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African refugees in Israel

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Maen Abu Hafez, 24, has been held for 20 months in Israeli detention and is being threatened with deportation to Brazil.

Maen Abu Hafez, 24, was born in Brazil to a Palestinian father from the Jenin Refugee Camp, and he has lived in the camp since he was 3 years old. However, Israel never issued his family an ID card establishing their residency in the West Bank and Abu Hafez is now facing deportation to Brazil after a routine traffic stop. Despite being Palestinians and living in an area under the control of the Palestinian Authority, the lives of the Abu Hafez family, and hundreds of families like them — a Palestinian married to a foreign spouse and their children — are in the hands of the Israeli government, who has control over the Palestinian population registry.

Israeli officials in the Population and Immigration authority have begun distributing an ‘information page’ for African refugees at the Holot desert detention center. The document is chilling. It does not name the third country the refugees would be deported to, but 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.” Not mentioned in the document is the new rule that refusal to leave will entail indefinite incarceration. The document ends with a “best of luck” wish.

On Monday, the Israeli parliament passed an amendment to the ‘Prevention of Infiltration Act’ so that it could continue to coerce African refugees to be deported. In 2011, former Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that the mere presence of the refugees is an “existential threat”, and vowed to defend the “Jewish majority”. This law shows that in the Jewish State Zionism informs each and every detail of Israel’s policy.

Israel seeks to remove 40,000 African refugees by deportation. How convenient it is for Israel that so many countries in the West are now governed by right-wing, white-supremacist, anti-immigrant and fascist forces. Herzl knew this over a century ago, where he noted, “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies”.