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It’s history revisiting us - Carol Gatt

Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Many of us Maltese, like many Europeans and people in the West, think refugees could be genuine, legal, but only when they say so. When we accept that they could be genuine refugees who justly come and claim help from better, safer countries, we refer to the past.

Times like when the Maltese themselves, torn with poverty and economic limitations, had to seek better lives in Canada, America and Australia. The time of World War II, we think, would have been a time when refugees were genuine.

But one thing we hate doing, is looking in the mirror, and seeing our bigotry. In the 1930s and up until World War II, we hated Jews and refugees just as adamantly as we do today. We Europeans hated them, despised them, dehumanised them and tried to shut them out, and this was true for laymen and politicians.

After the war, you can read through history and see that we thought we had done a great job of welcoming them and being humane to those in need. You will find that the same politicians, priests and leaders who had previously fought for and waved the nationalistic banner of hatred for the Jews and the persecuted, were, after the war, claiming that they loved the refugees, wanted to help those in need and would open the doors for them – words changed, policies didn’t in the most part.

When us Maltese went to live in the US, Canada and Australia, we too were looked down upon, we too found many doors closed. We too were hated and despised, dehumanised and accused of every rape, thievery, prostitution ring and crime. We know what it feels like when your kids are looked down upon, when you can’t work at the job you studied for but have to go into manual, low-paid jobs. But did we learn anything?

At the time the Nazis were coming to power, right up to the war, Hitler and his damned gang called refugees alien. Sounds familiar? Alien, as from another planet, another race that is less human or not human at all. Not only this, we are mimicking the Nazis in most of their language and the policies we are seeing adapted today are no less cruel and no less Nazi.

At the peak of Hitler’s extermination of Jews, Roma and other ‘races’, volk as they were known, the surrounding countries, Europe, closed their doors to those fleeing, causing the extermination Hitler planned to take place unhindered. Those that made it to another country were not helped but demonised, as if they carried the plague of poverty that Europe was suffering of. And these were Europeans, these refugees were European nationals, but the hate was blind, as it is now. And so, the killing of Jews, in plain sight of our politicians could go on unhindered, registered but not hampered by claims of human rights abuse and the like.

Just like today, we know of so many thousands drowning in the Mediterranean every year, just a stone’s throw away from our sandy, sun-kissed beaches. We see them on our radars. Our army could deploy to help save them, yet, blinded by our hate, we are killing.

Of course it is comfortable to think we are doing all we could to help out. We love hearing that the Maltese are such a generous bunch, especially around Christmas time. But are we? Can we truly look at the mirror and be happy with our deeds, attitudes, beliefs?

They are fleeing wars we ourselves are financing and helping in. They are fleeing poverty caused by our greed and materialistic immorality

The number of Jews admitted into European countries in the 1930s and up to the end of the war was miniscule. Many more Jews were killed than accepted as refugees in the UK, US, Canada and other countries that were unaffected by the Nazi killing spree. Yet, if you look at the newspapers of the time, you would think they were being overcome with foreigners pouring through their borders. Just like then, we are hearing today.

We are told the Europe we know is under threat because of Muslims pouring in, black people with strange, outlandish cultures attacking ours, strange gypsies coming to rob us. In truth, they are fleeing wars we ourselves are financing and helping in, they are fleeing poverty caused by our greed and materialistic immorality. They are fleeing laws we ourselves helped establish and dictators we ourselves help prop up.

We are told these illegal aliens are here to harm us and destroy us. If you see the lies the far-right groups disseminate on their false feeds, you would be excused to think we are under attack from evil, brown aliens from planet Terror. In truth, we are only being revisited by our own sense of haughty superiority.

We, whites, have a history of thinking we have more rights than others on God’s creation and God’s resources. We, whites, have a history of ignoring who opened doors for us when we were ourselves persecuted, and used to go in boat loads to Muslim, African, and ‘alien’ countries without any legal visa to our name.

The parallels we are seeing today with Nazi policy and language are shocking, but with the education we have, one wouldn’t know much of it. It was recession time then as it is recession time now. It was unemployment time then as it is now. It was unions fighting for rights then as it is now. Refugees were taking jobs from the locals then, perceived as invaders, thieves, as the fools claim they are doing now. We tried to stop refugees from speaking German at the time of Hitler like we are forcing them to speak our own languages today, denying them rights if they do not learn.

Denmark has gone a step further, forcefully taking one-year-olds and older to government brainwashing programmes for ‘education’ – with language tests, cultural programes – and forced separation from their families. This, in addition to school hours.

Many of our supposedly enlightened countries are brazenly forming laws that are so hate-filled for the ones in need, so intent on killing ‘aliens’, so intent on closing the doors in the face of those we have already been paying for the extermination of, that we will soon find ourselves there again, in pre-World War II Nazism, killing others without knowing really why.

We are lying to ourselves. History is coming at us again. Will it find us willing to kill and seek only our own interests, like it did last time? Will our general self-deception allow us to believe the comfortable lies rather than the hard truth that can make us better humans?

Returning refugees to dangerous countries is the same thing we did in World War II. Closing borders is what we did as well. Leaving the problem up to others to deal with, as if they can do better is the lie we told ourselves back then as well.

Will we change and do better this time round? Governments can use their voices to tell the truth about refugees and acknowledge their work and their striving instead of using them as a weapon of fear on which to get re-elected. Newspapers could bring about perspective when they run stories and report on issues of refugees. We could all reach out and get to know a foreigner who lives in our neighbourhood for a change.

Steps in the right direction can take us a long way away from our disgraceful past. Will we do it?

Carol Gatt is mother, a sister and a daughter, a Maltese Muslim committed to truth before nationalism. 

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