[News] African refugees get no reprieve from Israel's racist rage

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 10 10:48:01 EDT 2018


https://electronicintifada.net/content/african-refugees-get-no-reprieve-israels-racist-rage/23866 



  African refugees get no reprieve from Israel's racist rage

David Sheen <https://electronicintifada.net/people/david-sheen> - 10 
April 2018

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The fortunes of the African refugee community targeted by the Israeli 
government for deportation have swung wildly in recent days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first announced a United 
Nations-backed deal to resettle some of them in the West, but then 
quickly retracted the plan after right-wing Israelis complained that the 
deal was too generous to asylum seekers.

“I listened closely to many comments about the agreement. As a result, 
after reevaluating the advantages and disadvantages, I decided to cancel 
the deal,” Netanyahu wrote 
<https://www.facebook.com/Netanyahu/posts/10155500606907076> on his 
Facebook page.

“Despite the growing legal and international limitations, we will 
continue to act with determination to exhaust all possibilities at our 
disposal to remove the infiltrators,” he added.

In November, it was reported that the Netanyahu government secured 
agreements with unnamed African nations for the latter to take in many 
of the approximately 40,000 refugees remaining in Israel, ostensibly in 
exchange for a fee of $5,000 per head 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israel-to-pay-rwanda-5-000-for-every-asylum-seeker-deported-there-1.5466805>.

But Netanyahu’s plans for expedited deportation were quashed after 
protests by refugee rights activists in Israel and abroad shamed those 
countries, now known to be Rwanda and Uganda 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/uganda-no-deal-with-israel-for-them-to-dump-their-refugees-here-1.5976136>, 
into disclaiming 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-pm-accuses-new-israel-fund-of-foiling-asylum-seeker-deal-with-rwanda-1.5975316> 
the scheme.

Unable to deliver on his promise to quickly expel all the Africans, 
Netanyahu grudgingly agreed to a plan 
<https://972mag.com/israel-halts-refugee-deportation-plan-un-to-help-with-resettlement/134299/> 
brokered by the UN refugee agency UNHCR which, if carried out, would 
have seen thousands of the refugees resettled in Western nations in the 
coming years.

But Germany and Italy, two of the countries cited by Netanyahu as 
committed to take in asylum seekers from Israel, quickly denied 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-german-officials-we-weren-t-asked-to-receive-refugees-from-israel-1.5973974> 
having ever agreed to accept refugees under the scheme.


    Opposition to expulsion

Abandoned on all sides within hours of announcing the agreement, 
Netanyahu walked back the deal, first in part 
<https://twitter.com/MaarivOnline/status/980856587463090176>, then in 
whole, suspending it 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-suspends-new-asylum-seeker-deal-with-un-1.5974186>, 
and then canceling it altogether 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-nixes-deal-with-un-on-african-asylum-seekers-following-right-wing-pushback-1.5974570>.

Although the deal would have provided political cover for Netanyahu’s 
planned expulsion of the refugees, his political camp vigorously opposed 
it because it also committed Israel to allowing around 20,000 Africans – 
mainly women and children – to remain in Israel for another five years 
<https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/quick-fix-to-asylum-seeker-crisis-can-t-mask-israel-s-racism-problem-1.5974101> 
and to help them move to parts of the country other than South Tel Aviv, 
where most of the community is concentrated.

Although a January poll <https://en.idi.org.il/articles/20735> showed 
that 66 percent of Israeli Jews support Netanyahu’s efforts to expel the 
refugees to Africa, a recent survey found that positions are reversed in 
those very areas where residents were more likely to actually encounter 
any of them.

A March poll <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLMGqJkIT6k> revealed that 
in the greater Tel Aviv area, opposition to the expulsion reached 68 
percent, and in the long-neglected neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv with 
the largest African populations, it hit 71 percent.

On 24 February 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/over-10-000-israelis-protests-deportation-of-african-asylum-seekers-1.5846472> 
and again on 24 March 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/25-000-protest-in-tel-aviv-against-deportation-of-asylum-seekers-1.5938048>, 
some 20,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv to demonstrate in solidarity 
with the refugee community and demand that the Israeli government cancel 
plans to deport them, and instead work to improve the lives of all 
residents of the city’s delapidated southern district.

Protesters have criticized the Israeli government for having one of the 
lowest refugee acceptance rates in the world – less than 0.5 percent 
<https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/israel-deportation-of-african-asylum-seekers-is-a-cruel-and-misguided-abandonment-of-responsibility/>.

But Netanyahu has claimed that the non-Jewish refugees – about half 
Christian and half Muslim – pose a threat to Israel’s “national identity 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/may/20/israel-netanyahu-african-immigrants-jewish>.”

In that sense Israel regards them similarly to how it has viewed 
indigenous Palestinians since its founding, when it expelled 750,000 
Palestinians from their homes and barred them from returning because 
they are not Jews.

And local racists have long labored to shore up support for Netanyahu’s 
anti-African policies, and to demand that even crueler measures be taken 
against them.


    “Mortal threat”

Shlomo Maslawi, representing Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party on the Tel 
Aviv city council, told Israeli TV 
<https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-this-is-zionism-as-racism-this-is-israel-at-70-1.5975641> 
that he would oppose Netanyahu’s now retracted plan, even though it 
included promises to invest in the overburdened neighborhoods of South 
Tel Aviv, until “the Eritreans are gone, down to the last Eritrean – 
only then will there be rehabilitation.”

In recent weeks, as refugee rights advocates across the country and 
around the world stepped up their protests, forcing the African 
governments conspiring with Israel to deny their involvement, Netanyahu 
lashed out at the refugees, smearing them as a mortal threat.

If he had not built a high-tech fence on Israel’s southern border five 
years ago, Netanyahu told an audience 
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-says-flood-of-african-migrants-worse-than-sinai-terrorists/> 
in March, the number of Africans in the country would be significantly 
higher, a condition he deemed “much worse” than “severe attacks by Sinai 
terrorists.”

Coming under rare criticism 
<https://forward.com/opinion/396765/israel-is-racist-its-deportations-of-africans-should-surprise-no-one/> 
from some of Israel’s staunchest American defenders, other government 
officials also doubled down to defend the mass deportations to African 
states.

Interior minister Aryeh Deri 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/aryeh-deri> told Israeli army radio 
<https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/955746656225562624> that to take 
these asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, and expel them to 
Rwanda and Uganda, would merely mean returning them “to their natural 
place.”

Avraham Neguise, currently Israel’s only Black legislator, a Jew of 
Ethiopian origin, also spoke out in support of the deportation to Rwanda 
and Uganda, telling Israel’s i24 TV 
<https://pic.twitter.com/3i5DR91qG2>, “Well, they came from Africa, and 
they’re going back to Africa.”

Yitzhak Yosef, one of Israel’s two national chief rabbis, also heaped 
scorn on the Africans in a sermon last month, in which he called 
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/chief-rabbi-compares-african-americans-to-monkeys/> 
Black people “monkeys” and the Hebrew equivalent of the N-word.

His fellow chief rabbi, Yisrael Lau 
<http://mondoweiss.net/2013/07/when-racism-isnt-a-cause-for-shame/>, had 
already used that Hebrew version of the N-world to describe Black 
people, on his very first day in office.


    Vigilante violence

These and many other incidents of anti-African incitement have ramped up 
racism against the refugees. The rage against asylum seekers has grown 
into a political force capable even of pressuring Netanyahu to cancel 
Israel’s international agreements.

But the most frightening effects of increased anti-Black sentiment are 
reserved for the refugees themselves.

Vigilante violence against African refugees has become increasingly 
common in recent years.

In 2012, an Israeli firebombed a daycare 
<https://www.haaretz.com/suspect-arrested-in-south-tel-aviv-arson-attacks-1.5217877> 
for the young children of African refugees, and in 2014, an Israeli man 
was indicted for stabbing an Eritrean baby in the head.

According to prosecutors, the man later stated 
<https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-charge-man-tried-to-kill-black-baby-1.5312347>: 
“I attacked Black terrorists, there was a Black baby, they said that a 
Black baby, Blacks in general, are terrorists.”

The firebomber received only community service 
<https://972mag.com/suspect-in-arson-of-asylum-seeker-homes-reaches-plea-deal-with-no-jail-time/62561/>, 
while the stabber was sent for psychiatric treatment 
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/man-indicted-for-attempt-to-murder-eritrean-toddler/>.

Since that time, in separate incidents, two refugees – Haftom Zarhum 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/haftom-zarhum> from Eritrea and 
Babikir Ali Adham-Uvdo 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/babikir-adham-uvdo> from Sudan – 
were beaten to death in public places by Israeli mobs.

The charges against Adham-Uvdo’s killers were reduced from murder 
<https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2018/3/2/a-reminder-of-how-little-blacklivesmatter-in-israel>.

One of the killers is a minor whose sentence for “intentional injury” to 
Adham-Uvdo is yet to be determined. The adult assailant received a 
maximum jail sentence of 10 years for manslaughter in a plea bargain 
<https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5126007,00.html>, although 
he will probably be released in just a few years.

An Israeli court is currently offering Zarhum’s killers community 
service 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/black-lives-matter-israel-180329061234932.html>.


    Coerced to self-deport

This anti-African incitement, coupled with the news that African 
refugees, including some recently expelled from Israel 
<http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/1/5a548e064/unhcr-appeals-israel-forced-relocations-policy.html>, 
have experienced torture, extortion and detention in Libya, where 
open-air slave markets <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42038451> 
have been documented, is taking a toll not only on adults 
<https://www.facebook.com/refugees4sale/videos/1566556886727283/>, but 
on Israeli youth, as well.

In February, one refugee confessed 
<https://twitter.com/No2Deportation/status/961847599987810305> that a 
group of Israeli schoolchildren had approached him on a public bus and 
asked him, “How much can we sell you for?”

With the Rwanda-Uganda deal shelved in shame, and the UN deal for 
resettlement in the West now derailed by Netanyahu himself, the fate of 
the 40,000 African refugees left in Israel is once again unclear.

In lieu of the UN deal, Netanyahu is now reportedly pressuring coalition 
partners 
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/pm-seeks-to-reopen-holot-plans-new-deportation-bill-bypassing-high-court/> 
to reopen the Holot internment camp 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/holot-internment-camp> that it 
closed down only last month 
<https://972mag.com/israel-closes-holot-the-desert-detention-facility-for-african-asylum-seekers/133831/> 
in anticipation of the planned expulsions.

Starting in December 2013 
<https://electronicintifada.net/content/african-refugees-defy-desert-cold-israeli-internment-march-freedom/13038>, 
Israel rounded up thousands of African men into this detention center, 
in order to pressure them to self-deport.

By Netanyahu’s count, the government was able to coerce more than 20,000 
<https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/1.4426118> to leave Israel in 
this way – a third of the African refugee community.

When the Israeli high court forbade the government from keeping those 
men incarcerated there for more than a year, the latter banned the 
refugees <http://mondoweiss.net/2015/09/declares-southern-africans/> who 
it was compelled to release from moving back to Tel Aviv or Eilat, the 
two Israeli cities with the largest asylum-seeker communities at the 
time 
<https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-freed-migrants-barred-from-tel-aviv-eilat-1.5390429>.

As Israel released Holot’s remaining inmates in March, it informed them 
that the list of cities they were now forbidden from living or working 
in had mushroomed from two to seven 
<https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/1.5870421>, adding to the list 
Petah Tikva, Bnei Brak, Ashdod, Netanya and Jerusalem.

Now Netanyahu’s coalition partners say they may now pass an even harsher 
version 
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/pm-seeks-to-reopen-holot-plans-new-deportation-bill-bypassing-high-court/> 
of the so-called Anti-Infiltration Law which they have used to 
criminalize refugees.

The new bill would build in measures to insulate it from being 
overturned by the high court.

If they follow through on their threat to neuter the court’s powers, 
there would no longer be any legal impediment to jailing the African 
refugees indefinitely in Holot until they agree to self-deport to 
whatever destination Israel coerces them to go to.

/David Sheen is an independent writer and filmmaker. Born in Toronto, 
Canada, Sheen now lives in Dimona. His website is www.davidsheen.com 
<http://www.davidsheen.com> and he can be followed on Twitter: 
@davidsheen <https://twitter.com/davidsheen>./


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