A protest on Monday against the “Prevention of Infiltration Bill.” (Photo: Leehee Rothschild)
While much has been said about the “Prevention of Infiltration Bill” that the Israeli parliament passed on Monday night, its deep connection to the Palestinians’ plight has been mostly ignored.
The new law exposes any refugee upon entry to the state of Israel to 3 years (or longer) of arbitrary arrest with no trial, or due process. It is an amendment to the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law which defines an infiltrator as anyone who:
“has entered Israel knowingly and unlawfully and who at any time between the 16th Kislev, 3708 (29th November, 1947) and his entry was –
(1) a national or citizen of the Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Saudi-Arabia, Trans-Jordan, Iraq or the Yemen ; or
(2) a resident or visitor in one of those countries or in any part of Palestine outside Israel ; or
(3) a Palestinian citizen or a Palestinian resident without nationality or citizenship or whose nationality or citizenship was doubtful and who, during the said period, left his ordinary place of residence in an area which has become a part of Israel for a place outside Israel.”
In other words, the 1954 law targeted Palestinian refugees, who were evicted from their homes during the 1947-1948 nakba and attempted to return to their lands in the newly created state of Israel. These are refugees that the state of Israel created, and maintained, violating the international law, and UN decisions.
But in both Israeli history and the contemporary media, these refugees are not refugees—they are “terrorists” or “infiltrators,” intent on destroying the “Jewish and democratic” state. While a very small number of the refugees were, indeed, militants, the vast majority were people whose sole “crime” was acting upon their desire to return to their lost homes.
Today, the language the state of Israel and the local media use to describe African refugees is equally misleading. For the most part, they are not called “refugees” or “asylum seekers”—even though Israel tacitly acknowledges their status by not deporting them. They are called “infiltrators” who pose a “threat” to the state. Additionally, they are falsely labeled by the state and media as work migrants.
At the end of the day, the justification for both the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law as well was the new amendment is one and the same – the maintenance of the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Thus, in the name of the Jewish majority, the state of Israel deprives refugees, whether Palestinian or African, of their most basic human rights.