Refugee debate echoes pre-Holocaust rhetoric on Jews, warns UN human rights chief
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Refugee debate echoes pre-Holocaust rhetoric on Jews, warns UN human rights chief

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussain, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussain, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussain, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Europe faces a return journey down a “very unhappy road” if its politicians continue to use dehumanising rhetoric similar to that used to describe Jews in the years preceding the Holocaust, the UN’s most senior human rights official has warned.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has said Europe’s “bewildering” response echoes the 1938 Evian Conference, which saw several countries – including the UK – refuse to take in large numbers of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution.

He said: “It’s just a political issue that is being ramped up by those who can use the excuse of even the smallest community as a threat to the sort of national purity of the state… If we cannot forecast the future, at least we have the past as a guide that should wisen us, alert us to the dangers of using that rhetoric.”

The high commissioner added that the reluctance of nations such as Britain, the US and Australia to welcome European Jews – on the grounds that an influx of refugees would destabilise their societies and economies – had been a contributory factor in Hitler’s decision to pursue the Final Solution.

Zeid’s criticism follows controversy in July over the prime minister’s description of refugees in Calais as a “swarm”.

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond was also subject to a backlash after suggesting “marauding” African refugees could pose a threat to Europe’s “standard of living”, while home secretary Theresa May told last week’s Conservative Party conference that mass immigration made it “impossible to build a cohesive society” – and that she wanted to make refugee status more difficult to obtain.

In an interview with the Guardian, Zeid accused some European politicians of regressing into “xenophobia and in some cases outright racism”, and urged rulers to remember that refugees “are human being”.

The Jordanian prince, who has previously criticised The Sun newspaper over columnist Katie Hopkins’ description of refugees as “cockroaches”, said: “Closer examination of history and a closer examination of what happened in Europe in the early part of the 20th century should make people think very carefully about what it is they’re saying.

“These are human beings: even in the use of the word migrants, somehow it’s as if they don’t have rights. They all have rights just as we have rights.”

He added: “Why is there so much amnesia? Why don’t they properly distil from their experience that they’ve been down this road before and it’s a very unhappy road if you continue to follow it.”

The high commissioner welcomed the government’s decision to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years – in lieu of joining a joint EU programme – but, citing his homeland as an example, suggested greater action was needed, and cited a recent UN suggestion that wealthy European countries should agree to take a joint total of  1 million by 2020.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments