Holocaust survivors offer shelter as asylum crisis rages

Expulsion is a ‘violation of ethical standards,’ write doctors in letter.

An African refugee in south Tel Aviv wears a T-shirt with a Hebrew phrase referring to the Holocaust: “I promise to remember... and never forget!” (Reuters) (photo credit: REUTERS)
An African refugee in south Tel Aviv wears a T-shirt with a Hebrew phrase referring to the Holocaust: “I promise to remember... and never forget!” (Reuters)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Police arrested four African asylum-seekers in Ashdod on Sunday night for allegedly forging their visas to avert deportation.
The arrests come amid heightened government rhetoric about the planned April expulsion of the nation’s roughly 38,000 Sudanese and Eritrean refugees, whom the prime minister widely calls “illegal infiltrators” and “economic migrants.”
While multiple reports have stated that Rwanda has reached a secret agreement with Israel to accept forcefully deported refugees at $5,000 a head, as of Tuesday the former government continues to deny the claims.
According to police, Sunday’s arrests were unrelated to the refugee crisis, and took place during “inspections” of over a dozen businesses and homes in the city accused of hosting gambling without gaming permits.
Still, during the operation 96 Sudanese and Eritreans were questioned and asked to produce valid visas. Two of the four refugees were arrested while hiding in the shower stall of an attic, police said.
Reports that the Interior Ministry’s Population and Migration Authority intends to indefinitely incarcerate the refugees, or forcefully deport them in the coming weeks, has set off multiple anti-deportation campaigns by human rights activists, including Holocaust survivors.
Last week, during protests over the pending deportations in front of the homes of government officials who support it, including Interior Minister Arye Deri and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, several Holocaust survivors condemned the measure.
While holding a sign stating, “This Holocaust survivor remembers what it means to be a Jew, and remembers what it means to be an asylum-seeker,” Veronica Cohen told Ynet: “We are facing the greatest of crimes [by] deporting them to a place where they are likely to die.
“I ask myself, I ask my people, I ask my brothers and sisters: Tell me, how is it possible for Jews to forget their past and join in this crime,” she added.
“It cannot be that we will be a people that expel people to their death. It just cannot be. I cannot live with the thought of them taking women, children, men, and forcefully driving them away to a place where suffering, and even death awaits them. It’s as simple as that.”
Invoking the legacy of Anne Frank, another survivor named Hana Arnon who attended the protest said she was willing to hide the asylum-seekers in her home, the web site reported.
“Who were the heroes in addition to Anne Frank?” Arnon asked. “The people who tried to save her and her family. We need to learn from them.”
Meanwhile, after several El Al pilots vowed on Monday not to fly any refugees to a dangerous African country, on Tuesday over 350 doctors from across the country wrote an open letter to the director-general of the Population and Immigration Authority condemning the expulsion as inhumane.
“As doctors, caregivers and health professionals, we cannot stand idly by while our lives, the integrity of our bodies, and the souls of our patients are at stake,” the letter stated, noting that hospitalized refugees are not excluded from deportation.
“We are horrified at the thought that instead of absorbing those victims who came to us from their escape from genocide, torture, violence and rape, we are discussing causing them further harm.”
Among the signatories include former Health Ministry director-general Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, deputy director of Sheba Medical Center Prof. Rafi Walden, Sheba’s head of Oncology Institute Prof. Bella Kaufman, and hundreds of nurses and laboratory technicians.
The Interior Ministry has yet to formally confirm or deny reports of the pending deportation to Rwanda.