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Should Israel Deport African Asylum Seekers? – YES, IT SHOULD

We need to bear witness to the Talmudic dictum, “The poor people living in your own city come first.”

Often these days, Israelis get the feeling that diaspora Jews feel entitled to sit back and call out instructions and demands from the sidelines, like fans at a football game, without having to bear the consequences of their advice. A case in point is the hot debate over the so-called anti-infiltration law, intended to allow Israel to deport African migrants who have been in the country illegally for a decade or more. Groups outside Israel are seeking to defeat the law and, it seems, to embarrass and defame the State of Israel for passing it

The law—which applies to Africans, mostly Sudanese and Eritreans, who crossed illegally into Israel through Egypt between 2006 and 2012—gives a March deadline for them to leave the country or face incarceration. Those who leave sooner receive a $3,500 grant as well as a plane ticket. Those who would risk harm by returning to their home countries will be sent to third countries, reportedly Rwanda or Uganda. To encourage compliance, the law also withholds 20 percent of wages earned by infiltrators, to be disbursed upon their leaving the country.

Although there are almost 40,000 such illegal migrants in Israel, the law targets only males over 18. It does not apply to women, children, parents of small children, the elderly or even men who applied for asylum by January 1.

The interference of outsiders into this internal Israeli problem is even more egregious given the sincere heartache of Israelis themselves over this far-from-simple issue. Israeli doctors, pilots and high-profile businessmen have joined a chorus of infuriated protestors against the law. Thirty-six Holocaust survivors signed a protest letter to the prime minister.

Given the collective memory of Israelis of forced wandering, fear of death from enemies and painful denial of shelter, this is perhaps no wonder. But the truth is that most Israelis, myself included, overwhelmingly support this law. A recent Israel Today survey found 58 percent of Israelis in favor and only 23 percent against.

To understand why, one must look at the sorry unfolding of this tragic story. Ten years ago, Israel opened its doors to Africans braving the long trek through the Sinai Desert who were shot in cold blood by Egyptian soldiers and more often than not raped or murdered by their Bedouin smugglers. For this act of compassion, Israel found itself flooded by more than 61,000 Africans, almost all of whom took up residence in poor areas of South Tel Aviv. A 2015 police survey of residents in this area showed that 62 percent were afraid to go out after dark and 40 percent didn’t feel safe in their homes. It’s not paranoia or racism. According to police statistics quoted in a 2014 report from Israel’s Center for Immigration Policy, sexual offenses and violent crimes in neighborhoods with a large percentage of migrants were more than double and triple the rates of such crimes in the general population. Robberies were six times more frequent.

After a decade of begging the government for help to no avail, thousands of longtime residents of these parts of Tel Aviv have simply fled. Journalist Gilad Zwick quotes one of them who refused to give her name: “Illegal immigrants have completely taken over public areas, shout obscenities at us on a daily basis, make sexual comments to my daughter, or…disrespect our Jewish traditions.” In March 2017, a 29-year-old Eritrean was charged with the attempted rape of an 80-year-old woman. Only a few days later, a 40-year-old woman was brutally raped in the same area. Less acknowledged, but equally worrisome, is the fact that these African migrants are overwhelmingly Muslim and Christian, creating a demographic time bomb as well as a security risk if they stay.

So far, the problem has cost Israelis hundreds of millions of dollars. A 153-mile border fence in the Sinai, constructed to combat smuggling and other problems, cost $370 million and has spectacularly brought infiltration down to zero. But the cost of caring for the 40,000 illegals remaining in Israel after a push to have them leave voluntarily is ongoing.

In South Tel Aviv, children of illegals now outnumber Israelis in local schools and accounted for 94 percent of children treated at one local clinic. Haim Goren, a member of Tel Aviv’s city council, has said that last year’s city budget included more than $30 million earmarked for illegals, much of it at the expense of local residents, whose request for a building for teens at risk was turned down: “There was simply not enough room.”

The claim that Israel’s policy is at odds with Jewish values is now being made by a long list of leftist-leaning Jewish organizations whose policies, morals and compassion seem, oddly yet characteristically, to exclude concern for Israelis themselves. Many of the same groups supported past policies that were disastrous for Israelis, whether advocating for the Oslo Accords that almost got my entire family blown up in the Park Hotel or championing the Israeli disengagement from Gaza that resulted in Hamas rocket launchers replacing Israeli lettuce hothouses.

As for morality, Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau, son of survivors, had this to say: “The State of Israel is obliged to help refugees,” he told Yediot Aharonot. “But let’s distinguish between refugees and work-seeking migrants. And let’s not distort or deny the Holocaust. We need to bear witness to the Talmudic dictum which teaches us that ‘The poor people living in your own city come first.’”

This article was first published in Moment Magazine

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7 comments on “Should Israel Deport African Asylum Seekers? – YES, IT SHOULD”

  1. Eva

    I’m all with you Naomi. It all sounds very familiar to me as I’m originally from Sweden. I’m afraid it will never be the same again with the invasion of people, some who are never going to integrate (read Muslims), who have nothing but contempt for the Swedes but enjoy the Swedish welfare. No go zones, crime, murder, (gang) rapes.
    A naive government: “open your hearts”. I don’t live there any more but feel pessimistic for the country’s future.

  2. Diana Hirsch

    Being kind to the cruel means being cruel to the kind.

  3. soli

    corrected:
    Dear Mrs. Ragen,
    While I was a strong supporter of your writing in past years, your recent hardening of your line has pushed me and many other centrists away from your sensibilities. I hope that you can hear my arguments in the same spirit that you expect others to hear yours.
    About the African refugees;
    Your article follows many positions that are unsubstantiated, at best; false arguments or ones made in error, referring to bad situations that are caused by failure of the state to use proper incentives and good urban planning. There are 2,500 African Refuges in Jerusalem, and they are peaceful. Why can’t ALL OTHER refugees be distributed throughout the country, the way Olim from other countries have been relocated in past decades?
    WE complain about the Palestinians that they refuse to resolve their ‘refugees problem’ so that they can use it to pressure Israel, but we do same…
    About your arguments – I’ll remind you that only a century ago same arguments were used in Europe by Anti-Semites who argued that smelly disgusting Jews were endangering the safety of their families. Same arguments were used against African Americans before they were lynched, usually because made up allegations about their threat to church going white women. And when Americans felt that Mexicans are threatening their jobs, they tried to find anything to delegitimize them, and they found Marijuana to separate them and they made it illegal to target them. In essence – when a group in society wants to expel another – they’ll find any myth to make it sound real.
    The point is that when mistakes are made by the state, (not protecting its borders, or turning a blind eye to illegal residents building a life in the bowls of its cities) it cannot come ten years later and undo it by expelling a whole group indiscriminately. (In America they want to expel 12M people under similar logic).
    Mrs. Ragen, you fail to mention that only a small fraction of percent of asylum status was given to these refugees, many of whom are in real danger in their countries.
    I have no problem with giving people incentives to relocate. In Capitalist society it is common to pay people to do what you want. And if the cost of society to them is that high, maybe we should offer them ten times more. And if they choose to leave, it’s fine with me. But punishing a whole group that was tolerated for a decade, and whose deteriorating status is because the state had failed to create a program for them, is flawed logic.
    Basically the issue is not only their social economics, since there are many more poor citizens in bad neighborhoods who settle for petty crime or ugly behavior. But they are tolerated because they are Jewish. These foreigner’s main crime is their being non-Jews.
    Mrs. Ragen, you pay lip service to Israel’s sensitivity for the underdog. The truth is that our Torah mentions the Ger, the stranger, hundreds of times, it being one of the main lessons we must learn. We are heading into Passover where the reminders that we were strangers in Egypt is one of the centerpieces of the Haggadah.
    דווקא בגלל היותנו גרים במצרים עלינו לכבד ולאהוב את הגר- וַאֲהַבְתֶּם, אֶת-הַגֵּר: כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
    We must apply it to these African refugees, those who are not criminals at least, locate them in small groups throughout the country and use our urban thinking, social services and educational system to strengthen them as citizens. If we do so, there will be no excuses for their misbehavior.
    Lastly I feel offended by your distinction between Israeli citizens and diaspora Jews.
    The law of return doesn’t distinguish between Israeli and Non Israeli Jews. Yes – Only Israeli vote for the Kneset, but yours is a moral call and not a legislative motion in the parliament. Israel feels and felt over the years comfortable enough to ask Diaspora Jews to help build the country, risk their comfort and interfere politically, and take money dedicated for their use and pay for services in Israel. As one who served in the IDF, I allow every Jew to voice their opinion about this and any other issue that effects the Jewish state. Any other position is hypocritical.
    Israel is a strong enough country to accept a group that is less than 0.5% of its population and help it to integrate. Diversity strengthen us.
    But the last thought came to me about the African refugees in Israel when I heard that they use Jewish children’s blood to bake their pitas. This is really too much. In the protocols of “The African Elders” it is clearly said that it is their practice…. Sad that we got to this point. Especially before Passover. Just as you’d like others to lighten up and listen to you, it’ll be nice to have you consider your position and admit a mistake.

  4. soli

    Sorry for the many typos in my previous reply. Done on the road from my phone.
    But the last thought came to me about the African refugees in Israel when I heard that they use Jewish children’s blood to bake their pitas. This is really too much. In the protocols of the African Elders it is clearly said that it is their practice…. Sad that we got to this point. Especially before Passover. It’ll be nice to have Mrs. Ragen defend these allegations

  5. NAOMI ROMM

    Naomi. I am totally in agreement with you. What our detractors tend to forget is that for every true refugee and asylum seeker there are at least 10 illegals whose only aim is to live off the Israeli government no matter what the cost. These are the same people, mostly men, who care little or nothing for human life and whose only interest is intimidating and potentially causing grievous harm to our female population.

  6. Soli Yisrael Foger

    This article follows many other positions that are unsubstantiated. At best, mrs. Ragen uses false arguments or ones made in error, referring to bad situations that are caused by failure of the state to use proper incentives and good urban planing. But I’d remind Mrs. Ragen that only a century ago same arguments were used I. Europe by Antisemites who argued that smelly disgusting Jews were endangering the safety of their. Same arguments were used against African Americans before they were lynched, usually because made up allegations about their threat to church going white women.
    The point is that when mistakes are made by the state, (not protecting its borders, or turning a blind eye to illegal residents building a life in the bowls of its cities, it cannot come ten years later and undo it by expelling a whole group indiscriminately.
    Mrs. Ragen fails to mention that only a small fraction of percent of asylum status was given to these refugees, many of whom are frilly in danger in their countries.
    I have no problem with giving people incentives to relocate. And if they chose to do so, it’s fine with me. But punishing a whole group hat was tolerated for a decade, and whose deteriorating status is because the state had failed to create a program
    For them, is flawed logic.
    Basically the issue is not their problematic social economics, since theee are many more poor citizens in bad neighborhoods who settled for petty crime or ugly behavior. But they are usually tolerated because they are Jewish. These foreigner’s main crime is their being non Jews.
    Mrs. Ragen pays lip service to Israel’s sensitivity to the underdog. The truth is hat our Torah mentions the Ger, the stranger, hundreds of times, it being one of the main lessons we must learn. We are heading into Passover where the reminders that were were strangers in Egypt is one of the centerpieces of the Haggadah.
    We must apply it to these African refugees, those who are not criminals at least, locate hem in small groups throughout the country and use our urban thinking, social services and educational system to strengthen them as citizens. If we do so, there will be no excuses for their misbehavior.
    Lastly I feel offended by Mrs. Ragen’s distinction between Israeli citizens and diaspora Jews.
    The law of return doesn’t distinguish between Israeli and Non Israeli Jews. And Israel feels comfortable enough to ask Diaspora Jews to help build he country, interfere politically and pay for its services. As one who served in the IDF, I allow every Jew to. Luce their opinion about his and any other issue that effects the Jewish state. K
    Any other position is hypocritical.
    Israel is a strong enough country to accept less than 0.5% and help it to integrate.

  7. dianne varon

    This is why Netanyahu and Trump get along so well. You have to take of your own people first and then help the others. BUT if they don’t step up to the plate and do their part they must leave. They cannot stay and be on welfare. We all have to pay our dues.

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