On Wings of Eagles

The Wall Street Journal reported on a secret U.S. mission that recently extracted most of the remaining Jews from Yemen, where they're coming under increasing pressure from the local Arabs. This completes the work of Operation Magic Carpet, which brought the bulk of Yemenite Jews to Israel in 1949 and 1950.

Except . . . the handful of Jews rescued this year weren't taken to Israel; they were resettled via our refugee program in the United States. This is simply inexcusable. Whatever level of refugee resettlement you think best, there's no morally defensible argument to be made for admitting any but the most desperate people who don't have anywhere else to go — because however high you set the cap, there is a fixed pie. Each person we resettle who has somewhere else to go means that a more desperate person, without a choice of destinations, is not admitted.

And, of course, the Yemenite Jews did have somewhere else to go, Israel, a country that actually needs them and has a whole infrastructure for their integration into the nation. CIS published a piece on the same question regarding Soviet Jews, by an Israeli political scientist, tracing the conflicts in the 1970s and '80s between American Jewish groups and the government of Israel about whether the United States should allow the Soviet Jews with Israeli visas to change plans in Rome and move to the U.S. instead.

But the matter is obviously not confined to Jews. We are admitting Nepalese from Bhutan who should be going to Nepal, Somali Bantus who should be going to their ancestral homelands of Tanzania and Mozambique, North Koreans who should be going to South Korea, Meshketian Turks who should be going to Turkey. And, according to new numbers for FY 2009, we've resettled 730 Palestinians (from Iraq) over the past year, when there's a whole Arab World for them to move to instead.

This isn't really even about immigration policy. Whether we take 75,000 refugees or 750,000, we should start from the top of the list of most desperate and work our way down. The State Department's policy of dumping whole populations on flyoverland for a flimsy "geopolitical purpose," as the WSJ article puts it ("seeking to prevent an international embarrassment for an embattled Arab ally") is indefensible.