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US State Dep’t echoes David Sheen’s documentation of Israeli racism toward refugees– as infiltrators, disease-bearers

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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.

Here’s the State Department report, per Haaretz: (my bold)

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.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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4 Responses

  1. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    May 2, 2013, 4:08 pm

    After the Nakba the term “infiltrator” was used to refer to any expelled Palestinian who managed to get back across the armistice lines into what had become “Israel.” Most were unarmed. Many had “infiltrated” in order to retrieve possessions left behind in the rush or harvest the fields that they still naturally regarded as theirs. It is in this context that we must understand the mindset in which African refugees are also “infiltrators.” Basically, an “infiltrator” is any non-Jew who manages to penetrate Israel’s borders and thereby exacerbate the “demographic problem” and threaten the “Jewish character of the state.”

  2. Les
    May 3, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Our State Department hears, reads, and sees the racist depiction of Palestinians from the same 24-7 source as the rest of us, the US media.

  3. Citizen
    May 4, 2013, 7:20 am

    “Judaism as a noble religion cannot survive with the albatross Israel around its neck”:

    American Jews need to wake up to this truth.

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