Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Brief thoughts during Pesach 2017

Of course I’m eating matzo right now and one cannot eat matzo and not be reminded of the Jews’ time as slaves in Egypt. As every Jew knows, the seder is intended to remind us of all the aspects of the hundreds of years our people spent there. We are continually told that we were strangers in Egypt, so we must never forget what it was like to be a stranger. Tonight I’m thinking of a particular stranger that has been suffering horribly for years: Syrians.
I don’t usually link to other articles, but the following piece by David Inserra from the very conservative Heritage Foundation is required reading before discussing this:
It’s important to understand that from an American perspective, there isn’t a side that is good for our interests. Assad is a brutal dictator who is clearly content to watch his country fall apart while he clings to power. The opposition is bolstered by Islamic fundamentalists (except for maybe the Kurdish fighters). I support the right kind of foreign interventions, such as the Israeli airstrike that took out the North Korea designed nuclear reactor in 2007, and the Libyan intervention in 2010. I see no strategic advantage to US involvement in this civil war. What does have a clear US interest is aiding the innocent civilians who are brutalized by both sides of the conflict, and the US can do something about it.
What is undeniable is that pain, suffering, and misery have befallen the Syrian people. Donald Trump made it clear during his campaign that not only is he opposed to the refugee vetting process we’ve had in place for years, he wants to halt all immigration from certain countries. This is the failed “Muslim ban.” While I’m relieved it has failed (weren’t we supposed to be tired of all his winning by now?), it’s disheartening that such a thing was even in the platform of a candidate for president.
Reading the vetting process of refugees described by Inserra, it is comprehensive, exhaustive, and effective. I’d wager that most Americans are not familiar with what the US has actually been doing, and most don’t know that we’ve only admitted approximately 1200 Syrian refugees. I would prefer if we were taking in more. The terrorists are the ones that are staying to fight the damn war. The terrorists have the vested interest in toppling the Assad government. The Assad government is killing civilians whether they’re suspected of being terrorists or not; at times with chemical weapons Those who are fleeing the war are those that have decided that their lives are more important than taking a side; which is exactly what I would be doing because Assad is a secular dictator and the opposition would institute a repressive theocracy. People fleeing these outcomes are exactly the people that we should want to come here. These are people who would be able to see the promise of America in a positive light, and that would reverberate throughout the Middle East.
Could there be people who seek asylum here that intend to do us harm? Of course. We have law enforcement for that and I trust them to protect us. However I want to live in a country that isn’t so dominated by fear that we cower from the stranger. We were all strangers somewhere once, and it is incumbent upon us (not just Jews, but Americans) to treat the stranger among us well. Our hearts must be stronger than our fear.
Ours is supposed to be a nation of hope, not just to our citizens already here, but to the whole world. I’m not advocating for open borders a la Ellis Island. I’m calling for the vetting process that’s in place to remain, and perhaps be expedited in certain cases. Trump fired cruise missiles at an air base that was active again the next day and did nothing to prevent chemical attacks from being carried out against Syrian citizens again. This cannot be the extent of our Syria policy. In fact the actions taken by Trump made the chemical weapons situation worse. Intelligence used to know where the chemical weapons were stored, they have since been moved. We have ordnance designed to neutralize chemical weapons, but these were not engaged in the 59 cruise missiles that were launched. Trump even stated in an interview that the missiles were fired at Iraq and had to be corrected by the host that they were launched at Syria. In that same interview he spoke as much about his damn chocolate cake as he did the missiles.

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