Martin Niemöller’s haunting poem, “First They Came,” has been making the rounds in social media lately.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The poem’s popularity spikes whenever a new atrocity works its way onto the front pages. Now it is the refugees from Syria’s civil war, in particular Sunni Muslim refugees fleeing the newly ascendant Sunni Caliphate. The accused are those who question the wisdom of granting mass asylum in the U.S. or in Europe. The charge against them is an irrational hatred of Muslims, also known as Islamophobia. But the accusers, who see themselves as champions of the oppressed, have inverted both the facts and the moral sentiment. The masses currently huddling at the gates of the West are hardly the “first” targets of Islamist terror. That dubious honor belongs to the same group Neimöller cited: the Jews.
The Islamic State’s claim that the entire Middle East belongs to the Sunni Arabs is hardly new. The use of anti-Jewish terror to secure land “misappropriated” by Jews from Muslims land dates back at least to the 1920s. It came into its own in the 1970s and ’80s, when Yasir Arafat’s PLO launched spectacular attacks on the Olympics, jetliners, and cruise ships. Far from fighting these tactics before they could spread, the international community forgave them as understandably targeted against the Jews, and elevated Arafat from revolutionary to statesman. Other Muslim groups took note. In September 2000, Arafat launched his intifada in Jerusalem, unleashing terror upon an innocent population after Israel’s leaders had said yes, not no, to his conditions. Once again, Arafat taught his brethren an important lesson: the West will retreat in the face of escalating demands.
As long as the victims were Jewish, the Western intelligentsia took the threat in stride; it was distant, and focused on others. The Arab and Islamic masses were overwhelmingly supportive. At best, these supporters were decent people, cowed into submission by their authoritarian leaders, and complacent as atrocities were committed in their names. More often they championed the cause, believing that the terrorists were fighting for justice.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates invented the term “Islamophobia,” which the West bought hook, line, and sinker. In fact, there is no evidence of widespread violence against Muslims, and scant evidence of systematic organized discrimination, anywhere in the West. Muslims enjoy their greatest measure of safety in the United States, where the citizenry has repeatedly gone out of its way to overlook anti-American atrocities committed in the name of Islam.
Today’s legitimate refugees may be every bit as miserable as those who attempted to flee Hitler’s Europe, but the situation is only parallel for the non-Sunni among them. They, like the Jews of Neimöller’s time, have been driven from their homes and abandoned by the world. The Sunni Arab majority now fleeing Syria, on the other hand, are part of a large and powerful family. Nearly all of the Arab League’s twenty state members and the OIC’s fifty-five state members are Sunni Muslim. America should assert its authority as a moral and military superpower by pressing these places to open their borders to their suffering kinsmen. A global Muslim leadership unwilling to welcome Muslim victims speaks volumes about the balance between violent, radical Muslims and peaceful, tolerant Muslims. It is hardly irrational to wonder whether ISIS speaks for a silent majority when so few powerful Sunni Muslim leaders will aid even Sunni Muslim victims.
Meanwhile, if the international community wished to heed Neimöller’s admonition, it would refocus its efforts to protect the Islamists’ first choice of victims. Anti-Semitism is rampant and growing. From Mumbai to Paris to the streets of Israel, Jews remain the Islamists’ target of choice. Even in the United States, attacks against Jews represent 59% of all anti-religious hate crimes! Yet much of America’s leadership class and intelligentsia treats anti-Jewish terror as a threat apart, unfortunate but excusable, and unrelated to the broader threat of Islamist terror. Wrong! Complacency in the face of anti-Semitism fuels the radical Islamist cause. Western willingness to let Islamic leaders off the hook for their own anti-Semitism — and from caring for their own people — threatens to bring a strengthened Islamism to our doorsteps.
For whom did they come first? They came for the Jews. They are still coming for the Jews. And they will come for far more than the Jews until the West chooses to defend the Jews. The fight against anti-Semitism is a critical front in the battle against radical Islam.