It’s a good thing I get emails from Europe, because if I had to rely on the American media, I’d miss a lot of what’s going on in the world. Even Amy Goodman has passed on the rambunctious anti-immigrant demonstrations Thursday in Tel Aviv. The video made it on-line before Ha’aretz pulled the story: http://electronicintifada.net/blog/ali-abunimah/israeli-jewish-hate-rally-against-africans-tel-aviv-caught-video-haaretz-deletes.
Surprised to learn there are significant numbers of Sudanese and other third world immigrants/refugees in Israel, I looked up the Sudanese case. According to Wikipedia:
Illegal immigration from Africa to Israel (often also referred to as Infiltration from Africa to Israel by the Israeli media and by Israeli government organizations is the name of a pheno-menon that began in the second half of the 2000s in which a large number of Illegal immigrants from Africa entered Israel illegally, mainly through the fenced border between Israel and Egypt. According to the data of the Israeli Interior Ministry, the number of these illegal immigrants amounted to 26,635 people to July 2010.
Many of the illegal immigrants seek an asylum status under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of the United Nations. Only a fraction of all the illegal immigrants is actually eligible for this status. However, many of them, mostly citizens of Eritrea and Sudan, cannot be forcibly deported from Israel. The Eritrea citizens (who, since 2009, form the majority of the illegal immigrants in Israel) cannot be deported due to the opinion of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that Eritrea has a difficult internal situation and a forced recruitment and therefore the Eritrean immigrants are defined as a "temporary humanitarian protection group". Despite the fact that a similar opinion does not exist in relation to citizens of Sudan, Israel does not deport them back to Egypt due to a real fear for their fate. Although the immigrants entered Israel from Egypt, Israel cannot deport them back to Egypt because the Egyptians refuse to give an undertaking not to deport the immigrants to their countries of origin. Accordingly, the Israeli authorities grant a temporary residence permit to the illegal immigrants, which needs to be renew every three months. Various authorities in Israel estimate that between 80-90 percent of the illegal immigrants live primarily in Tel Aviv and Eilat.
According to The Jewish Virtual Library www.jewishvirtual-library.orgjsource/Immigration/SudaneseRefugees.html:
“According to a 1954 Israeli law, all infiltrators from enemy states, such as Sudan which harbors terrorists, must be detained until their refugee status can be confirmed. Israel took in less than 2,000 refugees in 2007. Many of these refugees were caught in Be’er Sheva crossing the border. They spent time in prison or detention centers, such as the Ketziot Prison complex which was set up to hold 2,000 refugees in small trailers of the sort used in construction sites.”
Apparently, anti-black and anti-Muslim sentiment has been building in Israel, and Thursday’s demonstrations were sparked by a failure of the government to build new detention centers. A leader of the nationalist National Union party, Ben Ari took to a park in a Tel Aviv heavily populated with African migrants with a bull horn to tell protesters how he has been harassing the Israeli government to free up money for the construction of the promised centers.
In response, the Africans and their Israeli defenders, shouted ‘Prison, No, Freedom, Yes’. An Israeli woman yelled that the Israelis would change their minds if their children ‘had to be in classrooms with 30 African children, who do not want to learn Hebrew’, English, yes, but not Hebrew.’
The anger will sound eerily familiar to Americans who witnessed the Civil Rights Movement, fifty years ago. What is different is the fact that Israel is surrounded by Arab countries, and feeling increasingly nervous about what the Arab Spring could mean for its security. Seared for eternity by the Holocaust, Israelis have gone from one extreme to the other: no longer afraid to defend themselves, they have adopted the motto that the best defense is offense.
That is why, as the street demonstrates against Darfuris and other immigrant workers, the Israeli government hammers away at the danger posed by Iran. It’s a two-pronged effort to deny the tides of history.