This week saw Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper call for Britain to take 10,000 Syrian refugees, remembering how Brits and others helped bring 10,000 Jews to these shores on the Kindertransport all those years ago.
As a newspaper, we championed a Royal Mail stamp to honour Sir Nicholas Winton who, in 1939, rescued hundreds who would otherwise have been killed by ideological zealots targeting anyone unlike them.
- Chief Rabbi: ‘We have moral imperative to rehumanise refugee debate’
- Nazi refugees urge Britain to take in more Syrians fleeing conflict
- Communal appeal to support refugees
Fast forward 76 years, and today’s ideological zealots carry a black flag throughout the Middle East.
If you are unlike them, you are a target. When they come, men are killed with a blade, women sold as sexual slaves. Others flee.
The luckiest make it to a Middle Eastern shore, paying everything they have to those who would let them drown in a sea or suffocate in a refrigerated lorry.
If they survive – a big ‘if’ – they get to Europe, where we detain them.
So far, the UK has taken fewer than 300 refugees from Syria, where most are from.
Our country’s inaction to date is already a cause for national shame, so we very much support Cooper’s call.
In fact, we cannot believe the figure is so low, or that it has taken so long for someone to come up with it, given that much of the Islamic world fell to the forces of barbarism three years ago. Still, better late than never, and better something than nothing.
It’s only 10,000 people, so it is more than manageable. Since 2011, more than 600,000 migrants entered the UK, enough to fill a city the size of Glasgow.
Moreover, it is symbolic, and consistent with our values.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week said: “If Europe fails on the question of refugees, its close connection with universal civil rights will be destroyed.” It is consistent with Jewish values too: we believe that “whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe” (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5).
No doubt dear Sir Nicky would have accepted his stamp in his customary polite manner, acknowledging through gritted teeth the label ‘hero.’
But he was a humanitarian first and foremost.
If his country were to honour his memory in any way, we feel sure he would have wanted that to be by helping those whose lives were at risk from today’s zealots.