It’s Jordan That’s a Light Unto the Nations

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Luckily, King Abdullah of Jordan doesn’t have a Jewish soul still yearning, as they say in Israel’s national anthem, and as our leaders have. Otherwise, he would have violently driven out dozens of people when the first wave of Syrian refugees knocked on his kingdom’s gates. Thus, it can be said, the Jews have a yearning soul but the Jordanians are a light unto the nations. At least that’s the way it looks on the ground.

Since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, Jordan, with a population of about 7 million, has taken in more than 600,000 refugees. In the two previous decades, Jordan took in about half a million refugees from Iraq. Thus this small country has absorbed about a million refugees – almost 15 percent of its population – not to mention the Palestinian refugees and the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who live in Jordan because of the lack of jobs back home.

And yet the Jordanians are not scurrying around worried that the state’s Jordanian character is being desecrated. There has been no report of a mass suicide by zealots of the Jordanian nation-state, and amazingly, not one Miri Regev has popped up there.

And the interior minister, who apparently has forgotten what it means to be Jordanian, hasn’t ordered buses to remove the impurity, whether across the border or in some detention facility somewhere. Instead, he has asked for the world’s support to assist the refugees. One can easily imagine that if Jordan had been in Europe during the Nazi period, it would have saved many Jews, unlike some of those cultured European countries.

Other than the moral aspect, Jordan has no obligation toward these refugees. Jordan did not expel them in 1948 or 1967. But instead of boasting about sending aid to the other side of the world, Jordan extends its hand to the neighbor on the other side of the door.

The prophet Mohammed said “the best among you is the one who is best for his family” – because it looks ridiculous if you are good to everyone while your children are downtrodden and starving. But with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu it’s business as usual. He’s counting the bodies in Syria to show the world that Israel isn’t part of the region, and he doesn’t cavil at having his picture taken with wounded Syrians in a clinic with two beds.

If Netanyahu’s light were real, he would have prepared shelter for the people from Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp – Palestinians who found themselves in a war not theirs and through no fault of their own. The Yarmouk refugees, most of whom were noncombatants, were expelled from their homes. Israel is obligated to offer assistance to those who were thrown off their land to places of hunger and death.

Israel has a golden opportunity to set out on the road of reconciliation with the Palestinians. If a camp is set up now for the Yarmouk refugees, saving them from war and starvation, the conversation will change completely from arm-wrestling to cooperation, from shirking responsibility to partnership in ending a painful chapter in the Palestinians’ lives. In the shadow of the peace talks, which are foundering, this would be even more important.

Last Friday a heartrending picture was published of thousands of refugees waiting for food at Yarmouk. The yearning Jewish soul treated them like aliens from outer space, not like victims of cruel events, to which Israel, to put it mildly, was a party.

Meanwhile, the Israeli spotlight is on bright. The foreign minister wants Israel to offload its Arabs, Likud MK Yariv Levin is trying to sow discord among Israeli Arabs, and the interior minister is pushing other refugees toward places of death. At the same time, two sources of light unto the nations had their sentences reduced; after all, they only left a critically ill man, Omar Abu Jariban, to face a certain death.

There’s a brilliant Egyptian caricature that shows a TV anchorwoman saying: “We apologize for the regular programming, we will immediately resume the problem.” Turn out the light; the darkness is much more merciful.

Members of the Syrian Red Crescent help people leave the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp, south of Damascus. February 1, 2014.Credit: AP

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