Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Humanitarian Crisis? Or Perpetuating Antisemitism?

Syrian refugees 
I recall a while back reading about a young Egyptian involved in what has been come to be known as the Arab Spring. In its early days, this was seen as a movement liberating the Arab people from dictarships and replacing that government with democracies. Where Arab citizens could live in freedom and choose their leaders democratically.

In Egypt it was about replacing President Hosni Mubarak. The ‘Arab Spring’ spread to other Arab states where dictators were overthrown.  But the results were not as anticipated.  In  Egypt, the removal of one type of dictator was replaced by another type. Which ultimately resulted in a military coup. 

That young Egyptian was interviewed by a reporter from a Jewish weekly and asked what it was all about. He answered that it was all about getting rid of Mubarak and bringing freedom and democracy into Egypt. When asked how he felt about Israel, he said Israel was on the back burner for now. But once things settled there, he and his countrymen would turn their attention to that Zionist entity with the goal of wiping it off the map.

So there you have it. This young  ‘democrat’  fighting to free his country from tyranny, was nonetheless anti Israel.  It seems that no matter what side of the political aisle an Arab is on – in the Middle east, the one thing they have in common hating Israel.

Egypt was of course not the only one going through the ‘Arab Spring’. Another Arab state was Syria. That conflict is still going on. There is a civil war going on there with many factions participating, each with their own agenda. One faction is ISIS, probably the most violent Islamic sect in all of Islam. ISIS has taken control of much of Syria leaving a path of genocidal carnage in its wake. Beheadings are common as are mass shootings… all in the name of Islam.

Anyone considered an Infidel by ISS standards is fair game. Infidels can include other Islamic sects. As they continue their reign of terror, an estimated 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced. They seek asylum or refuge in foreign lands. In that effort many have lost their lives as they flee in makeshift overcrowded boats that look like giant inner tubes.  All in a desperate attempt to rescue their families from ISIS terror.  Their homes and their country – once a relatively normal place to live happy and productive lives have been turned into killing fields.

Anyone watching all this unfold in the nightly news cannot help but feel sympathy as we watch them trying to escape via makeshift boats across the sea. If they make it across they find resistance. Hungarian police have treated them like criminals and rounded them up into displaced persons (DP) camps.  Although the first arrivals have finally been given a pass to carry on their journey, new arrivals come daily in those unsafe boats.

Some foreign countries are so fearful of these refugees that they have actually tried to sabotage those boats. Greek ships were filmed sailing out to these boats and destroying their motors – leaving them to float aimlessly at sea. Turkey, to their credit sent out some of their ships to rescue these people by throwing them a line and tugging them ashore.

As a Jew whose parents suffered through the Holocaust, I can surely sympathize with the plight of these people. This is not to say that I am in any way comparing the current atrocities to those of Nazi Germany. The two events are not even close in the magnitude of cruelty, numbers, and genocide. But this lesser tragedy is still a tragedy of great proportion. Atrocities taking place are similar to the ones that took place by the Nazis against Jews during the Holocaust. Like the mass shootings of infidels into pre-dug  graves.

The question arises, is the natural sympathy for fellow suffering human beings misplaced? Are we feeling sympathy for people that would kill us if they had the chance? Is their thinking about Israel the same as that Egyptian youth? Was that Egyptian youth an example of the rule, or the exception?

Watching the nightly news, I see only people in a state of misery, trying to escape and lead better lives in a foreign land.  But what if these people harbor the same antisemitic thoughts that Egyptian did? Should we have sympathy for a people that would to kill you under different circumstances if they were given the chance? Is this an example of being kind to the cruel?

First of all, not every Arab is an antisemite. Those surely deserve to be saved. But is it right to save them all if most are antisemsites and only a few aren’t?

Former British Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks apparently sees this only in humanitarian terms. This is what he told the BBC:
(T)he images that have surfaced over the last few days of over-packed dinghies, lifeless children and families torn apart have “brought back images we thought we would never see again. They take our mind way back to the Holocaust and it is important to remember simple humanitarian gestures… 
He suggested using a type of ‘kindertransport’. This was a train created to save Jewish children during the Holocaust – bringing them to safer grounds outside of Nazi control. He is advocating his countrymen do the same thing for Syrian children.

What about neighboring Israel? Should they consider taking any refugees? They have serious demographic problem.I don’t think they can. Here is what Prime Minister Netanyahu said:
 “We have conscientiously treated over a thousand wounded from the fighting in Syria, and we have helped them rebuild their lives.
But Israel is a very small country, with neither demographic nor geographic depth and, therefore, we must control our borders.” He added that Israel is cooperating with countries in Europe and Africa to extend assistance to refugees there, and pointed out that Israel has a proud history of sending humanitarian assistance to countries in need…
What about Arab States like Saudia Arabia? Have they taken any refugees? I have not seen a single report about that. If they were, would it not have been reported somewhere? To the best of my knowledge, they haven’t taken a single refugee. The question is, why? What are they afraid of?

The bottom line for me is that I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as a child of the Holocuast, I cannot help but see this as a humanitarian issue. But as a Jew who understands Arab hatred for us, I fear that helping them may end up hurting us.

That said, I lean toward helping them. It’s just too hard to watch this human tragedy unfold without doing anything about it. There is a part of me that hopes that I’m wrong about what they really think of us. That most of these refugees are not anti-Semitic at all. Just human beings yearning to breathe free. Trying to escape tyranny and live their lives in peace, freedom and security. That they are actually guided by a spirit of live and let live. And do not see Jews as the reincarnation of the devil. That Syrian antisemitism is more a function of politics than hate.  And that they will eventually see Israel as an ally – not an enemy.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps.  But one can hope.  In the meantime, I think governments must help these people. It is the right thing to do.