Setting the Record Straight on Israel’s Deportation of Illegal Immigrants

Israel has recently announced plans to expel a number of migrants who entered the country without permission—most of them from Sudan or Eritrea via the Sinai between 2006 and 2012. Predictably the decision has raised an outcry, including from American Jewish groups. Against these critics, Emmanuel Navon explains that the deportees are not refugees, and that the deportations are in line with Western practice in general:

Like other signatories of the UN’s 1951 Refugees Convention, Israel is bound to grant refugee status to people who flee “genocide, war, persecution, and slavery to dictatorial regimes.” It did so in 1977 when it accepted Vietnamese “boat people” rejected by other countries. It has been doing so for the small percentage of African migrants who are actual asylum seekers. . . . Israel does, [for instance], consider the Sudanese from Darfur a special case, . . . which is why the Israeli government has granted temporary-resident status so far to 500 Darfur refugees, and has promised to speed up the refugee-status determination process for other Darfur refugees.

Israel could theoretically keep illegal work migrants for altruistic reasons (as advocated mainly by American Jewish groups), but the Israeli government, like any responsible and answerable government, must also take into account the well-being of its own citizens. The residents of south Tel Aviv, [where most of the immigrants settle], are the victims of rising crime rates and of deteriorating living conditions. . . . Moreover, as opposed to large and aging countries such as Germany and Japan, Israel is a small and densely populated country with high birthrates, and therefore it has neither the need nor the capacity to legalize illegal migration. . . . Israel is only expelling illegal immigrants who are single, and it has made clear that it will not expel families.

Israel is far from being the only democracy that sends back illegal immigrants. The United States expels 400,000 illegal immigrants every year. Germany has been sending back illegal immigrants to Afghanistan, and Italy to Sudan. In 2017, Germany expelled 80,000 illegal immigrants. . . .

Israel is a safe haven to all Jews, as well as to non-Jewish asylum seekers who meet the criteria of the Refugee Convention—which most illegal immigrants don’t. Israel’s policy is consistent with international law and with the practice of other democracies, and it should not be judged by higher standards.

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No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East