People often ask me how I manage to be an optimistic person while covering war, genocide, poverty and disease. The quick answer is that side by side with the worst of humanity, you invariably find the best — and that was true after the Pittsburgh shooting. When the alleged shooter was taken to the hospital for treatment of his gunshot wounds, he was still shouting “kill all the Jews.” He was then promptly treated, very professionally, by three Jews. When the president of the hospital, a member of the congregation that had been attacked, respectfully asked the shooter how he was doing, the man asked who he was. The reply: “I’m Dr. Cohen.”
He set foot on Ellis Island on January 7, 1903, with $8 to his name. Though fluent in Polish, Russian and Yiddish, he understood no English.
.. In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.
.. What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister.
I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.
.. I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants — been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom.
.. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America first” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees.
Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family likely would have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.As in past generations, there were hate mongers who regarded the most recent groups of poor immigrants as scum, rapists, gangsters, drunks and terrorists, but largely the Glosser family was left alone to live our lives and build the American dream... blind to the hypocrisy of their policy decisions. After all, Stephen’s is not the only family with a chain immigration story in the Trump administration. Trump’s grandfather is reported to have been a German migrant on the run from military conscription to a new life in the United States, and his mother fled the poverty of rural Scotland for the economic possibilities of New York City. (Trump’s in-laws just became citizens on the strength of his wife’s own citizenship.).. These facts are important not only for their grim historical irony but because vulnerable people are being hurt. They are real people, not the ghoulish caricatures portrayed by Trump... In the early 2000s, Joseph (not his real name) was conscripted at the age of 14 to be a soldier in Eritrea and sent to a remote desert military camp. Officers there discovered a Bible under his pillow which aroused their suspicion that he might belong to a foreign evangelical sect that would claim his loyalty and sap his will to fight. Joseph was actually a member of the state-approved Coptic church but was nonetheless immediately subjected to torture. “They smashed my face into the ground, tied my hands and feet together behind my back, stomped on me, and hung me from a tree by my bonds while they beat me with batons for the others to see.”.. Joseph was tortured for 20 consecutive days before being taken to a military prison and crammed into a dark unventilated cell with 36 other men, little food and no proper hygiene. Some died, and in time Joseph was stricken with dysentery. When he was too weak to stand, he was taken to a civilian clinic where he was fed by the medical staff. Upon regaining his strength, he escaped to a nearby road where a sympathetic driver took him north through the night to a camp in Sudan where he joined other refugees. Joseph was on the first leg of a journey that would cover thousands of miles and almost 10 years.
.. Before Donald Trump had started his political ascent promulgating the false story that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim, while my nephew, Stephen, was famously recovering from the hardships of his high school cafeteria in Santa Monica, Joseph was a child on his own in Sudan in fear of being deported back to Eritrea to face execution for desertion.
.. In all of the countries he traveled through during his ordeal, he was vulnerable, exploited and his status was “illegal.” But in the United States, he had a chance to acquire the protection of a documented immigrant.
.. Today, at 30, Joseph lives in Pennsylvania and has a wife and child. He is a smart, warm, humble man of great character who is grateful for every day of his freedom and safety. He bears emotional scars from not seeing his parents or siblings since he was 14. He still trembles, cries and struggles for breath when describing his torture, and he bears physical scars as well.
.. I have met Central Americans fleeing corrupt governments, violence and criminal extortion; a Yemeni woman unable to return to her war-ravaged home country and fearing sexual mutilation if she goes back to her Saudi husband; and an escaped kidnap-bride from central Asia.
.. Trump wants to make us believe that these desperate migrants are an existential threat to the United States; the most powerful nation in world history and a nation made strong by immigrants. Trump and my nephew both know their immigrant and refugee roots. Yet, they repeat the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against these refugees to make them seem less than human.
Trump publicly parades the grieving families of people hurt or killed by migrants, just as the early Nazis dredged up Jewish criminals to frighten and enrage their political base to justify persecution of all Jews.
Almost every American family has an immigration story of its own based on flight from war, poverty, famine, persecution, fear or hopelessness. Most of these immigrants became workers, entrepreneurs, scientists and soldiers of America.
.. Most damning is the administration’s evident intent to make policy that specifically disadvantages people based on their ethnicity, country of origin and religion. No matter what opinion is held about immigration, any government that specifically enacts law or policy on that basis must be recognized as a threat to all of us. Laws bereft of justice are the gateway to tyranny. Today others may be the target, but tomorrow it might just as easily be you or me. History will be the judge, but in the meantime the normalization of these policies is rapidly eroding the collective conscience of America.
Thank you, Madiba, for pardoning my family, me, the whites of South Africa. You’re 100, so let’s celebrate your example... Anyone harboring the dangerous illusion of humanity’s perfectibility should remember: A tourist stole Nelson Mandela’s spoon... The spoon-stealers are out there. Sometimes it seems these thieves with their airs, their acquisitive self-importance and their capacity for cruelty to children, are taking over the world... The 27 years stolen from Mandela by people with white skins, the suffering inflicted on tens of millions of black South Africans over decades, would not be repaid in blood.
Perhaps white South Africans, like my family, got off too lightly. Theirs was a “picnic in a beautiful graveyard,” as Nadine Gordimerwrote.
.. They could say, “I never voted for torture!” and forget their complicity in South African policing by pigment — the segregated schools, the forced removal of blacks from their homes, the banishment of blacks to invisible townships of dust and drudgery... A cry rises from young blacks directed at whites — “Expropriation without compensation!” It’s popular enough to have an acronym, “EWC.”.. Yet most Jews went along with apartheid — by no means all, however, including several of Mandela’s lawyers. There are more bystanders than heroes in times of oppression. That’s part of the survival gene — even if humanity’s ultimate survival depends on the few who will resist... Then I ask him if whites got off too easily.
“Mandela forgave them,” he says. “We must trust him. If the people who suffered most forgave, why shouldn’t we?” You feel no anger? “None whatsoever.”
.. Don’t worry, you’re 100, we’ll find that spoon thief. Their kind will not inherit the earth.
The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is a classic in paranoid, racist literature. Taken by the gullible as the confidential minutes of a Jewish conclave convened in the last years of the nineteenth century, it has been heralded by anti-Semites as proof that Jews are plotting to take over the world. Since its contrivance around the turn of the century by the Russian Okhrana, or Czarist secret police, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” has taken root in bigoted, frightened minds around the world.
The booklet’s twenty-four sections spell out the alleged secret plans of Jewish leaders seeking to attain world domination. They represent the most notorious political forgery of modern times. Although thoroughly discredited, the document is still being used to stir up anti-Semitic hatred.
Origins of the Protocols
Serge Nilus, a little-known Czarist official in Moscow, edited several editions of the Protocols, each with a different account of how he discovered the document. In his 1911 edition Nilus claimed that his source had stolen the document from (a non-existent) Zionist headquarters in France. Other “editors” of the Protocols maintained that the document was read at the First Zionist Congress held in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland.
The Protocols served to rationalize anti-Semitism and genocide in Hitler’s Germany. The myth of the Jewish world conspiracy permeated Hitler’s thinking, and he linked Germany’s economic hardship during the 1920s to the secret plot. Once in power Hitler invoked the Protocols to justify anti-Semitic legislation and suppression of all opposition to the Third Reich. For example, the first anti-Semitic measure in April of 1933, a one-day boycott of Jewish stores, was deemed a defense against the “Plan of Basel” (another name for the Protocols).