[Marxism] Israeli Leader Pledges Hard Line on Migrants

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jun 5 08:57:30 MDT 2012

NY Times June 4, 2012
Israeli Leader Pledges Hard Line on Migrants

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 
international agreements.”

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 
from Africa.”

“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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