Sudanese detained after crossing southern border 311 (R).
(photo credit: Yonathan Weitzman / Reuters)
The recent amendment to the anti-infiltration bill significantly increases the
government’s power to deal with refugees and migrant workers who cross the
border into Israel illegally.
With the power now to hold people for up to
three years without having to hear their cases, the Finance Ministry will
approve funding for the construction of a desert camp capable of holding 10,000
people. Then the squeeze will begin. Employers will receive large fines if they
do not remove the refugees and migrants from their places of work. The refugees
will then either move to the newly-built camp or return to their country of
origin. Nobody here cares.
The conversation here is never about refugees.
Look at the comments by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister
Eli Yishai. They never talk about the refugees Israel is helping or wants to
help. The conversation is about infiltrators and migrant workers. They do not
care about refugees, not one bit. As a throwaway line Netanyahu often says “but
we will help the real war refugees.” This is a lie. He has not helped real war
The refugees in Israel from Darfur and Congo, his “war
refugees,” are treated with the same temporary status as other African refugees.
They receive a “conditional release” visa giving them no rights to work, no
access to medical care and no hope of building a future.
THE TIME has
come to say clearly and loudly: Mr. Netanyahu, Jewish refugees and their
descendants around the world are disgusted with your behavior, your lack of
humanity and your disregard for our history.For the past five years, your
government and the previous one have led an incredibly effective campaign to
change the public’s view of Africans arriving in Israel. Back in 2007, there was
genuine, heartfelt empathy on the part of large sections of the Israeli public
with those staggering away from the genocides in Darfur and Congo and those
escaping the horrors of life in Eritrea. Donations of provisions, time and money
poured into the nascent NGOs as they hastily set up to help the homeless
refugees sleeping in South Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Jerusalem.
support and donations are drying to a trickle. The media has been
bombarded by the government with catchphrases aimed at reframing these arrivals.
First we had refugees, now we have infiltrators. No one likes an infiltrator.
Bibi, were my family infiltrators to England when they ran away from Poland and
Lithuania? There are plenty of Israelis who should be able to see through the
media manipulation to the heart of the matter.
This is what leads me to
the simple, painful conclusion: No one cares. My fellow countrymen
emphasize this attitude. “Christian refugees are Christians problems,”
some say. “They’re all Muslims and will want to kill us,” say
“No one ever helped us, why should we help them?” ask a third
group. Still others accuse me of taking action that “will destroy the Jewish
How quickly we have forgotten. Forgotten our own history;
forgotten our obligations to the international laws we signed, laws created to
deal with the million Jewish refugees in the wake of World War II; forgotten
what it means to care about more than ourselves; forgotten the words of our
“He who preserves a single soul, it is as though he has
saved the whole world” (Sanhedrin 37a).
Instead of the legendary words of
the Talmud, the reality today is simple and sad. No one cares.
is the humanitarian coordinator and program manager at the African Refugee