There are certain situations that do not lend themselves to any reasonable solution which will fulfill all the objectives of the actors in the drama.
The tidal wave of political and economic refugees threatening to engulf Europe is one such situation. On the one hand, along with who knows how many criminals, terrorists or agents of various governments, there are hundreds of thousands of innocent people who have been displaced by civil war and institutional terrorism. They come by boat and by land into the underbelly of Europe primarily in Greece and Italy, and then work their way north towards Germany and Sweden, which have become a kind of promised land for them.
It is a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions, to be compared only with the man-made Maoist disasters and the Second World War, in both of which tens of millions died, most at the hands of their own governments.
On the one hand, simple human compassion would argue for a massive relief effort and settling the genuine refugees in decent camps while processing the questionable elements out and sending them back to wherever they came from. The genuine refugees would be gradually integrated into the host country's society, while making it clear that they are expected to adopt the language and customs of their benefactors.
On the other hand, such commendable treatment, besides being apparently beyond the capability of the current European leadership, would simply encourage additional hundreds of thousands to make the perilous journey into the heart of Europe until soon any reasonable attempt at integration would be entirely overwhelmed, and social chaos as well as political polarization would ensue.
Realistically, only air and naval blockade of the coasts of Turkey, Lebanon and Libya at least, intercepting and turning back all refugees trying to reach Europe, would prevent such an inundation. The likelihood of a coordinated effort of that type is currently low, but after a few hundred thousand more refugees besiege the coasts of southern Europe rationality may prevail.
What is the meaning of this human disaster for Israel? In the first place it must be recognized that Israel is not only a small country, already housing almost eight and a half million people, but it is a country with a certain ethnic purpose and reason for being, which cannot and will not lend itself to accepting many thousands of refugees from neighboring areas. The Jews which used to inhabit those countries already came to Israel decades ago. Perhaps some Christian and Druze might be accepted, and probably should be, but their numbers would be limited and they would be welcomed and helped by their own communities here.
However, another disastrous outcome is possible. Greece and Italy did not willingly assume the role of countries of entry for these refugees--they simply came, impelled by the loss of hope for any reasonable solution to the Hell that their home countries had become as well as by unscrupulous criminal elements praying upon their misery by bilking them of their last dollars to cram them into leaky boats and airless trucks. Suppose that thousands of unarmed, miserable civilians, including many women and children, were to simply begin to walk towards the Israeli frontier with Lebanon, Syria or Jordan?
What would the authorities do? The choices should not be dwelt upon because they are too depressing. It must not be permitted to happen, however, and the only way to prevent it from happening some day is to do what Israel has already done in its southern border with Egypt--build a fence. In other words, without delay, all of Israel must be fenced. A start has already been made on the border with Jordan, but work must be expanded and accelerated. In addition, the Israeli navy must begin training to detect and intercept refugees trying to enter Israel by sea from Syria, Turkey or Lebanon.
The vast, immensely sad human disaster that has overtaken most of the Middle East and much of Africa is not Israel's fault and Israel should not be expected to, and indeed cannot, alleviate the crisis by admitting any substantial number of refugees. It should be demanded of anyone advocating that a large number of refugees be admitted to explain just how such a policy would lead to anything but the more or less rapid disintegration of Israeli society.
We are directed, properly, to be charitable. We are absolutely forbidden to commit suicide.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and teaches at the Center for National Security Studies and Geostrategy, University of Haifa.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 10, 2015
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