[Marxism] Israeli Leader Pledges Hard Line on Migrants
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jun 5 08:57:30 MDT 2012
NY Times June 4, 2012
Israeli Leader Pledges Hard Line on Migrants
By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to step
up efforts to deter, detain and deport illegal migrants to Israel,
as tensions mount over an influx of asylum seekers from Africa.
His pledge came a day before an early morning fire, apparently set
by arsonists, ravaged an apartment occupied by about 10 Eritrean
migrants on Monday. Four people were injured.
Though there have been a number of firebomb attacks against
migrants in south Tel Aviv in recent weeks, the fire was the first
attack on migrants in Jerusalem, the police said.
Dozens of foreigners, including families with children, lived in
the building where the fire broke out, on Jaffa Road, one of the
city’s central arteries. Four residents were taken to a hospital
with burns to the hands and smoke inhalation. Graffiti sprayed on
a stone wall by the entrance of the building read: “Get out of the
Mr. Netanyahu has condemned violence against illegal migrants, who
are known here by the Hebrew word for infiltrators. But he has
also expressed a policy of zero tolerance for the flow of Africans
crossing surreptitiously into Israel from the Egyptian Sinai.
An estimated 60,000 Africans have entered Israel over the last few
years. While Israel acknowledges that some may be genuine refugees
from war-torn countries, it has no system for registering them as
refugees; most of the border crossers, Israel says, are economic
migrants seeking work in Israel.
In a closed meeting with Likud Party cabinet ministers on Sunday,
Mr. Netanyahu pledged to complete a 150-mile, 16-foot-tall steel
fence now being erected in the desert along the Israeli-Egyptian
border; to speed up construction of a detention facility able to
hold up to 10,000 illegal immigrants; and to step up efforts to
deport foreigners who may be legally repatriated to their home
countries according to international conventions.
Mr. Netanyahu intends to start repatriating several thousand South
Sudanese people in Israel, but is awaiting approval from the
Israeli Supreme Court, according to an official who was in the
Under a new Israeli law, illegal entrants can be held in detention
for up to three years, a provision that the official said was
meant in part to deter economic migrants.
“It is important to understand that international law makes
deportation very difficult,” Mr. Netanyahu noted last week in a
speech in Tel Aviv. Although “it is not a problem that can be
solved overnight,” he said, “we can deport them, and we will.”
“Just as we solved other problems,” he said, “we will solve this
problem methodically and responsibly, in accordance with
Still, most African migrants in Israel are from Sudan or Eritrea.
Since sending them back could put them at mortal risk, they are
afforded blanket protection in Israel, in line with international
The issue has become an explosive one in Israel. Many African
migrants have settled in poor areas of south Tel Aviv and in the
southern border town of Eilat, and have met increasing resentment.
Residents of south Tel Aviv complain of rising crime in migrant
areas, and have staged noisy demonstrations, egged on by
right-wing politicians and activists. At a demonstration in the
Shapira Quarter last week, rightists handed out leaflets offering
self-defense courses, and protesters chanted, “The people want the
Sudanese deported,” holding placards with slogans like, “This is
not racism, this is survival.”
Some stores run by African migrants were damaged and looted last
“It was better in Sudan,” said Ibrahim Abdullah, 25, an asylum
seeker who was idling on the grass in a south Tel Aviv park last
week. Mr. Abdullah said that he worked now and again in building,
but that he had no money and relied on handouts for food.
Israel’s interior minister, Eli Yishai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas
Party, was quoted on Friday as saying that “the infiltrators,
along with the Palestinians, will quickly bring us to the end of
the Zionist dream.” Noting that Israel had its own health and
welfare issues, he said, “We don’t need to import more problems
“Most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the
country doesn’t belong to us, the white man,” Mr. Yishai said in
an interview with the newspaper Maariv.
Even so, there has been emotional debate here about the
obligations of a country like Israel, largely founded by refugees.
While opponents of the African influx say they worry about
Israel’s future as a state with a Jewish majority, other Israelis
have volunteered to help the asylum seekers and say that Israel,
of all places, should show compassion toward those fleeing hardship.
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