Robert Magid, owner and publisher of the Australian Jewish News, published an opinion piece about refugees and asylum-seekers on August 3. He described “illegal immigration” as “a criminal enterprise” and said he “doubt[ed] there is a single boat person” that seeks asylum in Australia who flees “certain death”.
* * *
No, Robert Magid, it is not just because some Jews want to appear to be compassionate that we resolutely oppose the government’s treatment of refugees (for that’s what the people who come to our shores on boats are — asylum seekers and refugees. It is never illegal to seek asylum). Instead, it is that as Jews or non-Jews that we feel compassion. Many people within and outside the Jewish community have had family members — or ourselves have been — forced into situations wherein we had to escape persecution. It is also that we are human, and stand in solidarity with other feeling people.
It is thus outrageous of you to say “the Jews who fled the Holocaust faced certain death. I doubt whether there is a single boat person in that position”. To suggest that there are no refugees who come by boat who face death back home is a false assertion. It is also false to claim that Afghans (your facts are wrong — it is the Hazara, a persecuted minority) can be easily accommodated in nearby countries.
The vast majority of people who come here are granted asylum according to the stringent international criteria and many have been through horrific torture, violence and so on.
The responsibility of the government, and of all people, when considering how to assist people fleeing from violence, is to think first of helping them to safety. That is what we would wish of from others, and the very least we can offer. There are no easy solutions to this international problem. Engaging in a hard line will not make the problem go away but in fact cost lives and will diminish our humanity.
The anti-Muslim sentiment perpetuated in your column was also offensive not just to Muslims, but to everyone. How can someone be so blind to what the Jewish community has been accused of time and time again? You have engaged in group vilification and dog whistle politics.
We would hope that in the future, the Australian Jewish News would express opinions based on a compassionate understanding of the facts and not myths about asylum seekers. An apology is due to all the victims of persecution (some of whom are from other minorities — Tamils, Mandeans, Chaldeans), who arrived by boat.