By now, in the days following the Paris massacre and the Brussels lockdown, many Americans have been reminded of the awful fate of the S.S. Saint Louis. In 1939, fleeing the impending doom of the Holocaust, some 900 Jews boarded the cruise ship in Hamburg, Germany, and crossed the Atlantic.
It was a cruise that will live in infamy. The ship was turned away in Havana, then an entrepot to the Americas. In Florida U.S. officials, worried they might open floodgates to Europe’s Jews, also turned the ship away.
The hapless passengers were steered back across the ocean. Thereupon, the Nazis would murder more than 250 of them. Today, the S.S. Saint Louis remains an everlasting black mark on our history of compassion and freedom.
Historical comparisons can be simplistic and in their starkness force agonizing dilemmas on the American public. Let us therefore declare, first, that Americans have never lost their open hearts but, second, we may be about to commit the same cruelty again, on a much larger scale, this time to Christians who have been marked for genocide in the Middle East.
It is right that Americans, as expressed by more than half the nation’s governors, place national security before accepting unthinkingly every refugee from the chaos in Syria. We simply must be certain the legitimate refugees — of all faiths — have not been infiltrated by radical Islamists with the destruction of our civilization and the killing of our people on their minds.
One of numerous ways would be to submit every refugee to a polygraph, as my friend, Rep. Ken Calvert has proposed, while they’re subjected to a months-long vetting process.
Our people’s fear, contrary to President Obama’s guilt-mongering about widows and orphans, is not unfounded. Current figures bear out that disproportionate numbers of refugees seeking entry to the West are males of fighting age, and we’d better be darned sure they will not repeat a Paris massacre on our own soil.
Alarmingly, the debate over whom to admit has obscured the emergency plight of Christians and, to a lesser extent, the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who also have been targeted for extinction.
How infuriating it is, then, when those with the best intentions, presumed sophisticates all, fall for an intellectual game that could only have been conceived by Uncle Screwtape, C.S. Lewis’ infamous master devil. In this case, Screwtape’s success is seen by the level of agreement with an often-repeated demand that we must not impose a “religious test” on those who seek refugee status in America.
This is when moral clarity is essential. To my political colleagues and all who wag their tongues in the public discourse: The religious test has already been imposed.
It was imposed by radical Islamists — not, to be sure, by the entire Islamic world — but impose it these extreme religious misfits unmistakably did.
When the Daesh marauders marked the homes of Christians with an Arabic “N” — a symbol for “Nazarene” — this was their way of announcing the occupants have been slated for termination. They proclaim, not only throughout the Christians’ ancestral homeland, where millions have continued to reside for two millennia, that they are unashamedly bent on committing genocide — murdering every Christian who doesn’t convert.
America’s longstanding policy remains even now to grant priority refugee status to those targeted for such genocide. But the Obama bureaucracy is not enforcing that policy.
That is why I have introduced legislation that would require the State Department to designate Christians and Yazidis as targets for genocide, a step creating priority refugee status for them. Doing so imposes no religious test. It saves identifiable victims from religious persecution.
Astonishingly enough, reports have surfaced that the State Department is readying a new list that includes Yazidis — but not Christians. It’s tempting to call this oversight inexplicable, but it is perfectly explainable when you recognize how the Screwtape logic often shapes bureaucratic decision-making.
According to the State Department’s own figures, of the 2,184 refugees already admitted from Syria, 2,098 are Muslim, only 53 Christian. Other reports indicate that dozens of Iraqi Christians who escaped territory held by Islamic State were denied asylum, as happened in San Diego when Chaldean Christians were forced back to face a deadly fate.
Call it what you will. I call it an abominable pattern of religious discrimination. And Congress must act to address the abhorrent concept that saving targeted Christians is discrimination against Muslims who are not so targeted.
Putting piety before humanity, one senator did ask, what if a refugee is a Jew?
The senator’s weak grasp of current geography shows. Sadly, the terrorists have already achieved the Hitlerian dream of rendering the region in question virtually “Judenfrei” — free of Jews. We may consider such few Jews as remain and want to leave it case by case, but they have a safe haven. It is, of course, that most welcoming of countries, Israel.
We must do everything possible to save Christians and Yazidis now. We must summon all our power to make sure the ghost of the S.S. Saint Louis remains at the bottom of the sea forever. Let’s not turn away people who are definitely targeted for genocide. Let’s save them, and stop finding excuses not to do it.
• Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.