June 11: Not so simple

Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s threats of jail and other ideas all sound strange coming from a historically oppressed people.

Not so simple
Sir, – With regard to “Yishai: South Sudanese have one week to leave before facing deportation” (June 8), Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s threats of jail and other ideas all sound strange coming from a historically oppressed people. God forbid we should behave toward an oppressed people the way we ourselves were treated throughout history.
It was our mistake to let these people cross the border, but they still have to be treated as human beings. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to go home once they can.
We have only one country and we have to fight for every inch of it. At the same time, though, we can afford to help oppressed people. It won’t kill us and we’ll be doing the right thing in the eyes of God and mankind.
Sir, – I tutor a young man from Darfur who has been in this country for five years and is attending the IDC in Herzliya. I haven’t seen him in the past few weeks and recently found out why: The young man is afraid to come.
His friend was accosted by several Israeli youths on a bus traveling down Ben-Yehuda Street, near where I live. The driver had to call the police. My student was spat upon twice and wanted to fight the person, but, thankfully, someone else intervened and calmed the situation.
My student said that during the five years he has lived in Israel he had never experienced any violence, but now there is fear among the refugees. How ironic that the promised land is just as stressful for him as nightmarish Darfur and Egypt were.
Sir, – Sudanese migrants who illegally entered Israel were given a one-week grace period and then being shipped home. But they are not being dumped at a border and told to flee. They will be given 1,000 euros (nearly NIS 5,000!) and a free(!) plane ticket.
Most other countries perpetrate some very severe acts on such individuals, yet Israel takes the high moral ground and not only repatriates these individuals, but does it in a dignified matter.
ZE’EV M. SHANDALOV Ma’aleh Adumim
Sir, – In light of the growing violence sweeping across Israel against illegal migrants, I cannot help but think of a solution for those of us who entered legally but became illegal, particularly those of us working in caregiving and housekeeping.
Becoming illegal commonly arises from two situations: losing or ending a job, for whatever reason, and, for women, becoming pregnant and raising a baby.
These two issues can be solved simply by extending the time limit for a legal stay to eight years instead of four years and three months.
We came to Israel paying astronomical sums in the hope of improving our lives. We work very, very hard. We are not a burden on Israeli society. It’s just that four years and three months is enough only to break even since the first year is spent paying back the manpower agency fees. That’s why many opt to stay and work despite their illegal status.
Is it too much to ask the immigration authorities to make a compromise on the legal time limit?
Unfair portrayal
Sir, – We were participants in the Ben-Gurion University research workshop “Socio-Legal Perspectives on the Passage to Modernity In and Beyond the Middle East” that Seth J. Frantzman criticized unfairly in “Incitement U: Confronting hate at Israel’s academy” (Terra Incognita, June 7).
Frantzman, who attended only the workshop’s opening panel (and gave a partial and misleading account of that panel), characterized the entire workshop as critical of Israel. He also implied that participants approved of an inappropriate remark directed at him by BGU Prof. Aref Abu- Rabia. Many of those present were not able to hear the exchange, and it was very unfair of Frantzman to accuse the organizers and discussants, who were seated at a distance, of “silence” in the face of “aggression,” “harassment” and “incitement.”
Frantzman also implied that criticism of his presentation was politically motivated and bereft of any legitimate academic concern.
Although we can’t speak for everyone present, the paper he co-authored met with considerable skepticism (not hostility) due to its poor quality and its tendentious premise. That was the context of the comparison that our colleague made to South African history: black Africans’ claims to rights were contested on the basis of their migration to the area in historical times, just as the Frantzman et al. paper contested Beduin rights on the basis of their supposed migration to the Negev some two centuries ago.
Other scholars raised legitimate questions about Frantzman et al.’s research methods, sources and the way in which they viewed “the law” as an unchanging written text rather than a dynamic, ongoing political and social process –which was, after all, the main methodological approach of the workshop as a whole.
There was nothing about this workshop session, and certainly not the workshop as a whole, that would justify describing it in terms of “hate” and “incitement.”
It clearly enhanced the standing of Ben-Gurion University within the international community of Middle Eastern scholars.
EBRU AYKUT Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University MICHELLE CAMPOSUniversity of Florida KENNETH M. CUNO University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign IBRAHIM KALKAN New York University JESSICA MARGLIN University of Michigan SARA ELLINOR MORACK Free University of Berlin RUDOLPH PETERS University of Amsterdam KENT SCHULL University of Memphis M. SAFA SARACOGLU Bloomsberg University
Seth J. Frantzman replies: My column did not imply that the entire workshop was critical of Israel, rather that the personal attack accusing me of “collaboration” and Nazism was extremely offensive for such a setting. I did not attend the rest of the workshop precisely because there was no indication that the organizers, then or now, felt that these comments were unacceptable.
House brand rules
Sir, – I was surprised to read in “Food fight” (Editorial, June 6) that supermarket chains do not carry enough house-commissioned generic products. My own supermarket branch carries fewer and fewer competing brands in favor of its own self-labeled products. This, the opposite of a free-market system, can be empirically tested.
Nasty, nasty piece
Sir, – Ray Hanania’s “Kirk doesn’t let health problem stop his push to help Israel” (Yalla Peace, June 6) is a nasty, nasty piece of work. A politician’s political stances are fair game, but attacking one for having accepted post-stroke rehabilitative medical care to which he is entitled is beyond the pale.
Then there’s Hanania’s obnoxious straw-man argument that Sen. Mark Kirk’s bill would have been considered “an outrage if it had been written to limit refugee status to only those Jews who were alive in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust between 1941 and 1945, not to their descendents.” To quote Hanania himself from elsewhere in the same article, huh? Descendents of Holocaust victims have never been given refugee status, so no one could possibly propose such a bill.
The Palestinians are unique in being able to pass on refugee status to succeeding generations.