(photo credit: STR / DOGAN NEWS AGENCY / AFP)
Who are these refugees that claim our compassion and attention? Are they not the innocent victims of the disintegration and religious warfare within the Muslim Arab countries of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen? And who should be resettling them and providing financial assistance if not the wealthy Muslim Arab countries with room and resources to absorb all of these truly desperate people? And yet, the head of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, pronounced that the European Union should set “binding quotas” to admit them, and the newspapers and pundits proclaim that it is all up to Europe. This is not a European problem, so why does it demand a European solution?
I have no particular sympathy for Europe and its ineffective struggle to preserve its character, heritage and stability, but I cannot figure out why European countries are responsible to settle these refugees.
Do Muslims not feel an obligation to help fellow Muslims? Do Arabs not share the natural human impulse to assist their own? Christian Europe is many thousands of miles from the problem, but the wealthy Arab Muslim countries are right here in the neighborhood.
A common tool of analysis of refugee absorption is the relationship between the host country “native population” and the refugee population. As of this May, Germany had 144 natives per refugee, France 310, the UK 319. Contrast this with Saudi Arabia with 42,940 natives per refugee, Qatar with 17,613 and Oman with 34,277. A good number of the refugees comes from Iraq which borders on the Persian Gulf across from these three wealthy, immigrant-free Arab Muslim states. Yet not a word from the UNHCR and not a word from all the commentators about the duty for those countries to admit their fellow Arabs and co-religionists in such need of humanitarian assistance and acceptance.
Some Arab states have already accepted refugees. Jordan and Lebanon, bordering states within “walking distance,” are suffering crushing economic burdens, and other neighboring countries such as non-Arab, Muslim Turkey have also been forced into doing more than their fair share. They need and deserve massive international assistance, and this should most appropriately come from the wealthy Arab Gulf states.
How does Europe figure in all this? It can be argued that Europe has an obligation stemming from the mere fact that the refugees seem to want to go there; they are obligated to decide one way or the other, to open their doors or not. But why, I ask, would Iraqis, for example, prefer to take the horrendous risk, undergo indescribable horrors and pay the exorbitant fees to reach the Mediterranean and then to cross it, to traverse unwelcome terrain and sometimes hostile populations so that they can reach countries in which the predominant culture, language and religious identification are so foreign from their own? And if they knew that they are welcome and would be received with hospitality and assistance, would it not be far more easy, safe and natural for them to cross the Persian Gulf and join the Arab-speaking countries whose people share their religion, ethnic customs and historical ties?
But they apparently sense that it is not hospitality that would await them. They seem to know that they are not welcome in Saudi Arabia or in Oman or Bahrain or Qatar, to name a few. They head instead to Germany, France and Great Britain only because they feel they will be treated better there – far, far better. Otherwise, they would never risk the lives of their wives, children and parents.
But why should they feel this way? Why are they not invited in? Do these Arab countries not empathize with Arab suffering and do these Muslims not want to help their fellow Muslims?
The world should demand that these wealthy Arab states take care of these desperate Arab refugees. But it does not. And these wealthy Arab and Muslim Persian Gulf states do virtually nothing to help. Just like they do very little to support the so-called Palestinian refugees. These wealthy Arab countries give only a small portion of the total budget to support these Palestinians, with the US, Europe, the EU and Japan (!) carrying the major load, to the tune of many hundreds of millions of dollars each year. They do precious little but talk with great fervor about the “Nakba” disaster, defend and promote the occult justice of precluding the settling of these Palestinian refugees in their new host countries, and cause the artificial, never ending, second-class refuge status for four generations of suffering people living in the only countries they ever knew.
While hundreds of millions of refugees all over the world have been successfully resettled and integrated into their new worlds, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these Palestinian refugees have been cynically kept hostages to hate and to the blind rejection of the reality their own leaders imposed. These same wealthy Arab states also renege on their pledges to support the Palestinian Authority operating budget, shifting yet another Arab obligation on to the shoulders of Europe and the US.
Why do the world leaders not demand that these rich Arab states take care of their own brother Arabs and fellow Muslims. Not a word is said. Why? Why are these Arab refugees, running from Arab hostility and Arab cruelty, a European responsibility?
It seems to me that this is a manifestation of raw racism. The world does not talk about this. It’s as if the world does not hold Arabs to accepted norms of human compassion, empathy and moral obligation. It’s as if the world does not expect Muslim Arabs to care about their own brothers and sisters. No one dares mention their obligations and their naked repudiation of responsibility. Is the underlying premise that they are somehow different or inferior or that their culture and code of conduct cannot be judged by Western standards? Do we implicitly discredit their culture and unthinkingly excuse them from humanitarian and international responsibility?
Something fundamentally perverted is at play here. This is more than a cultural avoidance of the politically incorrect. It manifests some fundamental flaw in Western conception. It is the same flaw which prompts the Western human rights groups to find fault in Israel’s military defense against immoral Hamas attacks on civilians when unintended and often unavoidable harm to civilians occurs. Israel’s collateral damage rates are among the lowest in the world, far lower than those vocally condemning us. When we harm innocent civilians, our vigorous efforts to avoid this result have failed. Our terrorist enemies, on the other hand, aim at civilian populations. For them, “collateral damage” means their vigorous efforts have succeeded. Yet the world condemns us and holds the attacking Arab forces to almost no standard.
When the UN holds Europe accountable to solve the tragic effects of Arab barbarism and Muslim civil war in the Middle East while giving the rich Arab Muslim countries a free pass, something is dramatically wrong.
We need to become less racist, more honest, and speak the truth. We need to hold the Arab Muslim world accountable.The author is the founding president of the Institute for Zionist Strategies and chairman of NGO Monitor, and practices law in the US and Israel. The opinions expressed are his own.