MK To-Be: Israel Should Take In Syrian Refugees

Elazar Stern urges Netanyahu to take in Syrian refugees, and mimic Begin's actions during 1977 Vietnamese ship crisis.

Tags: Syria Children
Yaakov Levi ,

Child victim of Syrian chemical attack
Child victim of Syrian chemical attack

A heartbreaking image of a little Syrian boy lying dead on a Turkish beach has prompted worldwide horror – and a call by Elazar Stern, who is set to join the Knesset when its winter session starts after the holidays, for Israel to accept Syrian refugees.

Speaking Thursday, Stern said that Israel had in the past accepted refugees during international crises. In 1977, for example, Israel rescued 77 Vietnamese refugees, 16 of them children and infants, from a ship that had been adrift in the South China Sea for ten days.

No one would help the ship, which was out of supplies, until then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the refugees brought to Israel. Eventually, some 700 Vietnamese refugees made their way to Israel.

A similar refugee crisis is developing, as millions from the Arab world and Africa seek to escape from their home countries, plagued by war and oppression, said Stern.

That crisis – and its heartbreak – took all too human form in the image of the toddler, who has been identified as Aylan al-Kurdi, the son of Syrian refugees.

One of many refugees who has perished in the Syrian civil war, Kurdi was part of a group of 11 Syrians who drowned off the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum after they apparently fled Syria.

The image has prompted politicians all over Europe to call for more action and assistance to the Syrian refugees.

While Israel, because of its small size, could not repatriate too many refugees, it is important that Israel take in even a small number of them - for its own sake, if not the refugees'.

“With images such as these, I do not understand how anyone can be opposed to this,” said Stern. “I call on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to provide refuge for a limited number of refugees, as Begin did in the past, in order to emphasize Israel's concern over an issue that has become a major humanitarian problem.”