The state of Israel is about to commit a crime against itself. The imminent mass deportation of African asylum seekers will be a devastating blow to our moral credibility, undermining our ability to speak in the name of our religious values, our historical experience, our vital self-interests.
By Yossi Klein Halevi | Blogs/The Times of Israel
This act could have critical political consequences for Israel, alienating whole constituencies – from young American Jews whose attachment to Israel is already wavering, to black members of Congress who have stood with Israel for decades. I fear this move will haunt us for years to come.
The government insists it isn’t sending asylum seekers into mortal danger, that they will be repatriated to a so-far unnamed African country which is prepared to accept them. It notes that each asylum seeker is being offered a year’s worth of wages to begin a new life. It insists that it is complying with international norms.
But the asylum seekers have every reason to mistrust Israel’s assurances. Over the last few years, the government has promised a new life to deportees who would “voluntarily” leave for Rwanda – the alternative being open-ended imprisonment. And so several thousand accepted the deal. Recent accounts in the Israeli media reveal that deportees are left stranded without documents, and without prospects for work. Some end up hungry and on the streets. Some attempt to be admitted into UN refugee camps, without success. And so most leave Rwanda and begin wandering again.