The Gush Katif Lesson and the Asylum Seekers

On Saturday, more than 20,000 Israelis have gathered in Tel Aviv to protest the government’s attempt to deport thousands of African asylum seekers from the country. Although the demonstration is ascribed to Leftist circles, there were many people there who came to solidarize with poor and miserable Africans who are about to be sent to foreign countries just because Israel is unwilling to take care of them and be responsible to their fate. It is true that some of them arrived at Israel to find decent work here, but the lion’s share consists of people who fled from their countries to find better lives because their homelands are torn by terrible wars, ruthless bloodshed and unimaginable, murderous oppression. They deserve to be treated like true asylum seekers and refuge in Israel no matter how they came here.

However, it seems that we, Israeli liberals, show our mercy only when it comes to people living outside the country. Thus, we weren’t so merciful once the late Ariel Sharon decided to deport and evacuate the Gush Katif settlers. Some would say that there is no resemblance between the two cases; nevertheless, many innocent settlers, some of them mere boys and girls, were condemned to deportation although their only sin was being born there. Others were evacuated since their presence in the houses they built did not suit anymore to the purposes of Israel’s policies. Is there any possibility of drawing a line and distinguish between innocent people, asylum seekers and settlers alike? Why my fellow liberals did not occupy the streets of Tel Aviv to protest the ethnic cleansing made by the late Ariel Sharon’s government?

In fact, all we see is that good and honest people can definitely understand the reality when it is about Black asylum seekers or poor Arab dwellers of towns and cities across the West Bank, but cannot feel mere empathy to people who were used by the government in its past policies and were thrown, deported and mistreated after the it found out that they constitute an ‘obstacle’ for ‘genuine peace,’ whatever that means. Those peaceniks who demanded the government to clean the West Bank and Gaza from settlers who were sent there because of a governmental decision, require the Israeli public to solidarize with asylum seekers who arrived at South Tel Aviv because the Israeli government has let them to do so. I do not condemn my fellow liberal friends as hypocrites; I just ask them to stop limiting their humanism to Africans and Arabs.

We must change our discourse on deporting people in case liberal values are dear to us. There is no justification to send people to die in bloody Africa as much as there is no justification to ruin people’s lives in return to ambiguous peace dreams. All of us are entitled to live our lives with safety, free from wars and hostility. There is no reason to torture poor Black people who want to live and work here as much as there is no need to destroy the lives of so many honest people because someone conditions peace is ugly transfer of settlers. A genuine liberal discourse must uphold human rights with no difference in terms of nationality, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc. A liberal Israel should take care of all its people, no matter where they live and what are the circumstances for which they arrived at our country. In effect, that’s the essence of real liberalism.