(May 1, 2020 / JNS) HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society until 2014, is in the news following a firestorm over Dianne Lob, formerly the chair of its board of directors, becoming chair-elect of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The increased attention on HIAS provides an opportune time to scrutinize its work in resettling refugees. Unfortunately, a close examination leads to the conclusion that HIAS knowingly promotes policies that endanger Jews, as well as aligns with those linked to Islamist terrorism.
Rather than debating whether a former HIAS executive should head the big tent of all big tents of mainstream Judaism, the Jewish community should instead begin discussing how to show HIAS the door, just as it would for any other organization that enabled dangerously racist communities.
To understand the damage HIAS does to world Jewry, first imagine that a highly reputable organization has found that more than 90 percent of Norwegians held racist, anti-black views. Moreover, imagine that this was not isolated to Norway. Similar trends were found throughout Europe. On the basis of needing to protect vulnerable populations from marginalization, would it not be reasonable to demand the most radical and extreme vetting, sufficient to weed out the racists of these populations, when immigration was on the table?
There is no evidence, of course, that this sort of racism exists on any significant scale in Europe. But replace Norwegians with any one of a number of Middle East and North African populations, and anti-black views with anti-Semitism, and we arrive at the crux of an emerging problem in the Western world. According to data from the Anti-Defamation League, vast portions of the Muslim world are hotbeds of anti-Semitism.
While there is no data for Syria, which is a major source of refugees, an educated guess follows from looking at its neighbors: for the Palestinian-inhabited territories, Lebanon and Jordan, the anti-Semitism rates are 93 percent, 81 percent and 78 percent, respectively. Iraq, whose refugees also benefit from HIAS’s fierce advocacy, is at 92 percent. A prudent immigration policy requires vetting with this in mind.
HIAS, however, spearheads de facto open borders policies to benefit populations for which radical vetting is needed most. As noted by Charles Jacobs, while it has not been shy about discussing the existence of governmental vetting procedures designed to prevent terrorism, HIAS has not stepped to the plate in looking beyond this myopic metric to other avenues in which immigrants holding detestable beliefs could harm society. Instead, Jews must survive a state of affairs in Europe in which a plurality of anti-Semitic harassment is attributable to an Islamist motivation.
As best put by Jonathan S. Tobin, editor of JNS, “the recent wave of immigrants from Muslim and Arab countries has created a vast new constituency for Jew-hatred.” The data supports this notion. HIAS, however, has made the determination that in creating a more diverse Europe, some collateral damage, particularly that of Jews, must be tolerated.
According the most charitable account, HIAS buries its head in the sand and hopes for the best. Rather than pushing for meaningful vetting, its approach is to demand countries open their borders first, deal with marginalizing beliefs like anti-Semitism later. One solution is implementing something along the lines of the diversity and sensitivity training that someone in the corporate world undergoes upon telling an off-color joke. If Jewish lives and overall well-being weren’t at stake, the only laughing matter here would be HIAS’s naivety.
If all of this wasn’t concerning enough, the company HIAS keeps is telling. It has been unapologetic in its partnership with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The ADL has raised serious concerns about CAIR, citing the fact, among others, that it openly delegitimizes Israel. Worse, the U.S. Department of Justice determined it was an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to fund Hamas. Not surprisingly, the United Arab Emirates, a regime representative of mainstream and tolerant Islam, lists CAIR as a terrorist organization.
Imagine if, instead of teaming with CAIR, HIAS formed a partnership with an organization the Department of Justice determined was involved in a plot to fund a violent neo-Nazi group whose activities included strapping on bomb vests, finding large gatherings of blacks and Latinos and then detonating those vests. HIAS would be a pariah in the Jewish community.
Organizations like the Conference of Presidents have an ostensible aim of promoting the interests of the Jewish people. An organization such as HIAS, which has played a leading role in threatening these interests, not only has no place in such an umbrella organization, but no room for it in the Jewish community at all. Difficult decisions must be made in the days to follow.
Matthew Mainen is a Washington Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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