The Other Israel Demonstrates that it hasn’t completely forgotten the lessons of the Holocaust and Judaism
The Other Israel Demonstrates that it hasn’t completely forgotten the lessons of the Holocaust and Judaism
and University Academics Rally to Black African Refugees facing deportation
but Israeli Labour Party supports Netanyahu
Why Does the JLM & Jeremy Newmark refuse to criticise their ‘sister’ Israeli Labour party’s support for the deportation of African refugees?
Wolfson, member of the JLM & Labour’s National Executive Committee refuses to
criticise the JLM over its support for
deporting non-Jewish refugees
We should be clear why the Israeli
government and the Zionist parties (Meretz excepted) are so determined to
physically expel Israel’s Black African refugees. It is Zionism. It is because Israel is a Jewish state.
This does not mean a state living up to
Jewish values as historically understood – the tradition of opposition to
racism and fascism, support for trade union struggles and the fight against
oppression. Israel is only a Jewish state in that it is racially defined as an ethnically Jewish state (as pure as possible). Being Jewish means having as few non-Jews as possible. Israel’s Arabs are a barely tolerated fifth
column – Black African refugees are neither Jewish or White so they must go. This is the logic of Zionism.
However not all Israelis are either racists or Zionists.
Rachel Giora, an academic at Tel Aviv University, sent me a heartwarming
message today saying that:
‘It’s really rare that I can feel proud of
Israelis. Indeed recently there are many demonstrations and lots of published
petitions against governmental policies. But today, language turned into acts.
Today Israeli pilots and crews announced their refusal to cooperate with the
government on the deportation of African asylum seekers to Africa. They won’t
fly the refugees to their death! And they call on other airlines to join in.
Attached is the Hebrew announcement
published in Haaretz today. Articles on their refusal to fly the asylum seekers
to Africa were published already on the 22.1.18.’
It is good to know that there are at least some Israelis who understand
that the lesson of the Holocaust was that all too few countries took in all too
few Jewish refugees in the years before the gates were closed on them.
There are some 50 references in the Old
Testament to befriending the stranger or refugee: You can see some of them here
‘“You too must befriend the stranger, for you were
strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut.10:19)
is only a ‘Jewish’ state on an ethno-nationalist level. Zionism dictates the need to create and
maintain a Jewish national state which is defined racially. The ‘problem’ of the Black
African refugees is that they are
not Jewish. In Netanyahu’s words, they undermine the ‘Jewish identity’ of the
the same reason that led to the ban on a book Borderland from the high school syllabus in Israel because it
portrayed a relationship between Arab and Jewish teenagers. Israel is a deeply racist society because it
is a Zionist settler colonial society.
This is why Netanyahu wants the African asylum seekers out – they are not Jewish
refugees are not of ‘our’ blood and soil.
Israel doesn’t stand in the long and rich Jewish diaspora traditions but
in the tradition of the European fascist states of the 1930’s, Nazi Germany
included. Israel today is a pogrom
state, a state that in its overwhelming majority despises the other.
Israel is not Jewish according to any set of values. Israel is the most racist state in the
world. A state where a
plurality of Jews, 48%,
want to see the deportation of Israeli Arabs. 75%
don’t wish to live with an Arab in their apartment block. Is
it any wonder that African refugees are called ‘infiltrators’ a terms used
against Palestinian refugees who tried to return after being expelled in 1948. Its ‘Culture’ Minister (shades of Goebbels)
Miri Regev called the refugees a ‘cancer’ and
when there were protests apologised to cancer patients for comparing them to
It is heartwarming to know that the Israeli state,
which has traded on the Holocaust ever since its inception, has at least some
people in it who understand that one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that we
should not turn away the refugee who is seeking shelter from death and
torture. Already refugees deported from
Israel have met their
deaths at the hands of ISIS.
It is completely predictable that the Israeli Labour Party so-called ‘Opposition’ in Israel has come out in full support of
Netanyahu’s proposed deportation of Black African refugees from Eritrea and
Sudan for the ‘crime’ of having fled from their countries. Netanyahu has reached a corrupt and
criminal deal with the dictator of Rwanda, Paul Ngame although
they are denying it now. The
actions of Rwanda are particularly shameful, hence the denials, since they were
set up as a result of the genocide of the Tsutsis.
What is essential though is that we should call out
the racists in the British Labour Party who are driving the anti-Semitism witch
hunt. I have tweeted to both Jeremy Newmark and Rhea Wolfson today asking them to dissociate themselves from the Israeli Labour Party. I have been met with silence. It is unacceptable that we have a Zionist member of Labour’s National Executive Committee representing the left who refuses to condemn the racist sister party of the group of which she is a member.
At least from the reaction on
social media, it can be assumed that there are thousands of other Israelis who
are nauseated by the cabinet’s
cruel decision to expel about 35,000 asylum seekers from the country, even
if some of them are “no more than” people who came here seeking work, and who,
as the cabinet resolution would have it, are therefore not worthy of
compassion. These voices of protest can’t cleanse the national conscience,
however, and it’s doubtful that they will steal the limelight from the cries of
victory being uttered by members of the cabinet, including the prime minister,
for having finally found the final, perfect solution.
Zionism is opposed to ‘mixed race’ marriages as it undermines Jewish supremacy
No, we are not Nazis. After all,
we aren’t exterminating these blacks, haven’t housed them in concentration
camps and haven’t performed medical experiments on them – even if they do
apparently provide a field for extensive research on treatment for that disease
known as “a cancer in the body of the nation.” We also haven’t required them to
wear black Stars of David to identify themselves. For the most part, we’re good
people who have fallen in the hands of a bad government. At least that’s the
way we think of ourselves.
But that’s where our cognitive
mistake lies, turning good citizens into cruel ones. It begins with that same
self-righteous pretense of innocence that explains that we, the citizenry,
aren’t bad and that it’s our government, which we would like to rid ourselves
of, that’s evil. There’s nothing we can do. That’s the nature of democracy.
Sometimes it’s a success and sometimes not.
If that’s the nature of the
government, why take it to task? Do we seek — through this government — to be a
symbol of morality, compassion and humanity? A government, after all, that is
disgusted by minorities, foreigners, women, the disabled, which preaches
national and racial-religious purity and is headed by a man who would love to
also expel Israelis and Jews who are not committed to his political outlook.
The prime minister is surrounded
by a defensive wall of unenlightened rabbis and miscreant cabinet members who
have not forgotten what it means to be Jews. On the contrary, all they remember
is a vindictive, murderous Judaism that in ancient times destroyed the
non-Jews, avenging the rape of Leah and Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, even though
Shechem, the rapist, agreed to convert to Judaism to marry her. But they don’t
remember what it is to be humane. They are a light unto the gentiles, but
without gentiles, please. Such a malicious government can’t grant what it
Neither pleas nor court petitions
nor demonstrations nor a refusal to fly asylum seekers out of the country will
help in the face of this granite wall. At this time what is needed is personal,
individual action on the part of Israelis. Now is the time to be Otto and Elise
Hampel, the heroes of Hans Fallada’s “Alone in Berlin.” Not heaven forbid, as
they did, leaving postcards in public calling for anti-government sabotage, but
rather working as individuals to save lives. Refusing to turn the asylum
seekers in and refraining from joining their captors rather than simply
pointing an accusing finger at the government. Now is the time to take action
rather than just issuing condemnations. Food manufacturers, banks, high-tech
firms, organized labor, school principals, zoos, media outlets, drug companies,
beverage manufacturers, the owners of assisted living facilities, condo
associations, taxi companies and trucking firms. In short, anyone responsible
for the standard of living in Israel needs to adopt a black worker. Just one
Eritrean or Sudanese. No more than that.
None of these businesses or firms
will earn recognition as the Righteous Among the Nations and some will
certainly be denounced. On the social networks, there will be calls for a
boycott of them. The government will roundly condemn them and fine them, but
they could proudly recall where they were when the government wanted to expel
the foreigners. They refused to obey a patently illegal order. That is the only
vaccination that can work against the collapse of the national immune system.
An African asylum seeker, bearing scars of torture inflicted by Egyptian smugglers, participates in a protest calling on the Israeli government to recognize refugee rights in front of the Tel Aviv offices of the UN refugee agency UNHCR in February 2014. Oren Ziv ActiveStills
In the coming weeks, the Israeli government
issuing ultimatums to thousands of African refugees, informing them that they have 90 days
to leave the country, or be jailed indefinitely.
If Israeli government officials get their
way, this will be the final installment of the annual racist
ringleaders series, where I call out the figures and institutions that have spearheaded
the state’s efforts to rid the country of refugees from Africa.
If their plans come to fruition, there will
no longer be a need to document Israel’s ongoing war on African refugees,
because this war will already have been “won” – at great human cost.
10. Ophir Toubul, activist
In Israeli society, where political power is
not only dependent upon socio-economic status, but also upon one’s racial
designation and religious identity, marginalized groups often rely upon
whatever leverage they are left with to try to improve their lot.
Some marginalized Jews blame their hardships
on Israeli governments past and present, and on the economic elites they serve.
They see other disadvantaged groups in Israeli society not as rivals scrambling
for scraps in a zero-sum battle royale, but as allies-in-waiting in the
struggle for equity and increased prosperity for everyone living in the land.
But others have resorted to expressing
resentment towards those even worse off than themselves.
Instead of fighting for better living
conditions for all, however, Toubul has found common cause with an Israeli
government that seeks to cleanse the country of refugees.
Women asylum seekers and their children march against the detention of refugees and call on the Israeli government to recognize their rights, Tel Aviv, January 2014. Keren Mano ActiveStills
Before Israel built a border fence cutting
off the flow of African refugees into the country, it sent arriving asylum
seekers to the central bus station in southern Tel Aviv, without increasing
services to the long-neglected neighborhoods around it with large Mizrahi
The government pitted the two communities
against one another, then reaped the rage of the Jewish residents as ammunition
in its war on African refugees. Right-wing legislators regularly visited South
Tel Aviv, assuring veteran Israeli residents that the recent African arrivals
were to blame for their problems. The lawmakers then claimed that the
anti-African sentiment of veteran Israelis, which they themselves had stoked,
justified expelling the refugees from the country.
Toubul is determined to drive the wedge
further. He argued in a Facebook
post last February that “It’s time to dismantle the African ghetto created
in South Tel Aviv.”
He added: “It’s time to end the carnival of refugee aid groups and demand that
they vacate South Tel Aviv.”
Regev and Ophir Toubul are not the New Mizrahim. Take note: the Golden Age
[Toubul’s organization] and Regev are actually the New Whites. It’s not
accidental that they sound like Donald Trump.”
9. Sheffi Paz, activist
Street gangs patrol Israeli cities,
violently harassing non-Jews in an attempt to drive them out altogether.
The anti-miscegenation group Lehava, primarily
active in Jerusalem, directs its racism primarily towards
Palestinians. The South Tel Aviv Liberation Front headed by Sheffi Paz,
meanwhile, focuses its efforts on expelling African refugees.
Paz and her allies regularly badger black
people in public places and demand that they leave the country immediately. The
group’s targets realize that if they respond in any way, Paz could call the
police and have them arrested on bogus charges. So aggrieved asylum seekers,
already leading a precarious existence, generally suffer these slings in
silence, powerless to protect themselves.
South Tel Aviv Liberation Front activists
approach African men and women on the street and try to foist
condoms onto them to publicly proclaim, without any sense of shame, that the
African birth rate in Israel should be nil.
Sheffi Paz, seen in center holding red
megaphone, leads residents in the South Tel Aviv neighborhood of Shapira in a
protest against African asylum seekers, August 2015. Keren
Paz has parlayed her street-level leadership
into financial gain and political
influence. This year, she appealed to Israelis over
the Internet, asking for funds to ramp up her racist provocations. Within weeks, Paz
had managed to crowdsource cash donations well in excess of the approximately
$122,500 goal she gave herself.
Adham-Uvdo’s face was mercilessly pummeled
to the point that his own brother was unable to recognize him. His body was identified by the missing
fingers he had lost back in Darfur, from where he had fled to Israel.
Adham-Uvdo was lynched right outside Petah
Tikva city hall. Instead of trying to reassure African refugees in the city, in
the months following the murder mayor Itzik Braverman made efforts to expel
them. His municipality began to cut
off electricity and drinking water to subdivided apartments housing African
refugees, who face housing discrimination.
The municipality has claimed that it was not
targeting refugees, but cracking down on building violations.
ACRI, the civil rights organization which
represented the asylum seekers in the case, said that 80 percent of the
residents of the targeted apartments were Eritreans and Sudanese.
In 2015, Braverman wrote a letter to Silvan Shalom,
interior minister at the time, to say that forbidding refugees from living in
Tel Aviv and Eilat but not Petah Tikva had “caused
great disappointment amongst city residents and fears that their personal
security will be harmed.”
But in February, Braverman publicly admitted that the refugees
conduct themselves lawfully.
of them are here legally and do no harm,” Braverman told city residents. “Their share of Petah Tikva’s crime is
So what’s Braverman’s true motivation for
driving them out?
walk through Founder’s Square, you see blacks drinking beer. It’s not nice,” he told
In other words, the real crime of these
African refugees – their only crime – is the color of their skin.
7. Avi Dichter, member of Knesset
Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin
Israel’s secret police, has worked for more than a decade to expel African
refugees from Israel. Ten years ago, while minister of internal security,
Dichter determined that African refugees who are caught crossing into Israel would be returned to Egypt.
Though more subtle, Dichter’s current
efforts to furnish Israeli authorities with tools to drive out African refugees
may prove no less effective.
Since 2011, he has promoted a bill which
would ensure that the government’s efforts to expel all African refugees cannot
be impeded, even temporarily, by the Israeli high court. The bill, which would
have the power of a constitutional amendment, would subordinate democracy and
individual civil rights to the interests of a Jewish state.
6. Moti Yogev, lawmaker, and the Derech Chaim
Like Avi Dichter, Moti Yogev is an Israeli
lawmaker sponsoring a bill which would block the high court from overturning,
or even watering down, any legislation passed by Israel’s parliament, the
But Yogev’s proposed law is even more
draconian than Dichter’s.
If Dichter’s “nation state” bill would bar
the Israeli high court from overturning laws that contravene principles of
democracy, Yogev’s proposed legislation would strip
the high court’s ability to overturn any law passed by the legislature,
regardless of the reason.
If the aim of the “nation state” bill is to
promote Jewish sectarian interests, the aim of the Yogav’s proposed legislation
is to promote Jewish religious interests. While Yogev champions the bill in
Israel’s parliament, it is the Derech Chaim movement, and its leader Rabbi
Yitzchak Ginsburgh, who actually initiated it.
Derech Chaim aims to turn Israel’s
ethnocracy – a semi-secular state that favors ethnic Jews – into a theocracy, a
state whose laws are the Torah and Talmud, with no separation between synagogue
and state. Ginsburgh is a guru
of the Israeli far-right who wrote the introduction to The King’s Torah,
a religious tract that sanctions the murder of non-Jewish babies, on the
premise that they could pose a threat if allowed to grow to adulthood.
Yogev has made the racist rationale behind
his new bill very explicit.
In March 2013, Yogev cofounded an Israeli parliamentary
lobby that aimed to return African asylum seekers to their home countries. In
October that same year, Yogev uploaded a video of himself walking around
Ashdod, describing African refugees as “infesting” the city. This turn of phrase, which posits
African refugees as subhuman insects that must be
expelled or exterminated, is sadly a familiar trope in Israeli
In July 2015, Yogev said that “A D-9 [heavy bulldozer] should be raised at
the high court.” A month later, he stated that his outburst
was prompted by a high
court ruling forbidding Israel from jailing African refugees indefinitely, in order
to force them to leave of their own accord, rather than being deported by the
Under extreme pressure from Israel’s
far-right government, however, that ruling would not protect refugees for long.
5. Ayelet Shaked, justice minister
For years, the pattern was the same: the
Israeli government would pass a draconian anti-African measure in the Knesset,
local human rights groups would challenge it, and the high court would strike
Miriam Naor, the outgoing president of
Israel’s high court, resisted some of Shaked’s efforts to strong-arm the
judiciary, describing her efforts to stack
the high court with right-wing jurists as “bringing a gun to the table.” But Naor has
from the bench, and the rest of the court’s chief justices seem to have internalized
In August, Naor began referring to African
refugees in court using only the government’s preferred slur for them: “infiltrators.”
The following month, the court ruled that the
government is forbidden from employing asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan,
putting thousands of refugees at risk of losing their jobs in cleaning and
maintenance for municipalities.
The court also ruled that the state can
withhold 20 percent of the wages asylum seekers earn from private employers, as
employers are required to with foreign workers, even though doing so puts
impoverished refugees in an
even more precarious position.
African asylum seekers protest in Tel Aviv’s
Rabin Square calling for the release of refugees imprisoned by Israel, January
2014. Keren Manor ActiveStills
Israel’s chief justices have also shown
leniency towards the government when it has not fulfilled its commitments to
the court regarding the status of asylum seekers, allowing the state to buy
more time despite consistently acting in bad faith.
With the government ramping up its efforts
to expel refugees, the justices know their demands will soon be moot.
The court ruled last year that Israel could now deport refugees back to Africa
without their consent, as long as the countries they were being deported to
agreed to take them against their will. Shaked’s pressure had paid off.
The government renegotiated its agreement
with Rwanda to comply with the high court’s dictates, paving the way for mass
In December, the government told the court that it planned
to begin mass deportations within weeks.
4. Avi Gabbay, opposition leader
Once Israel’s high court cleared the way for
the government to expel African refugees, the next step was to ratify the plan
in the Knesset.
Newly elected Labor party chief Avi Gabbay justified his support for the proposal
by saying, “We don’t have to be more
righteous than the High Court of Justice.”
Prior to his leadership run, Gabbay had no
affiliation with the Labor party. Even now, he is not a member of the Israeli
parliament, and cannot become one until the next national election, currently
scheduled for 2019.
The deportation plan does not need Labor’s
support as all parties in the governing coalition agreed to support its
But Gabbay urged Labor lawmakers to champion
it, saying that failing to do so would cost the party votes in the next general
would pay a heavy price for opposing the bill,” he said.
In the first Knesset vote on the bill, 11
lawmakers in Labor’s coalition voted in favor of it.
By the time the bill was brought to the
Knesset for a final
vote, pressure from anti-racist activists convinced some Labor party
backbenchers to reverse their votes and oppose the measure.
But this last minute resistance was
ineffectual on all counts: Labor was unable to peel away any parliamentary
seats from its more openly racist rivals; Gabbay demonstrated that he can’t
effectively lead his own party, much less a whole country; the anti-refugee
bill easily passed in the parliament, regardless.
3. Moshe Kahlon, former finance minister
Like Gabbay and the leaders of several other
Knesset factions, Moshe Kahlon came to head his
Kulanu party after working
under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party.
In early July, the Israeli government was
determining which converts to Judaism would be recognized by the state. Hoping
to head off a high court decision ordering the state to recognize conversions
performed by more liberal streams of Judaism, ultra-Orthodox factions of the
a new bill that would maintain their own hardline rabbis’ exclusive control over
Under the new proposal, conversion to
Judaism via its liberal streams would not be sufficient to earn a person
Israeli citizenship. This would leave vulnerable American Jews, a plurality of
whom are affiliated with those liberal streams.
Why did the ordinarily pragmatic Kahlon side
with the ultra-Orthodox on this issue, angering American Jews?
to Kahlon, if Israel recognizes conversions to liberal streams of Judaism, “There will be a flood here of groups from
Over the last decade, a relatively small but
significant number of African refugees – including those in romantic
relationships with Jewish Israeli citizens – have asked
the state for permission to convert to Judaism. Their requests have been rejected
Back in 2004, before the vast majority of
African refugees arrived, Kahlon proposed
a law, never enacted, that would have punished anyone who enters
Israel without a permit by not allowing them to acquire legal status until
after a period of 10 years outside the country.
2. Aryeh Deri, interior minister
interior minister, it is my job to deport everybody who enters illegally.”
So Aryeh Deri told the Knesset’s
Interior and Environment Committee, which oversees the state’s treatment of
African refugees, in July.
For two full years now, Deri has presided
over what one researcher called“the most effective anti-irregular migration
mechanism in the world.”
In April last year the liberal Haaretz
newspaper excoriated the Israeli
government for this mechanism.
ways Israel has of making life difficult for asylum seekers, and in so doing
avoiding its legal and humanitarian obligations toward them, are
proliferating,” the editorial, published on Israel’s
Holocaust Remembrance Day, stated.
Months later, the paper published
interviews with African refugees whom Israel had coerced to “voluntarily” deport. They confirmed what earlier investigations had
also revealed: The African refugees Israel sends to Rwanda do not receive state
protection there, but instead have their documents taken away, and are forced
to begin their search for asylum all over again.
According to those who survived the renewed
ordeal and managed to make it to Europe, many of their fellow refugees pushed
out by Israel ended up dead in Libyan torture camps, or drowned at the bottom
of the Mediterranean.
Upon publication of these reports, Haaretz
publisher Amos Schocken tweeted a list of top
Israeli ministers who have led Israel’s war on Africans, calling them “murderers in suits.”
Two of them top the lists for both 2016 and 2017: Aryeh
Deri and Benjamin Netanyahu.
The only real difference between the two top
Israeli leaders is that Deri will still only flaunt his anti-blackness in
Hebrew, playing to hometown hatred. Netanyahu, by contrast, is now brazen
enough to boast about it English as well.
In January, Netanyahu tweeted in English his support for
Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico, touting his own
anti-African border fence as a “great success.”
When Netanyahu’s statement caused friction
with Mexico, and Mexican Jews broke the Jewish Sabbath to protest the
anti-immigrant invective, Deri begged the prime minister to take back his
words. Netanyahu refused.
1. Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister
refugees that arrived here from Sudan require protection and refuge, and their
absorption is a supreme moral obligation, in light of the history of the Jewish
people and the values of democracy and humanism.”
Benjamin Netanyahu – and a majority of the
120-member Knesset – signed
their names onto this text a decade ago, when Netanyahu was leader of the
opposition in parliament.
Just a few years later, once Netanyahu had
returned to the prime minister’s office, his government began to persecute
African refugees in earnest, starting to stamp their visas with clauses stating
they were forbidden
How could Netanyahu – or anyone for that
matter – express their support for these refugees, and then retract that
support as soon as they were in a position to enforce it?
Twelve years ago, dozens of mainstream US
Jewish groups published a full-page
in The New York Times invoking Jewish suffering in the Nazi Holocaust,
and calling upon then US president George
W. Bush to take action to end the
atrocities in Darfur.
A rightwing protester hangs balloons as
Eritrean asylum seekers hold a ceremony mourning deceased relatives, De Modina
park, South Tel Aviv, February 2014. Every Saturday African asylum seekers from
the Eritrean community would gather to commemorate their loved ones who
perished in Eritrea or in the Sinai desert on the way to Israel. Rightwing
protesters claimed the noise caused by mourners disturbs them. Oren
not all, of those same Jewish groups have maintained a deafening silence about Israel’s
war on African refugees. Why did their so-called solidarity disappear?
Gallup index on the treatment of migrants around the world ranked Israel as sixth
from the bottom.
During a tour of Tel Aviv in August,
Netanyahu made a point of including in his entourage Sheffi Paz and other South
Tel Aviv Liberation Front activists, walking with them hand in hand, and posing
These calculated photo-ops sent the Israeli
public a clear message: that Netanyahu gives his full-throated support to
racist street gangs who aim to cleanse the country of all African refugees.
Barring any unforeseen intervention,
Netanyahu and the rest of Israel’s racist ringleaders will soon see their
David Sheen is an independent writer and
filmmaker. Born in Toronto, Canada, Sheen now lives in Dimona. His website is www.davidsheen.com and he can be
followed on Twitter: @davidsheen.
African asylum seekers in Tel
Aviv, Israel, protest the opening of Holot prison, a desert detention facility
near the Sinai border, 2013. (Photo: EPA/Oliver Weiken)
Jonathan Ofir 22 January 2018
In the past few days, Israeli officials in the
Population and Immigration authority have begun distributing an ‘information
page’ for African refugees at the Holot desert detention center – as reported by Ilan Lior in Haaretz today.
The Hebrew document is chilling. It does not
name the third country the refugees would be deported to, although officials
who are interviewing the refugees are naming it as Rwanda. It describes the
country as one that “has developed
greatly over the past decade”, promises reception arrangements at the
unspecified country, and ends with a warning that “if you do not agree to leave voluntarily to a third country,
enforcement and deportation steps will be taken against you. In the case of
deportation, the monetary grant you have been offered will decline
significantly”. Not mentioned in the document is the new rule, which is
also being communicated orally in the interviews, that refusal to leave will
entail indefinite incarceration. The document ends with a “best of luck” wish.
The promises of good treatment upon arrival at
this unspecified “developing country”
must be weighed against the many testimonies of those who have already been
subject to this “arrangement”. Lior
Birger reported two months ago in Haaretz, in his piece titled “Torture, Death at Sea: What Awaits
Asylum Seekers Israel Deports”:
statements we gathered in Europe over the past few months from people who
voluntarily left Israel for Rwanda and Uganda in recent years strengthen what
previous reports on the matter found: What the deportees expect to face in
Rwanda is the beginning of a journey of human trafficking, torture and in many
cases death [….] In Rwanda, deportees have the transit documents they received
in Israel taken away from them. These are the only identity documents they
have. A local contact person locks them up in a hotel room and warns that they
must leave the country within a few days. Sometimes they are threatened and all
their money is stolen from them upon landing. They are transferred to smugglers
who, in return for hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars, send them to
Uganda. From there they are transferred in a similar fashion to South Sudan, to
Sudan and on to Libya, from where they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea to
Europe. Without identity documents, they are often subject to imprisonment by
the authorities in various countries. Based on dozens of testimonies and other
research, we estimate that hundreds have died in the torture camps in Libya or
drowned at sea.”
Some brave and moral Jewish Israelis have
initiated an “Anne Frank” inspired venture to hide refugees. It’s fitting, because as one
south-Tel-Aviv resident said a few months ago, this is “Nazi stuff”.
Hundreds of Israeli academics, as well as
dozens of authors and rabbis, have signed letters urging the government to desist from executing
the deportation policy. Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed these as “leftist intellectuals” at the cabinet
meeting on Sunday.
“We are not acting
against refugees, we are acting against illegal immigrants who come here to
work. Israel will continue to serve as a shelter for real refugees and will
remove illegal infiltrators”, he said.
Akiva Eldar challenges Netanyahu’s
misrepresentation of this supposed “legality”,
in his scathing article “Israel’s Betrayal of African Refugees”
in Al Monitor:
of the applications of Africans hoping to receive asylum are not duly examined
according to the refugee convention Israel has signed. The courts before which
the issue has come have severely criticized the Population and Immigration
Authority’s treatment of Africans who apply to be recognized as refugees. In
one case, the judges stated that the authority had examined only 3% of the
asylum requests submitted by citizens of Eritrea and Sudan. The other requests
were rejected because of a delay in submitting them — a delay caused by the
authority itself”, he writes.
Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy has asked Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, rhetorically: “Do you know, Mr. President, that while 84 percent
of Eritrean asylum seekers worldwide are recognized as refugees, in Israel less
than 1 percent have been recognized as such?” More specifically, of the roughly 27,500 Eritreans
and 7,800 Sudanese in Israel, only eight Eritreans and two Sudanese had been
recognized as refugees by authorities, as the UN refugee agency noted in
November. That’s about 0.03%. This is a rather consistent Israeli policy (when
it comes to non-Jews, that is). As Alona Ferber noted in Haaretz in 2014, “Israel has only recognized some 200 refugees since signing the 1951
Convention relating to the Status of Refugees – making it one of the least
welcoming countries in the Western world when it comes to granting asylum”.
Israel is being so lackadaisical in its
handling of these requests, that it’s as if it doesn’t really want to know. And
this institutional ignorance is the basis upon which Netanyahu, and even the
Israeli Labor, sell out the refugees as mere ‘infiltrators’.
So now, Israel wants to extend this obscurity to
the refugees themselves, in not even naming the third country to which they
would be ‘voluntarily deported’ (or else!). Despite the massive reporting of
horror potentially awaiting them, they are supposed to feel comfortable with
Now, imagine you were an African refugee. If
the arrangement that Israel makes for you is, indeed, so solid and transparent,
why can it not even name the country to which you are supposed to be deported?
Such omission can make your blood freeze. What else are they not telling you?
And why are they not telling it?
People who come from countries in which they
are being persecuted, as these people do, naturally fear being tricked into
situations wherein they will again be persecuted and lose their safety. The Israeli
document is hardly a source of comfort. If anything, it is a pathetic and
cynical attempt at whitewashing a crime. These refugees know what is at stake.
If it isn’t about ending up persecuted in their own countries, it’s about
potentially being trafficked, enslaved and tortured elsewhere.
But many Israelis don’t want to know. These
people come from “shithole countries” anyway. Human concern is left for “leftist intellectuals”.
Akiva Eldar ended his mentioned piece with a
quote from Defense Minister Pinchas Lavon in 1955, referring to Israel’s policy
towards Palestinians now under its control:
“The state of Israel cannot solve the question
of Arabs that remain in the state in a Nazi way. Nazism is Nazism, even if
executed by Jews.”
The mentioned information paper handed out to
the refugees ends with the words “we wish
you the best of luck”. With a state like Israel, with arrangements like
these, with such odds, you’re really going to need all the luck you can get.
In the New Testament, Luke 22, we
are told how Judas arranged his betrayal of Jesus by kissing him on the cheek
(that’s how the capturers would know who Jesus was). “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”, Jesus
And so the African refugees are
being betrayed – with a kiss, a smile, and a “best of luck” wish.