Some Syrian “refugees” in Germany open up about their thoughts on Israel…some of their comments might shock you
Safely in Berlin, Syrian refugees weigh in on Israel, ISIS and the western world.
What Syria’s refugees think about Israel might surprise you
BERLIN – Israel’s government is in cahoots with Syrian President Bashar Assad. America wants to keep the Syrian civil war going for as long as possible. Russia is outmaneuvering the United States on the global stage.
Those are some of the viewpoints you’re likely to hear if you talk politics with Syrians pouring out of their war-torn country and into Europe.
When I went to Berlin recently to write about the wave of migrants arriving in Germany, one of the questions I was most curious about was something that had nagged at me since the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad began bombing its own people back in 2011: Now that you see the true face of your government, do you look at its longtime adversary, Israel, any differently? Could the enemy of your enemy be your friend?
But when it came to their views on Israel, there seemed to be more conspiracy theory than political theory. And I was surprised (though I probably shouldn’t have been) that for many Syrians, the defining element of their identity is sectarian rather than national, and therefore they’re more concerned with the divides among Alawites, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds than the divide between Arab and Jew.
“Israel and Bashar [Assad] – same-same,” said Khalid el-Hassan, a 17-year-old from the Syrian coastal city of Tartus who recently made his way to Berlin.
El-Hassan cited the quietude that for years prevailed along the Syria-Israel border and Assad’s repeated failure to respond to Israeli airstrikes in Syria both during the civil war and before it.
Emad Khalil, a 22-year-old law student from Aleppo, repeated a myth that is widely accepted as fact across the Arab Middle East: that the two stripes on the Israeli flag represent the Nile and the Euphrates rivers, and the Star of David is a sign that the Jews seek to control all the land in between, from Egypt to Iraq.
“You come to visit Syria, OK. You come to take our land, not OK,” he said.
When I told Khalil the myth about the flag had no truth to it, he shrugged.
“I saw it on a documentary,” he said.
To be sure, I heard a range of viewpoints expressed, from the Syrian Kurd who was curious about teachers’ salaries in Tel Aviv to the bereaved Syrian mother who asked me why, if we’re all children of Adam and Eve, can’t we just get along?
To my Western ear, many of the Syrians’ convictions sounded outlandish, incoherent or ignorant. I mostly suppressed the urge to argue, however. My aim wasn’t to convince them why they were wrong, but to get a sense of how they see the world.
Given their experiences over the past four-plus years of civil war, the Syrians I met were less interested in talking about Israel than what they said was the West’s failure to help them.
Hadiya Suleiman, 45, a native of Deir ez-Zur in eastern Syria whose 18-year-old son was killed by a roadside bomb she said was rigged by ISIS, said she and other Syrians were happy when President Barack Obama was elected. But his inaction following the Syrian revolution changed her mind.
“I think what’s happening now is Obama’s responsibility; if Obama wanted he could stop the war,” said Suleiman, who has five surviving children.
Suleiman accused the “Jewish lobby” in America of thwarting any action on Syria, saying that U.S. policy favors seeing the civil war drag on so that the Syrians continue killing each other. She also blamed the rise of ISIS on America’s mismanagement of its invasion of Iraq.
Idris Abdulah, 30, an unemployed Syrian Kurd who came to Germany a year ago, said it wasn’t fair to blame America for ISIS; he fingered Assad for creating the ISIS problem by releasing Islamic militants from Syrian prisons shortly after the outbreak of the civil war. But Abdulah said America’s failure to act decisively in Syria shows American weakness, especially in contrast to
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