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Israel cannot turn a blind eye to worldwide refugee crisis

Dozens of bodies are found in a refrigerated truck in Austria, while hundreds wash up on the shores of Libya and Italy. As the refugee crisis hits unprecedented levels, in Israel it’s business as usual.

Palestinian refugees from Syria fleeing the horrors of war on a boat originally headed to Italy.

Palestinian refugees from Syria fleeing the horrors of war on a boat originally headed to Italy.

“Mother, I am sorry that I was not rescued and drowned. Forgive me for all the loans you took out so that I could escape like the other young people. I am sorry that I won’t send 50 euro every month to my brother like I promised. Don’t look for me, mother, you don’t have the money for burying my body. I am thankful for the sea for opening its heart and letting in my body without an entry permit or passport. I am also thankful for the fish that enjoyed eating my flesh without asking who I am, which religion I belong to, or what my ethnic background is.

“Dear fishermen and divers, I do not know where I drowned or where you will find me, but it is clear that I will no longer be a burden on any of the immigration authorities. The news broadcasts will dedicate two minutes to my death, and thats’s it — I will disappear.”

These words were written by a young Syrian man whose body was found at sea.

Death in the back of a truck

I cannot get the images  of Syrian refugees who fled their country out of my mind. I do not stop myself from searching for more details, photos, or stories from these endless journeys of death. There is not one story that does not include the words “Palestinian-Syrians” or “Syrian-Palestinians.”

The Israeli media mostly refrains from reporting on the humanitarian disaster that’s keeping the world busy, preferring to keep the Jewish People terrified of the asylum seekers recently released from Holot detention center. How can one ignore horrifying incidents, such as the 71 refugees who died in the back of a refrigerated truck on the border of Austria, or the 50 bodies that washed up on the shores of Libya, or the hundreds who drowned somewhere between Italy and Greece? How can one remain indifferent to the photos of thousands of refugees trying to cross into Macedonia and other countries on their way to Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, or Sweden?

This summer I stopped waiting around to find out whether any of the victims were refugees from Sajara — my family’s village. At a certain point the question loses meaning, and very quickly any allegiance to a Syrian city, a small village, or a refugee camp such as Yarmouk, wash away in the salty sea, leaving behind helpless human beings who struggle against the waves until their very last breath.

Palestinian refugees seen in Yarmouk refugee camp, Damascus, Syria. (photo: Walla Masoud/UNRWA)

Palestinian refugees seen in Yarmouk refugee camp, Damascus, Syria. (photo: Walla Masoud/UNRWA)

Every day brings with it different horror story that refuses to end. Desperation has led many of my family members and friends have stopped keeping track. Others share these stories on Facebook, trying desperately to shock their friends, sometimes adding “may God help them,” or “shame on those traitorous Arab countries.”

Our virtual village includes photos of flowers, blessings for survivors, and articles about missing persons. This month broke the all-time record with the video of the father holding his two children and swimming toward the shore, encouraging his children: “We’ve made it, just a bit more and we’re there. We’re saved, father, we’re saved. One day you will tell the entire world, about the day which all the borders of the Arab world were closed to us and we came here.”

And then came the photos of the violent arrest of a Syrian family on the border of Hungary followed by the story of the death truck. And if that wasn’t enough, someone collected and put together the photos of all the children who drowned in the sea. But in all of these reports, no one is talking about the names of the dead, nor about the end of the fighting. It is unclear whether Assad will fall, or what will happen in Syria with Islamic State and other groups. It seems the war will only end only when the last Syrian is either murdered or flees.

Refugees not welcome

Every single neighboring country — Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey — is full of refugees. These countries have began complaining about the burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees who are looking for work. Educated men are cleaning the streets of Jordan, the “new Chinese” are building Amman, talented artists take part in street bands on the streets of Istanbul, and young Syrian women have become the sex slaves of the Arab world.

The Western world puts on conferences and provides assistance — which is never actually enough — to these countries. Everyone gets involved, somehow.

Only one country totally ignores what is happening in the neighborhood: Israel. Here and there we hear about assistance to Syrians fighting against ISIS, we hear about the wounded Syrians who were hospitalized in northern Israel, and following the lynch on the ambulance by Druze citizens, Israel can no longer deny its involvement in Syria.

And me, the naive woman who looks on from the side, thinks: Why does Israel act like a spoiled child in the kindergarten of the Middle East? Who gave it an unlimited pass from taking responsibility? Why must millions of Syrian refugees leave their war-torn country, through the death journeys to Europe, while in Israel it’s business as usual.

The same Germany that murdered Jews 70 years ago learned its lesson and has opened its arms to foreigners from Syria. It absorbs refugees despite internal dissent and the difficult economic burdens it must carry. Meanwhile, the same country of refugees based on the story of Jewish oppression and the right to a safe place continues to abuse anyone who isn’t Jewish, such as Darfur refugees, victims of ethnic cleansing in Africa, and migrant workers.

Refugee warm up near a fire at the Arin Mirkhan refugee camp, Turkish-Syrian border, October 2014. Photo: Faiz Abu-Rmeleh/Activestills.org

Refugee warm up near a fire at the Arin Mirkhan refugee camp, Turkish-Syrian border, October 2014. Photo: Faiz Abu-Rmeleh/Activestills.org

I am sure that the idea to establish a UN-run zone for refugees in the Golan Heights (which is considered occupied Syrian territory according to international law) will likely shock some of you.

Syria itself absorbed several thousand refugees from the 1948 war, including most of my family. In 1923, thousands of refugees from Greece arrived in boats on the shores of Syria. Think about how many Jews immigrated to the United States, Australia, and South Africa after World War II. This is what happens to innocents in wars.

Perhaps one day the world will settle the score with Israel’s indifferent stance toward the Syrian war. Perhaps we will one day speak of Israel’s role in shouldering the burden of the Syrian crisis.

Something to gain

A state in the heart of the middle east, one with a majority of citizens made up of people who fled their home countries due to racism and anti-Semitism, has caused a catastrophe for Palestinians, turning most of them into eternal refugees. Seventy years later, this very state acts like it has landed here from a different planet, and couldn’t care one bit. As long as Jews aren’t in trouble, the world can keep on burning. Who will forgive Israel and help it in its time of need? And who will believe in the humanity of “the only democracy in the Middle East” when it turns a blind eye to what is happening?

If Israel builds refugee camps in the Golan, it will know how to make the best of it: it will be able to clear its name of wrongdoing, raise money, and make diplomatic gains that Danny Danon, Israel’s newly-appointed ambassador to the UN, will never be able to make. What the Israeli government fails to understand is that there is no such thing as an ethnically or religiously pure country in the world.

The “Start-Up Nation” knows that we live in a giant global village, and there is no way to live in a bubble protected by Iron Dome. Not while the world outside is on fire.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Jew1

      Arabs who hate us are killing Arabs who hate us in a country that is in a state of war with us. Not our problem, but the idea of inviting another couple of million people that hate us to take residence in our country is a wonderful idea.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        The solution to the refugee problem…

        The rest of the world should get in and fix the shit-holes from which the refugees understandably try to flee.

        How? By catching the assorted war-lords and tyrants, who make those places shit-holes, and giving them their just deserts. But you can’t do that in the namby pamby way which western governments have been accustomed to fighting their wars since the end of WW2. They have to be real about it. They have to mean business. Otherwise the modern western armies get exhausted and get out with their tails between their legs and the shit-holes will remain shit holes.

        Sounds, ruthless? Sounds mean? Of course it is. WW2 was mean but for a while at least it brought about a world order which thrived. Look at Germany and Japan since then. They have never had it so good yet they suffered (as they made others suffer) during WW2.

        Reply to Comment
        • Nathan

          Fascho-Gustav admiring old allies Japan and Germany.
          As a jew I could only vomit.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Fascho? Admiring? You could only vomit? Vomit then, be my guest.

            As a Jew, I certainly don’t admire “old allies”. They certainly were no allies of mine the way they were then.

            Yet, unlike the self righteous class which is so prevalent here, I have the capacity to look at history dispassionately.

            Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Gustav’s calling for world war and the Americans to further exhaust themselves and spill yet more of their soldiers’ blood by the thousands in Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-type idiotic adventures. Only he and his countrymen of course won’t be volunteering for the fight. And he wants to tells us the Americans troops going into Vietnam and Korea, those US Marines going into Falluja, were “namby pamby.” And as if the Russians in Afghanistan weren’t “real” about it. LoL. (This from a denizen of a country whose army uses statistical weapons and overwhelming firepower and the Hannibal procedure against a ragtag band of guerrilla fighters and civilian population centers based on a strategy of absolutely minimizing its own military casualties as absolutely the highest priority, and that was chased out of Lebanon with its tail between its legs after, what?, not quite wanting to be “real” about it?, or being “real” about it yet failing? Hey Gustav are you going to be on the front lines going into Iran and Lebanon? Are you buckling your helmet and flak jacket on now? Are you for real?) Beneath contempt.

          Reply to Comment
          • Simon Adebisi

            How can one refrain from laughing at Ben? He is the embodyment of confusion; depicts a crisis of shallowness; consistently portrays a dangerous penchant for reducing complex concepts to their insipid form; and is a pompous superficiality with an undeservedly high opinion of himself.

            Reply to Comment
        • Andrew r

          Great idea. The western governments can start by overthrowing the Zionist state in Palestine and solving the refugee crisis it created.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Tim Wise.

      As a privileged Jewish man who makes a nice living off telling people how evil white people are, I have to say in all honesty, and being honest is not easy for me to do, it is high time that we as Jews, collectively, stopped preaching tolerance, open mindedness, open borders to others and started instead, to practice a little bit of what we preach.

      As fellow Jew Barbara Spectre might say:

      ‘Israel has not yet learned how to be multicultural. And I think SJWs are going to be part of the throes of that transformation, which must take place. Israel is not going to be the monolithic society that they once were in the last century. SJWs are going to be at the center of that. It’s a huge transformation for Israel to make. They should be going into a multicultural mode, and SJWs will be resented because of their leading role. But without that leading role, and without that transformation, Israel will not survive’

      It is time we Jews learnt to open our minds, our hearts, our borders and wallets, the future of Israel is multicultural, we have been preaching the wonders of multiculturalism in Europe for half a century or more, so why then do we continue to deny this beautiful enrichment for ourselves?

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        TIM:”As a privileged Jewish man who makes a nice living off telling people how evil white people are”

        Is that how you make a living? Shame on you.

        TIM”I have to say in all honesty, and being honest is not easy for me to do,”

        Well, Timmy, there you have it, since you admit that honesty is not yor forte, you should be ignored.

        TIM:”it is high time that we as Jews, collectively,”

        You don’t speak for Jews Timmy.

        TIM:”stopped preaching tolerance, open mindedness, open borders to others and started instead, to practice a little bit of what we preach.”

        We? Who is we Timmy? You mean only Jews preach tolerance but no one else does? If true, then maybe we Jews should learn from others?

        Seriously though Timmy, I think you are being a bit harsh on non Jews.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Gustav

      Musta hit a raw nerve, all the self righteous ones are crawling out from under their rocks, LOL.

      Let’s just review the status quo. Over 20 million refugees world wide and still coming. Most are in camps and many of the others are drowning at sea or suffocating in trucks while unscrupulous people smugglers are trying to profit from their misery.

      Don’t like my idea? Ok then how will YOU solve the world’s refugee problem? By accepting over 20 million of the EXISTING refugees into various western countries? Go ahead. But please don’t complain after the backlash from the rest of your folk when it comes. Come to think a backlash is already evident in all western countries. Must be all racists huh? Only you people are good, yeah the Benny and Andrew types. You are so good because you fret so much about the petty war lords, the assorted tyrants and criminals who perpetrate the misery and create the refugee problems in the first place.

      Now, Benny dear, get real. WW2 was the last war which the western powers fought to win. And as miserable as that war was, at the end of it the world was a better place after it. All the other wars since were a waste of time and should not have taken place because the military were stopped by the politicians from winning and helping to bring about a better world.

      As for Andrew, I just love YOUR solution. Ya wanna attack Israel and put all the world’s refugees into Israel. Great solution man. Your slip is showing. Oops, I mean your hatred. Go take your medications.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Again.Here it is in a nut-shell.

        War should be a last resort but fer crying out loud, if you resort to it, then fight to win. Not to fiddle around the edges.

        As for the refugee problem. It will never be resolved with the present methods. Things will only get worse. And the only people who feel good about it are the self righteous class who keep on telling the rest of the world how good they are for fiddling around the edges and how bad the rest of us are for not doing more…

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          I don’t quite know how to say this. Do you have *any* idea how childish you sound? How George Dubya Bush-fatuous you sound?: “See, all ya gotta do (yes, you, the rest of the world) is go an’ catch all the warlords and tyrants, an’ then when ya catch ’em all, see, an’ give ’em just desserts, there’ll be no more of ’em to take their place an’ all the people in all these cultures will cheer and say ‘yippee!’ and ‘hooray!, let’s all be democratic pluralists and respect democratic norms!'” (Something even his ultra-advanced, modern country filled with Europeans and their offspring seems to have intractable problems with.) And I just love the “let the Army win, we shoulda turned North Vietnam/Iraq into a parking lot instead of pussyfooting around” mentality. So is Gustav a “let the IDF win turn Gaza/Lebanon/Iran into a parking” lot kinda guy? He thinks Bibi just doesn’t have the testicular fortitude? Or he wants other countries to “fight to win” but somehow it’s all more complicated when it’s his own countrymen doing the fighting? He’s not clear. We knew Gustav was a “let the IDF win against Palestinians” kinda guy. But Gustav *seriously* thinks there is a nifty *military* solution to the global poverty and refugee crisis. Seriously. He’s not joking. It’s not a bit about about his country accepting even a minimal number of refugees instead of getting it’s racist dander up and treating all of the refugees like “cancer.” It’s not about multifaceted solutions to complex problems. No, it’s about the rest of the world “catching all the warlords and tyrants.” Good lord you can’t make this stuff up.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Fine, Benny, I sound childish but you, self righteous ones don’t huh?

            You say there is no military solution but history has shown that there is. The Empire of the sun and Nazi Germany were at least as fanatical about their cause as ISIS and their ilk are today. Moreover, they were militarily much stronger yet look what good little boys and girls Japan and Germany are today. Nor have they become a parking lot. But don’t let those facts confuse you Benny cos you have an ideology to peddle, right?

            As for the refugees. What is YOUR solution, Benny? Let’s hear it already. You people are GREAT critics and GREAT AT YELLING THE PLACE DOWN but VERY POOR at telling the rest of us mere mortals about your “GREAT SOLUTIONS”.

            Reply to Comment
    4. dekkers

      As refugee you must be insane to go to Israel. Probably they dump you in the open prison called Palestine harressed by grazy settlers or panty wearing idf cowards. Getting beaten up, shot at and bombed.

      Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        @Dekkers

        You need a breath of fresh air. Get your head out of your ass.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Gustav

      Fine, Benny, I sound childish but you, self righteous ones don’t huh?

      You say there is no military solution but history has shown that there is. The Empire of the sun and Hitler’s Germany were at least as fanatical about their cause as ISIS and their ilk are today. Moreover, they were militarily much stronger yet look what good little boys and girls Japan and Germany are today. Nor have they become a parking lot. But don’t let those facts confuse you Benny cos you have an ideology to peddle, right?

      As for the refugees. What is YOUR solution, Benny? Let’s hear it already. You people are GREAT critics and GREAT AT YELLING THE PLACE DOWN but VERY POOR at telling the rest of us mere mortals about your “GREAT SOLUTIONS”.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Risa

      Where’s the source for the boy’s note quoted at the top? I’d like to share it but can’t find reference to it anywhere but this article. (It helps that I don’t speak Arabic I guess.)

      Thanks!

      Reply to Comment
    7. Gustav

      “turning most of them [the Palestinian Arabs] into eternal refugees.”

      You know, it really is becoming boring. Blaming Israel and other non Arabs for Arab refugees who don’t get asylum.

      Now how about blaming the Arab people themselves too?

      Firstly because they too created (and still do) refugees. The difference between them and Israel is that Israel took in and integrated 1 million Jewish refugees from Arab countries. But what did the Arab countries do?

      …they deliberately allowed Palestinian Arab refugees to fester in refugee camps so that they could be used as cannon fodder and as a rod to beat Israel over the head with…

      To the author and other one eyed posters who post here… no blame against the various Arab countries for that? And for what they do to their own today? How convenient. Your slip is showing … oops, I mean your bias…

      Reply to Comment
      • MuslimJew

        “The difference between them and Israel is that Israel took in and integrated 1 million Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”

        Translation:

        If you are a white Jew from Europe who hops on a boat to Palestine, you are an “ancient Bible-Jew” who is “returning” to your mythical “ancestral homeland” in the Bible.

        If you are an Arab Jew from an Arab country who is bombed all the way to Israel by Zionist terrorists, you are “a refugee” and “from Arabia” and Israel did you a really big favor.

        …Your Zionism is showing … oops, I mean your brain damage…

        Reply to Comment
    8. Israel does help Syrian Refugees:

      1. They have volunteers who wnet to Europe, some jumped into the water to help the
      survivors reach the shore. The unit brought food , medical aid, and provided temporary shelter.

      2. In Israel itself. – for Syrian refugees reaching Israel, Israel has set up field hospitals.
      – for serious cases they are sent to Hospitals throughout the country.
      – In all Israeli hospitals , if they are hospitalized got more than 3 days
      children, including, children from other Arab Countries, including Gaza,
      – receive schooling-in the language of the hospitalized child. This is an
      Israeli Law for all children in Hospitals in Israel.
      3. In Israel itself – food and shelter is provided

      For a small country I think Israel is doing a great job

      Reply to Comment
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