Syrian Refugees Don’t Stay Home to Fight for Syria
Do Syrians feel Syrian enough to fight back? Raihan Ismail, a panelist on an Australian TV discussion, seems to think not. Of course, she doesn’t say that outright, but she does disagree that able-bodied Syrian refugees should be trained and sent back to Syria to fight for their country.
Ismail, of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University, was responding to the suggestion offered by fellow panelist, Eldad Beck, European correspondent for Yediot Aharonot. He commented that better than hiding away in Europe, the refugees should be fighting:
Eldad: I think that it would be wrong to start a discussion about integrating them in the societies where they are coming to. These people should be organizing in order to free their country. We could not have a Middle East free of those people leaving us and left to people like ISIS. On the contrary, they should be mobilized in order to . . .
Moderator: I assume you are excluding women and children and the infirm and the elderly […]
Eldad: We have Kurdish women fighting ISIS so I would not say that women are out of this game.
When given the chance to respond, Ismail waffled and talked about other issues until the moderator brought her back to Eldad’s suggestions. She was visibly uncomfortable dealing with the point, finally getting out this rather weak statement:
It’s much easier for us to say, you know, that they have to go back and fight. But these people are fleeing tragic circumstances; they’ve lost relatives. And for us to ask them to go back and fight and risk their lives and risk their children – I think it is quite unreasonable, to be honest.
Had Eldad been given the opportunity to comment on this to any depth, he certainly would have talked about the huge losses suffered by the Kurdish men and women who, however, take up arms to protect their towns and lands. This is WAR, and anyone caught up in war suffers losses – life, property, and peace of mind. The ONLY reasonable way to respond to attempts to kill you and take control of those who survive is to fight back.
Furthermore, he may have told the audience about Yezidi and Kurdish women trained to fight ISIS and doing a better job of it than many male units in other armies. Eldad may have mentioned how female soldiers are a powerful weapon against ISIS given that if a Muslim is killed by a women he believes he goes straight to Hell – no martyrdom status for him, no 72 virgins waiting, just the fires of Hell.
Eldad may have discussed the pre-independence fighting forces in the Palestinian Mandate, made up of exhausted, emaciated Jewish refugees from Europe who joined their Palestinian brethren in the Hagana and Palmach (remember, the Palestinians back then were the Jews). Nobody can say that these people did not suffer losses. So, according to Ismail, should they not have been asked to fight for their freedom? On second thought, I don’t think anybody had to ask them to do it. It was just the normal and respectable thing for them to do: to engage in the battle to protect what is ours.
And Eldad may have told you that, even then, women took up arms to fight for the independence of our people.
I can tell you what Israelis who happen to be outside Israel for study do when Israel is at war because I saw it in 1973 at Yom Kippur services in our small community shule. Immediately upon hearing about the outbreak of hostilities in Israel, the Israelis disappeared to make the special flights back home to fight for our country. It is just what we do. An American doctor who volunteered to help care for the casualties of that war described how this looks:
The scene at JFK Airport was bedlam. Young Israeli men waving $100 bills begged for seats on the last plane to Israel, to be able to join their units. I thought, “What a difference from the scenes Americans witnessed, of people rushing to get on the last helicopter leaving Saigon, to leave a country at war. Here, our boys are begging to be allowed to return to their country at war.” Even as they clamored, deep-down everyone knew that not all those who would leave on that 707 would ever return. And yet they begged to go.
Of course the Americans were clambering to leave Saigon – it was not THEIR country. We Jews fight back when our backs are against the wall. That is because we are a proud people and a stubborn people. And because we believe in our peoplehood.
Apparently some Somalis are similar to us: Imam Elman and her sisters returned as adults to Somalia from Canada where they grew up, in order to join the military and fight for their country’s freedom from Al-Shabaab.
What do the Syrians believe about being Syrian? What does it mean if able-bodied men and women wait it out in Europe and other countries while foreign nationals fight their fight for them? I know that I and others were astounded to see the sheer numbers of army-aged males among the refugees banging on the gates of Europe begging to be let in, rather than fighting for their country. As an Israeli I could not fathom such a thing.
You can see the entire ABC QandA (Questions and Answers) episode here.
This post originally appeared on IsraellyCool on February 28, 2016.