A year ago we picked up an incredible 2012 documentary by David Sheen titled “Racism Report: Africans in Israel.” Sheen, a tireless chronicler of intolerance in Israel, produced the documentary on behalf of the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) and submitted it to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
I was reminded of Sheen’s film when I read the U.S. State Department 2012 Israel Human Rights report , issued last month (PDF).
It includes a section stating that the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants was a “most significant” human rights problem.
And sections of the State Department’s report appear to mirror Sheen’s documentary and the African Refugee center’s press release.
In the 2012 report, the “Protection of Refugees” section singles out the Israeli government allowing nongovernmental groups only limited access to the refugees – a practice the 2011 report does not mention.
The report also notes that “the government significantly increased its capacity to detain and hold illegal migrants during the year by enlarging existing detention facilities and constructing the first wing of a new 10,000-bed facility.”
It notes, too, for the first time official and unofficial incitement against refugees.
“Government officials and media outlets periodically referred to asylum seekers as ‘infiltrators’ and characterized them as directly associated with rises in crime, disease, and terrorism,” the report said. “Interior Minister Eli Yishai made several inflammatory comments about African migrants and organizations that provided them with assistance, and threatened mass arrests and deportation of illegal migrants. Yishai publicly stated the purpose of the Prevention of Infiltration Law was to make the lives of asylum seekers unbearable.”
Now here’s the African Refugee Development Center’s press release on Sheen’s work:
[I]nfluential public figures deliberately label all asylum seekers as ‘infiltrators’ – a term used exclusively to describe armed militants – and inaccurately claim they drive up crime rates, destroy neighborhoods and introduce disease. Such racially discriminatory, provocative and even inciteful language—wholly adopted by the mainstream media—is, at least partially, responsible for generating a community-wide backlash against the asylum seekers.
ARDC further documents how Israel tolerates segregation in the education system and discriminatory edicts by state-employed rabbis against renting to non-Jews. Not only has the state failed to take disciplinary action against these rabbis, but announced this week that the Ministry of Finance would increase their salaries. Finally, ARDC documents how even Africans who claim connection to Judaism, and are acknowledged to be Jewish, suffer discrimination.
For anyone who has not watched this documentary in full, I highly recommend. Sadly, nothing about it is outdated.