|By cartoonist Ron Tandberg of The Age newspaper|
"Asylum seeker" is, of course, a loaded term. It implies that all those who come to Australia's shores seeking "asylum" are indeed bona fide refugees with reasonable fear of persecution or maltreatment if returned to their countries of origin. It takes it as a given (as, evidently, does this cartoonist on Melbourne's The Age newspaper, which, incidentally, is like others in the Fairfax group no great friend.to Israel).
Under the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees (amended by the 1967 Protocol) the definition of a refugee is a person who
"… owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence … is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."And the expectation has been that asylum would be sought in the "first safe country" to which the would-be applicant for refugee status and consequent granting of settlement rights came.
Australia, with its generous welfare system, is facing similar challenges to another welfare state, Britain, where economic migrants claiming to be asylum seekers are trafficked into the country by ruthless "people smugglers" in the backs of lorries, and where hordes of young men, a great many of them from the more benighted, misogynistic parts of the Islamic world, wait in France (itself a "safe country") trying to sneak aboard such vehicles, or aboard the Eurostar train to London.
Although Jews arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, and although the organised Australian Jewish community began to put down its roots with the advent of the "free [i.e. non-convict] migration" during the 1820s, the Australian Jewish community today is composed largely of the progeny of twentieth-century immigrants and refugees, including a large contingent of Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
This remembrance of plights and flights past has led to the hearts of many in the community ruling their heads, as the widespread and self-righteous condemnation of the reasoned and reasonable views of Australian Jewish News publisher Robert Magid (the subject of two posts on by me this blog) shows.
Observes a Melbourne correspondent in the letters column of this week's brand-new (23 August) issue of the Australian Jewish News, such Jews
"are unable, in spite of copious evidence, to philosophically accept the notion of an illegal immigrant"while a Sydneysider writes of the
'kind-hearted folk who champion the rights of those rescued from leaky boats, many still in Indonesian territorial waters.... A fair number admit (!) to just wanting a better life ... and, meanwhile, those patiently waiting on refugee processing lists (just like my postwar family) are left to whistle Dixie. One contributor [to the newspaper's columns] mentions the Torah's edicts about treatment of strangers, but conveniently omits the bit about the strangers being fellow Jews, not our cousins from countries where no one leaves school without an A+ in anti-Semitism.'Over at News and Views from Jews Down Under, a commenter observed some days ago:
"As Jews we are commanded to not stand idle while our neighbour bleeds. But going to bat for people who make our society bleed, is a bit too much. Showing compassion for people on the basis of Jewish suffering to those who play the system is an affront to those who were refugees.
I have been a refugee, and my parents didn’t have money to buy food, much less pay a smuggler. That is not to say that the rich should not be given asylum, but it is morally wrong to give them preferrence over poor refugees who have waited for decades for resettlement.
The Jews in my DP camp in Germany didn’t know when or where they could go. They organised schools, a synagogue and a local police force. They did not burn down buildings because processing was too slow. My sister and I, as children, could walk around without fear of being raped by people who emerged from the camps, the ghettoes and the forests. The Jews the Brits put behind barbed wire on Cyprus didn’t rape or riot. When Jews were resettled they rebuilt their lives without asking for special help or privileges.
The economic invaders of our country are not nice people. The Hazara seem to be the best of the lot, but why don’t they seek asylum in Iran which champions Sunni “Palestinians” over co-religionists reject them. They could also go to Shi’i Azerbaijan. And as a member of the Northern Alliance which overthrew the Talibaan [sic], they are not helpless as were the European Jews. And why don’t the Tamils seek refuge in Tamil Nadu, the Indian state from which they and the funds for their revolt came?
Compassion is a Jewish imperative. It must not be diluted to let it flow over the undeserving. A Talmudic observation that to be kind to the cruel is to be cruel to the kind can be extended to this crop of pretend refugees."I reckon no one could express the nub of the matter more eloquently than that.