Torah Values and Why We Oppose Resettling Syrian Refugees
J Street rabbis, resettlement contractor HIAS (which stands to receive millions of our tax dollars to resettle Syrian migrants throughout the US) and President Obama all misleadingly argue that the Torah, and hence “Jewish values,” support large-scale unfettered immigration of ISIS-infiltrated Syrian Muslims into the United States.
These immigration advocates ignore the paramount Torah and Talmudic passages that forbid us from endangering our lives and that support strong borders — and instead erroneously cite the Biblical phrase: “You shall not wrong [taunt] a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20).
The Hebrew word for “stranger” in Exodus 22:20 (and similar passages, such as Leviticus 19:33) is “Ger.” A “Ger” is a convert to Judaism (“ger tzeddek”) or a resident alien who accepts the seven basic Noahide laws prohibiting murder, theft, idolatry, incest, etc. (“ger toshav”). The commentators thus explained that Exodus 22:20 (and similar passages) forbid taunting a convert, including by reminding him of his non-Jewish past. These passages do not support immigration of an ISIS-infiltrated hostile population.
A potential terrorist who could murder innocent citizens in his new host country is neither a convert nor a resident alien who accepted the basic moral laws, and is thus not a “ger.” Instead, he is an enemy. Although Jews are forbidden to gloat about their enemies’ misfortunes, bringing enemies into one’s country is prohibited. See Exodus 23:33 (“They [enemies] shall not dwell in your Land lest they cause you to sin against Me, that you will worship their gods, for it will be a trap for you.”)
An influx of tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim migrants would undoubtedly endanger American lives — especially American Jewish lives. Top administration officials (e.g. FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper) testified about ISIS infiltration dangers and America’s inability to adequately vet immigrants.
Congressman Peter King wrote, “We know that ISIL will attempt to infiltrate its members into the United States with these refugees. . . . ISIS perpetrators of the Paris massacre traveled hidden among refugees.”
The San Bernadino massacre is another heartbreaking reminder of what inadequately vetted migrants can wreak. Additional dangers include: infiltration by Syrian Hamas trainers and trainees; ISIS’ ability to forge passports and other identification papers; and the Syrian population’s indoctrination from an early age to celebrate martyrdom, act violently towards “enemies,” hate Jews and Americans, and support terror organizations (e.g. Hamas and Hezbollah) that call for the murder of every Jew.
Accordingly, Jewish law and values in fact oppose Syrian immigration, because self-preservation is among the highest values in Judaism.
The Torah commands us to prevent situations and avoid people who endanger our lives and to erect barriers to prevent death and injury. See Deuteronomy 4:9 and 4:15 (“Take heed and carefully guard your lives.”); Pirkei Avot 1:7 (“Distance yourself from a bad neighbor; do not connect yourself with a rasha [evildoer].”); Deuteronomy 22:8 (“Make a fence for your roof, so you will not place blood in your house if a fallen one falls off of it.”)
These prohibitions are interpreted expansively, and require a wide range of precautionary steps to protect lives. For instance, we must fence in a swimming pool to prevent neighborhood children from wandering into the area and drowning. Many current Halakhic (Jewish law) authorities even prohibit smoking because smoking is now known to pose dangers to life and health. Self-preservation is so important that the “duty to rescue” does not apply if a rescue would substantially endanger the potential rescuer’s own life.
Moreover, strong borders are a “Jewish value.” Moses blessed the Jewish people before his death with a prayer for strong borders “sealed like iron and copper” to enable the people to live “securely” into healthy “old age.” (Deuteronomy 33:25, 28). See also Exodus 23:33 (“They [enemies] shall not dwell in your Land . . . .”) The Torah also says that God established borders of the world’s nations. See Deuteronomy 23:8 (“He [God] set the borders of the peoples [of the world] according to the number of the Children of Israel.”). Thus unfettered immigration — an essentially border-less world – is not a “Jewish value.”
J Street, HIAS and President Obama also frequently shamefully invoke Jews fleeing the Holocaust to support their Muslim immigration agenda. This attempted analogy is wholly inapplicable. As Congressman Peter King correctly noted, in previous refugee situations, the refugees coming were not a threat to the United States.”
It is also baffling that persons who profess concern for women and LGBTQ support importing a population that is anti-gay and degrades women. The Pew Research Center (2013) study of Middle East Muslim attitudes found that minuscule percentages (only 1% to 2%) said homosexuality was morally acceptable; and that large percentages support imposing Sharia law (which denies women property and other rights) support stoning as a punishment for adultery and oppose family planning and abortion. Moreover, risking importing into the US the horrifying recent assaults, sexual harassment, rape and robbery attacks on women by large Muslim migrant gangs in Germany is also not a “Jewish value.”
The real “Jewish value” (and common sense, of course) is to keep ISIS-infiltrated migrants out of the United States — and to simply help Syrian refugees in the refugee camps in Jordan, or help establish other safe spaces in the Middle East.
Morton A. Klein is the National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Elizabeth Berney, Esq. is ZOA’s Director of Special Projects.