Is Israeli Treatment of Africans They are Seeking to Deport “Racism, Pure and Simple?”
Note from Rabbi Michael Lerner: I usually agree with Uri Avnery, but in this case (read his article below), I don’t agree that the (in my mind immoral and disgusting) treatment of African refugees reducible to “racism, pure and simple” as he says in this article below in which he correctly points out the shame that this activity is bringing to “the Jewish state.” In my view, every country in the world uses oppressive and sometimes violent means to keep out those whom it does not want, and those wants are almost always based on both capitalist economic rationales (“there is not enough to go around, so don’t let others share it”) and racist feelings toward others (“they don’t deserve what we deserve because they are less valuable or less truly human that we are”). The problem, in my view, is based on the whole notion of ownership of the earth and of its products that is challenged by Torah ethics (where God says unequivocally that “the whole earth is Mine” and human beings are “wayfarers” on the earth without any right to possess it except to tend it, protect it, and share its produce with everyone).
Unfortunately, private ownership, the right to control the land and its inhabitants, is so deeply enshrined in the empire-ideologies that originated long before capitalism but has now reached new heights of penetration into our consciousness through media and education that even those who suffer most in this system of domination nevertheless have internalized its values so deeply that they believe in private property in ideas, land, and products and therefore can easily be manipulated into believing that “their” country will be “taken over” by undeserving others unless they rigorously enforce their borders.
We at Tikkun, on the other hand, do not believe in the value, much less necessity, of borders. Once our strategy for a Global Marshall Pan (www.tikkun.org/GMP) has been adopted and implemented by the advanced industrial countries of the world, so that poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care have been eliminated, tens of millions of people who cross the borders of countries looking for economic security for their families will no longer have to do that, and so the pressure on immigration will dramatically decrease. But it may be that the only way to get that Network of Spiritual Progressives version of a Global Marshall Plan (GMP) instituted is to fight for an end to borders now, because without borders and their enforcers, people will come in their tens of millions to the richest countries of the world unless they do in fact implement the GMP.
Understanding this relationship between “illegal” immigration and capitalist economics is crucial. The racism that is used to justify keeping out the stranger from “our” land is a product of a deeper mistaken intuition that there is not enough to go around, and that therefore in “the real world” some people must have more than others and that that is somehow “fair” or “just.” But this is an illusion created by the system of unequal power and wealth (what today is popularly known as “the one percent”) to justify their unfair appropriation of the wealth and power in the societies that they control. Truth is that we could organize a very different way of distributing wealth and power that would in practice demonstrate to most people on the planet that there is in fact enough for everyone, and that we can live in a society that provides enough for all.
Needless to say, anyone attempting to put this kind of a message into the public sphere is perceived as an enemy and then treated with disdain, fear, and ridicule. Their message is almost never broadcast on the public airwaves or in any other branch of media. No wonder then that most people think these ideas are “unrealistic” and will tell you, based on their media-driven perception of “what everyone else REALLY wants,” that people are naturally selfish and self-seeking, that they will never agree to share what they have with others, that therefore the GMP will never happen, so we need borders and police and internal-security (homeland security) police to enforce our borders. And that is how it turns out that even after President Obama allows children of illegal immigrants to stay in the US, another eleven million are still being hunted by the various police agencies, and why Africans in Israel are being treated like hunted animals.
It’s time to change all that, and the first step is to articulate the kind of different worldview that we put forward in Tikkun and we fight for in the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP). Please join the NSP if you haven’t done so yet!!! You can do so at www.spiritualprogressives.org You don’t have to believe in God or be religious to be a spiritual progressive–you only have to support our fight for a new bottom line of love, kindness, generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity and awe/wonder/radical-amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe.
–Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun www.tikkun.org and chair, The Network of Spiritual Progressive
June 16, 2012
Manhunt: Israeli Racism Against Africans
“WE SHALL not be a normal people, until we have Jewish whores and Jewish thieves in the Land of Israel,” our national poet, Haim Nahman Bialik, said some 80 years ago.
This dream has come true. We have Jewish murderers, Jewish robbers and Jewish whores (though most prostitutes in Israel are imported by international slave traders from Eastern Europe through the Sinai border).
But Bialik was too unambitious. He should have added: We shall not become a normal people until we have Jewish Neo-Nazis and Jewish concentration camps.
THE CENTRAL news item nowadays in all our electronic and print media is the terrible danger of “illegal” African migrants.
African refugees and job seekers are drawn to Israel for several reasons, none of which is an ardent belief in Zionism.
The first is geographical. Israel is the only country with a European
standard of living that can be reached from Africa without crossing a sea. Africans can easily reach Egypt, and then they have only to cross the Sinai desert to get to the Israeli border.
The desert is the home of Bedouin tribes, for whom smuggling is an age-old occupation. Whether Libyan weapons for Hamas in Gaza, Ukrainian women for the brothels of Tel Aviv or job seekers from Sudan – for good money, the Bedouin will get them all to their destination. On the way they may hold them for ransom or rape the women.
The Africans – mainly from North and South Sudan and Eritrea – are attracted by the Israeli Labor market. Israelis have long since ceased to do the menial jobs. They need people to wash the dishes in the posh restaurants, clean their homes and carry the heavy loads in the markets.
For years, these jobs were done by Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. After the intifadas, our government put an end to this. The Africans fill their place.
They are, of course, paid what Israelis consider hunger wages, but enough to enable the migrants to send money back to their families. Small sums of dollars look like fortunes back home.
To enable them to send the money, the migrants lead a dog’s life. Almost all of them are single men, crammed into dirty old houses in the slums of Tel Aviv and other towns, ogling the local girls, getting drunk for recreation.
The Israeli inhabitants of these slums, the poorest of the poor, hate them. They accuse them of all kinds of crimes, including rape, violent quarrels and murder. They also believe that they carry dangerous diseases which are almost unknown in Israel, such as malaria and tuberculosis. Unlike Israelis, they have not been inoculated at birth.
All these accusations are, of course, vastly exaggerated. But one can understand the Israeli slum-dwellers who have to live with poor foreigners with whom they have no communication.
In such circumstances, racism flourishes. The Africans are easily recognized by their skin. The usual racist verbiage – “They rape our women”, “They are all carrying deadly diseases”, “They are like animals” abounds, added to a special Israeli one: “They endanger the Jewish State”.
All in all, there are now some 60 thousand Africans in Israel, to which must be added about 3000 newcomers every month. There are also large numbers of (“legal”) Thais who work in agriculture, Chinese and Romanians in the building industry, Philippinos aiding the sick and elderly.
(A current joke: An old Palmachnik - member of the pre-state illegal military organization – attends a veterans’ reunion and exclaims: “Wow, I didn’t know there were so many Philippinos in the Palmach!”)
With Israel’s Jewish population amounting to 6,5 million, and Arab citizens making 1.5 million more, it is easy to depict the migrants as a terrible danger to the Jewishness of the state.
AS A swamp draws mosquitos, such a situation draws rabble-rousers and hate-mongers. And we have no lack of these.
Two weeks ago, riots erupted in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva quarter, one of the affected slums. Africans were attacked, African-owned shops looted.
As if drawn by magic, within record time all the well-known fascist agitators appeared on the scene, inciting the crowd against the Africans and leftist “bleeding hearts”.
The most media attention was given to a Likud Member of Parliament, Miri Regev. Not satisfied with the usual epithets, she shouted that the Africans were “a cancer”.
This expression, lifted from the lexicon of Goebbels, shocked many throughout the country. Regev is not only a pretty woman, but also a former Chief Spokesperson of the Israeli army (appointed by former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, of the disastrous Lebanon War ii fame, remembered for his remark that, when dropping a bomb on a residential quarter, he feels nothing but a “slight bump on the wing”.)
Regev hit the headlines with her speech and was rewarded with numerous TV interviews, in which she distinguished herself by using the language once attributed to fisherwomen. (No insult to fisherwomen intended.) She was, to put it bluntly, disgusting.
ABOUT DISGUST: I have a personal hobby. Every week I choose – strictly for myself – the most disgusting person in Israeli public life. For the last few consecutive weeks my chosen laureate was Eli Yishai of the Oriental Orthodox party Shas.
Shas is totally dominated by one person: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. He hires and fires the party’s political leadership. His word is law. When the last leader was sent to prison for stealing, Rabbi Ovadia produced Eli Yishai from nowhere.
As Interior Minister, Yishai has served mainly as a conduit of government money to his party’s institutions. In all other functions he has failed dismally. It is strongly rumored that in his forthcoming report about the Carmel Forest fire, the State Comptroller is going to recommend his dismissal for gross incompetence
For Yishai, the anti-African hysteria is a gift from his God. After telling the public that the migrants are criminals, carry diseases and endanger the Jewish state, he declared war on them.
Now the whole country is mobilized. Every day, the number of deported Africans heads the news. Yishai’s special “immigration police” are photographed pushing Africans into police vans. Yishai himself appears daily on TV to boast of his accomplishments.
The Knesset is discussing a bill that would impose stiff prison terms (five years!) plus a fine of half a million shekels (100 thousand Euros!) on anyone employing an “illegal” worker. Fortunately this law is yet in the works and will not apply to the wives of the Defense Minister (Ehud Barak) and the Attorney General (Yehuda Weinstein) who were caught employing illegal migrants at their homes. (Their husbands, of course, knew nothing about it.)
Most of all, Yishai brags about the huge manhunt now in progress. Africans cower in their miserable homes, not daring to go out into the streets. At night they are alert to every noise, fearing the dreaded knock of the immigration police on their door.
Trouble is, most of the 60 thousand Africans come from Eritrea and North Sudan, to which the migrants cannot be sent back, because the Supreme Court has forbidden it. Their repatriation would put their lives in danger. This leaves only the citizens of the new state of South Sudan, which has been liberated with the help of Israeli military advisers and arms. They are now being rounded up, in the full glare of publicity, to be deported.
What about the others? The government is now feverishly at work building huge tent camps in the arid Negev desert, in the middle of nowhere, in which tens of thousands of migrants will be imprisoned for three years in what cannot but be inhuman conditions. Since no foreign country is ready to take them in, they will probably stay there for much longer. As of now, there is no water nor sanitary conditions, women and children (born in Israel and Hebrew speaking) will be housed separately. In the summer, temperatures will easily reach 40 degrees Centigrade. Life inside the tents will be hell.
Yishai and his colleague have a flair for laundered language. The migrants are called “infiltrators”, deportation is called “returning”, the prison camps will be called “residence camps”. Not concentration camps, God forbid.
I AM aware that in several other “civilized” countries, migrants are treated as badly, or worse. This does not comfort me in the least.
I am also aware that there is a real problem which has to be solved. But not this way.
As a citizen of a state that calls itself “Jewish”, or even “the state of the Holocaust survivors”, I am disgusted.
I have heard innumerable times about Nazi Jew-hunts, as well as American lynch mobs and Russian pogroms. There is no comparison, of course, but the pictures are popping up in my mind. Can’t help it.
Our treatment of the African refugees and migrants has nothing to do with the old conflict with the Arabs. It cannot be justified with arguments that concern the war and national security.
This is Racism, pure and simple.