The general Israeli public is on the whole soft-hearted and empathetic towards those in need. The scenes we see on TV almost nightly of Syrian refugees pouring across the borders into Jordan and Turkey, sheltering from the snow or sweltering in the heat inside the flimsy tents of refugee camps, do not bring joy to any Israeli heart.
The scenes of bombed houses, shattered homes and devastated lives caused by both sides in the conflict arouse a mixture of emotions – horror at the atrocities being inflicted on innocent civilians just a few hundred metres from Israel, shame at the failure of the world community to put a stop to the carnage and mortification at the vicious effrontery displayed by Bashir Assad in bombarding his own population. The retaliatory attacks by his opponents arouse the same feelings of resentment and regret in all those who can do nothing but watch as a neighbouring country obliterates itself.
For political reasons Israel cannot allow itself to become a haven for those unfortunates, but it has allowed its medical services to provide succour to individual cases. To date over three hundred badly wounded Syrian adults and children have been treated in hospitals in Israel. There is evidently some form of tacit cooperation at work here in order to enable these cases to get across the international border between the two countries, with the person accompanying the injured individual also being allowed to enter Israel.
Israel has a long and complex record with the concept and reality of the term ‘refugee.’ Today the word is immediately associated with the Palestinian refugees, who supposedly were driven out of their homes in the course of the 1948 conflict in which the State of Israel was established. Never mind that many of those who left their homes then are no longer alive, and that numbers of them left because they were encouraged to do so by their leaders, it is a fact that the many millions of persons defined today as Palestinian refugees are the second and third generation of descendants of the original refugees and surpass them greatly in number.
When the State of Israel was founded all the Jews living in Moslem countries were expelled and forced to abandon their property. The tiny, nascent State absorbed them, swelling its own population and obliging everyone to drastically reduce their standard of living. Those refugees were also housed in tents and temporary encampments initially, but all the resources of the new State were mobilized to provide permanent housing for them and to integrate them within the wider society.
The Palestinian refugees, by contrast, were kept in their impoverished state by their host Arab countries and deprived of civil status in order to be cynically used as a tool for putting pressure on Israel and the world community. Current demands to grant them the ‘right of return’ into modern Israel is both a distortion of history and a sure-fire recipe for the destruction of Israel – the only Jewish country in the world – while there are dozens of Moslem countries with almost endless resources for accommodating these unfortunates, should they choose to do so.
My own parents were refugees. They fled Nazi Germany and were fortunate enough to find refuge in England, where I was born. After proving themselves to be worthy over the course of several years, they were granted British citizenship and I was a British citizen from the moment of my birth there. Similar stories are prevalent all over the world.
It’s a pity that the morals and standards of humanity prevalent in the wider world do not seem to have penetrated the minds of those who govern Arab countries.