The Israeli cabinet is so riddled with racism and corruption it’s hard to know where to start. After the last election, I detailed some of the more outrageous examples of the genre. Tonight, Immigrant Minister Aryeh Deri gets his star turn thanks to an outrageous interview he gave to Army Radio on the subject of African refugees.
First, a little history: Deri was once the boss of Shas, the political home of Mizrahi Jews. The Party’s spiritual leader was the racist Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. But then Deri was arrested, convicted of bribery and corruption charges, and went to prison.
His seat was kept warm while he was “away” by Eli Yishai. When Deri emerged from prison, there was a nasty battle for control of the Party from which Deri emerged victorious. Yishai formed his own competing Party which never crossed the electoral threshold. That left the field clear for Deri to return as Mizrahi political kingmaker.
Only in Israel (or perhaps third world banana republics) can a convicted felon return to political power even stronger than before. Welcome to DeriWorld.
The context for the interview rant is a legal challenge to Israel’s heinous treatment of its 60,000 African refugees. In order to rid Israel of them, the government has resorted to imprisoning them in desert camps (sounds a lot like Sheriff Joe, doesn’t it?). Those who “voluntarily” agree to be transferred to African countries (in which they’ve never stepped foot nor have any relations to help them), are put on charter planes along with a $1,500 voucher. Once they arrive in Rwanda or Uganda, the countries which have connived with Israel to solve its “refugee problem.,” they are stateless individuals prey to all manner of exploiters. It’s common for the expellees to travel north to Libya in a vain effort to reach Europe. Israeli NGOs have documented that some of the expelled refugees have died at the hands of traffickers in Libya.
Israeli human rights groups sought to put an end to this treatment by appealing to the Supreme Court. The Court laid down a mixed ruling which approved the government’s transfer of refugees back to Africa (despite this being in contravention of international refugee/humanitarian law). But it rejected the government’s right to imprison the refugees beyond 60 days. In other words, Israel may hold refugees in inhumane conditions in order to force them to leave the country “voluntarily.” But the abuse can only last 60 days. How’s that for the Israeli court once-known as the bastion of freedom and democracy??
Bibi Netanyahu, increasingly beset by scandals on every front (his wife is about to be indicted for corruption), is desperate to change the channel and distract the Israeli public from this soap opera. So a politician who never visited Tel Aviv’s poorest neighborhoods during his entire term as prime minister, visited south Tel Aviv’s slums twice in one week. During one of the stops he promised that he would rid the nation of these “undesirables” regardless of what any court decreed. This is the equivalent of throwing red-meat to hungry dogs. It’s like George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door in order to prevent Blacks from integrating Alabama schools. The Israeli, largely Mizrahi underclass ate this up.
It’s in that context that Deri spewed his hate against refugees. If you changed the names of the interviewee and the name of the media outlet this could just as easily have been Goebbels ranting against Jews in 1933. The truth is that journalists have examined the crime records and found that African refugees are actually more law-abiding than the typical Israel. These are poor, vulnerable people desperate to survive. Not dark animals and predators. Only a foul, fetid racist society could harbor such disgusting views of these people.