Community members discuss the resettlement of Syrian refugees and the Zionist Organization of America.
Far From an Open-Door Policy
Morton Klein’s Op-Ed on Dec. 24 calls for the United States to shut its doors to all Syrians seeking protection through our refugee program. He writes he is “shocked” that HIAS, the Anti-Defamation League, AJC, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs signed a letter supporting the continued resettlement of Syrian refugees. As the local affiliate of HIAS, Inc., but an independent agency, HIAS Pennsylvania also supports the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and we are joined by an outpouring of support from area synagogues of various denominations and other faith communities who have contacted us asking how they can help. At this time, however, given the complex and intense security screening, very few Syrians have arrived in Philadelphia. HIAS PA has resettled one family of five, which fled Syria in 2011, arriving only three months ago.
The vetting process for Syrian refugees is very detailed. Refugees’ fingerprints and biometrics are taken and checked against the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, FBI and Counter-Intelligence databases. The processing of refugees takes between 18 months to three years; all security checks are done before arrival. Delaying resettlement for so many years puts those who are in dangerous situations at great risk. By allocating sufficient staffing and resources, the process can be streamlined for all refugees, balancing our security needs with our humanitarian values.
As Jews, we’ve learned the hard way not to confuse the victims of terror and oppression with the perpetrators. During the Holocaust, two-thirds of the American public did not want to accept Jewish refugees from Germany or Nazi-controlled areas. That is one lesson from history that resonates in our community and must not be repeated for any nationality.
Judith Bernstein-Baker | Executive Director, HIAS Pennsylvania
A History of Evidence-Based Activism
Mr. Wahlberg (letter, Dec. 31) wrongly takes issue with the Zionist Organization of America for allegedly always acting as if we’re right with no evidence or facts. However, we were the only major Jewish group to explain our opposition to the Oslo accords and the forced unilateral Gaza evacuation of 9,000 Jews, correctly predicting it would lead to disaster. Our basis, which we proclaimed loud and clear, was that Palestinian leaders were longtime terrorists who were fulfilling none of their Oslo obligations to outlaw terrorist groups, end incitement to violence, and extradite terrorists. We emphasized that the Arab war against Israel is not about land but about the Jewish State’s existence — the Palestinians’ official emblem still shows all of Israel as Palestine and their party’s charter still calls for “armed struggle” and the “destruction of the Zionist entity” while continuing to refuse to sit down and negotiate. We also feared leaving Gaza would lead to a Hamas takeover of Gaza and thousands of rockets being launched into Israel. We also predicted President Obama would be the most hostile president toward Israel based on the fact that he attended an anti-Israel church for 20 years, had close friendships with Israel-bashers Prof. Rashid Khalidi, Bill Ayers and Ali Abuneimah, and his statement that Hamas and Hezbollah have “legitimate claims.” And we published article after article detailing the basis of our opposition to the catastrophic Iran deal.
Dr. Michael Goldblatt | Chairman, National Board of Directors, Zionist Organization of America