The past few days in Israel have seen a well organized protest campaign of thousands of illegal African migrants, mostly from Eritrea and the Sudan, on the roads, in front of the Knesset, and in a park in central Tel Aviv. The demonstrations, on behalf of an estimated 50,000 illegal migrants, is coordinated with the hunger strike of some 130 prisoners in Saharonim prison, who are slated for deportation to their home countries.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Israel Walpurga Englbrecht blasted Israel’s new semi-open Holot facility in the south, saying it is a detention center for all intents and purposes.
She’s right, of course. Israel is facing a major social and demographic crisis, begun in the 1990s, as local wars in the Horn of Africa began to result in poverty and hunger, driving out hundreds of thousands of people in search of work. This influx of cheap, illegal labor happened just in time to fill in for the missing Arab workers from the newly created Palestinian Authority, whose entry into Israel was being curbed because of rampant terrorism.
In a manner reminiscent of the illegal Mexican migrant workers situation in the American South West until about the market crash of 2008, Israeli business, especially agriculture, but industry as well, cultivated the illegal African migration.
She’s also selective in her view of the migrant worker crisis in the region. While Israel to date has deported some 13,000 Africans out of an estimated 60,000, all them leaving willingly, according to the authorities—Saudi Arabia has been forcibly deporting more than half a million legal migrants, against their will, back to their home countries across the region.
One of the reasons may be that while the Sudanese and Eritreans in the Israeli democracy enjoy the right to assemble and the right to demonstrate – similar behavior would land them in prison, if not worse, in The Kingdom.
Englbrecht was also correct in pointing out that Israel acted in a most unprofessional and irresponsible manner in its treatment of the influx of migrants. “The Israeli government awarded temporary shelter to many Eritreans and Sudanese, but for many of them their status is being changed drastically,” she told the Army Radio. “One of the problems was that these people have never been processed properly, to discover if they were refugees or employment seekers.”
Englbrecht said Israel had made a big mistake by not discovering early on why these Africans had left their countries, and why had they crossed three different borders on the way.
What she didn’t mention was the fact that, on top of mishandling the illegal migrants, as supply began to outweigh the demand for labor in Israel, Israel was also neglecting and mistreating Israel’s poorest citizens, whose neighborhoods were eventually invaded by a myriad unemployed, uneducated, downtrodden foreigners.
At that point, under the poor management of a succession of governments run by Labor, Likud, Kadima and Likud again, the true magnitude of Israeli suffering under the lawless rule of these supposed “refugees” was being swept under the rug.
An African illegal sleeping on the ground in a south Tel Aviv playground. Photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90
An NGO named Eitan-Center for Israeli Immigration Policy, documented an astonishing history of official lies about illegal acts committed by Africans against Israel’s most defenseless population: the working poor and the elderly, by and large of Sephardi descent, were stuck, economically immobilized, in perpetual purgatory.