Sand's point is that Jews from Eastern Europe and other parts of Christendom -- unlike most of their more-fortunate coreligionists in Islamic countries like Iraq -- longed to move to America or, if not America, elsewhere in the West. Like his creator, the writer Sholom Aleichem, Tevye the dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof, takes his family not to Palestine but to "New York, America," when the awful tsar expels the Jews from Anatevka, their shtetl in the Pale of Settlement in the Russian empire. (Tevye's brother had previously moved to America.) His neighbor and almost-son-in-law, the butcher Lazar Wolf, is excited that they will be neighbors, for he is going to "Chicago, America."
This attitude was and remained typical. For most Jews who left their homes (for whatever reason), Israel was the last "choice" and only when all other routes were blocked (including, for example, with the Soviet Jews, by Israel itself) or tax subsidies were offered to the poor. After the 1956 Suez Crisis, most Jews who left Egypt moved to the United States, Argentina, France, or Switzerland. Why is that? We know why.
If between the world wars, Sand is saying, the Jews of Christendom had been free to go to America, the Zionist movement would have had far too few people with which to fulfill its dubious dream.
But we can push this further. Could the Holocaust have occurred if Jews had been free to move to America in the interwar period? Remember that the Roosevelt administration turned away the German ship St. Louis, filled with nearly a thousand German Jews fleeing the Nazis, from Miami in 1939 under the strict immigration quotas signed into law 15 years earlier by Republican President Calvin Coolidge, beloved by a few libertarians for his putative devotion to limited government. "America must remain American," Coolidge said when signing the bill.
Had the surviving Jews of Central and Eastern Europe not become displaced by the Nazis because they had been living safely in America since the 1920s, the campaign for a Jewish State in Palestine would have certainly flopped. Think about it: No UN General Assembly recommendation for partition. No Nakba. No Palestinian refugees. No policy- and politics-distorting "Israel lobby." Perhaps no 9/11. It's mind-blowing!
Not to put too fine a point on it, but we could blame someone else besides Coolidge: Woodrow Wilson. It was he who took the United States into World War I, setting the stage for the punitive "peace" treaty declaring Germany uniquely guilty for the war, the emergence of Hitler and his regime bent on vengeance for the indignity visited on the proud German nation, World War II, and the Holocaust.
Not a bad day's work in the Oval Office. Let it sink in: without Wilson's war, no Versailles Treaty; without the Versailles Treaty, no Hitler; without Hitler, no Holocaust; without the Holocaust, no State of Israel; without the State of Israel, well, you get the idea. I'm not saying everything today would be sweetness and light in the Middle East, of course. The Great Powers would have still wanted to control the oil, but the major source of strife and war in that region -- not to mention immeasurable domestic political corruption -- would not have materialized.
Blame aside, we may confidently say that the 20th century and beyond would have looked very different had America welcomed rather than scorned immigrants. What say you, Donald Trump?
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