Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 5:32 AM
The flak Israel is getting for repatriating Africans who entered the country illegally is as unfair as it is uninformed.
Israel has launched a forced repatriation of Eritrean migrants that amounts to a grave violation of their human rights because of the risk of persecution in their reclusive homeland….
(Reuters, July 16, 2013)
Human rights groups are insisting that Israel should grant political asylum to some 60,000 Africans who have crossed its “porous border” with Egypt since 2006. And they are insinuating that Israel’s declared intent to repatriate them is tantamount to it doing to these Africans what Russia did to Jews during its anti-Semitic pogroms throughout much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
But this flak is unfair – not least because any claim of hypocrisy in this context is belied by the fact that Russia persecuted and expelled Jews who were not only legal residents, but native Russians. Whereas, none of the Africans at issue have any legal right to reside in Israel. And far from persecuting them, Israel is repatriating them with $1,500 each to help them resettle in places like South Sudan (i.e., not necessarily back home in Eritrea).
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees deems it a violation of human rights for signatories like Israel to repatriate asylum seekers who claim credible fear of persecution. In this case, the Eritrean migrants allegedly fear punishment back home for deserting their “indefinite” military service.
Again, Israel has been going out of its way to resettle them elsewhere. So, technically, it is not committing any human rights violation.
But if there were any real regard for international conventions, these Eritrean refugees would not have made it all the way across Sudan and Egypt into Israel in the first place. What’s more, no international law can require Israel to grant asylum to an unlimited number of refugees from every police or failed state in Africa.
Just imagine, for example, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans escaping and migrating across China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia into Singapore. Do you think any human rights group would be arguing that Singapore (or any of these other states) is bound by international law to assimilate them? I don’t think so.
Except that the pathology of paternalism towards Africa is such that its people are still regarded as infantile savages who the world must care for; that is, when it’s not intervening to stop them from killing each other.
I submit, however, that a small country like Israel should be not be obligated to care for Africa’s wretched refuse of oppressed masses yearning to breathe free. And can you think of a more damning indictment of life in post-colonial Africa than Eritreans seeking refuge – not in another of its 53 countries, but in Israel…?
Of course, African refugees end up in countries throughout Europe too; notwithstanding that repatriation policies they encounter there make Israel’s seem positively charitable by comparison – as I duly noted in “Think America’s Immigration Plan Is Racist and Unjust? Consider Switzerland’s,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 17, 2007.
Not to mention how favorably Israel’s repatriation of these African refugees compares with the way the United States refused entry to Jewish refugees who were fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939. This, despite America’s vaunted and self-proclaimed status as a perennial beacon to asylum seekers. I see no point in elaborating on the boomerang, and ultimately tragic, transatlantic voyage these Jews took aboard the S.S. St Louis. If you’re unfamiliar with this “Voyage of the Damned,” I urge you to Google it.
This brings me to why the flak Israel is getting is so uninformed. Because any insinuation of racism (or indeed unfair treatment) is belied by “Operation Moses” – Israel’s covert evacuation of African Jews from Sudan for resettlement in Israel to escape famine in 1984; and “Operation Solomon” – its equally covert evacuation of almost 15,000 African Jews from Ethiopia for resettlement in Israel to escape a looming civil war in 1991.
And let’s face it, the Israelis have enough of a challenge trying to prevent Palestinians (with their claim of a sacred “right of return”) from turning Israel into another Arab state, without having to worry about non-Jewish Africans creating demographic problems as well.
But frankly, given their tortured, itinerant history, who can blame these modern-day Israelites for doing everything humanly (and humanely) possible to ensure that nothing (think Iranian nukes) and nobody can threaten their ownership and control of their Promised Land.