Israeli Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
All over the Web there is hand-wringing over the fate of the refugees fleeing war torn and terror infested Africa and Asia. Especially heart wrenching is the newest image of the toddler who washed up dead on the beach in Turkey. What has that got to do with Israel?
There are those around the world who are asking why Israel, neighbour to Syria, is not taking in refugees beyond the number we treated, and are treating, in our northern hospitals. Some of the people asking are fellow Jews and fellow Israelis. Let me be more exact – fellow Israeli JEWS. It is true that the Golan Heights Druze lobbied Israel to let into Israel members of the Druze community who just happened to have been on the Syrian side of the border after the 1967 war; Israel promised to look after them if they came to the border area and need our help. At the same time, Israeli Moslems are silent.
I haven’t heard Arab Knesset members (MKs) ranting in the media, the Knesset or anywhere else, begging Israel to take in “Palestinian” refugees or any other Syrian refugees. Those who often seem to champion the rights of “Palestinian” Arabs outside Israel’s borders more than their own local electorate are strangely silent about the current tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes. I guess they couldn’t figure out how to blame Israel for what is happening. If I am wrong about this, please correct me.
It is possible that Abbas, supposed representative of the rights of the “Palestinians” shut the mouths of Israeli Arab MKs before they could utter a single word. He said that it is better the “Palestinian” refugees in Syria die than be admitted to the PA-administered territories, because that would mean giving up their refugee status!
In fact, Israelis have been helping Syrian refugees since they first started fleeing into Jordan, Turkey and Bulgaria. IsraAID, an Israeli NGO has been providing both humanitarian aid and psychosocial training for local volunteers. They learn to work with the traumatized populations in refugee camps, assessing anxiety and other trauma symptoms, and to provide paraprofessional support to individuals, families and communities. As the professional consultant on this project for a time, it was a very uncomfortable feeling to have to hide being an Israeli in the town where we trained people to help their fellow Arab Moslems.
Comparing Jewish refugees coming out of Europe during World War II with the current Syrian refugee crisis is an underhanded attempt to “guilt” us into doing something, or just to “guilt” us without expecting us to do something. It is also inappropriate and misguided. The current refugees are running AWAY FROM HOME! In contrast, the Jewish refugees in the 1930s wanted TO RUN HOME, but they were prevented from doing so. We were not in charge, then, of our own borders and both the Arabs and British were keeping us out of our own homeland!
That changed with our independence in 1948, and we see how our fellow Jews in Arab lands (and Russia and Ethiopia) have since then been free to run home and no longer risk drowning at sea or being killed at borders of countries that won’t let them in.
The solution to the Syrian refugee crisis is not for Israel or Europe to take in so many refugees that their own resources are overwhelmed and their own citizenry put at risk – the solution is for curing the disease at home, in Syria. How? I don’t know. But to find some way to blame Israel for being inhumane or even for having caused the problem as some antisemitic blogs and Facebook pages have been doing, is certainly not helping to find a solution. But, then, as a Moslem I thought was my friend when we were both university students in Canada in the 70s, told me: As a Jew (not an Israeli, a Jew), I am responsible for all the world’s problems. It seems it is hard to think otherwise, even for many of my fellow Jews.
Image Credit: By Foreign and Commonwealth Office [OGL], via Wikimedia Commons