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Have we forgotten our Jewish morality?

  • HabonimShaliach
The stormy debate currently being waged in Israel over the expulsion of the refugees from Sudan and Eritrea to Uganda and Rwanda raises many moral questions.
by DANNY ADENO ABEBE | Feb 15, 2018

The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to expel the refugees is based on ridiculous claims. There is no empathy for the suffering of the Jewish residents of southern Tel Aviv, who live a life stricken by poverty among equally desperate Africans immigrants, without any help from the government. There is also no empathy for the suffering of those refugees who chose to immigrate to Israel for their own reasons.

The refugees and the Israeli citizens living in this region are equally neglected. Both are victims of a bleak and complex Israeli reality.

Minister of interior and head of the Shas Party Aryeh Deri has expressed his strong desire to remove the refugees as quickly as possible, and en masse. This smacks of racism.

The Netanyahu government is afraid of the presence of these immigrants specifically because of their race. If this is not the case, it is difficult to explain the abomination behind the calls to uproot them as soon as possible and transfer them to a third country with a financial reward. The “reward” is $3 500 (R42 000) and a plane ticket.

Deri and his party also have a political agenda to remove the refugees. They hope to get the votes of Jewish residents in southern Tel Aviv who are desperate to be rid of the refugees.

The numbers of asylum seekers in 2017 were not huge. For example, 868 refugees from Sudan sought asylum in 2017, and 1 682 from Eritrea. At the same time, with the government turning a blind eye, thousands of illegal immigrants have recently entered Israel from Ukraine, Georgia and some other predominantly white countries.

Figures sourced from the Israel Securities Authority reveal that 7 710 Ukrainians sought asylum, as did 1 350 Georgians. I have not heard a call from any minister to expel these thousands of immigrants. Nor were they labelled a “cancer in the heart of the nation”.

Having said this, I am grateful to be part of a democratic nation that accepts criticism and isn’t afraid of standing up for human rights, just like those El Al pilots who refuse to fly any aircraft expelling refugees.

I lived among the African immigrants as “a refugee” for the purpose of reporting on the subject for Yedioth Aharonoth.

 One can argue about the motives of the extreme left, which has exploited many of these refugees and used their plight for political popularity. However, no one can deny that many of the refugees experienced severe suffering on their way to gainings some freedom in their miserable lives.

Netanyahu is proud of having renewed ties with the African continent but is now expelling these asylum seekers. The mass evacuation planned is likely to harm the supreme effort that the State of Israel is making to restore its former glory in Africa.

Israeli society is strong enough to contain them, at least until the situation in their countries is clarified. Israeli society is made up of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants, who all fled to this incredible country for their own safety.

The Israeli government’s decision to expel them goes against everything the Holy Land has always stood for.

Beyond allaying the groundless fear of some of the government ministers and a large part of the extreme right wing, removing the refugees will not yield anything to the State of Israel. It will only hurt her.

No one wants to be an illegal immigrant or refugee anywhere in the world. When you decide to remove these people en masse, remember our Jewish asylum seekers. Remember Anne Frank and the Jewish struggle. Remember that you lived in the land of Egypt and remember Ruth the Moabite, who sought compassion and brought light to our people.

Remember Netanyahu’s statement that was reinforced recently by Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labour Party: “The left has forgotten what it means to be a Jew.”

The strong desire of Israeli society to remove the refugees to an unknown place proves that we have all forgotten what it is to be Jews. We have forgotten Jewish morality and values. We’ve forgotten that we were all once asylum seekers and refugees.

I am writing this as someone who knows what it feels like to be expelled from my country of origin, Ethiopia. I spent a month walking from Ethiopia to Sudan, seeking asylum and safety. I am fortunate to be Jewish and was lucky to have been saved by Operation Solomon and given a new start in my homeland, Israel.

Most of these refugees are not as lucky.

  • Danny Adino Abebe is the Habonim shaliach to South Africa and a former journalist for Yedioth Aharonoth

 

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