On National Public Radio the other day, reporter Kelly McEvers stated that 100s of 1000s of refugees were headed out of Syria in “every direction,” into all “neighboring countries.” She listed Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and “even Iraq.” (Excerpt below).
Of course she left out the countries to the south and west, Palestine and Israel. Israel shares a border with Syria. The reasons that Israel has closed its doors to Syrian refugees are of course many and complex, from the fact that it would mean welcoming home people whom Israel made into refugees itself decades ago and whose rights it refuses to recognize, to the general attitude toward “Arabs” in Israeli society, to the fact that people in Damascus (when I was there a few years ago) referred to Israel as “the Zionist entity” and “Disneyland”, i.e., not a real place.
Whatever the reasons, it is a failure of charity on the part of a neighbor that has never gained acceptance in its neighborhood. NPR shouldn’t be papering over the absence of kindness by misrepresenting geography.
SCOTT SIMON: Kelly McEvers, you were talking about the human cost in casualties. What about the refugee situation inside and just outside of Syria?
MCEVERS: The numbers are pretty staggering, Scott. I mean, we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing their country, going every direction into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and even Iraq, which isn’t totally equipped to handle them because it’s got so many problems of its own. And then, you know, some estimates say that even 2 million Syrians inside the country are now internally displaced.
It’s taxing all of these neighboring countries. They don’t enough. The United Nations is appealing for more money from all the international donors. I was at a town inside Syria just a couple of weeks ago where people are forming their own makeshift camps under olive trees because the Turks won’t let them in to their camps anymore. They basically say they’ve reached capacity.
Here in Lebanon where I’m stationed, there aren’t any camps. They’re trying to absorb Syrians into existing homes. They don’t want to build these camps. We want to try to see if the Syrians can have as normal life as possible. That’s really taxing the economy here.
But probably the worst situation is in Jordan, where it’s possible that some 300,000 Syrians have fled. Many of them are living in very, sort of, dire conditions in a tent camp along the border in the desert. It’s windy, it’s dusty. Others are trying to integrate into Jordanian society, but Jordan just doesn’t have a robust economy. It’s not really able to absorb all these people and support them.
SIMON: And winter’s coming.
MCEVERS: Yes, exactly. I mean, that’s what I heard in that village under the olive trees from so many people. What happens when it starts to rain?