The current furor in Israel about the “epidemic” of African refugees “flooding” the country is unfortunately not new. Nor is the plan by the Netanyahu government to throw them into concentration camps or expel them. In 1969, Black Israelites began to arrive in Israel from the U.S. They claimed to be Jewish, but Israel’s rabbinical establishment rejected their claims. This meant they could not become citizens.
Finally, the Golda Meir government in 1971 began the process of expelling them. Over the years hundreds have been. Though there is now an uneasy truce, with 5,000 currently living in Israel. So Bibi learned this trick of turning a cold shoulder to Black refugees from a beloved leader of Israel’s Labor Party. So much for Labor’s liberal Zionism.
Thanks to David Sheen, one of Israel’s foremost activists on behalf of the African refugee community. He’s dug up this racist letter written to Golda Meir, after she’d expelled some of them. There are more examples here.
Though the circumstances then were different than now, when there are 60,000 African refugees in Israel, these sentiments Golda preserved, even at that early period, are reflected precisely in current racist Israeli attitudes. MKs rabble-rouse, calling Africans a cancer among the Israeli nation. Not far at all from this calling them a “5th column.”
The American Jew who wrote this letter to the Israeli prime minister was little better than the Likud when it came to issues like these that threatened Israeli Jewish hegemony. In fact, the racism reflected in this letter would be little different in tone or substance than the views of Meir Kahane.
On a related note, I reported here that Bibi Netanyahu, as late as 1989, demanded the expulsion of Israeli Palestinians for many of the same reasons Golda’s American Jewish interlocutors saw Blacks as “polluting Israel” and “bad” for it.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.