While Palestinians have borne the brunt of Israeli aggression and Apartheid policies, African refugees and migrant workers have sparked violent debates among Israel’s leadership. Prompted by fears about the supposed threats these groups present to the “security and identity of the Jewish state,” the community of 60,000 migrants and refugees has been blamed for rising crime in southern Tel Aviv, where many African migrants live. This despite recent statements from a police spokesman that overall crime rates in Israel have fallen.

“If we don’t stop their entry, the problem that currently stand at 60,000 could grow to 600,000, and that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” said Benjamin Netanyahu at a recent cabinet meeting.

In 2010, more than 13,500 people entered Israel illegally and were granted refugee status. The majority of these are Africans fleeing war and famine, who are smuggled through the Israel-Egypt border by Bedouin tribesmen. The Israeli state is building a steel fence 150 miles long across the Sinai desert to halt the flow of refugees. Just in case the steel fence isn’t enough, Israel is building the world’s largest detention center for asylum seekers and illegal migrants.

Netanyahu has said that Israel will embark on the forced withdrawal of migrants. In response to fears from human rights organizations about the dangers refugees may face if returned to their home countries, Interior minister Eli Yishai said: “I’m not responsible for what happens in Eritrea and Sudan, the UN is.”

In Israeli cities with high African populations, tensions have risen with some buildings housing asylum seekers and migrants being attacked and NGOs working with them receiving threats.

One would think, given Israel’s own history, it would be more sympathetic to the plight of refugees fleeing persecution. But, as Palestinians have come to know all too well, sympathy is reserved for the privileged few in the Jewish state.




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  • This is a perfect example why a Palestinian shouldn’t be writing about internal Israeli issues. She proves herself to be extremely ignorant and embarrasses the site.
    In 2010, 14,748 asylum seekers entered Israel, but the total number of asylum seekers in Israel is currently about 50,000 (the government claims 60,000 but doesn’t the number of people who left willingly/ were found to be illegal work migrants and deported).
    Despite what Nuseibeh writes, Israel did not grant refugee status to “more than 13,500” people in 2010. Since Israel’s establishment, Israel granted a refugee status to 157 people in total. Israel did not grant refugee status to even one Sudanese or Eritrean asylum seeker (about 90% of the asylum seekers in Israel), as it bars them from undergoing the Refugee Status Determination procedure.

    Israel is building the huge detention facility for asylum seekers exactly because it brands all asylum seekers as “illegal infiltrators” and claims that they are in fact work migrants who are coming here to improve their living conditions.

    Contrary to what Ms. Nuseibeh claims, most asylum seekers who arrive in Israel do not flee “war and famine”. Israel is the home to about 30 Somali asylum seekers, and they are the only ones who can be described as fleeing famine. The asylum seekers from Sudan did escape war, but they make up about 25% of the asylum seekers in Israel. Most asylum seekers in Israel are from Eritrea and they’re here because they’re fleeing a horrible dictatorship and life-long servitude at the Eritrean military.

    I’m a frequent reader of the site and I’m surprised to find such a poorly written article here. Please make sure the writers contributing piece here actually know what they’re talking about. This piece feels like a result of a quick google search.

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  • Thank you Elizabeth for your comment and for following the site as closely as you say. I will address your comment point by point and will refrain from using bigoted and racist undertones towards your race, whatever it may be, as you did with mine, or what you assumed mine to be.

    First, I would like to point out the fact that this summarized blog post about a larger issue affecting Israeli society was in no way an extensive report about the current problems African migrants/asylum seekers/refugees/”infiltrators” (insert whatever moniker you prefer) face. The two statistics cited in the blog post come directly from quotations of Israeli leaders such as Netanyahu and Interior Minister Yishai – which you can check for yourself since you seem to be adept at Internet research yourself – and from a well-respected news source – The Guardian.

    Second, nowhere in the blog post did it mention that the status of these “infiltrators” or “illegal migrants” is the problem, nor their national origin. The point of the blog post was to highlight the xenophobic and racist internal policies of the Israeli government toward anyone it deems to be an “infiltrator”. To suggest that my own ethnic origin, or what you assume it to be, should have any baring or weight on my ability to give an opinion – which is what a blog post is at the end of the day – is not only racist and prejudiced but highly ignorant.

    The fact that Israel did grant refugee status to 157 people out of a total of thousands (thank you for that clarification, if in fact it is true) only goes to prove the point of this opinion post. The fact that you approve of the building of a detention center for migrants who are deemed “illegal infiltrators” as a temporary holding cell before they are sent back to their formerly destitute living conditions in itself sparks in my mind many questions about your own views about human and migrant rights in Israel. Moreover, its highly counterintuitive to your own argument, to slam me for writing a blog post about what you call internal Israeli affairs as a Palestinian, while you as an Israeli-supporter are separating internal Israeli affairs from the very crucial reality of Palestinian self determination. The bottom line is that racism jumped off the page in your comment, and that by itself shoots your argument in the foot. If you care for the growth of Israel, then it’s crucial to care about the oppression that state is committing against a large population of people living within it.