The following statements concern the problems of immigration and were printed in national newspapers. Can you guess who said what, and where?
1) What is so wrong about British people in Britain being ruled by British people?
2) The way immigrants from Europe are pouring in from every port of this country is becoming an outrage.
3) In Britain, half-a-million immigrants have found a new home and in many respects are given favoured treatment here. Many of them are Poles and Romanians and there is an uncontrolled influx of them at the moment.
4) If immigrants do not wish to be naturalised, then they should be deported. It is not racist to say the interests of the country must come first, citizens owe an allegiance to the nation. It is important that Muslims understand that.
Number one is from the Nazis’ favourite propaganda rag, Der Sturmer. Two is from the Daily Mail in 1939, three a Sunday Express editorial from the same time, and the last is from Oswald Mosley, in an interview about the rise of the British Fascist party.
OK, so I cheated and replaced the word Jew with Muslim or Pole or Romanian, and occasionally Germany for Britain. But I didn’t change a single other word.
The point is that we are dangerously sleep-walking into another period of outright hostility to a minority — or minorities — seeking refuge from their own war-torn, impoverished and hate-fuelled communities and countries. And this time those who are part of an ethnic minority — the Jewish community, for instance, of which I am a member, or Asian or Afro-Caribbean — are part of an establishment turning a blind eye to the virulent chants of the mob.
Yes, circumstances are different today. Yes, there are some who seek to abuse the British government’s generosity. Yes, our population is already bigger than ever, with enormous strains on our infrastructure.
Yet it is also true that some circumstances today are eerily familiar to those in the first half of the last century. It is all too easy to find a scapegoat to “blame” for our woes and rising taxes. We still do not like outsiders — and the rest of Europe distrusts them even more. Once it was Jews eating babies; now it is Roma “selling” them.
On Question Time the other week, Conservative Minister Anna Soubry finally peeled away UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s sinister mask of bonhomie, pouring scorn on his scaremongering tactics. She claimed he was deliberately “putting fear in people’s hearts”, that instead of looking at the facts he preferred to “turn to the stranger and you blame them”.
UKIP was a pretty effective one-policy pressure group that has somehow morphed into a political party attracting all manner of disillusioned and disenfranchised, many fuelled by anger at how “outsiders”, with their strange customs, languages and beliefs, are taking root in Britain.
Hunt down any of the national newspaper websites for comments about that exchange on the BBC and you will find tweets, emails and comments from people expressing the most appalling racist sentiments.
Some of my Jewish friends talk about Muslims as if they were Nazis out to destroy us. My daughter sees it differently — her best friend is a Muslim who observes her culture strictly. At first, I imagine, the two considered themselves as having wildly different backgrounds. Now when they talk about their beliefs, practices and family traits, they realise they are remarkably similar.
This is because we are all immigrants to this country. So it is beholden on us to ensure that the vile scaremongering, closet racism and disgraceful attacks in the media on the predominantly law-abiding and industrious immigrants from Poland, Romania and beyond are drowned out by the kind of compassion and understanding that allowed our grandparents safe passage.
The next time you see in a newspaper the words “flood”, “pour”, “swarming” or “wave” in conjunction with people, don’t turn the page without thinking how Goebbels got there first.