Hostility Toward Syrian Refugees: 1930's All Over Again? By Roger Algase
In the face of what is now being recognized as the greatest humanitarian crisis of the current century (so far), Europe is still unable to decide how to handle the influx of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of desperate people fleeing the conflict between the murderous Assad regime in Syria and its equally, if not even more, inhuman ISIS opponents. While European countries argue over how far to open or close their borders, with Germany coming down more on the side of tolerance and Hungary at the other extreme of right wing xenophobia, the Obama administration has offered to accept the absurdly low figure of 10,000 Syrian refugees.
Even this pathetic, token figure (especially compared to Germany's offer to take in up to one million refugees) which reminds one of the fact that Canada took in only 5,000 Jewish refugees during the entire Holocaust period, is coming under fire from immigration opponents in the US, who enjoy raising the specter of terror attacks any time that immigrants from any Muslim country come under discussion. and using the mask of exaggerated security concerns to conceal prejudice.
In the meantime, drowned Syrian refugee children continue to wash ashore.
My reference to Canada's refusal to admit more than 5,000 Jewish refugees is not the only parallel that can be drawn between the hostility toward admitting Syrian refugees now and America's refusal to admit Jewish refugees in the 1930's.
Scholar and writer Juan Cole writes the following in his September 6 article:
Whether Jewish refugees in 30's or Syrians today, USA Falls Short of own ideals
"This grim landscape of racism, religious prejudice, blaming the victim and racial exclusion from immigration is deja vu all over again. In the 30s it was the Jews that the troglodytes didn't want."...
Jews were also seen by some US neanderthals as having socialist tendencies and were so kept out as radicals. There was talk of the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy. (Hatred of Jews was irrational, so they were blamed for being bankers [they were less than 1 percent of bankers] at the same time they were excoriated for being Marxists). There was also the Society for Defense of Christianity, so fundamentalists did their part.
All the same arguments against letting the Jews in are now being deployed to keep out the Syrians. Not Christian. Alien ideology. Would take jobs. Nobody is openly saying they aren't Aryan but the Trumpists might as well be."
Antipathy against Syrian and other refugees fleeing for their lives from conflicts and dictatorships in the Middle East and Africa is also fueled by an excessively narrow, almost 65-year old definition of "refugee" under international law that urgently needs to be revised and expanded to deal with 21st century reality.
This will be discussed in my forthcoming post. In the meantime, I wish all ID readers a very happy Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. L'shana tova!
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas, green cards and US citizenship. His email is email@example.com