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As the Syrian Civil War Comes to a Close, the Refugee Crisis Is Apt to Get Worse, Not Better

Sept. 13 2017

Now that Islamic State is being driven from its stronghold in Deir Ezzor, and Bashar al-Assad and his allies seem poised to defeat the opposition forces, there is hope that the civil war may be nearing its end. But, writes Morderchai Kedar, this does not mean that those displaced by the violence will start returning to their homes:

About half the citizens of Syria—approximately ten million people—have become refugees. Approximately half of them are inside Syria and half elsewhere. Those abroad are in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, other Arab countries, Europe, North and South America, Australia, and even Israel.

Generally speaking, all Syrian refugees who have reached countries outside the Arab world will stay there for good, because life in those countries is orderly and safe. The refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, however—altogether about 3.5 million Syrians—are waiting for the war to end so they can return home.

Yet the reality in Syria is changing completely, and it is difficult to foresee a massive return of Syrian refugees from those countries. There are two main reasons for this. First, during the six years of the savage and blood-drenched war, large parts of the Syrian cities have been reduced to rubble by aerial bombing, barrel bombing from helicopters, artillery and tank shells, and explosive devices and mines. . . . Refugees will not agree to exchange their tent in Jordan for a ruin with no infrastructure in devastated Syria.

But there is another reason the refugees will not return: the Sunni refugees’ fear of the country’s new landlords, the Shiites. For a considerable time, Iran has been transferring Shiite citizens from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan to Syria. Its clear intention is to change decisively the country’s demographic composition so it will have a Shiite majority instead of the Sunni majority it had until the civil war erupted in 2011. This is undoubtedly the case because the Alawite rulers of Syria know the Sunni majority regard them as heretics and idol worshippers who have no right to live in, let alone rule, the country. . . .

The new demographic situation in Syria will convince the Sunni refugees that they no longer have anything to return to. They will therefore do all they can to move . . . to any country in the world that will agree to accept them, preferably in Europe or North America. This may well lead to a process opposite to that expected to result from the Syrian “peace”: instead of a return of refugees, there will likely be a mass flight of more refugees and Sunni citizens.

The consequence, writes Kedar, is likely to be greater instability in Europe.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Iran, Jordan, Politics & Current Affairs, Refugees, Syrian civil war

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC