The Middle East migrant crisis requires Middle East solutions

Europe clearly failed to integrate Muslim immigrants into its societies, which only reinforces doubts about the wisdom of bringing in more such immigrants.

September 16, 2015 22:20
Syrian refugees are reflected in a puddle as they wait for their turn to enter Macedonia

Syrian refugees are reflected in a puddle as they wait for their turn to enter Macedonia at Greece's border. (photo credit: REUTERS)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


Political responses to crises are often tardy and embarrassingly fad-driven, as with the current global outcry over the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on the Turkish shore. He was hardly the first innocent victim of this century’s most brutal war. Where has the world been for the past 54 months? Indeed, the unfolding humanitarian crisis was an entirely foreseeable consequence of President Barack Obama’s spineless Syria policy, and the Western European leaders who followed it. So, despite Obama’s efforts to anesthetize the public, it is understandable if some collective shame for Western failures – driven by tragic images that went viral – has prompted Europe suddenly to announce that it will accept more refugees from the war-torn Middle East.

But how did the West become more responsible for the Middle East refugee crisis than the wealthiest Middle East states (whose funding of Islamist rebels helped to create that crisis)? According to news reports and think tanks, Arab Gulf donors have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Syria in recent years, including to Islamic State and other groups.

Even if Gulf states weren’t at all responsible for aggravating the Syrian refugee crisis by strengthening IS, their wealth, proximity and cultural/religious affinities with the refugees should still make these countries far more responsible than Europe is for their welfare. The vast majority of refugees are Muslim Arabs. They therefore share a common language, religion, culture and ethnicity with the wealthy Gulf countries that have shunned them for reasons of national security (as if the West didn’t have such concerns). Any dialect or denominational differences Middle East refugees may have with Gulf states are nothing compared to the cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious differences between most Middle East refugees and the European countries they hope to enter.

Even more absurd, Gulf countries are bringing in foreign laborers to build up their vast, oil-rich territories. Putting aside their horrific exploitation of those workers (which is a scandal all of its own, even if campus protests, international boycotts and UN resolutions never mention it), why aren’t they instead accepting Middle East refugees who would happily accept the work that imported labor is now doing? Similarly, why have no Gulf countries granted Palestinian refugees citizenship if they so readily advocate for them at the UN out of purported concern for their welfare? The cynical hypocrisy is staggering.

By contrast, tiny Israel absorbed nearly a million Jews from the Middle East and North Africa who were similarly made homeless when, in the 1940s and 1950s, their survival meant fleeing the Muslim- majority states where they had lived for millennia.

Israel has also accepted plenty of non-Jewish refugees, from the Vietnamese “boat people” in the late 1970s to African refugees and migrants in recent years. Israel has provided humanitarian medical assistance to countless Syrians and now Israel’s deputy minister of regional affairs Israel (an Arab Druse), has joined the leader of the political opposition in urging Israel to accept Syrian refugees, despite the demographic and strategic risks of doing so.

Yet Europe now tries to hurt Israel’s economy by stigmatizing goods from the West Bank, with no similar economic campaigns against any of the Gulf countries, whose human rights records are exponentially worse on every issue (freedom of speech, women’s rights, religious freedom, minority rights, gay rights, treatment of guest workers, helping refugees, etc.).

Such double standards will undoubtedly worsen as Europe becomes increasingly Muslim – a trend that will only intensify with the current refugee crisis. But appeasement hasn’t kept Europe safe from Islamist attacks, as evidenced by the 2004 Madrid bombings, the 2005 London attacks, the 2014 Belgium attack and this year’s attacks in Paris (to name just a few).

Europe clearly failed to integrate Muslim immigrants into its societies, which only reinforces doubts about the wisdom of bringing in more such immigrants.

More importantly, the EU’s sudden, politically correct acceptance of refugees addresses the symptoms rather than the root cause: the rise of Islamic State – an evil cancer that metastasizes with each day that the world dithers. The longer IS survives, the more people are killed, tortured and enslaved, the more Syria’s minorities are persecuted under an extreme Sunni Islamic rule and the more refugees desperately try to flee wherever they can.

Defeating IS will have to happen eventually anyway, because IS threatens everything that civilized life offers, so the sooner that painful task is accomplished, the sooner the related problems (like the migrant crisis) will be solved.

According to a New York Times article from last July, IS took territory from Syria and Iraq that is roughly the size of Indiana, so there is plenty of land to resettle refugees once IS is defeated.

Notwithstanding the generous island-purchase-offer by an Egyptian billionaire, the best long-term home for these refugees is not some remote Greek island (which only consolidates IS’s victory). Rather, the refugees should be able to live in security and dignity in the same region from which they fled, which means defeating IS and converting the IS-liberated territories into mini-states that will serve as safe havens for moderate Sunnis and the various minorities at risk, including Christians, Kurds, Druse, Yazidis and Alawites (who will become the most targeted after Syria’s Alawite-led regime falls).

The Kurds – who have fought IS with more courage and determination than any other party – have more than proven themselves worthy of a state.

The fact that Christians were once 20 percent of the Middle East and are now safest in the only non-Muslim country in the entire region (Israel) reinforces the need to create a Christian state in the Middle East. Such a state could exist around Mosul and/or other parts of Iraq/Syria where Christianity has historically existed (Assyria, Antioch, etc.).

The Druse – an ancient religion that has often also suffered persecution – could be given a state in southwest Syria. There could be yet another, non-religious state that welcomes any other minorities (like the Yazidis) and moderate Sunni Muslims.

Until IS is replaced with stable and sane states, the Gulf countries should welcome all Middle East refugees.

To address the Middle East refugee crisis intelligently, the EU should help to defeat IS, convert liberated territories into states for the region’s persecuted minorities and pressure Gulf states to absorb all refugees in the interim.

The writer is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

April 22, 2019
The ICC’s decision not to investigate the US in Afghanistan