As the Israeli Knesset passes legislation which will permit the forced expulsion of nearly 60,000 African refugees who fled torture and violence in their homelands, various segments of Israeli society have mobilized to oppose this horrible phenomenon, which is a violation of international humanitarian law. Rabbis, including Sarah Silverman’s sister, have vowed to offer refugees “Anne Frank sanctuary” in Israeli homes. A group of 400 academics issued this call for mercy and adherence to Jewish laws commanding that we comfort the afflicted and remember we ourselves were once slaves in the land of Egypt.
It’s worth noting that none of these statements, as laudable as they are, mention another critical historical example of Israel expelling refugees: the Nakba. That is truly a shame and indicates a certain moral blindness even among Israel’s liberal intelligentsia.
Here is their statement (my translation):
We, academic faculty of Israeli universities and colleges, call upon the Prime Minister, the President and the Members of the Knesset to take a courageous moral stand on the issue of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea. We urge you to reverse the government’s decision to arrest and forcibly expel asylum seekers who are in Israel.
We must remember that we were persecuted, refugees and illegal aliens. We must warmly welcome the asylum seekers who fled their homeland and their homes to save their souls and the lives of their relatives. The history of our people obligates the State of Israel to serve as a model for children and adults seeking refuge from ethnic cleansing, persecution and political violence, human trafficking, rape and torture. The State of Israel is large and strong enough to provide housing and temporary shelter for tens of thousands of East African asylum seekers until they can return home freely and safely.
- We must deliberate on all requests for asylum submitted to the authorities with fairness and compassion.
- We must not forcibly expel asylum seekers from East Africa to Rwanda or any other country.
- We must immediately cease the policy of detaining/incarcerating of asylum seekers.
- We must immediately stop the separate taxation policy and the economic penalty targeting the income of asylum seekers.
- It is our duty to grant asylum seekers their rights as is expected of a people well-experienced in such suffering, in accordance with international law. In other words, we must ensure that asylum seekers have access to housing, food, health and mental health services, kindergartens, schools and day-care centers, to obtain education and freedom to earn a living.
- We must stop calling the refugees “infiltrators.” Asylum seekers are human beings uprooted from their homelands by force and under tragic conditions.
The choice is ours whether to provide them with the temporary shelter they need or expel and to endanger them with ethnic cleansing, persecution, political violence, human trafficking, rape, and torture., Terms like “infiltrator,” by one name or another, will not clean our conscience. ”
Prime Minister, Mr. President, Members of Knesset: what will we tell our children and grandchildren when they ask us–“what have you done on behalf of the asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea? How did you protect them? Did you do the right thing? What was their fate?”
Do the right thing. Do what the world should have done on our behalf [during the Holocaust].
Israeli writers also published their own statement. I thought the English translation was a bit rough, so I’m not featuring it here. I requested a Hebrew original so I could re-edit the translation, but have not yet received one. You can read the English translation here.