The Refugee Epidemic

The refugee epidemic is the social malady that threatens all of humanity today. It endangers many countries around the world, impacting their demographics, religious makeup, and cultural norms.

When dealing with cancer, much of humanity has no idea how to face the disease, and responds by going into a kind of shock. It is ofen not even referred to by name, but is called “the disease” or other euphemisms. It is possible that the overarching fear of the disease is one of the reasons that for many years little progress was found towards its solution. However, when mankind learned to define the disease, explaining that cancer is a family of diseases, many of which have no connection with the other, and that the treatment of one cancer is not compatible with the treatment of another – only then did we witness breakthroughs in the field.

For years, the world has tended to view refugees in a similar way. As a result, we do not define the phenomenon or categorize refugees according to specific cases, but instead offer a single solution to refugees, despite the fact that each case of refugees faces its own challenges. The phenomenon is different from place to place, from case to case, from population to population.

Indeed, in the 21st century, each case of refugees is unique, sometimes used as a kind of weapon. In regional war, in addition to conquering territory and causing fatalities, states can also create refugee crises, changing the face of an entire region.

The creation of refugees is a means of moving populations, changing demographics, and fostering social change. There are refugees who relocate to acquire a new identity, while there are those who wish to impose their identity of their host society and turn the society into their new homeland.

Some of the refugees are victims and while others create crises and instigate global changes. For example, Somalian refugees have been spread around several countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, various European countries, and even the United States. Indeed, Somalia is a country that changed the culture of the world. After 200 years since piracy was eliminated from the oceans around the world, Somalis have returned this phenomenon to our oceans, as various gangs endanger maritime trade. During the presidency of Bill Clinton, the United States avoided getting involved in the Somali crisis due to the inability to deal with the brutality of the gangs; today it is a country without rule of law or a functioning government. Therefore, it disseminates various groups of refugees around the world, some of them civilians fleeing for their lives, some gang members fleeing revenge and cruel war, and others looking to cause more trouble around the world.

Apparently, not all who stood behind the “Arab Spring” had altruistic intentions to bring democracy to the Arab world. Many who encouraged political upheavals had ulterior motives to open the gates between the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. The toppling of Moammar Gadhafi was not necessarily the result of a desire to rid that state of the dictator, even though he had given up on his nuclear project and had attempted in recent years to please the West. An alterior motive was the desire to create a Muslim refugee crisis and open the gates between Northern African and Europe.

The toppling of Assad in Syria also brought a huge wave of refugees across Europe and the Middle East, undermining political stability in these regions. This refugee crisis has partly violent and ideological motivations. While some came to a new country to save their lives, others wanted to spread their ideology in their new home. Refugees were never asked about their ties to their homeland or whether they intended to return. They were not asked if they hoped to become citizens in their new home or whether they wanted to continue having refugee status.

The Middle East refugee crisis has created a situation in which a wandering, homeless, potential workforce has been created, while countries around the Middle East are careful not to grant them citizenship, fearing violent outbursts or hostile takeovers of a limited job market, which would negatively impact their citizens.

The failure to find a solution to the Syrian civil war has created a phenomenon of human trafficking, setting the world back some 200 years. In addition to resulting in the death of approximately half a million residents, the war has created a massive refugee crisis across Europe, many of who escape with no resources other than a strong ideological commitment.

We are starting to hear more voices stating that Europe was and still is part of the Muslim world.

A focal point of this issue occurred when the refugees of the 1948 war were used as a weapon by the Arab world to eliminate demographically the State of Israel. Arab residents were convinced to flee their homes, promised that they would return as conquerors and enjoy the fruits of conquest. Fawzi al-Qawuqji, just as ISIS does today, encouraged volunteers to join forces to eliminate the Jews, while Arab refugees were placed in enclosed camps, with no chance of becoming citizens of their host countries.

This refugee crisis resulted in 70 years of an explosive situation, in which residents who left mainly voluntarily, were convinced that they would be able to return to their homes. They were used as a political weapon, could not become citizens, and their refugee status became permanent due to the special status granted to them by organizations such as UNWRA. The refugees themselves have become the victim of this situation, as their situation has been immortalized and they have been turned into a political weapon against Israel.

In contrast, Jewish refugees forced to flee from Arab countries following the 1948 war, from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and other states, came to a place who wanted to solve their plight and absorb them as citizens. Within a generation, despite various difficulties, they became an integral part of Israeli society.

In essence, it is Arab states in the Middle East that has made refugee status permanent and refused to absorb them into various societies, while Europe and the United States are expected to grant refugees citizenship and equal rights.

The refugee crisis poses a threat to various societies, resulting in internal conflicts between communities, between religions, and beliefs. There is no real attempt to study the problem in depth. Each passing day increases the risk and creates greater tensions within various societies, with no real solution to solve the humanitarian crisis while confronting the threat posed to host countries.

The definition of refugees has been inexact for a number of years. However, our decision-makers have yet to recognize the seriousness of the situation, which threatens the entire world, and prevents the ability to advance the world towards unity, freedom, and stability.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
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