During Tuesday’s Knesset debate ahead of Saturday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said: “My home is open to any refugee whose life is in danger in his/her home country.”
At which point Gilon, who declared: “I call on all members of Knesset to do as I do and oppose the government’s policy of expulsion,” enlisted the memory of the Holocaust to support his leftist ideology:
“The Holocaust was a unique tragedy which cannot be compared to any other event in history, and, because of this, it is important to instill the memory of the Holocaust and internalize its lessons,” MK Gilon told the Knesset Plenum. “We mustn’t forget how we knocked on the locked gates of various countries. We mustn’t forget the Righteous Among the Nations who hid Jews in their homes. For the first time in the history of the Jewish nation, we have an opportunity to extend a hand to the refuges and help them, rather than persecute and expel them.”
Israel has been battling a plague of illegal migrant workers infiltration from east Africa since the early 2000s, and its proactive policies have resettled in erecting a border fence with Egypt that in 2017 reduced infiltration to zero; and a voluntary expulsion-for pay that removed a reported 26,000. Currently Israel still hosts an estimated 35,000 illegal African migrants, as well as some 10,000 children born to them in country.
The heavy concentration of these illegal migrants has infested with crime and violence the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv which had already been counted among the poorest and least served communities in Israel. As the crime rates soar, it is often difficult to discern who plays the role of the Jewish refugee and who the cruel persecutor in Gilon’s retooling of the Holocaust’s lessons.
Israel intends to ship out the bulk of the illegal population in the first half of 2018.
A justifiably offended MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) said in response that she ” can’t help but be amazed that on this podium a comparison is being made between returning work infiltrators to their home countries and the horrific acts that were carried out against Jews in Europe and countries under Nazi occupation. How can a Knesset member stand here and compare the persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime to returning work migrants to their countries or to a third country? I cannot believe you (MK Gilon) did that, and I think it is a disgrace.”
MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) used the occasion to advocate for Jewish Holocaust survivors, whose government pensions are being eroded. “Now that we have discussed our expectations from the world, let’s talk about what we expect from ourselves,” he said. “And the expectations from ourselves, even before keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, relate to our treatment of the survivors who are with us.”
“We cannot understand why the Israeli government makes these differentiation between Holocaust survivors who [arrived in Israel] at different times and from different places,” Stern said. “Perhaps this is why the survivors turn to lawyers for help. The survivors are looking at us and saying: ‘Fix this.'”
MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint Arab List) said, “There is no doubt that anti-Semitism, which is spreading around the world, is an immoral and dangerous phenomenon which must be combated. It is the result of racism and rejecting the other only because of his/her ethnic origin. The anti-Semitic rightist groups are led by eloquent young people – neo-Nazis and people who openly hate Jews, people who admire Hitler, Holocaust deniers and people with extreme opinions who seek to banish Jews from America under the pretense that they harm the American economy.”
“Over the past year, these groups have been emboldened by the ugly atmosphere President [Donald] Trump is creating with his bombastic declarations against all those who are different – minorities, immigrants and native Muslims – as well as with the trampling of human rights and the cutting the budgets of institutions of the United Nations, which no previous American president had done,” Tibi told the Plenum.
“Islamophobia is also a kind of anti-Semitism,” MK Tibi noted, “so we must all be united in the fight against racism, the rejection of the other and the creation of stereotypes.”