Josef Olmert

Aniyei Ircha Kodmim-Israel and the refugees crisis

Few days ago, I started my three classes at the University with showing the picture of the dead Syrian toddler. How could it not be THE event of the day, the picture which is worth a thousands words, when the courses taught deal with the Middle East?. The tragedy broke my heart, and if allowed a little personal testimony, it was so not only because of the sadness over one poor toddler, it was also because throughout my long academic and public career ,I have specialized in Syrian affairs. Also taking part in attempts to bring peace between Israel and Syria. In a somewhat macabre way, I have become a fan of ”my Syria”…, and so, in the beginning of the civil war there, 4 years back, I wrote that whatever would happen in Syria would dwarf anything that has ever happened even in the violent, bloody other conflicts of the Middle East. Needless to say, that I was ridiculed and much maligned by many in the so-called Middle East Experts community. A Zionist propaganda, can it be otherwise?, Sure, it is all a Mossad conspiracy to dismantle THE country of Arab steadfastness against Israel. Well, trust me that this is not a piece about ”I told you so”, simply a background to the crux of the matter-Israel could and should help affected Syrians, but NO-Israel should NOT be a country absorbing thousands of Syrian refugees.

What is happening now in the Middle East is a monumental historic phenomenon; the collapse of the Arab-Muslim civilization of the Middle East. Israel is on the edge of the precipice due to its geographic location, but also because this collapsing civilization invested so much in trying to destroy Israel, rather than in its own people. It is not so much different than what happened with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, after decades of a vain struggle with the West. When a gigantic event like this happens, neighboring countries are not immune from the huge side effects. So is Israel these years. And it is exactly because of that, that Israel has not turned its back to Syria, for example. Israel allowed thousands of Syrians to be treated in Israeli hospitals, more than what was done by any of the neighboring countries. Yet, Israel has also to look at the security implications of all that-the possibility of a spill over of the violence to its territory, the rise of Jihadist movements , the growing power of Iran and Hizballah. For these and other reasons, Israel should not be actively involved in any of the conflicts around, unless there is an immediate direct threat. This is the policy adopted by the Netanyahu government and he is right about that.

Taking large numbers of Syrian refugees in , will be to bring the conflict to us, and we should not do that. If at all, we have a moral commitment and a strategic interest to help the Druze in South Syria, the blood brothers of our great allies in Israel itself.Also this help can be done in ways other, than opening the gates to thousands of them coming here.

But then there is another element here, and from my vantage point a more important one. This question of absorbing refugees from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa touches on a very fundamental issue-TIKUN OLAM OR ANIYEI IRCHA KODMIM?[THE POOR OF YOUR CITY TAKE A PRECEDENCE], and I, for one, state categorically that the preference is for the latter. This will be another sore point of Liberal American Jewish disenchantment with Israel, but so be it. Israel’s national Jewish mission, the classic mission of Zionism[here is the Zionist propaganda again, oh dear…] is to be the national home of the Jewish people, not others. Zionism is NOT a universalist ideology, it is a national liberation movement, and Israel as the fulfillment of the Zionist ideal, should

NOT be or pretend to be a state which allows concepts about the universal role of the Jews to surpass our need to be the refuge place of our own people. UKRAINE AND FRANCE NOW, maybe South Africa, Argentina, Britain, Hungary or other countries in the not so distant.Zionism does not need to justify itself by being a solution to other peoples’ predicaments. We have 25% non Jews as citizens, still much more than any country in Europe which absorbs or under pressure to absorb people who may change its national character. This is also an irritant, when the current refugee problem is compared to the Holocaust , another unnecessary self-styled contribution to the trivialization of the Holocaust.

A question to the bleeding-heart American Liberal Jews and others, who already call upon Israel to absorb 10000 refugees. The American equivalent number will be 400, 000. Why will you not call right now on President Obama to open the gates and allow this number to the US?

Israel can increase humanitarian help to people on the other side of the border, and NO , Israel should not open its gates to them.It may not be the best Hasbara, but be sure, that even if we allowed thousands to come , we shall still not be credited with any Hasbara points. It is Gaza that interests most of our s, enemies not poor Syrians, or if we are to be milder, it is the desire to change the national character of Israel as a first step towards terminating the state of the Jewish people.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina