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    <h1 class="page__title title balance-text" id="page-title">Israeli
      leaders delight in Europe’s cruelty toward refugees</h1>
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      <p class="node__submitted">
        <span class="field field-author"><a
            href="https://electronicintifada.net/people/rania-khalek"
            typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel"
            datatype="">Rania Khalek</a></span> 
        <span class="field field-publication-date"><span
            class="date-display-single" property="dc:date"
            datatype="xsd:dateTime" content="2015-09-18T09:31:46+00:00">18
            September 2015<br>
            <b><small><small><small><a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israeli-leaders-delight-europes-cruelty-toward-refugees">https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israeli-leaders-delight-europes-cruelty-toward-refugees</a></small></small></small></b><br>
          </span></span> </p>
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    <p>As most of the world looks on in horror at Europe’s atrocious
      response to refugees escaping war and persecution in the Middle
      East and Africa, some Israeli officials are quietly reveling in
      the chaos.</p>
    <p><a href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/dore-gold">Dore Gold</a>,
      director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, expressed
      optimism that the refugee influx will shift Europe to the right,
      making it more sympathetic to Israel’s “security” justification
      for its ongoing colonization of Palestine.</p>
    <p>“Israel always faced the problem in the past that its national
      security perspective was completely out of sync with how Europeans
      were viewing the emergence of the European community and the
      borderless world that was emerging,” the American-born hardliner <a
href="http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Seeing-eye-to-eye-416085">told</a>
      <em>The Jerusalem Post</em>. </p>
    <p>“In the European models that existed 25 or 30 years ago, it is
      kind of difficult to hear an Israeli argument. But now things may
      be beginning to change a little,” posited Gold.</p>
    <p>“The European perspective is beginning to sound a little bit more
      like Israel’s perspective on security issues, compared to what it
      was in the past.” </p>
    <h2>Echoes of the Holocaust</h2>
    <p>Images of refugees being corralled in trains, tracked with <a
href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/world/europe/czech-republic-criticized-after-officers-mark-migrants-with-numbers.html?ref=topics&_r=0">numbers
        on their forearms</a>, locked away and <a
href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/hungary/11857695/Video-shows-refugees-fed-like-animals-in-pen-in-Hungary-camp.html">fed
        like zoo animals</a> in <a
href="http://http://abcnews.go.com/International/inside-abysmal-refugee-detention-camps-hungary/story?id=33685148">overcrowded
        camps</a> and blocked with <a
        href="https://www.rt.com/news/315589-razor-wire-hungary-germany/">razor
        wire</a> fences from entering Hungary have recalled memories of
      Europe’s darkest chapter.</p>
    <p>All the while, refugees continue to die en masse on perilous
      journeys to Europe, sometimes <a
href="http://news.yahoo.com/migrant-tragedy-off-greece-athens-dismisses-criticism-131745580.html">drowning</a>
      on rickety boats by sea and other times <a
href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/refugees-suffocate-dead-truck-austria_55defe14e4b08dc094867ca8a">suffocating</a> in
      trucks on the side of highways. </p>
    <p>Frequently overlooked is the fact that these deaths are a direct
      consequence of European border policies <a
href="https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/europes-border-policy-designed-push-refugees-sea">designed</a>
      to make migration as unsafe as possible.  </p>
    <p>The only thing less acknowledged is the root catalyst. </p>
    <p>Rapacious policies advanced by wealthy nations in the
      increasingly gated Global North have destabilized and fueled the
      very unrest that has produced the worst refugee crisis <a
        href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-33178035">since the Second
        World War</a>.  </p>
    <p>It’s no coincidence that many of the refugees at Europe’s
      doorstep are fleeing unrest in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan
      — all countries the US and its allies have directly and indirectly
      pillaged and destabilized. </p>
    <h2>Keeping Europe Christian</h2>
    <p>While there is plenty of blame to go around for the current
      crisis, Hungary’s actions — coupled with the jingoistic rhetoric
      of its right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban — have provoked the
      most widespread revulsion. </p>
    <p>Muslim refugees must be kept out of Europe “to keep Europe
      Christian,” <a
href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/09/03/muslims-threaten-europes-christian-identity-hungarys-leader-says/">said</a>
      Orban in an opinion piece urging Germans not to welcome Muslim
      refugees. </p>
    <p>“We shouldn’t forget that the people who are coming here grew up
      in a different religion and represent a completely different
      culture,” he insisted. “Most are not Christian, but Muslim. … That
      is an important question, because Europe and European culture have
      Christian roots.”</p>
    <p>A statement from Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s high
      commissioner for human rights, attributed Hungary’s “<a
href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/17/us-europe-migrants-hungary-zeid-idUSKCN0RH1WS20150917">callous</a>”
      and “illegal” treatment of refugees to “the xenophobic and
      anti-Muslim views that appear to lie at the heart of current
      Hungarian government policy.” </p>
    <p>As it turns out, Orban’s ruling party, Fidesz, is
      smitten with Israel, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin
      Netanyahu’s Likud party. During a visit to Israel in 2005, Orban
      reportedly declared, “<a
href="http://hungarianfreepress.com/2015/08/22/ideas-from-israel-a-look-at-finkelstein-and-birthright-hungary/">Likud
        is our natural ideological partner</a>.”</p>
    <p>He has since adopted several Israeli practices. </p>
    <p>Inspired by <a
        href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/birthright-israel">Birthright</a>,
      a program that sends young American Jews on free trips to Israel
      in hopes they will immigrate, Orban launched a <a
        href="http://reconnecthungary.org">Hungarian Birthright program</a>
      for North Americans of Hungarian descent. </p>
    <p>Orban also tapped Netanyahu’s former political advisor, Arthur
      Finkelstein, to help him consolidate power. </p>
    <p>Finkelstein is a <a
href="http://www.haaretz.com/news/israeli-elections-2013/israeli-elections-news-features/understanding-the-enigma-of-arthur-finkelstein-unseen-power-broker.premium-1.483807">mud-slinging
        Republican strategist</a> from the United States who has advised
      countless rightwing candidates both domestically and abroad.
      They include the failed presidential candidate <a
href="http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/04/11/a-tribute-to-arthur-j-finkelstein-strategist-for-u-s-conservatives-and-israeli-prime-ministers/">Mitt
        Romney and more recently Avigdor Lieberman</a>, leader of
      Israel’s proto-fascist party <a
        href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/yisrael-beiteinu">Yisreal
        Beiteinu</a> (Israel Our Home). </p>
    <p>In recent years Fidesz has deepened ties with the far right and
      openly anti-Semitic <a
href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/ruling-hungarian-fidesz-party-adopts-policies-of-far-right-jobbik-party-a-880590.html">Jobbik
        party</a>.</p>
    <p>Hungary is joined by <a
href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/10/the-stunning-hypocrisy-of-mitteleuropa-refugees-poland-hungary-czech-republic/">Slovakia,
        Poland and the Czech Republic</a> in refusing to take
      non-Christian refugees. </p>
    <p>Leaders in Poland are said to be appealing to widespread
      anti-Muslim sentiment among the populace as election season
      approaches. </p>
    <p>More than half of those polled earlier this month agreed that
      allowing Arabs and Turks into Poland would be “<a
href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/10/opinion/poland-shouldnt-shut-out-refugees.html">detrimental</a>”
      to the country. Some people have even suggested reopening
      Auschwitz and sending the refugees there, prompting an
      investigation by Poland’s prosecutor general.</p>
    <p>In Warsaw last weekend, thousands of right-wing protesters took
      to the streets, chanting, “<a
href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugees-crisis-pro-and-antirefugee-protests-take-place-in-poland--in-pictures-10499352.html">Today
        refugees, tomorrow terrorists!</a>“ and “Poland, free of Islam!”</p>
    <p>To make their point, the rightwing demonstrators used a cartoon
      originally crafted by pro-Israel propogandists to portray Israeli
      soldiers as morally superior to Palestinians, who are shown using
      civilians as human shields. In reality it is <a
href="https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israeli-army-uses-gaza-children-human-shields">Israel
        that uses Palestinians</a>, including children, as human
      shields.</p>
    <div id="file-31896" class="file file-document file-text-oembed
      oembed-rich oembed-default oembed-twitter">
      <div class="oembed-content">
        <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" width="550">
          <p dir="ltr" xml:lang="en" lang="en">Rightwing protesters in
            Poland used anti-Palestinian Israeli propaganda cartoon to
            agitate against Muslim refugees <a
              href="http://t.co/kK2lZoFwLU">pic.twitter.com/kK2lZoFwLU</a></p>
          — Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) <a
            href="https://twitter.com/RaniaKhalek/status/643641616620744704">September
            15, 2015</a></blockquote>
      </div>
    </div>
    <p>Back in Israel, fans of the Maccabi Tel Aviv football team
      unfurled a giant banner that read, “<a
        href="http://www.haaretz.com/life/sports/.premium-1.675775">Refugees
        not welcome!</a>” </p>
    <h2>Keeping Israel Jewish</h2>
    <p>As Hungary was making headlines for its racist pledge to build an
      anti-refugee fence, Netanyahu announced the construction of a wall
      along the Jordanian border to block a potential influx of Syrian
      refugees. Once the barrier is completed by the end of 2015, Israel
      will be <a
href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/09/daily-chart-10?fsrc=scn/fb/te/bl/ed/moreneighboursmakemorefences">entirely walled
        off</a>. </p>
    <p>Israeli officials claim they are helping Syrians by providing
      them with medical treatment instead of asylum. But this has only
      involved around 1,500 people, most of them fighters <a
href="https://electronicintifada.net/content/why-has-israel-embraced-al-qaidas-branch-syria/14619">linked
        to al-Qaida’s affiliate</a> in Syria. In any case, patching up
      the wounded, fighter or not, and then sending them back into a war
      zone, as Israel has done, does not qualify as asylum. </p>
    <p>Of the five states that border Syria, Israel is the only one that
      has <a
href="http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-migrants-scorecard-20150908-story.html">not
        taken in any Syrian refugees</a> for reasons identical to
      Hungary’s. </p>
    <p>“Israel is a very small country. It has no demographic depth and
      has no geographic breadth,” Netanyahu has <a
href="http://www.timesofisrael.com/pm-israel-not-indifferent-but-too-small-to-take-in-refugees/">told</a>
      his cabinet. “We must protect our borders against illegal
      immigrants and against the perpetrators of terrorism. We cannot
      allow Israel to be flooded with infiltrators.” </p>
    <p>“Demographic depth” refers to Israel’s ideological imperative to
      maintain its Jewish majority, which was engineered by the
      premeditated mass expulsion of more than 750,000 indigenous
      Palestinians by Zionist militias in 1948. In turn, Israel barred
      Palestinian refugees from returning and labeled those who tried to
      come back as “infiltrators.”</p>
    <p>That is why millions of Palestinians continue to languish in
      squalid refugee camps scattered across the Middle East nearly
      seventy years later, making it the longest running refugee crisis
      in modern history.  </p>
    <p>As “proud Zionist” Noah Arbit <a
        href="http://http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/To-honor-thy-neighbor-416333">argued</a>
      in <em>The Jerusalem Post,</em> “absorbing any amount of Syrian
      refugees will only increase this demographic threat.”</p>
    <p>Israel’s refusal to grant asylum to non-Jewish <a
        href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/african-refugees-israel">African
        refugees</a> is rooted in the same exclusivist logic.</p>
    <p>Openly referred to as “<a
href="http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/netanyahu-israel-could-be-overrun-by-african-infiltrators-1.431589">infiltrators</a>”
      by Israeli government officials, African refugees have, like
      Palestinians, been labeled a threat because they are not Jewish.</p>
    <p>Israel not only <a
href="http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=8042">denies them
        asylum</a>, it <a
href="http://http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/12/us-israel-africans-idUSBRE85B0IY20120612">imprisons
        and deports</a> them back to the horrors they escaped, where
      some have since been <a
href="http://972mag.com/exclusive-israel-deports-most-asylum-seekers-to-home-countries-where-they-face-death-or-prison/110614/">tortured
        and even killed</a>.</p>
    <p>In 2013, Israel completed construction of a wall along its border
      with Egypt to block African refugees from entering the country.
      Hungary and Bulgaria have reportedly <a
href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/03/us-europe-migrants-israel-fences-idUSKCN0R31GE20150903">expressed
        interest</a> in buying Israeli equipment for their own borders. </p>
    <p>Slamming Netanyahu’s embarrassingly open indifference, Isaac
      Herzog, leader of the opposition Zionist Union, <a
        href="http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.674717">wrote</a>
      on his Facebook page, “You’ve forgotten what it means to be Jews.
      Refugees. Persecuted. The prime minister of the Jewish people does
      not close his heart and the gate when people are fleeing for their
      lives from persecution, with their babies in their hands.” </p>
    <p>It is difficult to take Herzog seriously given his party’s
      indifference towards Israel’s cruel treatment of African refugees,
      not to mention its refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to
      return, a policy Herzog’s Labor (part of the Zionist
      Union) instituted. </p>
    <p><a href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/zeev-elkin">Zeev
        Elkin</a>, Israel’s immigration minister, slammed Herzog’s
      appeal as an “<a
href="http://http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Netanyahu-Israel-not-indifferent-but-cant-absorb-Syrian-or-African-refugees-415374">attempt
        to bring</a> the [Palestinian] ‘right of return’ through the
      back door. That is not responsible, and it is forbidden that it
      should happen.”</p>
    <p>In the case of Palestinian refugees, the Israeli response is
      arguably more absurd. Israel is not denying Palestinian refugees
      asylum but rather their <a
        href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/right-return">right to
        return</a> to land they were violently expelled from.</p>
    <p>It’s hard to imagine anyone arguing against the right of Syrians
      to return to Syria should they choose to do so when the country is
      no longer engulfed in war. Yet the idea that Palestinians should
      have the right to return to their homeland is considered by many
      to be preposterous, even anti-Semitic.</p>
    <p>Meanwhile, under Israel’s discriminatory Law of Return, the
      purpose of which is to boost the Jewish majority, a Jew from
      anywhere in the world with no connection to land can immigrate to
      Israel. </p>
    <p>In June, Elkin beseeched French Jews to “<a
href="http://www.timesofisrael.com/come-home-israeli-minister-urges-french-jews-amid-terror-wave/">come
        home</a>,” insisting “Anti-Semitism is growing, terrorism is
      running rampant, and according to reports, ISIS is committing
      murder in broad daylight.”</p>
    <p>“We are prepared to open our arms to the Jews of France,” he
      said, adding, “This is a national mission of the highest
      priority.” </p>
    <p>A month later, Elkin <a
href="http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/326071/minister-of-absorption-zeev-elkin-to-greet-nefesh-bnefesh-arrivals.html">greeted
        221 new Jewish immigrants</a> who left comfortable lives in the
      United States and Canada to settle in historic Palestine. A total
      of 4,000 North American Jews are expected in Israel by the end of
      2015.</p>
    <p>The similarities between European far right and Israeli
      government policies were best distilled by <a
        href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/arnon-soffer">Arnon
        Soffer</a>, an Israeli demographer nicknamed <a
href="http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/The-European-refugee-crisis-will-not-end-well-says-Israeli-professor-415503">the
        Arab counter</a> due to his compulsive fixation on the
      “demographic threat” posed by Palestinian babies.</p>
    <h2>Bizarre paradox</h2>
    <p>Rejecting calls to accept Syrian refugees, Soffer explained, “We
      are a very small country … please leave me some space for
      additional Jews to come.”</p>
    <p>He went on to relate Israel’s anti-refugee imperative with
      Europe’s. </p>
    <p>“Europe potentially can open its doors and accept more and more
      refugees, but if Europe says no, I can understand because they are
      afraid [of] the Muslims,” said Soffer. “This is a clash of
      civilizations and it will not happen in Africa or Asia. It will
      happen in France, Hungary and will eventually reach England and
      Germany.” </p>
    <p>Orban and Netanyahu share a clear affinity for jingoistic saber
      rattling against Muslims, but the same cannot be said for the
      response their behavior elicits.</p>
    <p>While Orban has been <a
href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/12/us-europe-migrants-idUSKCN0RC0GL20150912">likened
        to a Nazi</a>, Israeli leaders have been granted special
      immunity from abiding by the most basic standards of equality, not
      in spite of the Holocaust but rather because of it. The US State
      Department has gone so far as to <a
        href="http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/fs/2010/122352.htm">classify</a> as
      a form of anti-Semitism “comparisons of contemporary Israeli
      policy to that of the Nazis.”</p>
    <p>This has created a bizarre paradox where the Holocaust is invoked
      to demand inclusiveness and sympathy for refugees in Europe,
      while being simultaneously deployed to excuse racist Israeli
      practices. Indeed, Israel’s existence as an exclusionary settler
      state is deceptively justified as a necessary response to the
      world’s indifference to the Nazi genocide of European Jews.</p>
    <p>Consequently, language that is being condemned when spoken by
      European leaders is routinely excused when uttered in reference to
      Israel and Palestine. When the subject matter is Palestinian
      refugees, liberal rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic becomes
      indistinguishable from sentiments typically relegated to the far
      right. </p>
    <p>Warning about the threat posed by “higher Palestinian population
      growth and <a
href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-israel-remain-a-democracy/2015/03/20/49d766a8-cf06-11e4-a2a7-9517a3a70506_story.html">fertility
        rates</a>,” as <em>Washington Post</em> columnist Dana Milbank
      did in February, is perfectly acceptable mainstream discourse.</p>
    <p>The same goes for describing Palestinian refugees as a “<a
href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/01/world/middleeast/netanyahu-lashes-out-at-criticism-of-israel.html">demographic
        death warrant</a>,” as <em>New York Times</em> Jerusalem bureau
      chief Jodi Rudoren did this past summer. </p>
    <p>Hungary’s Orban would certainly approve. <br>
    </p>
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