I love the United States and the State of Israel, love what they stand for, love the principles they hold dear. That they are now doing things so opposed to those values, so against what these countries have always believed in, is a heartbreaking tragedy.  

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