Illegal migrants: Separating truth from hysteria

African migrants take part in a protest against Israel's detention policy toward them (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
African migrants take part in a protest against Israel's detention policy toward them
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Israel’s stated intention of returning the majority of the approximately 40,000 illegal migrants who came here from Africa has generated an increasingly emotional, indeed irrational, reaction from its opponents.
There is no, “on the other hand.” There is only the visceral cry of “inhumanity,” of “cruelty,” and even of Israel being complicit in sending migrants to their death. This in turn has brought matters to an abysmal low, in which migrants have been analogized to Holocaust victims, with Israel, by extension, being cast as the Nazis.
But besides the easy appeal to Jewish heartstrings, which rightly vibrate on behalf of the truly oppressed, there has been a cynical disregard of facts and context in the name of trying to reverse the government’s policy.
In a search for clarity here, there are three key points to remember. First, who are we talking about? These are not displaced refugees, these are overwhelmingly young male economic migrants, who left their countries to better their lives. In fact, more than 70% of the migrants have not even applied to be considered as refugees.
In addition, they are not being returned to their countries of origin, but rather to third-party African countries, particularly Rwanda and Uganda, which have been accepting many refugees, are rapidly developing and are also working collegially with Israel in a variety of critical developmental initiatives.
Thus, there is no danger to these migrants. Regardless of what their countries of origin might feel about them, it’s a moot point, since that is not where the migrants are going.
This critical point, which puts the lie to the essence of the left-wing hysteria, was substantiated by none other than the Supreme Court, hardly the embodiment of a right-wing or nationalist agenda.
The Supreme Court unequivocally repudiated the claim that sending the illegal migrants to Rwanda or Uganda (after receiving a free plane ticket and $3,500 courtesy of the Israeli taxpayer) represents a danger to the deportees.
Even the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, financially encourages Rwandan expatriates to return and boasts on its website that Rwanda is now “one of the safest countries in Africa.” And just last week the UNHCR high commissioner extolled Uganda for having one of the most “progressive refugee policies in Africa, if not the world.”
So, let’s be honest: the idea that Africans returning to Africa puts them in mortal danger is a classic example of the racism of low expectations.
The second point to consider are the real-world implications for those whose lives have been upended by the massive migration. The people of south Tel Aviv are now living in occupied territory, with no left-wing NGOs there to support them.
Actually, left-wing NGOs are there, but they are for the migrants, and totally disregard the travails of the many poor and elderly inhabitants whose welfare has been endangered. Where is the concern for them?
Finally, there is the reality that Israel cannot afford to be a safe haven for any and all seeking a better life and still hope to be Israel, the world’s sole Jewish state serving as a Jewish homeland for a Jewish population that is a statistical rounding error in the world’s population.
According to the Israeli Immigration Policy Center, one out of every nine children in Tel Aviv currently has non-Israeli parents. Furthermore, the “only” 40,000 migrants currently residing in Israel is in per capita terms the equivalent of almost 1.8 million people in the United States.
The Israeli government recognizes that it has a moral duty to the raison d’etre of Israel, to the memory of its founders and to the prospects of its yet to be born citizens. It has a responsibility to preserve a Jewish state that, yes, shows compassion to those who are displaced or without hope (our experience with thousands of wounded Syrian civilians is a sterling example of this altruistic compassion.), yet maintains its faith with the moral imperative to provide for the continuity of a Jewish state.
These considerations are certainly unimportant to the left-wing critics of Israeli policy. That is no surprise. What is more disturbing is how otherwise realistic and levelheaded people are getting caught up in heart over- head emotional manipulation.
Israel has a duty to act on behalf of its beleaguered citizens and on behalf of its historic mission. And we, its citizens, have a duty to resist fear mongering and false and self-destructive fabrications.
The author is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at