No, I don't feel for Syrian refugees.

It is necessary in Britain today to show that one really cares about Syrian refugees by demanding that an awful lot should be done by the British government to help them, i.e. let them come and live here.

And no-one has caught my attention more in this outpouring of angst than those Jews who tell us we must do for Syrian refugees what Britain did for Jewish ones in, of course, the second world war.

I have three problems with this. The first concerns just what this country actually did, the second concerns conflating Syrian and Jewish refugees, and the third concerns the way the world views Syrian refugees against the way it views Palestinian ones.

Here in the UK, the trump card is always the Kindertransport. 'I wouldn't be alive today if ….'. I understand that, I really do. The Kindertransport was a marvellous thing. However, to understand just how marvellous it was one should examine it in its context, which was Britain's refusal to do just about anything else to rescue European Jewry. The government denied them succour here, and it did the same in Palestine, and it did both of those things irrespective of the plight of the refugees.

Unlike the present view that Syrian refugees will be financed by the state and will make their home here, the Kindertransport refugees required sponsors to pay their upkeep, and they were allowed in on the strict understanding that Britain was a temporary refuge, not a permanent one.

One could say, well, these are different times, but now let us look at the reason why refugees are on the move. It's because there is a civil war in Syria, and no decent person would deny them succour away from that horror. The Jewish children, on the other hand, were official targets of their own government. But still, Britain did not pay for them, and neither did Britain offer them a permanent home.

So the Kindertransport, privately organised and funded, is perhaps not something we need to feel for ever grateful to Britain for. And to say that because Britain took those children it should take Syrians is a non-sequitur. I understand British Jews feeling they need, because of the Kindertransport, to feel compassion with Syrian refugees, but that feeling may be illogical. I could also touch on the fact, which cannot be forgotten, that Syria is an enemy state, for those of us who care about Israel. Don't I, I hear the reader ask, differentiate between civilians and military? No, I don't. Just as Germany, not the Nazi party, went to war against the rest of Europe, Syria, not Assad, was and remains an enemy of Israel. As long as there are massively wealthy Arab states which could easily afford to take Syrian refugees, I see no reason for Europeans to feel guilt for not taking them.

Moving on to Palestine, let's keep this simple. During the second world war, Palestine could have absorbed hundreds of thousands, but those hundreds of thousands went to their deaths because Britain valued Arab support more than it valued Jewish lives. It was entitled to do that; it was after all at war and war is nasty, but nonetheless the decision was made and there must be a reckoning.

Now the argument gets brutal. Europe, led by Germany, has taken hundreds of thousands of refugees from the war-torn Middle East and Africa. It may be that I wasn't listening, but I have heard no mention that these refugees are here temporarily. They are here permanently. I could return to the question of why here and not among their own race, but I won't. Instead, I want to compare and contrast with the Palestinian refugee issue.

The international community insists, largely through its support of UNRWA, that the Palestinian Arabs are refugees waiting to go home. Nearly seventy years after them becoming refugees. Syrian refugees are never going home and are entitled to think of Europe as their new home, but Palestinian refugees, and their children and grandchildren, apparently in perpetuity, are entitled to wait to go home, i.e. to Israel.

Regardless of what this nonsense means in terms of the Palestinians, let us remain clear about what it means for Syrian refugees. It means that, unlike the Palestinians, they have no political value as pawns, and so anyone who cares to have them may do so. Fine. Just don't expect me to feel obliged.

 

 

 

 


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