Israel—casting out its own children

South Tel Aviv, home to foreign workers and African refugees, is in turmoil again after Interior Minister Eli Yishai recently indicated that children of illegal residents will be deported by the end of the school year.

They won’t be going alone—their parents will be deported, too—but that’s beside the point. Many of the 1200 children now targeted for deportation were born and raised in Israel. Some are teenagers who hope to serve in the army and join the Jewish collective they already consider themselves a part of. These kids have Israeli names, celebrate the chagim (holidays) and are culturally Israeli in every way.

The Interior Ministry estimates that there are currently 300,000 foreign workers in Israel—250,000 of these are in the country illegally. Migrants from the Philippines constitute the largest group; laborers also come from India, Nepal, China, and Thailand. Additionally, there is also a small community from Latin America. Usually, the Filipino, Indian, and Nepali workers are employed as caretakers, the Thai are found in the agricultural sector, and the Chinese labor in the construction. Israel is also home to almost 15,000 African asylum seekers from Eritrea, Sudan, and Darfur.

Many of the children at risk of deportation are Filipino; African refugees that find themselves without legal status may also face deportation.

Reporting on the issue for a foreign newspaper, I gave Eli Yishai’s spokesman, Roei Lachmanovich, a call. The Israeli government, he said, is simply trying to lessen the country’s dependency on foreign workers. The decision is not against the children—it’s against illegal workers. In the past, Lachmanovich explained, women have taken advantage of the fact that Israel won’t deport children. They have babies, he claimed, in lieu of visas.

While the decision to deport these children still seemed utterly inhumane to me, I forced myself to stop and consider whether these kids are victims of the state or bad luck.

I recently reported on the plight of Israel’s Chinese workers—men who leave their families in rural China and come to the Middle East to toil away in construction. While researching that story, I obtained a memorandum that detailed the government’s plans to phase out foreign labor from the construction sector. The aim, it said, is to have only 5000 migrant workers in this industry by October 2010, 2000 by 2011, and none by 2012.

Israel, it seemed at the time, is indeed trying to shift towards the local labor market.

(The eternal optimist, I’d read this news in a positive light. "This means peace is coming! We are phasing out foreign workers so we can use Israeli and Palestinian workers," I’d said to my friends—journalists, NGO workers, and activists. I had heady dreams of Arabs and Jews, side-by side, literally shaping the foundations for the new Israel, working in the fields together, and caring for our elderly together. My fantasies, of course, were met with laughter).

Wanting to ignore the truth—that Israel will deport children who are, arguably, Israeli—I clung to Lachmanovich’s words. I was almost convinced that the children are, sadly, caught in unfortunate circumstances. I pushed aside that voice that came from somewhere deep inside of me; I ignored that part of my conscience that told me my adopted country is, once again, participating in ethnic cleansing.

That is, until Thursday morning, when I opened up the Israeli daily Haaretz.

"Ignoring Arab women, ministry okays 3000 new foreign workers," the headline said. The story that followed discussed Israel’s plan to bring thousands of laborers from Thailand despite the fact that there are 1,168 Arab women—locals—who are eager for these jobs.

Workers from Thailand are, from the most part, unaccompanied men—as Israel prepares to cast out families and children, people who are rooted in the country, it is bringing in more cheap, transient labor.

So I called Lachmanovich again, as both a reporter and a concerned citizen. I asked him straightforward: Is Israel cracking down on kids in an attempt to preserve the Jewish demographic of the state?

It’s not about the children, he insisted. He hemmed and hawed as he searched for the right words. In the end, I was left with some vague statement about the government deciding to phase out foreign workers. We, he said, must respect that.

Who is this "we" he’s talking about? I wondered. Does it include me—someone who doesn’t speak Hebrew as well as many of these children, someone who probably knows less about the holiday than the foreign workers’ kids, but gets to remain in Israel just because I’m Jewish?

What is there to respect?

Mya Guarnieri is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. Her work has also appeared in Outlook India– India’s equivalent to and subsidiary of Newsweek– as well as The National, Electronic Intifada, The Forward, Ma’an News Agency, Common Ground News Service, Zeek, The Khaleej Times, and Daily News Egypt amongst other publications.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 31 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. More evidence of the tribal double standard:

    As an organization with a long and proud tradition of defending civil liberties for all, ADL has in recent years taken a lead role in exposing the virulent anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric that has risen to the surface as part of the national debate over immigration. ADL speaks out against discrimination and bigotry and advocates a meaningful and substantive policy that honors America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.

    The League has:
    Shined light on the atmosphere of hate that has surrounded the debate among right-wing extremists and anti-immigration groups;
    Issued reports on the co-opting of the issue by extremists and hatemongers;
    Opposed policies that are discriminatory or encourage racial profiling;
    Encouraged relationships between the immigrant community and local law enforcement;
    Advocated for comprehensive immigration reform;
    Partnered with Hispanic and other immigrant groups at the local and national levels;
    Re-issued A Nation of Immigrants, John F. Kennedy’s classic essay celebrating the immigrant experience in America.

    link to adl.org

    • These guys too:

      Immigration Reform
      HIAS advocates for immigration laws that are humane, enhance national security, and reflect our Jewish values. Our Jewish religious and ethical traditions and core American values call on us to “welcome the stranger.” The United States deserves an effective immigration system guided by the rule of law, the national interest, fairness, and compassion. Specifically, we want comprehensive legislation that:

      •Keeps families united and decreases the waiting time for family re-unification.
      •Creates pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
      •Creates a plan for future migration flows in order to protect all workers’ rights.
      •Empowers immigrants to fully integrate by providing financial support to local governments and community organizations that offer classes and services.
      •Establishes border protection and enforcement policies that bolster our national security, while balancing enforcement with economic development and human and civil rights.

      link to advocacy.hias.org

      • Mooser says:

        Ah ha! The fact that there is a range of opinion and beliefs among Jews only serves to demonstrate how narrow and controlled Jewish opinion is! It’s some kind of Jewish trick!
        Oh, I get it! Oh, the perfidy of the Hebrews! See in Israel, they want to keep it pure and Jewish, but in America, they will saddle all the decent moderate Christians (“the rest of us” as he puts it) with those awful Hispanic immigrants or worse! It’s the Jewish campaign to mongrelise America!

        Of course, I suppose a nasty mongrelized Jew like me would say it’s because some Jews are Zionists, and some are Israelis, and adhere to a racist and oppressive ideology, and some are Americans, and have different ideas. But that doesn’t advance any kind of fear of an insular cohort with mysterious and threatening aims, does it? No, it’s just the way things actually are, a condition that America Fust-Cless takes care not to recognise.

      • Don says:

        Mooser, not to be critical, but EVEN NOW you continue to DENY…even after the International Jewish Conspiracy has gone public?
        link to internationaljewishconspiracy.com

        Look what they are doing to the poor Germans, for god’s sake…

        Larger Mini Designed to Make Germans Think They’re Shrinking
        INJEWCON claims responsibility

        INJEWCON can now announce that it was industrial saboteurs from the International Jewish Conspiracy’s Chutzpah Committee who successfully ensured that the new Mini Cooper™ would be substantially larger than the original in every dimension, giving the Germans, who now manufacture the diminutive automobile, the impression that they are shrinking. INJEWCON nonetheless denies responsibility for the re-make of “The Italian Job”, a 1970’s comedy adventure film which features the cars.

      • Colin Murray says:

        @ Mooser October 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

        Ah ha! The fact that there is a range of opinion and beliefs among Jews only serves to demonstrate how narrow and controlled Jewish opinion is! It’s some kind of Jewish trick!

        Great reply, Mooser!

      • Danaa says:

        Mooser – there’s another theory – regarding the differences in attitudes and outlook between jewish-identified on different continents. Maybe they are different people altogether? perhaps the zionists who reside in Israel are racially as different from the american jews as they are from, say, america indians? maybe the only thing they have in common is some kind of allegiance to a legacy book (bible?) plus some vague respect to a laboriously detailed painstaking recounting of the many arguments among jews over centuries about the pettiest of daily concerns (talmud?). Oh yes, and shared commitment to erasing tany vestige of their khazari/berber origins – which is why the foreign workers children must be deported. We all know what can happen if they are not….

        On the other hand, here is another possibility – one that would allow lumping one and all into one oh-so-very-cohesive group (even you). Which brings us to the lesson plan for today:

        A group’s cohesiveness can increase the more each member of the group strives to disagree with every other member. Call it the “trans-cohesiveness” model – the more each part pulls away from the whole – on the micro level, the more binding the whole grows on the macro level. Please compare to other similar phenomena in the physical world – for example, Brownian motion in a gas, or to economic models, eg, the “independent agent” in a free market.

        For extra-credit: using the economic models analogy, discuss potentially hazardous global repercussions/consequences using flow of capital as guide (hint: think bubbles..)

        have fun!

      • Dan Kelly says:

        Read the comments to the Haaretz article. A few stuck out:

        link to haaretz.com

        link to haaretz.com

        link to haaretz.com

      • tree says:

        Of course, if we limit the discussion to the ADL, which is one of the quoted groups from AF, its readily apparent that they (the ADL) do have a “tribal double standard”. This is not an instance of one self-designated Jewish group promoting one thing and another self-designated Jewish group promoting the opposite, but an instance of the same self-designated Jewish group promoting one thing in the US and a diametrically opposite thing in Israel. And furthermore, ADL calls anyone who promotes similar immigration policies in Israel, such as the right of return for Palestinian refugees, anti-semites. They have a huge double standard problem, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pointing that out.

        The ADL has a glaring double standard. There’s nothing wrong with pointing that out. To imply that, therefore, every Jew has the same double standard is to greatly overgeneralize. However, there are a large number of Amerian Jews who do have an unthinking, or otherwise, double standard when it comes to judging Israel.

        In regard to HIAS, I do not know enough about what they do in Israel to be sure of the extent, if any, of their double standard. However, the little I have read about them leads me to believe that they do have at least a small amount of a “tribal double standard” problem.

      • Dan Kelly says:

        Good stuff, Danaa. Thanks.

      • Citizen says:

        Yeah Goosey, look at the range of opinion among Americans of european ancestry–surely that’s a diablolical strategy to make David Duke POTUS.

      • Citizen says:

        Goosey, where in the USA’s founding documents does it say the USA is founded
        in behalf of white Christians? Don’t respond by telling me of Auschwitz or even of
        the Dreyfus affair. I’m not asking for your justification, just stating the obvious–it’s a key irony that the USA is enabling Israel uber alles. No wonder the world hates the USA when Goering favored the current USA and Israeli policies–except he wanted it to benefit Germans.

  2. Todd says:

    That’s just one less problem the Palestinians will have to deal with once they retain their land. If only the U.S. would folly the leader on this one!

  3. potsherd says:

    Eli Yishai said explicitly that the deportations were all about preserving the Jewish character of the state. He also dodged a Knesset meeting where anti-deportation forces had brought a couple of the children, lest he have to look them in the eye.

  4. jan_gdyn says:

    From a recent Arutz Sheva report:

    “They want us to absorb 1,200 sweet children, but where is the red line? 250,000 children of foreign workers? Two million?” The extreme leftists, said Sofer, want to destroy the Zionist state. “They do not want a Jewish state but a state ‘of human beings.’ They do not understand that this is not the reason why we are here and that if their vision becomes a reality the Jews will become a minority that will be slaughtered by the majority.”

    “Those who call them Darfur refugees are wrong and they mislead others: these are not refugees but immigrants,” he explained. “We must say the truth: the illegal work immigrants who come from Africa are a great danger for us. Europe has sealed its gates before them. The dastardly Europeans fenced them in under a guise of liberality and enclosed them within walls… they created concentration camps in Europe… and they preach morality to us. In Spain they have labor camp and they kick hundreds of thousands out of Spain.”

    ‘Let’s just move to Los Angeles’
    The African illegal immigrant population joins other existing demographic threats, Sofer explained. The Arabs who entered Israel [after the Oslo accord – ed.] number 250,000, he said. In addition there are 250,000 foreign laborers and tens of thousands of African immigrants and so we could reach almost a million non-Jews who flood the country illegally and this is a huge strategic problem because if this trend continues this country will not be able to safeguard its status as a Jewish state.

    “If we do not want a Jewish state we can close up shop and go to Boston, New York or Los Angeles.”

    Sofer warned that some of the African immigrants are Muslims and they could include terrorists. In addition, he said, many are sick with tuberculosis or AIDS.

    • jan_gdyn says:

      FYI: The person quoted above, Arnon Sofer, is Geopolitics professor at Haifa U and former adviser to Ariel Sharon. (He may advise Netanyahu as well, I do not know.) He is the ‘visionary’ behind the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, who in a JPost interview giddily predicted that Israel would ‘have to’ “kill and kill and kill” Gazans.

  5. bigbill says:

    Where are these babies coming from? I understand that Jewish contract worker companies in Israel had their female goyim workers sign work contracts in which they agreed not to f*ck Jews in Israel. And if they have lived up to their bargain not to f*ck Jews these “children” have no connection to Israel, right? And there is no “sheigetz birthright citizenship” in Israel, right? So what’s the problem? I know there are those wh*rehouses that import young shiksas from Europe to service Jewish men, but surely there are not so many of those who get pregnant are there? Don’t their Jewish wh*remasters keep on top of that pretty well? Whenever I hear of shiksa wh*res being rounded up and expelled, they never mention their halfJewish kids. Which suggests that either they are not producing mongrels or the mongrels are not being expelled under the Nuremberg mischling-ish provisions of Law of Return.

    Or are the kids Christians and therefore expellable as enemies of the Jewish people according to the Brother Whatshisname Israeli Supreme Court case (1956?)

    So what’s up? Give us the race and religion data so we can see whether it comports with Israeli law.

    God bless ‘em, Israeli Jews and the hegemons of Israel are trying to deal with massive race mixing and cultural and blood extinction issues, and (generally speaking, now) their humanitarian approach toward eliminating goyische kids and adults from their society is a wonderful example for American gentiles in dealing with our unassimilable minorities.

    • Citizen says:

      LOL.True. So, given that, what does Mooser mean when he describes himself as “a nasty mongrelized Jew like me?” Does Mooser himself have any children? He never told us. And if he did, how do they fit into Mooser’s picture, the one he’s always
      making feeble jokes about?

    • potsherd says:

      The kids are the children of foreign workers who failed to conform to the fascist Israeli demands that they not reproduce.

      Maybe Israel will now decide to have them all sterilized before they set pollute the Holy Land with their abor.

  6. gmeyers says:

    No matter how you look at it, this is what an ‘ethno state’ leads to: Nurembergisher rules on who can stay and who can’t…

  7. Pingback: Israel—casting out its own children | JewPI

  8. Shmuel says:

    There you go again harping on the negative. Did anyone here even notice that the Sefardic-pride party leader has a spokesman with a clearly Ashkenazi name (Lachmanovich)? I thought not. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!

    • tree says:

      Ha! Good catch. I’m sure that’s an indication of how truly diverse and open Israeli politics is! ;-)

      • Shmuel says:

        And another thing: What other country offers (Jewish) immigrants immediate citizenship, language instruction, housing, financial grants, employment assistance, and much much more. Israel has got to have the most liberal immigration policy in the world, yet you anti-Semites go on and on about how Israel treats (non-Jewish) migrant workers.

      • Nolan says:

        If by liberal you mean racist then, yes. Israel qualifies.

        A Jewish -American friend of mine was entertaining the idea of making Aliya to Israel and becoming a citizen with all the benefits and incentives that new Olim get.

        Meanwhile, another friend of mine who is a Palestinian refugee, was kicked out of his home is prohibited from entering that unholy land despite him being a US citizen.

        THAT’s your kind of “liberalism”? Shame on you.

      • Citizen says:

        Schmuel, I know you know that wonderfully benefited immigration to Israel is only afforded Jews, and you know that the 98% goy USA supports this to the hilt thru their tax dollars. So, what is your point? What should an average American glean from your post here–let’s say, an Ameican family with a son or daughter in Iraq…..

      • tree says:

        I think the sarcasm of Shmuel’s post went over a few people’s heads here.

  9. Citizen says:

    Any way you look at Israel’s reality and the USA’s reality, how many of you want
    to join Goosey Mooser’s definition of being humane? Or, instead of his “mongrel” POV,
    would you rather simply be an American, even if it means living in a trailer camp?

  10. ehrens says:

    Here we have a case of throwing out non-Jewish parents of “Judaized” children along with the kids. Compare this to permitting aliyah by non-Jewish [usually Russian] grandchildren of nominal Jews. Despite the fact that the kids that OZ is deporting would be better candidates for Israeli citizenship, the difference here is settled by a 1970 law based on ethnic discrimination. But this is hardly a surprise in an Apartheid state.

  11. VR says:

    What happens when a country enters headlong into fascism? After the last attack -

    DOING THE UNTHINKABLE

  12. Nolan says:

    These foreign workers were brought into Israel to replace workers – mostly day laborers – from the occupied territories. You reap what you sow.

    By shutting out the Palestinians and bringing in foreign workers Israel lost control of the situation and ended up with a bigger problem on its hands. It went from incompetent to dysfunctional. Bravo. The neo-nazis and other mafias from the former soviet bloc don’t even figure into that.

  13. Taxi says:

    What a truly tragic headline.