If this will raise eye-brows, so be it! Israel's Government with its insistence of recognition of Israel as a Jewish State has undertones that smell of a terrible era for the Jewish People - the Holocaust. I do not wish to compare the two scenarios as there is an unbridgeable difference. However, with Passover on our doorstep, we must be reminded of our tragic history and cease using euphemisms for forced expulsion of asylum seekers such as “voluntary departure". Nobody leaves a place of refuge for another place, where death and forced poverty is rife.
The Nazi bastards, as we know, were masters of euphemism. "Final Solution" in the early days of the notorious Nazi regime began with deportation of Jews. Later on it was deportation to death camps. Are we also becoming masters of euphemisms when it comes to asylum seekers? Israel's doors are open for Jews from the Diaspora to come and settle. Some are in distress but most are not. That is ok! No problem! Israel is signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This means that it has obligations towards them. In practice many of the conditions stipulated are overlooked.
The refugee situation in Israel is poor. When countries accept refugees they take the responsibility for allowing them to seek work and they also have to provide the refugees with conditions that are similar to what the citizens of their respective countries receive.
On Monday 25 November 2013, the proposed amendments to the Prevention of Infiltration Law passed the first reading with 43 Members of Knesset voting in favor and 17 in opposition. The proposed legislation allows for one year of administrative detention of refugees and asylum seekers and their indefinite imprisonment in "open” centers to be run by the Israel Prison Service. The bill has been met with strong opposition from human rights organizations, which believe the new amendment is even more draconian than the one overturned by the High Court of Justice on 16 September.
The government is moving with extraordinary swiftness to pass the bill before the expiration of the 90-day period set by the Court by which asylum seekers detained under the overturned amendment must be released. We may well see the amendment approved within a matter of weeks-- and possibly even days.
The proposed legislation comes in response to the recent High Court of Justice (HCJ) decision that overturned previous amendments to the Prevention of Infiltration Law. This Law had allowed for individuals that irregularly entered Israel to be detained for three years. In its decision, the Infiltration Law was called "a grave and disproportionate abuse of the right to personal freedom, which is a fundamental right of every human being, and deviates from the principles accepted in Israel and the enlightened world."
While the bill reduces the period of detention from three years to one, it also proposes indefinite detention in "open" centers without judicial review. The proposed legislation is in contempt of the recent HCJ ruling and continues Israel’s restriction of asylum seekers rights.
Pesach (Passover - the Festival of Freedom from Egyptian Bondage in Biblical times) somehow has lost its significance within today's context. It is supposed to convey a message on freedom for all people in the achievement of human rights, dignity and justice. In the Israel of today, unfortunately this is not the case. Foreign workers, contract labour that guaranteeing minimum wages with no security, is all part of the pattern of abuse that is becoming more common in employer-employee relationships.
While most of Israel is sitting at their Seder table reading the Pesach Haggadah, these unfortunate omissions on Israel's treatment of refugees and foreign workers will not be on the agenda. The Jews have their homeland but it is becoming insensitive to the plight of those who seek asylum from certain death. Another term that has become common place to describe these refugees is "infiltrators". The definition of "asylum-seekers", "refugees" and "infiltrators" is becoming all-inclusive, with the latter having very negative connotations allowing leeway for exploitation and abuse of these unfortunate people.
Israel, like all countries of the world, has the right not to accept illegal immigrants. However, once Israel accepts and grants asylum to refugees then it must take responsibility for their welfare.
Kav Laoved is a remarkable organization that is working under very difficult conditions and has alleviated many problems peculiar to foreign workers. They are unable to assist them when their working visa expires and these people face certain deportation after many years of devoted service. The care-givers who look after our aging population with great devotion until they pass away is an example of a gross injustice. Many Israelis say "So what! They got paid for their job and the time has come for them to go back to their original countries".
The continuation of the occupation and the desire to prolong it by increasing settlement activity in the West Bank also means that the Palestinians living there are denied basic human rights in many instances. Added to this, is the fascist, hooligan right-wing Price Tag movement that reaps destruction on Palestinian property as well as injury. The government is soft on that and the police have not arrested anyone to date. When some Yitzhar settlers attacked and destroyed IDF property an outcry from the Defense Minister was heard and some suspects were apprehended.
Israel has an excellent intelligence system which is effective against Palestinian terror but impotent against Price Tag, whose vandalism against Palestinians and their property has been very ineffective - so much so that no arrests have been made. Freedom should also mean freedom from acts of violence. This is only partial and exclusive.
Celebrating the Festival of Freedom (Passover - Pesach) is hypocritical when we deny freedom to others and "do not welcome the stranger" in our midst. There is no more apt time of the year than the celebration of Pesach to give a thought to the strangers in our midst.
Hello Shimon, as always, your discussions are first-class. The issue of refugees is interesting, for many different reasons. For a start, many of these people are not escaping persecution. They are desperate for work. They are also ambitious. I am under the impression that the number of refugees seeking to leave their countries would be greatly reducing if they could get properly paid work within their own country.
You will find the Australian situation in relation to refugees is similar in some ways to what is happening in Israel. However, Australia thoroughly examines all its refugees background so the government of Aust. is more aware of the situation regarding whether or not individual refugees are genuine, but Australian politicians are wary of producing the facts in media interviews.
The foolishness of the Australian government in its support of USA in a variety of dodgy wars complicates the validity of the status of refugees because if you create a world system where there are good guys and bad guys, then obviously there are going to be a lot of people who automatically can claim refugee status.
Legally many refugees do not qualify as refugees, but the financial reality is another issue that virtually places those same refugees back in the position of having some entitlement to classify themselves as refugees.
The most powerful countries control the world economy in a way that makes it impossible for the majority of people on this planet to get good paid work. It is a form of ruthless exploitation. The UN has a lot to do with keeping this highly discriminatory system in place.
Smaller countries could possibly do more to help themselves - but then - it is no more their responsibility than it is ours to pressure the UN USA & EU to demand a more equitable financial system. Big business eagerly monopolizes financial markets in a way that causes destitution throughout all of the poorer countries.
(China is the amazing example of the only country to escape this exploitation; presumably, through internal control measures that could not be violated by international companies.)
This issue goes well beyond national borders, and will, in the long run, possibly be handled by international human rights groups who will use the internet to make the reality of this issue more transparent, since it is now abundantly evident that the UN answers only to the needs of big business.
Shimon, you say: Israel has an excellent intelligence system which is effective against Palestinian terror but impotent against Price Tag. I imagine that if the Israeli intelligence system WANTED to pin down the individuals playing the Price Tag game, they could do so. Am I correct?
Personally, I want to know a lot more about how international finance works.
Thanks Shimon, for your contribution.
The Israeli leadership has never lived up to its democratic responsibilities. The first, and biggest blunder, was to prevent the return of the Palestinian Arab refugees, back in 1948. Israel did this out of purely ethnic considerations, creating the groundwork for Israel to become the apartheid state that it is today.
Saying that the Palestine leadership has joint responsibilities is like a man hiding behind a woman's skirt.
What do I think will happen? One day, people will wake up, get out of bed, and see that it is all over for Israel AS A JEWISH STATE. The Jews who do not want to associate with Arabs will leave, and the refugees will be free to live and work and vote anywhere within Israel, which really will stretch from the sea to the river. Golan Heights may become Syrian territory again - hard to tell, with Syria in total disarray. How many Jews live in the Golan Heights, as opposed to Palestinian Arabs? The government of Syria will eventually regain control of their country, and if there is a lot of Jews living in the Golan Heights, they will most definitely demand the country back. It is not prejudice, it is because of the way Israel has treated the Arabs.
I have added a correction to the above comment I made. here it is, in capitals:
What do I think will happen? One day, people will wake up, get out of bed, and see that it is all over for Israel AS A JEWISH STATE.
Shimon, thanks very much for the very important article. (shared)
And thanks to you too, Sussan for your share.
I have nothing to add just to agree with my whole heart. Re the Q whether the Israeli intelligence CAN pin down the price tag - the answer is - definite YES. I believe they are very positive on not doing that..:(