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thousands of israelis teachers lecturers airline pilots and holocaust survivors act to prevent

Thousands of Israelis — teachers, lecturers, airline pilots and Holocaust survivors act to prevent…

Thousands of Israelis — teachers, lecturers, airline pilots and Holocaust survivors act to prevent the Deportation of Black African Refugees

Only the Israeli Labour Party & the Jewish Labour Movement, support Netanyahu’s racist plans to deport the refugees

Labour Against the Witchhunt calls on @Rhea Wolfson to resign from the JLM and condemn the Israeli Labour Party

An amazing thing is happening in Israel. For once the Holocaust is being put to good use instead of being used as a tool to justify repression. Just 4 days ago David Sheen, a Canadian-Israeli who has campaigned tirelessly in support of Israel’s 40,000 Black African refugees, wrote in Electronic Intifada that Israel was set to win its war on African refugeesand Netanyahu would be able to deport the refugees.

Yet in the space of a week, as Anshel Pfeffer has written in Ha’aretz (below) Netanyahu’s plans are in a shambles. There has been an uprising of Israel’s more liberal middle classes against what has become an international embarrassment. Even Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, has warned that it is making Israel even more of an international pariah.

What is even more gratifying is that large numbers of Israel’s Holocaust survivors, in whose name the State has committed many terrible atrocities and war crimes, have spoken out. The very same Holocaust survivors who are kept in abject poverty in Israel. If there is one lesson that everyone can understand from the Holocaust it is that if the West had taken in the Jewish refugees from Hitler, then far fewer Jews would have died in the Holocaust.

Today the same forces that opposed the immigration of Jewish refugees in the 1930’s — the American Firsters, the Daily Mails and Expresses, the far-Right anti-immigration politicians — support Zionism and the Israeli state. However the Holocaust survivors themselves realize that there is a contradiction between racist Zionism and the lessons of the Holocaust. Zionism wishes to preserve a Jewish state that is as ethnically pure and Jewish as possible. To do this it is prepared to expel thousands of refugees because they are Black and non-Jewish. As has been pointed out to me, there are thousands of White non-Jewish Russians in Israel who are not being deported.

What is most shameful is the role of the Israeli Labour Party which abroad tries to present itself as a progressive party. The ILP has given its full support to Netanyahu’s deportation campaign. According to Jill Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post the Zionist Union parliamentary faction voted 12 to 11 to back the government’s plan to deport refugees after its leader Avi Gabbay told the MKs that“This is not an issue of Right or Left, we would pay a price for arguing with the public.” Party leader Gabbay forces Zionist Union to back expulsion of migrants

Avi Gabbay — the racist leader of the Israeli Labour Party

This prompted Tamar Zandberg, a member of the Knesset for the leftist Meretz Party, to shout that at the Israeli Labour Party members who backed Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to forcibly deport the remaining roughly 40,000 African asylum seekers to a third country — Rwanda that:

”What has become of you? Are you the Zionist Union or the expelling union? Have you gone mad? In your tactics for wooing votes, you’ve abandoned your fundamental values and ability to tell right from wrong.” Israeli Labor sells out African refugees, as ‘infiltrators’

What is more outrageous is that the group which is behind the false anti-Semitism campaign in the Labour Party, which has been put in charge of anti-racism training in the Labour Party, the Jewish Labour Movement, refuses to condemn the stance of the Israeli Labour Party, which it describes as its ‘sister party’ of the ILP.

One of the members of Labour’s National Executive Committee, Rhea Wolfson, is a member of the JLM. Wolfson reportedly broke down in tears when fellow NEC member Darren Williams threatened to vote against referring the case of Jackie Walker to the party’s disciplinary body, the National Constitutional Committee. Jackie as people will be aware has been subject to a scurrilous political lynching by the JLM.

Right-wing anti-refugee protestors in Tel Aviv

We are calling on Rhea Wolfson to dissociate herself from the racist stance of the JLM and its Director Jeremy Newmark and to do this in the most public way by resigning from the organisation.

It is unacceptable that someone who is supposedly on the Left is aligned with the racist policy of the Israeli Labour Party. Forcible deportation of asylum seekers is the policy of the racist and fascist Right not the Left of the Labour Party. Wolfson should be congratulating Israel’s Holocaust survivors not keeping company with racists.

Tony Greenstein

Netanyahu’s Plan to Deport Asylum Seekers, a Seemingly Done Deal, Is Now in Shambles

Only a few weeks ago, activists were conceding defeat to deportation. But the wheels had been coming off the hastily drawn plan for months

Anshel Pfeffer

Jan 26, 2018

African asylum seekers protesting outside the Rwandan Embassy in Herzliya, Israel, January 22, 2018.meged gozani

One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proudest achievements in office has been the new border fence with Egypt. He may have been exaggerating when he described it in 2013 as “one of the greatest engineering feats ever achieved in Israel.” Still, it has certainly worked and actually proved one of his least controversial actions.

African refugees at the Holot internment camp in the Negev desert

Replacing the old, ramshackle barbwire fence, the new 5-meter (16-foot), reinforced steel barrier has made it much more difficult for Islamist groups to launch cross-border terror attacks like the one near Eilat in August 2011, when eight Israelis were killed and the impetus to finally build the fence was provided. It has also severely hampered the smuggling of arms and drugs, and, most importantly, cut off the Sinai’s human-trafficking route. Since the fence’s completion in 2013, the Bedouin gangs that trafficked in Eastern Europe women (to be forced into prostitution) and African refugees — fleeing repressive Sudan and Eritrea — have had to look elsewhere.

But cutting off the smuggling channels was not enough. In the seven years before the barrier was up, some 50,000 African refugees had paid the Bedouin’s exorbitant fees and reached Israel. Denied status and unable to work legally, most of them ended up in cramped accommodations in south Tel Aviv, where odd jobs were available and a community of sorts emerged.

A toxic combination of authentic complaints and unsubstantiated allegations of crime and epidemics made the plight of south Tel Aviv’s veteran residents a rallying point for far-right activists — including members of the outlawed Kahanist groups — and Netanyahu has for years been trying to work out a deportation solution.

With record low unemployment rates and a growing demand for foreign workers, a comprehensive plan to “legalize” the asylum seekers and resettle them across Israel would have been the humane and efficient solution. But incitement against the “infiltrators” — as the government calls them — by nationalist politicians and pundits has turned it into a challenge from the right-wing base that Netanyahu could not avoid. Deportation was the only way out. Anything less would be seen as a sign of weakness.

There was no way the High Court of Justice would allow the government to deport the Sudanese and Eritreans back to their homelands. Quiet negotiations were conducted with various African countries to serve as “third countries,” and eventually secret deals were reached with Uganda and Rwanda.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in south Tel Aviv, Moti Milrod

A few thousand asylum seekers were prevailed upon to leave “voluntarily,” with a few thousand dollars in their pockets. But news of how they were mistreated upon arrival soon filtered back — and then no one was prepared to volunteer any more. However, egged on by his cheerleaders, Netanyahu refused to back down and together with Interior Minister Arye Dery, who holds the immigration brief, made dramatic visits last year to south Tel Aviv, where he was received rapturously.

The main problem was not having sufficient leverage against the refugees. The High Court refused to let the government incarcerate them for more than 60 days. But a breakthrough came for Netanyahu last December, when the High Court approved deportation to “third countries” of any refugee whose asylum request is not pending. The fact the Interior Ministry has made it extremely difficult to request asylum — and that of 12,000 requests, only a third have been cursorily processed, and of those only 10 approved — failed to sway the justices.

The orders were given to expedite the mass deportation plan. Dozens of planes were to be chartered, the refugees given the stark choice of leaving voluntarily with $3,500 in cash or facing indefinite detention. The Rwandan government was to receive $5,000, or some other form of goods or arms, for every refugee they accepted.

Only a few weeks ago it seemed all over. The small band of activists who had fought for the refugees’ rights were conceding defeat and trying to at least save the unaccompanied children among them from deportation.

But even as the first notices were being issued to the refugees, the wheels were coming off from the plan. It had been drawn up too hastily, without due consultation with the various agencies involved. The Israel Prison Service, already suffering from massive overcrowding, made clear it had no space for the thousands of expected detainees. The refugee groups made clear they would not accept the financial inducements and when the government threatened to deport them by force, legal advisers made clear to the High Court they would almost certainly accept a petition against forcible deportation.

No less important, the small circle of activists supporting the refugees had rapidly begun to grow. A series of petitions circulated, with the signatories committing themselves to hiding refugees in their homes if necessary.

At first, it was easy for the government’s supporters in the media to deride these groups as anti-Zionist, far-leftist, elitist NIMBYists who didn’t care for the poor residents of south Tel Aviv. But still the protests grew, with petitions signed by over 1,000 doctors and medical staff; 100 air crew refused to man deportation flights and called upon their colleagues not to do so either; and, perhaps most damagingly, a personal letter was sent to Netanyahu, signed by 36 Holocaust survivors.

The publicity has already caused Rwanda to announce it has no “secret” agreement with Israel and that it will not accept refugees deported against their will. Whatever deal President Paul Kagame’s government has with Netanyahu, it doesn’t seem to be worth the adverse publicity in Africa.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. The survivors’ letter is now the main Holocaust-related news coming out of Israel just in time for the one date in the calendar when most of the global media is looking for stories on this issue: International Holocaust Remembrance Day, this Saturday.

It hardly seemed necessary, but apparently even Israel’s ambassador to the United States and one of Netanyahu’s closest advisers, Ron Dermer — certainly no liberal — has been warning the prime minister of the PR disaster being caused by reports about the deportations.

Is the leaking of Dermer’s concerns the harbinger of a government climbdown? It’s too early to say. Either way, Netanyahu will seek to blame the south Tel Aviv-hating left for sabotaging his “humane and just” deportation and furthering their goal of swamping Israel with aliens.

There are valuable lessons here for embattled Israeli human rights groups on how to actually win a campaign despite what seem at first like insurmountable odds and public indifference.

It is still way too early to declare victory. But even if Netanyahu succeeds in salvaging his plan, the self-inflicted damage has been done and the deportations, if they take place, will be accompanied by a great deal more lousy publicity for him. What seemed imminent a few weeks ago now looks improbable.

Dina Kraft

Jan 26, 2018 3:10 PM

Celina Shapil, 92-year-old Holocaust survivorMaged Gozani

Celina Shapil spent the winter of 1943 on the run from the Nazis, crossing the borders of Poland, Slovakia and Hungary on foot through the snow at age 17.

Now, this 92-year-old Holocaust survivor sees her own story reflected in the plight of African asylum seekers in Israel, and when she heard of the government’s plan to deport them, she was outraged. And then she decided it was time to speak out.

A group of Holocaust survivors sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday imploring him not to go ahead with his plan to deport African asylum seekers from Israel.

They join a grassroots effort that already includes airline pilots, writers, college professors, doctors, lawyers, university students, social workers, filmmakers and rabbis, attempting to prevent the planned deportation by the Israeli government of nearly 40,000 African asylum seekers over the next two years to either their home countries or other countries in Africa.

“We — who know what it means to be a refugee, to be without a home or a country that would protect and defend us from violence and suffering — cannot understand how a Jewish government can expel refugees and asylum seekers to a journey of pain, suffering and death,”the 36 survivors wrote to Netanyahu.

Reports from asylum seekers, predominately from Sudan and Eritrea who have already made the return journey to Africa from Israel, are harrowing. There are accounts collected by researchers of asylum seekers who left Israel being robbed, sold into human trafficking and even killed.

Diaspora Jews have also been among those pushing Israel to reconsider its policy, citing Jewish values and invoking the Biblical injunction to “not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21) as well as the Jewish people’s long history with flight from persecution and genocide.

Thousands have signed petitions and hundreds of people turned out for meetings on a rain-soaked Wednesday night in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv organized by a group called Standing Together (Omdim Beyachad) to fight the deportations. Thousands of Israelis called on airline workers not to take part in flights that would take the asylum seekers to Africa in a campaign organized by the group Zazim and a new national organization founded by university students has sprung up called “Stop the Deportation” and is holding protests and setting up information booths across the country.

The backlash and civil society organization is being joined by many people who were not involved in the past, veteran activists say.

The first asylum seekers came to Israel a little over a decade ago. Originally most were from the Darfur region of Sudan, seeking refuge from the savage civil war raging there, but then tens of thousands more joined from elsewhere in Sudan and Eritrea, posing a moral puzzle over how to handle the influx to Israel, a country founded in the shadow of the Holocaust whose Jewish population is largely descended from refugees from Nazi Europe or Middle Eastern countries.

In the last week, some Holocaust survivors have even offered to hide asylum seekers in their own homes and hundreds of other Israelis have offered to do the same.

Deportation is like a red line for many people. Until now we could just sit at home and say ‘Oh no, this is bad.’ And for the past few years people who care and follow the issue have been outraged, but this is the last straw,” said Ella Navot, a 24-year-old sociology student at Tel Aviv University and one of the founders of “Stop the Expulsion.

Navot started volunteering with asylum seekers four years ago, teaching basic computer skills at a learning center.

“There are so many aspects to what drew me to this. I could talk about the fact that my grandmother is a Holocaust survivor or about my parents who are left-wing and have always advocated for human rights, but really what brought me to it is when I met the people themselves and started to understand the issue. They became friends and when one hears their stories one cannot ignore them,” she said.

A campaign was launched last week, calling on Israelis to hide asylum seekers if it becomes necessary, was inspired, its organizers say, by the story of Anne Frank. The massive response to the campaign, now called Miklat Yisrael (Israel Refuge) took its organizers, including American-born Rabbi Susan Silverman of Jerusalem who came up with the idea, by surprise.

We are getting an amazing response,” said Silverman, with hundreds of requests from both individuals and groups, including kibbutzim. And this is before, she notes, they begin doing official outreach. Among the communities volunteering are some located in the West Bank.

Two Israeli law students help an African Asylum Seeker with her request for asylum at a Legal Clinic run by HIAS Israel which assists migrants and refugees Rachel Friedman

“And here we are, a bunch of lefties going, ‘What?’ But it turns out we can find common ground. Stopping people from being sent to their deaths is one of those ways,” she said.

A campaign was launched last week, calling on Israelis to hide asylum seekers if it becomes necessary, was inspired, its organizers say, by the story of Anne Frank. The massive response to the campaign, now called Miklat Yisrael (Israel Refuge) took its organizers, including American-born Rabbi Susan Silverman of Jerusalem who came up with the idea, by surprise.

“We are getting an amazing response,” said Silverman, with hundreds of requests from both individuals and groups, including kibbutzim. And this is before, she notes, they begin doing official outreach. Among the communities volunteering are some located in the West Bank.

Two Israeli law students help an African Asylum Seeker with her request for asylum at a Legal Clinic run by HIAS Israel which assists migrants and refugeesRachel Friedman

“And here we are, a bunch of lefties going, ‘What?’ But it turns out we can find common ground. Stopping people from being sent to their deaths is one of those ways,” she said.

Silverman, whose sister is the American comedian Sarah Silverman, said she is heartened that so many are coming forward to say no to deportation, including, for example, a letter by flight attendants, who announced they would not work on flights that were deporting the asylum seekers.

“Every link in the deportation chain is beginning to be blocked,” she said.

Sivan Carmel, Director of HIAS Israel, which for years has been among the main non-profits working to help the asylum seekers, is heartened by the rush of new activism and resistance among Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

“I welcome it. I think it’s amazing that every day we hear new people speak out,” she said. “As Israelis this is about being connected to our heritage — knowing what our values are about and what kind of society we want to raise our kids in.”

Carmel said that despite the government attempts to paint the asylum seekers as economic migrants and not refugees, calling them dangerous and labeling them as “infiltrators”, Israeli citizens are heeding the call to action. Out of approximately 35,000 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in Israel, only eleven to date have been granted official asylum here.

Chained asylum seekers during a protest in front of the Rwandan embassy in Herzliya against Israel’s plans to deport African refugeesMaged Gozani

“People are beginning to understand the facts that many of them are asylum seekers who fled from persecution, but less than half percent have received refugee status even though most of their counterparts from Sudan and Eritrea have been determined to be refugees in other countries,” said Carmel.

Michael Sfard, a well-known human rights lawyer was among lawyers across the country who signed a public letter against the deportations.

“I think we lawyers have to cry out and voice our position that this is a reprehensible act even if it is done or portrayed as being done by legal means and going through legal channels because in the most profound way it is illegal,” said Sfard.

Shapil, who made it to present-day Israel’s shores in 1944 after fleeing into a Russian-held part of Romania, continues to mourn her parents and younger brother who were murdered in Auschwitz, but feels lucky to have been able to rebuild her life here. She hopes the African asylum seekers will find refuge here too.

Otherwise, she warns, “We will go down terribly in history.”

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