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One day, an eleven-year-old wakes up to find out that he needs to move to another school. He’s not moving because he’s in trouble or because his grades are bad.
No, this student is moving because of who he is, and who his family is. This isn’t the last time that he’ll move either. First, it’ll be to a school where the only other students are also like him. Then, it’ll be to another country, because his father tells his family that they have to leave.
Like so many others, this student’s father saw the writing on the wall. Sometimes, it’s literal. An ugly message of hate, written in an ugly scrawl. Most of the time, though, it’s carried in hushed tones and in secret messages. No matter the manner of the message, it’s been received: his family isn’t welcome any more. This story isn’t from last year or even a couple years ago. This story happened almost eighty years ago. It’s the story of Ralph Bear, one of the only holocaust refugees admitted to the United States.
Baer’s story, though, is depressingly unique. The West was reluctant before, during, and after the Second World War to take in the Jews who had been hunted down and killed. Indeed, it was in some respects the west’s reluctance that allowed Hitler to accelerate the implementation of his so-called “final solution.”
This isn’t just shameful. It’s a crime against decency. It’s a crime against humanity. It’s a repudiation of the idea that defined the twentieth century: that the world could and should be better for everyone than it had been in the past. That the common good could sometimes triumph over nationalism and hate.
Countless Jews came to the West in their greatest hour of need, and the West turned them away. The lesson we learned from the holocaust was clear: never forget, never again. But our country has forgotten, and the unthinkable could happen again. According to NPR, thirty-two state governors, as well as a majority of Congressmen, have called for the rejection of Syrian refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIS and the Assad regime. Keeping our promise to never again allow such an atrocity means accepting refugees.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis is the largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time, stemming from a geopolitical feud involving Syrian Dictator Bashar Al-Assad, The Islamic State, and the Syrian people and contrary to popular belief, opening our societies to Muslim refugees is one of the easiest ways to erode the ideological power of Islamic State terrorists.
For the past four and a half years there has been a horrific civil war in Syria which began with the hope of the 2011 Arab Spring protests. Several dictatorships were toppled during this period in time, and Syria was not exempt from the protests.
In Syria, long reigning dictator Bashar al-Assad refused to relinquish power and instead battled the rebellion with astonishing violence, including torturing children and gassing his own people with chemical weapons. In response to a peaceful protest in 2011, Assad fired the first shots, signaling the beginning of a long, drawn out civil war. According to the Human Rights Watch, as of 2016, roughly 470,000 Syrians have been killed, 6.1 million internally displaced, and 4.8 million seeking refuge abroad.
The biggest problem is that the entire international community is to blame. The Assad Regime definitely gets a lot of the blame but so do Iran and Russia and China who are all providing financial support to that regime and doing very little about the resulting refugee crisis. The Islamic State has also involved itself in the Syrian Civil War, fighting the rebels who are trying to take back their land. The Arab States of the Gulf have accepted zero refugees from Syria and refuse to take care of the problem in their own backyard.
The United States is also to blame. We declare ourselves as the international super power, yet refuse to help in any shape or form. Not to mention that it was the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2001 that gave rise to the instability and protests in the Middle East. Furthermore, the United States has a vested security interest in the refugee crisis, as taking in Syrian refugees would decrease the impact terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and ISIS have in the area two-fold.
The first reason comes from Natasha Bertrand, senior reporter at Business Insider, who informs us that offering a helping hand instead of a cold shoulder to refugees will give ISIS less propaganda to function off of and give Muslims countries such as the UAE more of a reason to help us in the fight. Bertrand writes that “…the anti-Islamic rhetoric dominating the discourse among the far-right, is a propaganda win for the Islamic State. IS has utilized its propaganda apparatus in an effort to dissuade Syrians from fleeing.”
Second, according to journalist Barbie Nadeau of the Daily Beast, ISIS gets a large sum of their recruitment at refugee areas and camps. Accepting refugees will be the best way to hamper their recruitment. Khalid Koser of the Brookings Institute concurs with Nadeau’s sentiments, writing that “The risk of radicalization is especially heightened where refugees find themselves in protracted situations: marginalized, disenfranchised, and excluded. Finding solutions for displaced populations should be an urgent priority for humanitarian reasons but also as a security issue.”Giving radical extremists less time to corrupt and brainwash the displaced refugees strengthens our odds in the war on terror.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis is the largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time, stemming from a geopolitical feud involving Syrian Dictator Bashar Al-Assad, The Islamic State, and the Syrian people and contrary to popular belief, opening our societies to Muslim refugees is one of the easiest ways to erode the ideological power of Islamic State terrorists. I want to bring this speech back to the narrative I shared earlier, the narrative of Ralph Bear one of the only holocaust refugees admitted to the United States. We learned that the world could and should be better for everyone than it had been in the past. That those who had helped those who didn’t. That the common good could sometimes triumph over nationalism and hate. The US made a promise to itself and the international community abroad: we had learned a lesson from the holocaust and that the lesson was clear: never forget, never again. But our country has forgotten, and the unthinkable could happen again.
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