David Milliband, writing in the Evening Standard on the 4th September 2015 related how, in 1940, his father and grandfather fled Belgium to Britain and were “accepted” into the country as refugees. In 1945, his grandfather returned to Belgium to find his wife and daughter, both of whom had spent the war years in hiding. He applied with them to immigrate to Britain and was turned down because the Home Secretary said he could not sanction “a flood”. David Milliband’s interpretation of this event — defining the difference between an immigrant (seeking a better life) and a refugee (fleeing persecution) missed the point entirely. Britain then as now, was anti-Semitic.
The horrifying revelations around the Shoah made no difference to the hardhearted and bigoted ruling classes, especially, under the Labour Government of Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin. Britain’s Foreign Office (Department of State) and its administrative classes were relentlessly antisemitic and unfailingly pro-Arab. The Balfour Declaration in 1917 was the twentieth century’s one exception that made the rule.
The historical reality is that Britain allowed a paltry number of Jewish refugees into the United Kingdom before World War 2 and they all had to have homes to go to so that there would be no burden upon the state. Britain’s ruling classes made sure that those people who were accepted into Britain were the “right kind of Jews” – they were middle class, intelligent and Western educated and yet the hostility of officialdom remained steadfast.
His analysis of the migrant crisis today is also flawed by his ideological myopia. So, he refuses to acknowledge either the political antecedents to the current crisis and the historical failures that have left Western nations unprepared for the latest crisis. Those people trying to flee conflict and the economic migrants that seek a better life have both had their funds plundered by people traffickers and criminal gangs. But that is only part of the problem that we refuse to acknowledge because to do so would involve, by necessity, a change in international immigration policy and a muscular and wholly unwelcome military response to ongoing international crises.
David Milliband’s selective analysis of the causes behind regional instability – those causes that created the current refugee crisis in Europe — is distressing because without honest debate around those sources of conflict, instability can only grow and create with it, ever escalating disruption and dislocation. Without addressing the causes of the current crisis the probability of global conflict can only increase.
David Milliband refers to “decades-old wars in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo” as well as in Afghanistan and Syria-Iraq without offering explanation, background or any suggestions for how to stop them. He refers to “the wider phenomenon of regional instability, the proxy wars causing chaos in Yemen” without mentioning who is the paymaster for that regional instability (it is the Islamic Republic of Iran). He states that Syria’s middle-classes are ‘fleeing,’ but he fails to join the dots to connect the collapse of the middle-classes with the failure of the state and its consequent future inability to be rebuilt as a stable entity.
When failed nations reassert their independence (in whatever form they eventually take), stability is reliant on the people being in place to lead. But the core of their communities will probably remain in Europe, enriching European society. This is in spite of the fact that a recent survey disclosed a significant percentage of refugees and migrants, and their second generation descendants are not only disengaged from their host society but also financially dependent on those societies, to maintain their relatively comfortable European lifestyle.
There are lessons to be learned from history. When in 1947-48 the Arab leadership of what was then known as Palestine fled to their gated mansions in Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Amman and Cairo the Arab peasantry that remained behind were left beleaguered, largely without leadership and therefore, without guidance. They were vulnerable to the depredation, malice and greed of local and foreign Muslim gangs who fled to ‘safety,’ once the lethality of the fighting with the Jews of Palestine began to seriously impact the profitability of their enterprise. Worse was the definition uniquely appropriated to Arab refugees from that conflict; unique in all the history of human conflict, it provided them with a status that could never be resolved. Despair, false hope and superpower machinations even then undermined regional stability because it would not encourage resettlement.
The Arab refugees from Palestine became victims of their own leaders’ propaganda when the wealthier classes, the local Arab leadership and those racially or religiously intolerant of any future that involved living under Jewish control fled to the neighboring Muslim lands.
The Muslim world, unlike its Western rival, has rarely, if ever, been forced to confront the racism within its society. Its religious bigotry is instead, worn as a badge of honor. There is enormous resentment feeding Muslim interaction with minorities through those dreamed of Muslim empires. This is the reason that Muslims are so welcoming of vile and murderous organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State (Daesh), al-Qaeda and all of their affiliates.
It is not their fundamentalism that is bereft of morality (although this could be argued is contributing to the outcome) but the inevitable conclusion of extremist thinking that is encouraged by so many of their ideological and functional leadership. That conclusion is perpetual warfare waged against everyone who cannot prove that they too are “true believers” and of course in that two-word honorific is the root of all suffering.
It is this inhumanity that is demonstrated throughout the Muslim world, every day. In the United Kingdom between April and June 2015 one thousand cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) were reportedly carried out. And it is illegal in the UK so what would have happened if Britain made FGM legal? A video also recently surfaced of a father in the Arab world proudly handing his daughter over to a Sharia court for execution by stoning. Her crime was disobedience.
There is a refugee crisis in Europe but one of its main causes, the one David Milliband refuses to be drawn into acknowledging, is the moral blight that has penetrated every section of the Muslim world.
The refugee crisis cannot be solved while we continue to rejoice in our multicultural diversity because all it means is that we are too cowardly to take a stand against barbarism. And a selective stand against injustice is no more than a cynically toadying acknowledgment of our international impotence, a grotesquely judicious application of morality.
If Turkey is unwilling to exercise control over its borders it should be expelled from NATO and allied forces gathered to collect immigrants and refugees and relocate them to a neutral zone in a failed state, to be administered by Europeans (and who-ever else is willing to assist in the task).
It is the only realistic way to:
- protect vulnerable people from exploitation
- to process large numbers of refugees
- to return economic migrants to their country of origin
If Syria cannot be saved it should be re-divided, with appropriate border adjustments to foster stability. Kurdish self-determination should be granted and separate self-governing cantons established for the Alawites, Shia, Sunni, Christian and Druze minorities, all within the former Syria. At a time in the future the cantonization of Syria will lead to a united nation, perhaps based on the Swiss model. But for now the toxic ethnic and religious conflicts crisscrossing the former Syria defile any national aspirations that its competing war-lords may have harbored.
To rebuild Arab and the greater global Muslim society, to contribute in a way that meaningfully addresses local concerns and provides wise leadership at all levels of society requires people, many of whom have fled to foreign lands, to return and rebuild the nation. If that leadership is comfortably domiciled in Europe that rebuilding will be delayed by decades if not longer. Current estimates place the end to the Syrian conflict and a return to ‘normality’ at twenty years into the future.
The flight of the Arab masses from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are a positive outcome for their regional rivals in Turkey, Iran and even, in Egypt and not just because it debases two Arab, formerly military heavyweights. Unless the world’s superpowers and European nations are willing to radically change their geo-strategic thinking on how to conduct a stabilization strategy within the Near–East that conflict will spill over into Europe and not just Europe but the nations that are on the periphery of the Near-East (Pakistan, [India], Asia and Russia).
It is this failure of imagination that could create the instability that unintentionally leads to the next global conflict.