Israeli opposition against government deporting refugees


This 18 January 2018 video is called Anne Frank Movement: Israeli Rabbis Vow To Hide African Refugees Facing Deportation.

By Jean Shaoul:

Growing opposition to Israeli government’s plans to deport African refugees

1 February 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to deport African refugees, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, to so-called safe countries Rwanda and Uganda, has provoked a backlash.

A campaign was launched on January 18 in a letter to the government by dozens of well-known authors, including winners of the Israel Prize, Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua. It called on the government “to act morally, humanely and with compassion worthy of the Jewish people, and to stop the deportation of refugees to the hell from which they fled before it starts. Otherwise, we will have no reason to exist.”

Some Holocaust survivors told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth that the Jewish state has a moral duty to protect the asylum seekers, with some saying they would take African refugees into their homes to hide them to prevent their deportation, while some 36 survivors wrote a personal letter to Netanyahu.

This has had a powerful impact. Hundreds of people have offered to host asylum seekers as part of the Anne Frank Home Sanctuary movement, following a call by a group of rabbis for Israelis to hide asylum seekers in their homes, just as Dutch families helped Anne Frank and her family.

Since then, thousands of workers, including El Al pilots and cabin crews, more than 1,000 doctors and medical staff, school principals, psychologists, 400 film and television personalities, 470 academics and religious figures have joined the protest. Demonstrations and protests have been held in support of the refugees.

The refugees have said they will refuse to accept the financial inducements offered by the right-wing coalition government, while legal advisers have told the High Court they would almost certainly accept a petition against forcible deportation.

In the run-up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu announced that Israel was seeking to get at least 600 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, whom it designates as “infiltrators,” to leave the country each month, making a total of 7,200 a year, more than double the 3,300 that left in each of the last three years. So-called “safe countries” would be paid to take them.

The government claims that it would replace the deported workers with Palestinians at the rate of one Palestinian work visa for every two Africans that leave. But the practical difficulties in employing Palestinian workers are so great that the cynical and reactionary pledge is meaningless.

The government says it will also give every refugee who leaves voluntarily $3,500. While women and children will not be subject to deportation, they are unlikely to remain without their husbands and fathers.

There are around 40,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, mostly fleeing civil strife and repression, according to data from the Interior Ministry, down from 60,000 four years ago, following deportations and practices aimed at forcing them to leave “voluntarily.” About 72 percent are Eritrean and 20 percent are Sudanese from Darfur, most of whom arrived between 2006 and 2012, before Israel built the notorious fence across the Sinai desert to prevent them entering Israel.

Israel, despite constantly referring to the way European Jews were barred from entering the US and Britain to escape persecution in the 1930s, and signing up to the 1951 Refugee Convention, has refused to introduce asylum legislation because it would mean absorbing tens of thousands of non-Jewish refugees—threatening “the Jewish character of the state” on which Zionist policy is based. According to human rights groups, Israel has recognised less than 200 people as refugees, in addition to some 350 Vietnamese “boat people” in the late 1970s, since its establishment in 1948.

To do so would also spur demands for the right to return of Palestinians and their descendants, who fled or were forced from their homes in the wars of 1948 and 1967.

All regulations regarding migrant workers and refugees are at the discretion of the minister of the interior, which set up the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Unit in 2009 to interview asylum seekers and assess their claims in the light of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The Convention’s definition of those entitled to refugee status lists those who have been subjected to persecution based on “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” But the refusal to put in place legislation means that the RSD is essentially free to refuse to recognise any asylum seekers as refugees. The RSD has granted only eight asylum applications from Eritreans and two from Sudanese. In 2017, it granted a further 200 out of 6000 Darfurians “humanitarian protection”, after it became public knowledge that the government had suppressed an internal RSD report stating that Darfurians were fleeing genocide and thus qualified for asylum.

Israel’s rotten record, a less than one percent success rate for asylum seekers, is far below even that of European Union countries, where Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers have an 86 and 64 percent acceptance rate, respectively.

The African asylum seekers, bereft of legal status as refugees, are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. They typically live in desperately impoverished conditions, alongside poor Israelis in the suburbs in South Tel Aviv. Many live in crates, shacks and other improvised homes, without access to basic rights and treated by the police as criminals.

The asylum seekers are forced to take the worst jobs at scandalously low rates of pay and face brutal exploitation by their employers, while the Ministry of Labour turns a blind eye and the trade unions do nothing. They are required to register weekly or monthly with the RSD. They will soon be subject to a new anti-migrant law that robs them of 20 percent of their wages and puts it in an escrow account, supposedly to be returned to them when they leave Israel.

Those without a valid visa have been subject to detention for up to a year without a judicial hearing at the Holot detention centre, the world’s largest, in the Negev desert near Israel’s border with Egypt. It is run by the prison service and designated as an open prison. Detainees are not allowed to work and must report for roll call three times a day.

Right-wing and fascistic agitators have sought to whip up xenophobia and racism, blaming the migrants for rising crime rates and dreadful social conditions, and lobbied the government to deport them.

Last August, the Israeli Supreme Court outlawed such detention at Holot for longer than 60 days, but also ruled that Israel could deport migrants—even without their consent—to third “safe” countries such as Rwanda or Uganda.

In November, the Netanyahu government claimed that an African receiving country, presumed to be Rwanda and/or Uganda—the agreement has not been made public—had agreed to accept migrants deported against their will. Under this agreement, the government will pay the receiving country $5,000 per migrant. In the wake of the opposition to the forced deportations, the two countries have now denied there was any such agreement.

In December, parliament approved an “Infiltrators Bill” mandating the closure of the Holot detention centre—with the 1,000 Africans detained there required to leave Israel by April or face indefinite imprisonment, the forced deportation of Eritreans and Sudanese starting in March and increased restrictions on them.

Israel imprisons Eritrean asylum seekers who refuse deportation orders: here.

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Israeli pilots refuse deporting refugees to torture


This video is called Activists ask Israeli pilots to ‘refuse to fly refugees to their deaths’.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Israeli pilots say they would refuse to fly deported asylum seekers back to Africa: ‘I will not be a partner to this barbarity’

Judith Vonberg

Three Israeli pilots have spoken out against the forced deportations of asylum seekers back to Africa, saying they would refuse to take control of planes involved [in] the practice.

“There is no way that I, as an air crew member, will take part in flying refugees/asylum seekers on their way to a destination whose chances of survival after reaching it… are close to zero”, wrote pilot Shaul Betzer in a Facebook post and later on Twitter.

“Not much courage is required for such a mission, but I will not be able to do what is required of me in such a mission. As a pilot and as a human being.”

Pilot Iddo Elad posted a statement on his Facebook page a few hours later, declaring: “I will not be a partner to this barbarity.”

Both Facebook posts have been shared hundreds of times and attracted many comments, most of which support the men’s stance.

The public refusals come three weeks after the Israeli government ordered thousands of African refugees and migrants to leave the country within three months or face prison.

Thousands of Africans – many from Eritrea and Sudan – crossed from Egypt into Israel before it erected a fence along the border in 2013.

Many have fled conflict and persecution, but Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu has called them “infiltrators” and said they are mostly economic migrants whose numbers threaten the nation’s Jewish character.

According to Israeli charity Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an average of just 0.15 per cent of people who file asylum claims in Israel are ultimately recognised as refugees.

Under the new proposals, “infiltrators” will be offered $3,500 (£2,500) and a plane ticket to their home country or “a third country” – likely to be Rwanda or Uganda.

Israeli media has reported that some asylum seekers have faced torture or human trafficking after being sent to Rwanda and Uganda by the Israeli government.

Yoel Piterbarg, a former combat helicopter pilot in the Israeli Air Force, was the first of the three men to speak out.

“The state of Israel is populated mainly by Jews who, in the near and distant past, were refugees in countries around the world”, he wrote on Facebook.

“Most went through the Holocaust, many were forcefully expelled from their countries, and many others emigrated out of a desire to improve their lives in better countries that agreed to accept them.”

He continued: “Out of all people we, the Jews, must be attentive, empathetic, moral, and leaders of public opinion in the world in how we treat the migration of refugees, who have suffered and continue to suffer in their countries of origin.”

Mr Piterbarg has spoken out on human rights issues before in his role as a pilot.

In 2003, he was one of 27 Israeli air force pilots who refused to take part in further operations inside the Palestinian territories, describing the military’s actions in the occupied areas as “illegal and immoral”.

The statements published by the three men regarding the deportation of migrants are largely symbolic as El Al – the airline all three men are understood to work for – does not currently operate any routes to the countries in question.

“El Al does not fly any immigrants to Africa”, a spokesperson for El Al told The Independent.

“El Al has absolutely nothing at all to do with these flights. El Al pilots won’t be flying these immigrants.”

The airline does however have a code share agreement with Ethiopian Airlines, allowing passengers to book flights via El Al’s website from Tel Aviv to destinations across sub-Saharan Africa with a stop-off in Addis Ababa.

According to the spokesperson, no El Al crew are involved on any of those flights.

A petition calling on the Israel Airline Pilots Association and ground services staff at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv to refuse to participate in the deportation of migrants and refugees has gathered more than 8,000 signatures.

The petition was partly inspired by news from Germany, where pilots stopped 222 deportations of asylum seekers between January and September last year.

Anne Frank inspiration to help African refugees in Israel


This video from Amsterdam in the Netherlands says about itself:

Anne Frank takes us behind the movable bookcase

22 September 2015

In this video, we have the opportunity to walk through the secret hiding place that Anne Frank lived in for over two years. The narration is in Anne‘s own words, from her diary.

To read an article related to the video, visit here.

Thank you to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, which supplies this and other educational materials at www.AnneFrank.org.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Israeli rabbis to hide African refugees facing deportation in ‘Anne Frank-inspired’ scheme

‘People risked their lives to save Jews and we as a country are now saying we don’t want to risk the tiniest demographic shift’

Ryan Butcher

A group of Israeli rabbis have launched an “Anne Frank-inspired” activist programme to protect African asylum seekers facing forced expulsion from their homes.

The sister of comedian Sarah Silverman is among those leading the movement which hopes to help around 40,000 African asylum seekers, largely from Sudan and Eritrea.

Measures announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month, will see African asylum seekers presented with the option of either accepting $3,500 (£2,500) and a plane ticket to an undefined country or taking an indefinite jail sentence.

However, Israeli media have reported that some asylum seekers have faced torture of even human trafficking after being sent to Rwanda and Uganda by the Israeli government.

The majority of asylum seekers in Israel are from Eritrea (73 per cent) and Sudan (19 per cent) and an average of only 0.15 per cent of people filling in asylum claims are recognised as refugees, according to the Hotline for Refugees.

To counter this The Anne Frank Home Sanctuary launched by Rabbis for Human Rights aims to house asylum seekers.

“Who here would be willing to house people?” asked Rabbi Susan Silverman at a gathering of rabbis and educators in Jerusalem.

All 130 or so people in the room immediately raised her hands, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Rabbi Silverman, who immigrated from Boston to Israel in 2006, said her idea to physically hide refugees in Israeli homes was inspired by US sanctuary cities and states, which are used to fight the deportation of immigrants who entered the US illegally.

Anne Frank has also inspired the programme. The teenager became one of the most famous Jewish victims of the Holocaust after her diary of her life as a German Jew in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in World War Two was published in 1947.

She died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when she was 15-years-old.

As well sheltering asylum seekers, Rabbis for Human Rights said its members also intend to accompany asylum seekers on tours to the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem – Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial. The Righteous Among the Nations were non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The group hopes to “wake up the Jewish world” according to an internal memo.

“People risked their lives to save Jews and we as a country are now saying we don’t want to risk the tiniest demographic shift”, Rabbi Silverman told Haaretz.

“We have a prime minister who is quoting Pharaoh when he says [of the asylum seekers] that their numbers will grow.”

African asylum seekers have crossed the continent in the past decade and entered Israel at its southern border in a bid to seek better lives and in some cases seek refuge from wars. Only ten have ever been recognised by the state as refugees, according to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees – eight Eritreans and two Sudanese.

The Rabbis for Human Rights group said it is also considering protesting the offices of airlines willing to transport deportees to Africa and also launch a large-scale social media campaign labelling Israel’s leaders and ministers as racists.

See also here.

As Israel threatens to deport African migrants, some US Jews push back. Joey Low, a son of Holocaust-era refugees who has given millions to Israeli causes, insists ’you can’t do something like this in the name of Jews and Israel’: here.

Jewish Groups Denounce Israel’s Plans to Deport 40,000 African Asylum Seekers: here.

Israelis Offer Shabbat Meals And Sanctuary To African Asylum-Seekers: here.

The Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel called black people “monkeys” during his weekly sermon on Saturday evening: here.

Sintayehu Shifaraw, 18, will be the first ever Ethiopian to participate in the International Bible Contest, but he’ll have to return [from Israel] to Addis Ababa after the event ends because his Falashmura community is not officially recognized as Jewish: here.

Racists in Austrian government, Israeli and Jewish reactions


This video says about itself:

18 December 2017

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Vienna on Monday to decry the recently formed Austrian government coalition with the far-right Freedom party.

Protesters marched through the streets whilst holding banners and chanting. Anti-riot police were present and on high alert, as smoke grenades were set off on the streets.

From daily Haaretz in Israel:

Israel to Boycott Austria’s New Far-right Cabinet Ministers

The move is being defined as temporary until an official policy is crafted. Political sources: Netanyahu’s office inclined to accept Freedom Party’s statements that it has broken from its anti-Semitic roots

Noa Landau and Ofer Aderet Dec 18, 2017 8:09 PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, said Monday that Israel will boycott Austria’s far-right ministers, instructing Israeli ministers to work only with lower-ranking officials.

Seeking to cool ties with the Austrian government were officials at the Foreign Ministry, while officials at the Prime Minister’s Office were inclined to accept statements by the far-right Freedom Party that it has broken with its anti-Semitic roots, political sources said.

The new Austrian government took office Monday following two months of negotiations between Sebastian Kurz, the new chancellor and head of the center-right People’s Party, and Heinz-Christian Strache, whose Freedom Party came in third in the October election after the People’s Party and Social Democrats.

When Strache’s party joined a coalition government in 2000, Israel recalled its ambassador and downgraded relations. But this time the response had been slow.

A statement released Monday at the close of discussions between the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office said that “Israel will conduct working relations with civil servants in the ministries now led by Freedom Party ministers …. Israel seeks to stress its responsibility to fight anti-Semitism and to commemorate the memory of the Holocaust.”

In an interview with Austria’s ORF television on Monday evening, Strache was asked what he thought about Israel’s decision to reexamine its position on its relations with the Austrian government in light of Strache‘s Freedom Party’s presence in the new government. He replied that “the situation today is different than when Israel took steps in 2000, recalling its ambassador and halting contacts between the governments.”

Strache is the successor of the Freedom Party’s longtime leader Jörg Haider, who died in a car accident in 2008. The party’s critics say it has still not disassociated itself from its Nazi and anti-Semitic roots. Some [of] its supporters greet its leaders with a Nazi salute,

This video is from an Austrian TV report. Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the extreme right FPÖ, is welcomed to a Salzburg election meeting by supporters shouting: “Heil Hitler”!

and Strache once posted an anti-Semitic political cartoon on Facebook and adorned a campaign poster with a slogan with Nazi overtones.

But in recent years, Strache has tried to portray himself as a friend of Israel. He has promised to move Austria’s embassy to Jerusalem and has supported Israel’s construction of settlements in the West Bank.

Because his hatred of Muslims is even stronger than his hatred of Jews. The United States neonazi pro-Trump site The Daily Stormer advocates gassing all Jews. Yet, they applaud Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Because they think it will lead to more Arabs killing Israeli Jews, and to the Israeli army killing more Palestinians and other Arabs. And whether dead people are Jewish or Arab, killing them is ‘good’ according to neonazi twisted logic.

He has visited Israel at least three times in recent years … But on his most recent visit last year, former President Shimon Peres refused to meet with him, on the recommendation of the Foreign Ministry.

Analysis: Netanyahu’s Speedy Absolution for Austria’s neo-Nazis. In the past, for a state to be forgiven for its anti-Jewish past, it would have to publicly repudiate its sins, but not so with Israel’s stance on the new Austrian government: here.

Netanyahu in practice helped nazi Shoah deniers by exculpating Hitler of guilt for the Holocaust.

From the Jerusalem Post in Israel, 18 December 2017:

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress – which was among Jewish groups that had called on Kurz not to include the FPÖ in his government – was vocal in his concern over the new coalition. …

In a statement released Sunday, he congratulated Kurz as “a capable man who has shown very positive attitudes toward Israel and the Jewish people.” He said, however, that it was “severely disquieting that, despite the many real concerns known and expressed about the FPÖ, it will now retain a position of serious influence, giving the Austrian government a real push even further to the Right.” …

“The FPÖ is a far-right party whose members have in the past expressed xenophobic and antisemitic sentiments. Yet it has now been charged with overseeing the interior, defense, and foreign ministries, three of the most important and powerful fields of government,” Lauder continued. “We have heard promises since the election that FPÖ has softened its policies, but this will remain rhetoric until actual proof of this is shown.”

The European Jewish Congress echoed this sentiment. “The FPÖ has a long history of antisemitism and xenophobia and we are concerned about the fact that they will control government ministries in the new Austrian Government,” Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the EJC, said Monday. …

The Freedom Party can not use the Jewish community as a fig leaf and must show tolerance and acceptance towards all communities and minorities”, Kantor added.

In an email sent after the elections, Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Communities of Austria, wrote that the Jewish community, as well as the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress, called on Kurz not to include the FPÖ in the next government because “many representatives of the FPÖ,” including Strache, have “used antisemitic codes, made extreme right-wing statements and have promoted hatred and racism,” including during the recent electoral campaign.

The letter also stated that several of the party’s candidates have in the past “called for the elimination of legislation against Holocaust denial.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews also expressed “deep concern” on Monday over the coalition agreement.

The board’s senior vice president Richard Verber said: “The far Right brought unprecedented misery on Austria and other European countries in the past. It is up to all European countries, including the new government of Austria, to make sure it does not do so again in the future.”

“We fully support the position adopted by the Austrian Jewish community, European Jewish Congress and World Jewish Congress of non-engagement with the far Right in Europe,” he added. “While some parties claim to have disavowed their antisemitic and racist roots, actions speak much louder than words. We urge the European Union and other international partners to carefully monitor the situation in the coming weeks and months and respond as appropriate.”

The new Austrian government includes five ministers and a vice-chancellor affiliated with the FPÖ. To date, Israel has maintained a non-engagement policy with the FPÖ due to its Nazi past and the antisemitic and racist leanings of some members.

From AFP news agency:

Last month a group commemorating Nazi camp victims published a list of what it said were at least 60 anti-Semitic and racist incidents involving FPÖ figures since 2013.

“If they really changed their ideology, it is a question they can only answer themselves,” said analyst Alexandra Siegl. “I would say they changed their tactics and their strategies mainly.”

Ukrainian anti-Semitic killer gets monument


This 14 October 2017 video from Ukraine is about the unveiling of a monument for anti-Semitic mass murderer Symon Petliura.

From daily Haaretz in Israel:

Ukraine Unveils Statue Honoring Nationalist Leader Behind Regime That Killed Up to 50,000 Jews

Symon Petliura’s regime killed between 35,000 and 50,000 Jews in pogroms during his reign that lasted from 1918 until 1921

JTA, Oct 17, 2017 7:59 AM

Ukraine unveiled a statue for a nationalist leader who guided a regime that killed tens of thousands of Jews in pogroms during the Russian Revolution.

The memorial for Symon Petliura was unveiled Saturday in Vinnitsa, a city in the western part of the nation, on Defender of Ukraine Day, a national holiday, the RT news site reported. It is located in an area once known as Yerusalimka, or Jerusalem, and located next to a small synagogue that is still in operation.

The statue, which RT calls the first official monument to Petliura, though there is a bust of the early 20th-century leader in the capital, shows him sitting on a bench with a map of the country in his hands.

During Petliura’s time as head of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, 35,000 to 50,000 Jews were killed in a series of pogroms between 1918 and 1921.

Petliura was killed in 1926 by a Ukrainian-born Jewish watchmaker, Sholom Schwartzbard, who was acquitted by a French court that ruled he was acting in the heat of the moment after 15 of his relatives were killed in the pogroms.