A column in the Nov. 27 Voice, and the official Jewish community generally, have called for compassion and for welcoming Syrian refugees. Compassion is good, but not enough; caution is also needed.
While we can handle the small number coming now, we can have little confidence large numbers can be properly vetted, especially as many are young men of the age that is most violent. Though its highly unlikely a terrorist act will affect any of us directly, the San Bernardino and Paris shootings show that even one attack can destabilize the political system and the reaction to it can threaten our privacy and civil liberties. Note in reaction the recent first-round victory of the right-wing National Front in French local elections.
Terrorism is not the only issue. Many Mideast refugees grew up being taught to hate the west, to be misogynist and homophobic, intolerant of other religions including variants of their own, and, to hate the Jews. European experience shows when there is enough of this kind of immigration, it can become highly problematic for Jews in some localities. We have a right to be cautious.
True compassion for the Syrian refugees should first support assistance in the camps – medical, food, education. We could help refugees resettle in Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil states where there is plenty of room, plenty of oil money, and similar climate, religion, language. Above all, we must work with all parties to arrange a cease-fire in Syria and help work out a settlement so refugees can return to their own country.
One further point to be aware of: Since 1980 the Syrian population has grown from 8.8 million to about 22.3 million. This rate of growth, not so different in other Mideast countries, is not sustainable. There really needs to be support for voluntary family planning, girls’ education and better economic opportunity for women in order to solve the problems in that region.
North Providence, RI