NGOs and migrants

Israel will never solve the socioeconomic ills of Africa. It does, however, risk losing its strong Jewish majority if it continues to absorb thousands of African migrants.

January 6, 2014 22:07
3 minute read.
migrants protest

African migrants protest in Tel Aviv, January 6.. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)


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It is being billed as the largest demonstration ever held by the African migrant community in Israel.

Tens of thousands of Africans from Eritrea and Sudan who came to Israel seeking asylum and jobs congregated in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Sunday, carrying picket signs painted with slogans such as “We are refugees not infiltrators” and “No more prison.”

But while the demonstrators are undoubtedly displeased with Israeli migration policy, which seeks to discourage prospective African migrants from attempting to come to Israel by preventing them from working here, the driving force and organizational logistics behind Sunday’s demonstration emanated from left-wing NGOs.

Over the years, these NGOs have been disseminating misinformation about the migrants in an attempt to advance a post-Zionist political agenda that seeks to transform Israel from a Jewish state to “a state for all its citizens.”

First these left-wing activists used a Holocaust-genocide discourse in an attempt to appeal to Jewish sensibilities.

They told us that these migrants were refugees from Darfur who faced extermination. And for a while it worked. In 2007 Haaretz editorialized that “the first moral commandment of the state of the Jews is that it does not have the right to slam the door in the face of refugees fleeing genocide.”

However, it quickly became abundantly clear that the vast majority of migrants were not from Darfur at all.

Most (about 70 percent) are from Eritrea and not Sudan.

And even those from North Sudan are generally not from areas where genocide was perpetrated.

Perhaps the most despicable tactic, however, was to publicize the fact that Israel had managed to convince hundreds of migrants to return home through a third country. Doing so jeopardized these migrants.

But the left-wing NGOs were willing to endanger these migrants and had no qualms about exploiting the Holocaust to “market” their cause. The migrants are for them nothing but pawns in a larger struggle – the transformation of Israel into a “state of all its citizens.”

A March 2011 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report quoted one Israeli NGO worker as saying that his organization and others fighting to allow migrants to stay in Israel and work “advocate a perception of universalistic citizenship where everyone should have rights…. They do not see the [Jewish] nationality issue as relevant, but publicly it is not stated… because it does not serve the struggle.”

In other words, many of these NGOs are striving to undermine the character of Israel as a Jewish state by fighting to keep as many African migrants as possible in Israel and by encouraging more to come. But they rarely declare their true intentions publicly because they know that they would lose public support in Israel if they did.

The same NGO worker mentioned in the UNHCR report argued that “the central issue here is the nature of Israeli civil society; the struggle is about the character of Israel as a state.”

Orit Rubin, coordinator of the social-psychology department in Assaf – Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, told a local paper in Eilat that “a Jewish state is a state founded on Jewish values and not necessarily a Jewish majority.”

The truth is that the vast majority of African migrants are motivated to make the trip to Israel because they see an opportunity to earn what is for them large sums of money.

According to Yonatan Jakubowicz, director of public relations at the Israeli Immigration Policy Center, an NGO that supports the government’s policies, the average salary in Eritrea is $420 a year and a third of Eritrea’s GDP comes from salaries earned abroad and sent home.

There are not many economic opportunities for ambitious young men living in Eritrea, Sudan or many other places in Africa. And we can understand the desire to benefit one’s lot by migrating elsewhere.

But Israel, created to be the only state in the world where the Jewish people can exercise self-determination, will never solve the socioeconomic ills of Africa. It does, however, risk losing its strong Jewish majority if it continues to absorb thousands of African migrants.

Some NGOs would actually like to see this happen.

The government’s migrant policy is designed to prevent such a scenario.

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