Denial, self-hatred evidenced in Israel’s xenophobic irruption

A new law granting Israeli authorities the power to detain “illegal migrants” for up to three years took effect June 3, following a wave of Tel Aviv protests over the influx of African migrants who cross into Israel along its border with Egypt. The law even makes asylum seekers liable to imprisonment—without trial or deportation—if caught staying in Israel for long periods. Additionally, anyone found to be aiding migrants or providing them with shelter could face up to 15 years in prison. The law amended the Prevention of Infiltration Law, passed in 1954 to prevent the entry of Palestinians.

Also June 3, Israeli daily Maariv published an interview with Interior Minister Eli Yishai, in which he complained that most of the “Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man.” Yishai is a Mizrahi Jew of Tunisian origin.

“I will continue the struggle until the end of my term, with no compramises [sic],” Yishai was quoted in a translation by Haaretz, stating that he would use “all the tools to expel the foreigners, until not one infiltrator remains.” Seemingly in a holdover from the origins of the law in 1954, the African migrants care called “infiltrators” with the same sneering connotation as the term “illegals” in the US.

Now, we have argued before that even Ashkenazi Jews are not really white. But a Tunisian Jew? Who does Yishai think he is fooling, other than (maybe) himself? This amazing statement actually reveals much about the element of self-hatred that underlies Zionism, and especially the extremist version espoused by Yishai (and being mainstreamed in Israel with terrifying rapidity). The eagerness to identify with European colonialism—and here, explicitly, white supremacy—smacks more than a little of the need to suck up to The Man, despite Zionism’s supposed founding assumption of the unassimilability of the Jew in Europe. Note that Yishai is also a key supporter of Israel’s new “apartheid” citizenship law. He demands Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” as a condition for peace, but excludes the possibility of a settlement freeze.

The journal of Yishai’s Shas party, Yom LeYom, recently published a public letter to the “infiltrators.” Writer Rabbi Moshe Shafir states at the top that his appeal is made in a spirit of “love and decency.” But the bottom line, as translated by YNet June 3: “You’re ruining our dream; it’s best if we go our separate ways… It’s best if we part as friends.” The tone of false sincerity continues: “We love you dear Sudanese. The worst a Jew will ever do to you will be better than the live bullets fired at you at the Egyptian border.” Indeed Egypt is using a shoot-to-kill policy on Israeli border, but we have not heard that Israel has protested this—being itself busy building a wall (of course) to keep the Africans out.

“This is not about racism or any racial doctrine but a question of leadership, and social principles of decent human beings,” writes Shafir (as his comrade Yishai proudly invokes white supremacy). He next veers into the realm of the simply surreal: “Listen up, dear and kind Sudanese people. In the United States, Martin Luther King’s dream came true. Giuliani will tell you how he made it happen. Go forth and implement this in Sudan and Eritrea. We promise to help you, we’ll even be delighted to help, as always.”

Rudolph Giuliani…? Oy vey…

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  1. Israel interning African migrants
    Israel’s government said June 11 it had started rounding up African migrants in the first stage of an “emergency plan” to intern and deport thousands deemed a threat to the Jewish character of the state. Israel Radio reported that dozens of Africans, mainly from South Sudan, had already been detained in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, including mothers and children. The Israeli government wants to deport “60,000 African migrants, whose numbers are seen by many Israelis as a law and order issue and even a threat to the long-term viability of the Jewish state,” according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (African Globe, June 12)

  2. Furor in Israel over border absues
    Last month, Israel finally granted entry to two Eritrean women and a 14-year-old boy who were among over 20 African asylum-seekers trapped between the Israeli and Egyptian border fences on the Sinai frontier for eight days. The remaining 18 men were ordered to return to Egypt. The three Eritreans who were granted entry were immediately transferred to a detention facility at Saharonim in the Negev Desert.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented: “It is important that everyone understand that Israel is not another destination for infiltrators. We are determined to stop the influx of infiltrations that has ensued. To this end we’ve built a fence, and it has already reduced the number of infiltrators by 90%. We will increase our efforts against employers of illegal infiltrators, and continue the process of returning infiltrators to their home countries.”

    The UN High Commission for Refugees protested the decision to send the refugees back to Egypt, saying such a move is permissible only when the side receiving the asylum-seekers can guarantee them protection, not simply arrest them and return them to their home countries. The Israeli organization We Are Refugees has challenged the decision in Israel’s courts, claiming that the asylum-seekers are exposed to “mortal danger” in Egypt, (Haaretz, Sept. 6)

    A week later, when investigators from We Are Refugees were granted access to them at the Saharonim facility, the three Eritreans signed affidavits claiming that the IDF used physical force and tear gas against them during the days they were trapped between the fences. (Haaretz, Sept. 11)

    Loaning credence to the “moral danger” claim, on Sept. 9, Egyptian border guards shot dead an African migrant near the Israeli border. Egyptian authorities said the 25-year-old Eritrean refused to surrender when police fired warning shots in the air and continued running toward the Israeli border near Rafah. (Haaertz, Sept. 9)