In Martin Raffel’s column “Taking the refugee problem personally,” he advocates that America accept more Syrian refugees. He offers two arguments: One is that Jews have a history of always welcoming strangers fleeing from persecution, and that is certainly true — up to a point. He also describes his experience with resettling a Vietnamese family. This is a heartwarming story — also up to a point. The point at which both narratives converge into irrelevance is in their historical context. Both took place in what seems like an America of a distant past, before 9/11, ISIS, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, the Arab spring/winter, the boiling cauldron that is now the Middle East, and Muslim hordes overrunning Western Europe and now aiming at America.
In the last 150 years, the U.S. has accepted immigrants from around the world, encompassing a wide variety of ethnic groups and religions, the newcomers arriving ready to work and assimilate into the American culture. In this instance, however, many of the immigrants want to retain their own culture and impose their laws on their host nations. We see this from the violence in their rampages through the Mideast and the violence in their settlement in Europe. We certainly recognize that not all Muslims are terrorists, but even a small percentage of over a billion Muslims is still a very large number. In previous generations, immigrants were often treated with hostility for a variety of reasons, but what makes the Syrian issue so different is that the hostility is due to fear.