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There Are Serious, Unbigoted Reasons to Be Wary of a Flood of Syrian Refugees



mong politicians and their clingers-on, journalists, nothing takes hold like a bad historical analogy. Thus as politicians — 29 governors chief among them — call for a halt to our Syrian-refugee-resettlement program on the grounds that it might be exploited as a conduit for terrorists, pundits are invoking the plight of Jewish refugees fleeing Adolf Hitler’s Germany in an effort to soften American hearts. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote Monday, “This growing cry to turn away people fleeing for their lives brings to mind the SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees turned away from Florida in 1939,” while his colleague Ishaan Tharoor contended: “Today’s 3-year-old Syrian orphan, it seems, is 1939’s German Jewish child.” Meanwhile, a Daily Kos headline shouts: “Replace ‘Syrian’ with ‘Jewish’ and we’re back to 1939.” This is prima facie nonsense, which should be obvious from the terms being compared: Jews, an ethnic group, with Syrians, a national one. An honest, apples-to-apples comparison would line up German Jews and Syrian Muslims — the relevant ethnic group within the relevant political entity. But do this, and the failure of the analogy becomes clear. The first, and most obvious, difference: There was no international conspiracy of German Jews in the 1930s attempting to carry out daily attacks on civilians on several continents. No self-identifying Jews in the early 20th century were randomly massacring European citizens in magazine offices and concert halls, and there was no “Jewish State” establishing sovereignty over tens of thousands of square miles of territory, and publicly slaughtering anyone who opposed its advance. Among Syrian Muslims, there is. The vast majority of Syrian Muslims are not party to these strains of radicalism and violence, but it would be dangerous to suggest that they do not exist, or that our refugee-resettlement program need not take account of them. RELATED: Europe and the Refugees On a related note, the sympathies of Syrian Muslims are more diverse than those of Nazi-era German Jews. A recent Arab Opinion Index poll of 900 Syrian refugees found that one in eight hold a “to some extent”-positive view of the Islamic State (another 4 percent said that they did not know or refused to answer). A non-trivial minority of refugees who support a murderous, metastatic caliphate is a


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