The Dominican/Jewish Atonement

The Dominican Republic, though a Spanish colony for most of its Eurocentric history, did not actually gain independence from Spain itself. The era of "España Boba" (Foolish Spain) from 1809-1821, saw Spain heavily taxed by a war on its imperial peninsula, as well as independence movements in wealthier colonies.
The Dominican Republic -- neglected by Spain -- became independent in 1821, but was quickly invaded by Haiti, its neighbor to the west. From 1822 until 1844, what is now the Dominican Republic was part of Haiti. Eventually, Spanish customs, lighter skin, and Catholicism clashed with French customs, darker skin, and voodoo. In 1844, the Eastern side of the island proclaimed independence, expelled their French/Creole-speaking neighbor, and established the Dominican Republic.
In elementary school, we were taught that our liberation from Haiti was cosmically righteous, that we were chosen by God to free ourselves from the forces of voodoo and Africanism. After independence there were several more invasions, and indeed we were taught to always be on the lookout for a potential Haitian invasion.
In 1937, the then-dictator of the Dominican Republic, Generalissimo Trujillo, decided that he needed to solidify his rule. Since nothing centralizes power more than war, he ordered a Shibboleth, for his forces to massacre all black individuals near the border who couldn't pronounce the word "perejil" (parsley) -- French speakers can't roll the R, and can't aspirate the strong Spanish "J."
Over 20,000 Haitians were hacked to death with machetes for failing to pronounce the word "parsley," without consideration for how long they had lived near the border, or how many generations their families had been there. The dictator failed to get the expected response -- war -- and was instead condemned by the international community, and forced to atone by paying $ 525,000. Each survivor only got a few cents due to corruption, but I digress.
Trujillo, whose rule can be seen as a totalitarian pigmentocracy, decided to not only import European whites, but also further atone for the Parsley Massacre. The next year, at the Evian Conference, when the fate of European Jewry was being decided, the Dominican Republic was the only country that offered visas to European Jews.
"100,000 visas and a city!" shouted Trujillo's brother while stealing the show at the Evian conference. The country at the time had less than 2 million people, so it was a very generous offer.
The city of Sosua was founded, and arriving Jews were greeted by a friendly, welcoming people who even gave each new refugee 80 acres of land, 10 cows, a mule, and a horse. To this day, Sosua maintains a synagogue and prominent Jewish families.
In elementary school, I never learned about the Parsley Massacre or the Evian Conference. Balaguer -- Trujillo's vice-president -- was in power and he knew how to stoke fear of a Haitian invasion, rallying the population behind him as protector of the country's Hispanic traditions. I grew up fearing Haitians. I was told that they kidnapped children and practiced voodoo, a satanic art which made them enemies of God.
One of my earliest memories was of my sitting in my town's main square and seeing two soldiers with shotguns jump off a cattle truck and grab a very black man who couldn't produce identification. He was forced to board the truck along with 30 or 35 other individuals. They were squeezed together and only processed after the truck finished its route, with them paraded for everyone to see as proof of a hard-working government that kept its population safe from evil.
I felt no sympathy when I looked into the teary eyes of those dark-skinned man on that cattle truck -- even though many would no longer be able to provide for their families. I was taught that it was right because they practiced evil and were the enemy. To me they were not human, and indeed I saw no problem with them being paraded in a cattle truck.
Dominican atonement at the Evian Conference was not enough; it did not wash the hate away. Today I am very familiar with that hate. I recognize very well the eyes of a man who does not see humanity in another man's eyes.
Leonel Fernandez, the Dominican president until last year, was criticized for saying, "Dominicans of darker-skin are discriminated against in school." He was brave and took political risk in publicly speaking the truth, but he was not up for re-election. Fernandez also spoke openly against attempts by a strong political movement to build a wall to keep out the Haitians. Fernandez didn't use the term "security barrier." He didn't sugarcoat reality.
However, when I hear Netanyahu speak, when I look into his eyes, I see a familiar face. I see a man who does not recognize the humanity of his neighbor. I see a man who sugarcoats and uses terms like "security barrier." I see a population that turns a blind eye to the parsley and the machete, to the Shibboleth.
Like the Jews, the Dominicans have too suffered greatly. During the Taino holocaust in the 16th century, Spanish occupying forces annihilated the island's entire native population. Today, no Tainos survive. Like the Jews, we were oppressed, and it is true that people who are oppressed also learn to oppress back. Nations are like individuals; a child who was abused and learned that it was right and good, will likely also do it to his children, to the weakest.