Sunday, April 22, 2012

Don’t Let These People Go!

TEL AVIV – During the holiday just past, Israeli and American Jews alike commemorated the Exodus from Egypt, and in doing celebrated and discussed the all-important themes of liberation, struggle, and freedom. At a time when the delicate democratic system Israel’s fathers constructed is threatened by enemies external and internal, it is worth noting especially with Passover in mind that Israel remains a kind of beacon in a wider region largely untouched by liberty’s lovely light.

Israel is so much of a sanctuary, in fact, that still today many mimic Moses’ trek across the Sinai – taking their lives and the wellbeing of those they are forced to leave behind into their own hands – in search of shelter and comfort in the Promised Land. But it seems as though the present Israeli government, in addition to patches of wider society, have a blind spot regarding the suffering and emancipation of those forced temporarily to leave some of Africa’s most destitute nations for Israel.

Their plight has been brought into focus by a scoop in last Thursday’s Ha’aretz. Dana Weiler-Polak reported that of the thousands of requests for refugee status submitted in Israel last year, only eight were approved, noting that “long, exhausting interrogations, finding contradictions at any cost, investigations with foregone conclusions and contradictory responses” have become an inherent part of the refugee screening system designed by the Interior Ministry.

Executive Director of Hotline for Migrant Workers, Reut Michaeli, went so far as to say that the asylum system in Israel is set up with the goal of “rejecting asylum requests by refugees in a systematic manner”, leading to the “immoral deportation of refugees to places where their lives are in danger, in opposition to Israel’s international commitments and despite the personal history of the people and society in Israel”.

Read More