Israel’s expulsion of African refugees – betrayal with a kiss

Israel/Palestine
on 15 Comments

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”:

“[D]ozens of 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:

“Legally”?, Eldar asks. “Most 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 this.

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 asked.

And so the African refugees are being betrayed – with a kiss, a smile, and a “best of luck” wish.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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15 Responses

  1. eljay
    January 22, 2018, 1:35 pm

    … Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed these as “leftist intellectuals” at the cabinet meeting on Sunday.

    ” … Israel will continue to serve as a shelter for real refugees … “

    …as long as they’re not the real refugees we created when we ethnically-cleansed non-Jews from their homes and lands. We don’t give a f*ck about those real refugees.

  2. amigo
    January 22, 2018, 2:35 pm

    Interesting article on J Post .

    “After this year’s Supreme Court’s ruling, the government launched a relentless campaign based on incitement and intimidation to remove all African asylum seekers from the country. The incitement has taken many forms: labeling asylum seekers ‘’illegal infiltrators” and “occupiers” and promising south Tel Aviv residents that the government would “take back” their neighborhoods as though they were “occupied” by armed and conquering aliens.”J Post

    Beautiful , kind and Generous Israel , so willing and humanitarian .

    One could almost refer to it as , “The Light unto the Nations.”

    Democracy in full bloom in Israel where the Highest Court in the “NATION” is regularily ignored and Israel,s leaders toil laboriously to neutralise it.

    http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Rwanda-says-no-to-migrant-deportation-515819

  3. yonah fredman
    January 23, 2018, 12:22 pm

    The overlap of antizionism and antisemitism has gotten a couple new samples in the last few days: first Phil Weiss ragging on the garishness of the rich jew in upstate new York at christmastime, (as if to say: not only are these people retrograde regarding marriage and colonialism, but they have bad taste too and their aesthetics of interior design certainly revoke any claims regarding nation state status) and now this gratuitous invocation of Christian antisemitism by invoking judas’s kiss of betrayal.

    Btw, regarding judas, amos oz has written a novel about judas, intercutting the story of judas as studied by a young Israeli in a young Israel of 1959, with the story of a zionist who was called a judas because of his opposition to statehood in 1948 (reminiscent of Judah magnes”s attitudes).

    Of course mondoweiss is more concerned with the interior decorations of rich Jews and not the novels of amos oz. And it calls itself “the war of ideas”!

    • Mooser
      January 23, 2018, 1:24 pm

      “Of course mondoweiss is more concerned with the interior decorations of rich Jews and not the novels of amos oz. And it calls itself “the war of ideas”!”

      Ouch! That’ll sober ’em up, in moderation.

  4. Jonathan Ofir
    January 23, 2018, 1:41 pm

    Oh, Yonah Friedman, I just thought the Judas kiss story was a fitting association. You know, I had a thought that someone will find it anti-Semitic. But you know, Judas was a Jew, Jesus was a Jew – it’s supposed to be possible to apply these stories sometimes without being drawn into the silly ‘anti-Semitism’ accusation just because you use it.
    But you did it. And that’s your ‘overlapping’ of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Impressive.

    • Mooser
      January 23, 2018, 2:46 pm

      “yonah” seems almost desperate to distract from the harrowing facts reported in the article.

    • yonah fredman
      January 23, 2018, 3:58 pm

      Jonathan Ofeer, Never have I seen a more perfect example of someone proud to be tone deaf.

      • amigo
        January 23, 2018, 5:01 pm

        “Jonathan Ofeer, Never have I seen a more perfect example of someone proud to be tone deaf.”Yonah Fredman.

        Maybe he is up to his ears in white bread and Mayonaise.

        “imagine, sitting and eating white bread and mayonnaise with your neighbors, but then going home and chowing down on some pastrami on rye, mit a pickle and chicken soup,”Yonah Fredman

        http://mondoweiss.net/2017/07/israeli-solomon-schechter/

        Yonah , people in glass houses etc etc.

      • Mooser
        January 23, 2018, 11:12 pm

        “Maybe he is up to his ears in white bread and Mayonaise.”

        “amigo” is quoting from a comment “yonah” wrote last year claiming assimilation causes indigestion. Titled “My heart burns for thee, Jerusalem.”

      • Jonathan Ofir
        January 24, 2018, 1:31 am

        Yeah, it’s a wonder I play the violin.

      • Mooser
        January 24, 2018, 12:57 pm

        “Yeah, it’s a wonder I play the violin.”

        Maybe you could set “yonah’s” poem to music:

        “And to invoke god in the conversation is the ultimate act of hatred.
        I am deigning to tell anyone what god wants;
        that is just a pile of feces.
        Maybe you enjoy getting feces thrown at you, crone. i don’t.
        Maybe in your secular family invoking god is as innocent as invoking santa claus.
        Not to me!!
        Invoke god and you are playing with fire or feces.”

        ‘yonah fredman’

      • eljay
        January 24, 2018, 1:44 pm

        to invoke god in the conversation
        is hatred’s ultimate act
        deigning to know what it is that god wants
        is feces, and that’s just a fact
        maybe you like it when shit hits your bod  (i don’t.)
        maybe to you ol’ St. Nick is a god  (not to me!!)
        just watch what you say
        or with feces or fire you’ll get smacked

      • Mooser
        January 24, 2018, 3:32 pm

        “eljay, good work. By simply adding the responses (“Can you dig it”, “Damn right”, “He’s a baaad motha…”, etc.) at the end of the lines your version scans with the “Theme from Shaft”.

      • eljay
        January 24, 2018, 8:09 pm

        Violin through a wah pedal – yeah, I can dig it. 8-)

  5. maddave
    January 23, 2018, 3:48 pm

    Zionists and blinded Israel supporters of all stripes and nationalities can drag out all of the Biblical facts and fairy tales that exist throughout the world, but none of them justifies the unfair, illegal and immoral apartheid that the Israelis are visiting upon the unwanted Arabs, Africans and even (to a somewhat lesser extent) members of Jewish sects not sanctioned by hard-core right wing “real” Jews.
    Since the invasion of Palestine by Zionists began near the turn of the 20th Century, the primarily-Russian-refugee Zionists’ — many of whom had no historical or genetic connection with Biblical Israel or the Diaspora — proceeded by invoking their “God Given Right” to enter and co-opt the area, all others be damned. Their recorded conduct has (almost) always run counter to any notions of co-existance with the Arabs. The case has been made that the ensuing terrorism which spread between Arabs and Jews did not need to evolve as it did. Had the zionists arrived, hat in hand, seeking good will and cooperation. . , but they didn’t, so who knows? I

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