If Israel is an apartheid state, why do so
many Africans flock here?
by EMMANUEL NAVON, mosaicmagazine.com, Dec. 26, 2013
Here is a question for those who accuse Israel of apartheid: Why would an apartheid country attract massive illegal immigration from Africa, and why would Africans put up a huge fight to stay in an apartheid regime? As opposed to Eyad El Sarraj, a Palestinian BDS activist who boycotted Israel and yet was treated in Israeli hospitals for his leukemia, those illegal African immigrants did not trespass Israel’s southern border for medical treatment. They came to Israel because they know exactly where in the Middle East there is freedom. They know what their fate would be in Arab countries whose language uses the same word (“Abed”) for “slave” and “African” – a reminder of the Arab slave trade in Africa.
The phenomenon of mass illegal immigration from Africa to Israel started reaching large-scale proportions in 2007. Most illegal immigrants came from Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. By 2012, there were an estimated 60,000 illegal African migrants in Israel (nearly one percent of its total population). Israel managed to put an end to this flood by building a physical barrier on the Egyptian border, but it still has to find a solution for those already here, most of whom live in southern Tel Aviv and in the Red Sea port city of Eilat. The level of crime in those cities has increased exponentially, with residents complaining that their daily life has become an ordeal.
Like every sovereign state, Israel has the right to accept or decline immigration applications, and it has the right to deport illegal migrants. So why doesn’t it do just that?
According to its “Anti-Infiltration Law,” since Sudan is an enemy country, Israel is entitled to expel Sudanese migrants. But in 2007, Israel’s Attorney General ruled that the government cannot enforce this law indiscriminately and must instead grant temporary refugee status to illegal migrants from Sudan. There have also been many petitions submitted by NGOs to the Israeli High Court of Justice to stop the government from expelling illegal immigrants. These NGOs include ASSAF (the Organization for Psychological Aid to Refugees and Asylum Seekers), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Hotline for Migrant Workers, Kav LaOved, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and the African Refugees Development Center.
As a signatory of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Israel cannot expel asylum seekers if they face danger in their home country. According to the UN High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as NGOs, Israel cannot expel those migrants because they are political refugees. But are they? While their home countries are definitely no paragons of democracy, most illegal immigrants are actually migrant workers. Recently, Eritrea’s ambassador to Israel was violently attacked by illegal Eritrean immigrants because he claimed that they fake their refugee status and are not persecuted in Eritrea.
All illegal migrants claim that they are political refugees, whether they migrate to Western Europe, to North America or to Israel. But why is Israel expected to be more lenient than Europe toward these illegals?
French politician Michel Rocard declared when he was prime minister back in 1988 that “France cannot absorb all of the world’s misery.” Neither can Israel.
Two months ago, France deported to Kosovo a 15-year-old illegal immigrant. In 2006 alone Greece deported 54,700 immigrants, Spain 33,000, and France 21,000. In 2008, the Council of the European Union published a “European Pact on Immigration and Asylum” which stated that “The European Union … does not have the resources to decently receive all the immigrants hoping to find a better life here.” The document included a decision to “take rigorous action through dissuasive and proportionate penalties against those exploiting immigrants without legal authorization to reside in an EU country.” In 2009, France deported 10,000 Romani immigrants back to Romania and Bulgaria. In 2010, it deported 9,530 Romani immigrants and demolished 51 Romani camps. In 2011, France deported 32,912 illegal immigrants of all origins.
In 2009, the Italian parliament passed a law that punishes illegal immigration with a €10,000 fine and enables the state to deport illegal immigrants without the need for legal procedure. A shocking video that recently went viral online revealed how Italian authorities treat their illegal immigrants.
The same European governments that are tough on their own illegal immigrants fund the Israeli NGOs (such as ACRI and Physicians for Human Rights) which demand from the Israeli government a more lenient policy toward illegal immigrants.
So not only do I challenge Israel bashers to explain why an allegedly apartheid state attracts African immigrants. I also challenge European governments and their local minions to explain why Israel should treat migrant workers as political refugees while Europe should not.
Dr. Emmanuel Navon heads the Political Science and Communication Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.