Israeli mayors to be fined if employ immigrants, er, infiltrators
Interior Minister Eli Yishai announces he will begin to impose fines on any mayors who employ immigrants from Africa.
By Elad Benari, Arutz Sheva, Israel National News
Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced on Thursday that he will impose fines on any mayors who employ immigrants from Africa.
Yishai announced that he plans to distribute a letter next week, in which he will demand that all mayors end, within 30 days, the employment of all African immigrants, or else they will be fined.
Speaking in an interview on Channel 2 News, Yishai said, “Any local authority that will employ infiltrators – we will act directly against the head of that local authority. Let them employ Israelis instead. Infiltrators belong in the same country from which they came.”
At the same time, Yishai condemned the conduct of some Knesset members, particularly during Wednesday evening’s rally in south Tel Aviv, saying, “The fight against infiltration would have been much better managed without the unnecessary fervor of politicians in recent days.”
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rebuked those MKs who took part in the rally, saying, “I want to make it clear that there is no place for the statements or actions that we saw last night. I say this both to public officials as well as to the residents of southern Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand.”
On Wednesday, more than 1,000 people calling for immigration laws to be enforced demonstrated at the corner of Irgun and Haganah in the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Hatikva.
During the rally, MK Danny Danon – who chairs the Knesset committee tasked with preventing illegal immigration to Israel – declared to demonstrators, “The state of Israel is at war with an enemy state that has formed within Israel and has its capital in southern Tel Aviv!”
MK Miri Regev told those in attendance that “we will not allow” illegal immigration to “spread like a cancer in our society.”
After the rally some protesters smashed windows, lit garbage cans on fire, and damaged a car that had three illegal aliens in it. No one was hurt in the incident. On Thursday police arrested 12 people on suspicion of attacking the vehicle, and running riot.
Netanyahu also vowed on Thursday to begin enforcing Israel’s immigration laws and deporting illegal aliens “soon.”
“The problem of the illegal aliens must be solved and we will solve it,” Netanyahu said. “We will complete construction of the fence within a few months and we will soon begin repatriating illegal aliens back to their countries of origin.”
Like Netanyahu, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin called on lawmakers to “guard their words” and avoid statements on emotionally charged social issues that could inflame passions.
Journalist turned politician Yair Lapid, who chairs the Yesh Atid party, also addressed the issue of his Facebook page on Thursday, saying, “I support the detention and deportation of illegal infiltrators, completing the border fence and preventing their entry, and I think that the human rights organizations need to think first about the rights of our local residents..
Lapid, added, however, “When I see a pogrom in the State of Israel, led by loud agitators such as MKs Danon, Regev and Ben-Ari, I wonder where these people have the audacity to call themselves Jews? Regev, Danon and Ben-Ari, along with the group that hit infiltrators on the streets of Tel Aviv, do not understand Jewish ethics, the Jewish collective memory, or the meaning of Jewish existence.”
By Frida Ghitis, CNN
One of the unintended consequences of the Arab revolutions has become evident in Israel, where a surge in the number of refugees from Africa has created new tensions in a country with no shortage of practical and ethical dilemmas.
In the face of the new challenge, a number of Israeli politicians have sunk to the occasion, exploiting raw emotions and fueling a display of violence that should shame Israelis.
To be sure, Israel is not the first nation whose handling of illegal immigration deserves criticism. But the anti-immigrant riot that took place in a Tel Aviv neighborhood on May 23 should rise as a rallying cry for Israelis who believe their country should shine as a “light unto the nations.”
Since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last year, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the border between the two countries, has become a mostly lawless land where Bedouin gangs freely traffic in, among other things, human beings.
Migrants who come mostly from Sudan and Eritrea have chosen Israel as their destination because it is one of the most prosperous states in the region and because it offers some protection for refugees. Despite the protests of right-wing politicians and of some sectors of the population, Israel has so far refrained from forcing the vast majority of refugees to return to their native countries.
Anger over illegal immigrants in Israel
Many countries keep asylum-seekers in prison-like camps under indefinite detention. Israel is building a detention facility where refugees would remain while their cases are processed. But until now, they have been receiving visas that allow them to live anywhere in the country. Still, they live in limbo without a right to work legally.
Unlike other countries that have returned refugees to their nation of origin or pushed them back to the state from which they crossed the border, Israel, a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, has done neither. But the situation is becoming untenable and pressure for deportations is growing.
Government figures say about 60,000 African migrants now reside in Israel, double the figure from 2010, with between 2,000 and 3,000 more arriving each month. The numbers are enormous for a country the size of Israel. It is roughly equal to the number of illegal immigrants found, for example, in Australia, a country 350 times the size and triple the population of Israel.
Israel is hardly the first place to experience anti-immigrant riots. And anti-immigrant sentiment there is part of a wave sweeping the globe.
As in most places where illegal immigration has suddenly increased, much resentment has come from the poor who see the unfamiliar new arrivals settling in their midst, view the newcomers as a threat to their livelihoods and are highly sensitive to reports of criminal activity.
Eritrean and Sudanese refugees have been arrested in a number of rape and stabbing of cases in Tel Aviv, but there is no evidence that the crime rate among them is higher than in the rest of the population. That, however, has not stopped Interior Minister Eli Yishai from tarring migrants as criminals and suggesting that most should be summarily deported.
The country’s leaders should seek to calm tensions and find a humane solution to a growing human problem. But responsible, statesman-like behavior is apparently too much to ask.
When the residents of the south Tel Aviv neighborhood of Hatikva held a protest last week, one member of parliament, Miri Regev, referred to Sudanese “infiltrators” as “a cancer,” stoking the inexcusable outbreak of violence. (She later apologized for using the term “cancer”.) Another member of parliament, Danny Danon, turned up the rhetoric, shouting “Expulsion now!” and calling the migrants “a plague.”
While some Israelis expressed sympathy for the protesters, many lashed out against the shocking display of intolerance in Tel Aviv, of all places, a city known for its open-mindedness.
Although no one was seriously injured and the police intervened, arresting 17 people, the language and the behavior would be unacceptable anywhere, but in Israel more than anywhere.
Reuven Rivlin, speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, characterized the event as reminiscent of the early days of World War II, saying the words “remind me of the hate speech aimed against the Jewish people.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “there is no place for the statements and actions which we saw last night.”
The day after the riot, Israelis held a vigil against racism in front of the prime minister’s residence. But the reaction on the political scene was not uniformly conciliatory, with new calls for deportations and more irresponsible and inflammatory language from some political leaders.
Israel faces a serious moral and practical dilemma. And although the problem has unique aspects because it is occurring in Israel, it is a quandary familiar to every country that has faced a large inflow of refugees and migrant workers.
In Israel’s case, the prospect that the stream of refugees could grow into a flood raises the added specter that it could transform the Jewish character of the state. Despite Netanyahu’s claim, that is not an imminent danger. But the question also tugs, urgently, at another aspect of the country’s identity.
Israel, after all, was founded as the nation-state of the Jewish people; a people that saw millions of its numbers murdered while other countries closed their doors during World War II and at other times in history.
Israel has not dealt with its refugees more harshly than most countries, despite the exaggerated claims about the events in Tel Aviv. But that is not a good enough standard. Israelis need to deal fairly and humanely with the refugees. Israelis are building a barrier at the Sinai border, which should cut down on the smugglers’ cruel traffic in human beings. Israel should formalize and legalize the status of a portion of the migrants and work with international agencies to find homes in third countries for others.
In the meantime, it’s a good time for Israelis of all stripes to look at their own history and send a strong message to politicians who seem to have forgotten not only the country’s claim to high ethical standards, but an admonition from an ancient text, from Exodus, recently cited by a hospital manager writing about the serious medical needs of African migrants.
“Do not oppress the stranger among us. You know how it feels to be strangers, for you, too, were strangers in Egypt.”
Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review.