Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has praised efforts aimed at banning African migrants from entering and remaining in the state of Israel. During 2012, over 9,000 South Sudanese and Eritreans were deported from the country.
The Israeli state is constructing a 225-kilometer fence to keep Africans from entering from the Sinai region of Egypt. The Netanyahu administration faces elections on Jan. 22, and has reiterated its commitment to remove the approximately 70,000 African migrants from the occupied land of the Palestine.
Tens of thousands of African refugees have sought asylum in the occupied territories after fleeing conflict zones in East and Central Africa. Israeli politicians have accused the migrants of criminal activity. Over the last several months the Africans have faced racist demonstrations, physical assaults and the destruction of their homes and businesses.
In late December, Israeli prosecutors offered a 21-year-old Jewish man accused of throwing eight petrol bombs into four private dwellings housing Africans a plea bargain that would result in six months of community service and no prison time. Although reports claim that no one was hurt in the arson attacks, these crimes could have easily resulted in numerous deaths. (Jewish Standard, Jan. 4)
On Dec. 31, Member of Parliament Michael Ben Ari, of the Strong Israel Party, participated in an anti-African demonstration in southern Tel Aviv. The protest took place after the Israeli police claimed that an Eritrean migrant had been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.
The demonstrators cursed Africans and insisted that the upcoming elections should be focused on the mass deportation of all Africans from Israel. (Antiwar.com, Dec. 31)
Another religious party, Shas, has long made the existence of African migrants a cornerstone of their political program. Their recent campaign video accuses Africans of creating shortages in housing and bringing about inflation. It promises that if the Shas Party wins the elections “not one Sudanese will remain” in Israel. In it, Interior Minister Eli Yishai called Africans “infiltrators.” The video has reportedly been withdrawn.
Holocaust scholars intervene
In response to the racist attacks on Africans inside Israel, leading Holocaust and genocide scholars initiated a petition calling upon the world to share responsibility for the presence of Africans in Israel.
Prof. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute of Holocaust Studies in Washington, D.C., and Prof. Yehuda Bauer, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, directed this initiative. The petition has been signed by 125 academics, clergy, human rights activists, interfaith leaders, writers and artists from the United States, Israel, South Africa, Sweden, Chile, Canada, France and Poland. (Forward, Dec. 27)
The petition reads in part, “We hope Israel will play an appropriate role alongside other nations that are committed to doing their fair share.” The petition has been criticized for distorting the situation involving African migrants in Israel and downplaying the racist character of the attacks on these communities, along with its politicization.
It appears this petition is a response to an earlier effort condemning Israel for its policy toward African migrants. The earlier petition, charging that Israeli government actions against migrants are “inhumane and unjust,” was signed by a host of Jewish community leaders in the U.S., including Rabbi Michael Chernick, professor at the Hebrew Union College, and Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu, of The Center for Jewish Learning and Leadership.
In the Jewish Standard article, Daniel Sieradski, a resident of Syracuse, N.Y., and an advocate for refugees, drafted his own petition last spring also condemning the Israeli government policies. He said, “These Holocaust scholars completely ignore Israel’s brutal treatment of and racist incitement against African asylum seekers, instead lavishing praise upon Israel, which has built internment camps for asylum seekers.”
Racism and segregation
are official Israeli policies
A growing awareness internationally of the plight of the Palestinians and African migrants is serving to further isolate the Israeli regime. In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. presidential elections, the Israeli Defense Forces began another bombing operation against the Palestinians in Gaza, known as the largest open air prison in the world.
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas won recognition for Palestine as a nonmember state within the United Nations General Assembly shortly after the bombing of Gaza, the state of Israel and its principal supporter, the U.S. government, opposed these efforts. Other developments within the Palestinian nation to build unity between Hamas and Fatah have been condemned by Israel and largely ignored by the Obama administration.
A recent visitor to Israel was struck by the apartheid character of the social system. Harvard graduate student Sa’ed Adel Atshan wrote, “I come from a place (the occupied West Bank) where a central feature of the apartheid system we live under here is a two-tiered road network: Jewish-only roads for Israeli settlers and inferior roads for Palestinian Christians and Muslims.” (omidsafi.religionnews.net, Jan. 6)
In the same source, another observer, Omid Safi, wrote of the contradictions in U.S. policy toward Israel: “We in America eventually got rid of segregated lunch counters, segregated buses and segregated schools. In Israel, there are still segregated roads, segregated housing and segregated sidewalks. I simply wonder how many Americans would support a nation where whites, Blacks, Hispanics and other ethnicities would be issued different colored ID cards, different colored license plates, and be discriminated upon based on those ethnicities.”
South African Bishop Desmond Tutu said in the aftermath of his visit to occupied Palestine, “It reminded me so much of what happened to us Black people in South Africa.” (thewitness.org, April 13, 2002) African National Congress ruling party at its recent elective conference at Manguang made support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel its official policy.
Another ANC resolution abhorring the attacks on Africans urged that the issue of the treatment of Africans in Israel be taken up by the African Union, the continental organization which has 54-member states.
In addition, the Netanyahu government announced that it is constructing another border fence in the occupied Golan Heights, which was stolen from Syria in the 1967 war. Netanyahu claimed Israel was coordinating its intelligence-gathering apparatus with the U.S “so that we might be prepared for any scenario and possibility that could arise” regarding intervention against Syria. (New York Times, Jan. 6)