Syrian Refugees Aren't Like Jewish Refugees

Why comparing Syrians today to those fleeing the Holocaust is a false analogy.

Speaking at the National Achieves in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday (December 15, 2025), President Barack Hussein Obama compared the Syrian refugees now flooding Europe with Jewish refugees during World War Two (WWII), a comparison that is an insult to history and truth. Six million Jews were murdered in gas chambers, shot and buried in pits throughout the Ukraine, White Russia, and the Baltic states, while the world looked the other way; Syrian refugees have been able to find shelter, however uncomfortable, in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Europeans who refused to shelter Jews, and in fact turned them over to the Nazis to be murdered in Auschwitz and other death camps, i.e. Vichy, France, are now welcoming the Syrian refugees, especially Angela Merkel’s Germany.  

President Obama is wrong to compare Syrian refugees who have choices, and Jewish refugees who had none. Syrian citizens are choosing to leave their homes. True, Assad’s barrel-bombs have killed indiscriminately, and Islamic State (IS) brutality has impacted on many. Yet should the U.S. and its allies impose “no fly zone” safe havens in civilian areas, Syrians (unless they are Christians, Kurds, or Yazidis) wouldn’t have to abandon their homes. Yesteryear, Jews from Arab lands had no choice. They were thrown out of their homes were they lived for millenniums, with literally the “shirts on their back.” Jewish properties were confiscated by the Arab authorities or taken by street mobs. Similarly, survivors of the Holocaust could not return to their homes, and all their properties and belongings were taken by the native non-Jewish population or the Nazis.

Nazi Germany aimed to eradicate all Jews from Europe and elsewhere, while no such danger has faced Syrian refugees. In fact, there are 57 Islamic nations that are able to receive their fellow co-religionists. The Jews of Palestine during WWII would have done their utmost to absorb Jewish refugees had the British Mandatory regime in Palestine not closed the gates to the Jews of Europe. Anti-Semitism and Jew hatred motivated most nations in the West, including the U.S. during WWII.  Islamophobia on the other hand, is a cudgel in the hands of radical Muslims to beat on the western sense of guilt.  

As a retort to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to temporarily bar Muslim immigrants, Obama piped up, “In the Muslim immigrant today, we see the Catholic immigrant of a century ago. In the Syrian refugee of today, we should see the Jewish refugee of World War II.“  President Obama should know better. Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Italy, or Poland did not seek to create “Catholic law,” the way Muslims immigrants in Britain and throughout the West have demanded “Sharia Islamic law.” Catholic immigrants, unlike Muslims, did not kill American citizens shouting “Allah Akbar.”

The Syrian refugees today are in no way like the Jewish refugees of WWII. The Jewish refugees were thrilled to assimilate into the American way of life. They did not harbor potential terrorists ready to kill Americans on behalf of the Islamic State. The recent experience with Muslim refugees from Somalia and Iraq has not been a success story. Moreover, America has traditionally been a home for refugees from religious persecution. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee based on the following parameters: “Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”  The only religiously persecuted refugees are Syrian and Iraqi Christians, as well as Yazidis, but not Muslims. Yet, the overwhelming majority of the Syrian refugees President Obama seeks to admit into America are Muslims.

President Obama is correct when he pointed out that “[w]e can never say it often or loudly enough: Immigrants and refugees revitalize and renew America.” The problem is that not all immigrants and refugees are the same. The recent immigrants from Somalia have been a burden on America; some have joined the Islamic State (IS). Many Syrian immigrants might likewise pose a serious security problem. The FBI director, James Comey, testifying at a congressional hearing last month told lawmakers, “If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing showing up because we have no record of them.”

According to the FBI Annual Review of Hate Crime, “Last year (2014), as in previous years, Jews were the most frequent victims of reported crimes targeting members of a religious group.  Of the 1,140 reported victims of anti-religious hate crimes, 648 or almost 57% were Jewish.  Looked at another way, of the 1,014 reported anti-religious hate crime incidents (some of which had multiple victims), 609 or slightly more than 60% targeted Jews.  Anti-Muslim hate crimes amounted to 14%.”  It is therefore anti-Semitism rather than Islamophobia that is most problematic.  In fact, much of the anti-Jewish hate crimes in America and Europe were committed by Muslims.

In addition to security consideration vis-à-vis Syrian refugees, one has to consider the impact these Syrians would have on increased intolerance and hate toward Jews and Christians. Professor Joshua Landis, who researched Syrian education wrote that in the Syrian educational system it is taught that “Equal political rights as opposed to civil and religious rights are not extended to the dhimma (Refers to Christians and Jews considered ‘protected people’), however, as Muslims are to rule, the executive and the judicial branches of government should be staffed only by Muslims. And because the leading qualification for a deputy in the legislature is knowledge of Islam and fiqh, non-Muslims are put in a distinct disadvantage. Non-Muslims are therefore second-class citizens in an Islamic state.”

Landis’ 2003 report goes on to state that “Syrian schools teach that heaven is accessible to Christians but not to Jews. In a section of the Tenth-grade text, it is told that the tribe of Israel (Jews) does not respect the prophets for they killed some of them and maligned others…such as when they accused Moses of killing Aaron, committing adultery, and having defects of the body.  Because of these sins, we are told, the tribe of Israel deserves God’s tortures, i.e. to go to hell. Thus, Heaven is open to Christians but closed to Jews.”

The Syrian media has been notoriously anti-Semitic, and there is little doubt that the Syrian public has been influenced by it. There are frequent anti-Semitic articles and caricatures in the Syrian media, including classical anti-Semitic stereotypes, comparisons of Israel with the Nazis, and Holocaust denial. After Roger Garaudy, the French denier of the Holocaust was invited to Damascus by the Ministry of Information, the government-owned newspaper Tishrin praised Mr. Garaudy for “exposing the lies of the Zionist movement which exaggerated what happened to Jews during the Second World War for political purposes. The mosques too, have been disseminators of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred, which have infected the Syrian populace, and therefore the refugees.

President Obama should know that no Jew has ever murdered an American citizen invoking the “God of Israel” as Muslims have done while crying “Allahu Akbar.“ Moreover, the Syrian refugees Obama seeks to bring into America are unable to be vetted, and some may be IS “soldiers” posing as refugees with fake passports. President Obama’s moral equivalency between Syrian refugees now and Jewish refugees from WWII is at best uncalled for and at worst, downright shameful.