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African asylum seekers strike to demand rights, hold unprecedented rally in Tel Aviv

In an unprecedented protest, some 20,000 African asylum seekers march to Rabin Square to demand that Israel examine their asylum claims and stop arresting and detaining members of the refugee community.

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Over 20,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea, assembled in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Sunday morning to demand recognition as refugees. Across Israel, asylum seekers went on a three-day strike, and more protests were planned.

In recent weeks, the government stepped up the arrest and imprisonment of African asylum seekers who entered the state without permits. Several months ago, Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down a law authorizing the state to lock up for three years any person who entered the country illegally, and in some cases, indefinitely. But last month the Knesset passed a new law, authorizing the state to hold asylum seekers in “closed” prisons for a year. A new “open” holding facility named “Holot” began operating in the desert, where asylum seekers can be held indefinitely until their eventual deportation.

The government has stepped up enforcement measures against Israeli businesses that employ asylum seekers in recent weeks and months and municipalities have been shutting down shops and restaurants owned by Africans, adding to a feeling of despair in the asylum seeker community.

The general strike is the latest step in the African protest campaign against the recent measures. Dozens of asylum seekers walked out of the Holot facility (most of them were returned by force), large marches took place in Tel Aviv and Eritrean dissidents broke into an event in the North hosted by the Eritrean ambassador to Israel. Some 50 people were injured and arrested in the fight that broke out between the regime supporters and the protesters.

Most asylum seekers who do work are employed in hotels and restaurants, mostly as various types of cleaners.

Click here for +972 Magazine’s full coverage of asylum seekers in Israel

Protesters in Tel Aviv held signs reading: “We are not criminals; we are refugees,” and “Freedom”. Speakers told stories about the plight of the community. “We are living in fear,” one speaker said, “the government waged war on us.” At least a couple members of Knesset showed up and expressed their support for the asylum seekers.

Speaking at the rally, chair of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said, “this is an existing moment: tens of thousands of innocent people are not willing to go to prison, standing together and shouting: ‘we are not criminals.”

“There are certain steps (taken by the state) about which we cannot stay silent,” she continued. “It’s time for real answers – and the government can give them.”

There are some 53,000 African Asylum seekers in Israel. The government refuses to review their individual requests for refugee status and instead refers to them as “infiltrators.” The term, which was used to describe Palestinians refugees that tried to enter the country in the 1950s, is also commonly used in the Hebrew media.

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

A man holds an Eritrean flag as asylum seekers protest continued detentions and demand Israel examine their asylum claims, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Asylum seeker women march toward Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike demanding refugee rights in Israel, January 5, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

African asylum seekers hold signs demanding health care and protection at a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Related:
Immigration officers arrest asylum seekers on second ‘March for Freedom’
Prison break: African asylum seekers claim their place on the Israeli political map
Knesset passes revised law for detention of African asylum seekers

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Adam Dayton

      In the beginning of 2012, 100,000 Darfurians returned home. For those supporting their continued stay in Israel, please provide me with verifiable evidence that 10 of those returning individuals subsequently endured bodily harm.

      Reply to Comment
      • Why is the national right so afraid of asylum hearings? Wouldn’t the present state of home country and likelihood of harm upon return be part of those hearings? Since you know how those hearings would turn out, why do you resist them?

        Abrogate the convention on refugees and be done with it. It is obviously not to your tastes.

        Instead of Darfur, why not consider those deported from Israel back to South Sudan? Things are going pretty well there. And since you know how your challenge will turn out, why not go show that less than 1/10,000 returned have thereby endured “bodily harm.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          We resist them because a priori there is no obligation for the State of Israel to have them. It is an attempt by various left wing organization to impose their immigration policy over the wishes of the sovereign state of Israel and her citizens.

          The basic idea is at first to grant these people some kind of semi-permanent legal status before making additional demands on the state to integrate them. The principle of the matter is to impose on the state a warped view of international refugee law according to which anyone that shows up illegally in Israel should be immediately put on a track towards permanent residence. That is effectively the policy in European states whose immigration policy is admired on the left. It is indeed a generous immigration policy but it derives almost nothing from the relevant international refugee conventions. The European can afford to be generous. We can’t. Israel provides these illegal migrants all that it is obligated to do – shelter, food and an absence of deportation to their home countries. We are not obligated to create a process to permanently integrate them.

          Reply to Comment
          • Abrogate the refugee convention; the State has essentially done that implicitly, only stopped fully by a High Court ruling on deportation. That is the “national sovereign” solution; can not the right coalition muster the votes? Instead you advocate the selective enforcement of law based on the immense power of leftists (forget the Court, it doesn’t exist) to single handily determine immigration policy. An explanation such as yours can be read into the Knesset record before vote as justification.

            Asylum hearings or abrogation. I don’t see any leftists stopping the latter.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            There is no reason to abrogate the refugee convention. It does not apply. This is one of these stupid arguments like ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’ where by your insinuation that we should abrogate the convention you imply that we are doing something against the convention. The only problem is that you demand that we abrogate something that is irrelevant in this case.

            Your choice as such is false. There is no need to do neither asylum hearings for people that have no claim to asylum nor to abrogate a treaty that does not apply . Our only obligations are to not deport these people to a place where they might be in danger and ensure their basic needs are met. That’s it. We have no obligation to absorb them or to provide them with any mechanism for achieving legal status.

            They crossed illegally. They have no right to refugee status since they crossed multiple countries in which they could have been granted refugee status according to the convention. They have no right to be in this country period. We just can’t expel them for now. Yet we are not obligated to allow them to live in Tel Aviv or to work in jobs that would allow them to send money back to their families.

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            Greg – so according to your position, if 60,000 Frenchmen (30% of those being women) illegally infiltrated Israel in the same fashion, you also would be demanding trials? After all, if the need for a trial is an absolute, then it would apply even in the most absurd situations.

            The situation here borders on the absurd. It’s clear that these unlawful migrants are here for economic purposes or purposes otherwise not covered by the refugee convention. Their lives aren’t in danger. Out of the 100,000 who returned to Darfur last year, how many were subsequently killed? Why didn’t those in Israel from Darfur and Eritrea go to refugee camps in neighboring states where their lives clearly aren’t at risk?

            It is fundamentally anti-democratic to bind the Israeli people to absurd legal standards.

            Reply to Comment
          • So, Adam, we go from Darfur to France and ignore the deportation of refugees back to South Sudan prior to the present near civil war there. The answer to your France example is rather obvious: if France was in meltdown, and if 53,000 (the number Noam uses) were somehow illegally present in Israel, and if the High Court had ruled as it has in the real case, then, yes, they should be granted hearings. The convention says there must be significant reason to expect bodily harm (or unjust incarceration, by the way) if deported to their origin. How you get to France from that is a bit beyond me.

            “It is fundamentally anti-democratic to bind the Israeli people to absurd legal standards.” : This is the crux, as I note in response to K9, below. Israel ratified the convention; the “absurd standards” are part of Israeli law; the High Court adjudicates them–not you. As I have said so many times, if the standards are absurd why not suggest that the convention be abrogated by the Knesset? What clearer example of democratic supremacy do you want? As to the general tenure of your “anti-democratic,” it would leave redress of Jim Crow in the American South impossible, from lynching (at its height about 188/year around the turn of the century, I read last night) to unjust imprisonment to literacy tests for voting to school education; in all of these cases, all, the “will of the People” was evoked . A constitutional democracy is not a majoritarian democracy. The law plays out slowing, having multiple points of genesis and refinement. What both you and K9 seem to be saying is that this process is not right for Israel. I think that view a huge mistake. It has already lead to a 30-15 Knesset vote (out of 120 MK, so 75, an absolute majority, stayed away) trying to overturn a High Court decision based, even say the Knesset legal staff, on a very dubious redefinition of incarceration. I am beginning to see this approach as a kind of legal, not economic, fascism: the Knesset is the People and the People are the Knesset, all law is through them, and in their Will they may change it at any time; there can be no rights in such a view. Do you really want to go there?

            Although I do not know how all this will shake out, it is my dream that some day these refugees will be seen as beginning the time when the Israeli constitution began to self repair–just began, not complete. The Justices have to take a stand now. Maybe they won’t. But I do believe that possibility has you and K9 disgusted.

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            I don’t see how South Sudan is relevant, being in the midst of a civil war doesn’t qualify as satisfying article 1 of the convention. At the time of their deportation, certainty “maybe there could be a civil war in the future but I have no solid evidence” qualified them for a continued stay in Israel.

            Now with respect to the matter of Frenchman. Can you please provide me with a citation saying that trials are only necessary when 1) The country of origin is in a “meltdown” and 2) There has been a high court ruling?

            “The convention says there must be significant reason to expect bodily harm (or unjust incarceration, by the way) if deported to their origin. ”

            A significant reason should be based upon hard evidence, not mere speculation. 100,000 Darfurians returned home in the beginning of 2012. Please name me 10 who were killed for reasons listed in article 1. I’d like to see hard evidence that those returning can expect some form of harm.

            I am fully in support of the matter of doing away with the convention be addressed in the convention.

            With respect to the issue of majoritarianism and Jim Crow laws, you seem to be implying that morality should play a role. Morality is relative. You’re more than welcome to scientifically prove to me that Jim Crow laws are wrong. Of course, you must first scientifically prove to me that “Wrong” exists in an objective sense.

            The fundamentals behind your position is that the majority of people in a decision making body (society)should nonetheless be constrained by a sense of morality, no more objective than their own, to which they do not adhere.

            You may wish to call majoritarianism fashion, but what do we call your view, one that entails that a people should be held to laws and standards to which they do not consent. That sounds a little more like fascism to me.

            Reply to Comment
          • Philos

            How Israel went from a darling of the left until the 90s to being most vocally defended by right-wing(nut) Americans like you is a question that should trouble all Israelis. Your ideas are so off the spectrum that most Israelis (apart from Beitar Yerushlaim Ultras) wouldn’t associate with you. Jim Crow needs to be “scientifically proven wrong” can only come from a mind that can be scientifically proven to be afflicted by a number of personality disorders. Although I’m crazy for trying to reason with a crazy person – the very essence of American democracy (which can to be the standard for all democracies) is the Hamiltonian compromises that protect minorities (political, religious, ethnic, sexual, et al) from majoritarian tyranny. Thus you have inalienable rights like free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association and assembly combined with a rule structure like judicial review, super-majorities to amend the constitution, and executive veto. In theory these practices and norms exist in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the Basic Laws, which are the normative bedrock of Israel’s constitutional arrangements. Obviously, like Britain, Israel’s constitutional arrangements can’t be scientifically proven because there isn’t a single constitutional document and it is an area of ongoing struggle where factions defend (or undermine) different aspects of it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            The Hamilton compromise protects sexual minorities? Lol. I encourage you to do a bit of research into how “sexual minorities” were treated during the formative of the United States.

            The fact of the matter is this – you view us as the silly little peasants who are too stupid to govern themselves as a majority and determine their own system of morality. We need great enlightened bodhisatvas like you to tell us how to live our lives. The Israeli people don’t want the infiltrators here? Who cares what they want. They aren’t Grand Ayatollah Philos; they lack his infinite wisdom. Their will should not be respected.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Ratifying an international convention does not bind a country to the interpretation of that convention by an external body. That some external body or bodies persistently reinterpret the convention in egregiously aggressive and invasive ways does not require a sovereign state to step in line. The state is still sovereign in determining its own interpretation of any convention signed unless there is an adjucator defined within the ratified law. In the case of the convention we are arguing about there isn’t. Some countries choose to create domestic laws that grant a role to the UNHCR and the interpretation it holds, but that is not an obligation present in the convention. All that states are obligated by the convention to do is to cooperate with the UNHCR, not kowtow to its diktats.

            The convention does not apply. That the UNHCR and extreme left wing groups keep claiming that the ‘spirit’ of the convention is not being respected by Israel is all fine and dandy, but one isn’t obligated to comply with the ever shifting ‘spirit’ of a law, only the words written on paper. The words written on paper that the Knesset previously ratified do not apply to the Eritreans and Sudanese that illegally crossed the Israeli border. The convention quite simply does not apply to them. If the Syrians or the Egyptians showed up it would be a different story.

            Then there is the ever present attempts to confuse the issue. Some point to the Europeans that grant refugee status to the majority of Eritreans that make it to their borders. Good for them, but who cares? Others point to the ruling of the Supreme Court according to which the State is obligated to provide the illegal migrants with certain minimal needs. Again, good for them, but what does that have to do with the convention? Still nothing. Even UNHCR’s claims on the matter are basically meaningless. No one anointed them with the authority to instruct sovereign governments on how to deal with immigration policy or for that matter the authority to interpret the convention.

            I don’t know what the justices will do on this issue. What I do know is that if they choose to take the stance you advocate and assert their supremacy over the Knesset they are choosing to marginalize themselves and it is entirely within the authority of the Knesset in our system of government to make that happen. There are many that are chomping at the bit to do just that. I think such a state of affairs would be unfortunate but I don’t accept the idea that the Court has the unlimited power to intervene in governance and most certainly not to insist on the primacy of insane interpretations of international conventions over the wishes and laws of the elected representatives of the people. In any case, regardless of what they rule, the government, with the overwhelming support of the population will ensure that the Sudanese and Eritreans that illegally entered our country will not have a long or pleasant stay here.

            Reply to Comment
          • Sarah

            “Israel provides these illegal migrant all that it is obligated to do – shelter food and an absence of deportation to their home countries.” What a denial of reality. By the way – Israel was active in the formulation of the international convention of refugee rights and signed this convention – but how “clever” we are, we don’t have hearings so we don’t have refugees. A childish cruel game.

            Reply to Comment
    2. “In recent weeks and months the government has stepped up enforcement measures against Israeli businesses that employ asylum seekers and municipalities have been shutting down shops and restaurants owned by Africans, adding to a feeling of despair in the asylum seeker community.”

      It is becoming very hard to refuse the proposition that the State selectively enforces the law for political purposes, and that similar selective enforcement under occupation has become, or is becoming, a standard mode of thought in Israel proper, race being the door to such non-enforcement. There is just no reason not to provide asylum hearings; they could have begun some three years ago.

      I continue to say: this is a constitutional crisis. The piece

      http://972mag.com/deprived-of-labor-rights-migrant-caregivers-take-to-the-streets/85054/

      of today says

      “[legal] migrant caregivers coming to Israel take out loans to pay an average of $8,400 in agency fees to private recruiting agencies in exchange for a work visa. The fees are collected in violation of Israeli law and effectively bind workers to their places of work; a form of debt bondage, recruiting fees prevent caregivers from speaking out against exploitation or mistreatment for fear that will be unable to pay back their loans.”

      I have heard this before: “..in violation of Israeli law…” Selective enforcement cured by race inducing involuntary servitude in outcome. Who can enforce the law?

      Reply to Comment
      • “Selective enforcement cured by race,” while it does have kind of bizarre logic, should have read “cued by race.” I claim spelling checker intervention.

        Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Certainly not you since it is none of your business.

        It is true that the state is not enforcing the law. These people have no right to employment yet they flaunt their own law breaking by ‘striking’. This is indeed a law that must be enforced by the state. The state also failed in enforcing immigration law when it allowed these people to enter the country. That law is the one whose implementation you reject. If the law was enforced there wouldn’t be thousands of illegal migrants on a strike from their illegal jobs in the middle of Tel Aviv. So, don’t give me that pretentious crap about government non-enforcement of the law when it is precisely the non-enforcement of the law that got us to this point.

        Reply to Comment
        • K9, I have no problem with preventing entry (absent lethal force). This same dilemma exists in the US through southern border immigration. Your High Court ruled that presence in Israel, no matter how obtained, constitutes right of asylum claim. I didn’t say that, and US courts didn’t say that; your High Court did. That the borders were not secure (with no suicide bombings, by the way) does not obviate that High Court decision. Indeed, the Knesset and IDF secured the gate after the High Court’s decision, and rightly so in law.

          What you advocate is the nullification of High Court decisions based on “the will of the People” and Knesset Supremacy. As I’ve said several times now, these refugees are pawns in a constitutional conflict over the rule and genesis of law. Your position, perhaps of convenience, perhaps more than that (I find it hard to tell which given the vindictive you of late employ), seems to be that the Knesset alone determines law by a simply quorum majority. Thus you hold:

          1) The High Court decision forbidding deportation absent hearing can be nullified by the Knesset.

          2) The High Court decision forbidding prolonged detention without trial or hearing as repugnant to Basic Law can be nullified by a redefinition of “prison” and “detention” in law based on a 30-15 Knesset vote not even meeting the Knesset self defined prior rules for change in Basic Law.

          3) The Knesset alone determines the meaning of treaties and conventions, even if a prior Knesset ratified them, leaving the thinking of those then voting lost to the past.

          4) The High Court can do nothing which cannot be overruled by the Knesset, for a Supreme Knesset is your only constitution and always will be so.

          This last is what this fight is really about. My own view on the refugees is legal: the High Court said they must be granted hearings prior to deportation; provide them. The High Court said the first prison violated Basic Law and should be closed; close it. The law, as read and articulated by your High Court, not the Knesset, has made these refugees persons crying claim. You can trump the High Court by abrogating the convention, but not by saying that the convention does not apply by political fiat.

          The logic of occupation is coming home to roost through the lens of race. The High Court, which I do not see as all that liberal left at all, has in the past been ignored by State fiat. Here, however, the issue is not occupation security but refugees, and that enrages your kind. As you have told me before on these threads, you would muzzle the Court.

          Perhaps your kind will. It is up to the Justices now. No clearer case will be forthcoming, I suspect.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The High Court does not create laws. The legislature does that. This is pretty basic separation of powers stuff. There is no Israeli constitution that would serve as a basic guideline for the court. There are basic laws which were created by the legislature and which can be changed by it. As such, the argument that the High Court has some sort of supreme authority to override any law it does not like is simply a gross misunderstanding of the extent of power the court has. You might be confused because you think Israeli system is like that of the US. People from Israel who write on these issues in English tend to play into that ignorance.

            In this case the court ruled against holding the infiltrators in prison for 3 years. Fine. They will instead be held for a year or more in a holding facility. If the court rules that there must be a procedure for reviewing the cases, fine they will be reviewed and summarily rejected. The court can say whatever it wants. When 90% of the population and the legislature and the executive do not agree with it then it has the choice of either being made irrelevant or to come off its elitist high horse and actually listen to the people.

            And yes, the High Court most definitely has no business trying to impose some whacko interpretation of a 60 year old international treaty that in any case does not apply. Where such treaties might influence the laws made by the Knesset or the decisions made by the Executive that’s fine. It is not the job of the High Court to try to subvert Israeli law by demanding the implementation of a sickeningly misguided reading of an international convention.

            Indeed, if the court decides to try to impose foreign conventions over the laws made by the representatives of the people it should be muzzled because it has fundamentally forgotten that its job is to function to interpret and judge according to Israeli law, not its own ideological tendencies.

            There is no lens of race here. What exists here is an attempt by the extreme left to impose its narrative and political agenda on everyone else and to do so with the typical accusations of racism against anyone who does not agree. But this isn’t the US. Such nonsense here falls on ears well adjusted to the screeching noise that the extreme left emits.

            Reply to Comment
          • K9, I’ve detailed many times on this site my views of the High Court’s constitutional power and whence it derives and will not repeat that now. I think you are right that under Knesset Supremacy no present Knesset is held to the decisions of a previous one. Thus even the Basic Law requirement that changes in that Law must have an absolute majority can be voided at any moment. The open prison law passed 30-15, 75 MK not voting. I am beginning to see how MK’s weasel out of responsibility by not voting. In any case, an affirmative vote of 30 is hardly evidence of majoritarian democracy; rather otherwise.

            The new law has detention of a year with indefinite year extensions. Do you really think there will be hearings after a year to see if another year should be applied? Asylum hearings? No, the law establishes administrative detention, exactly what the High Court said was against Basic Law written by an earlier Knesset. The occupation has come home to roost: an unwanted race is to be detained indefinitely without court review.

            And, as applied, race is explicit. Noam tell us today on another post that there are more illegal post-Soviet immigrants in your land than these African. Yet not one–not one, sir–has been imprisoned under either “infiltration” law. How could someone as politically cognizant as you not know of this? My respect for you is gone.

            I have said many times that these refugees have become pawns in a constitutional conflict over what the courts are, what due process is, and where rights are articulated. As that conflict may ultimately go, this is a mild beginning.

            And, just to be clear on the convention, it says that mode of entry (illegal or not) is secondary to asylum claim–which is why the High Court ruled as it did over three years ago. Over three years ago.

            Be honest. Abrogate the convention. Have your Supreme Knesset.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Israel does not have a constitution. It has Basic Laws made by the Knesset. The idea that the Supreme Court has some kind of god given right to use its own ideological biases in judging Israeli laws is ludicrous. The idea that extreme interpretations of international conventions take precedence over laws passed by the representatives of the people is even more absurd. Whether the law passed with 90 votes or 15 doesn’t particularly matter. It passed and is valid. It is not a law that overrides or changes any Basic Law so the argument that its validity is dependent on the number of votes it got is irrelevant.

            The court ruled that a 3 year sentence in a prison was excessive. It did not rule that the government is obligated to provide the illegal migrants with the full spectrum of privileges granted to legal residents. Even the ruling in which the State declared that it wouldn’t enforce work laws in order to allow the illegal migrants to support themselves was based on the basic needs of the population to survive. The State will argue that the new detention facility will provide for all the basic needs of the infiltrators and that it is not a prison because the migrants are free to come and go within reason. The Court did not rule that the State was obligated to allow the illegal migrants to work or to attend the theater in Tel Aviv. Assuming the conditions in the detention camp are reasonable and all the basic needs of the migrants are met, I really don’t see anything that the Court would find unconstitutional or objectionable.

            The part that Noam doesn’t point out to you is that the number of people that overstayed their tourist visas (which are the ‘post-Soviet’ illegals Noam is referring to when talking about people from the CIS) is in fact dropping rapidly and consistently due to the work of the immigration police and the interior ministry. That too is in the document Noam so generously links to… in Hebrew. I recall not too long ago we had a polite conversation on a thread about the deportation of a Polish woman with an Israeli-born child.

            What Eritreans and Sudanese have in common is that they illegally crossed the border. They are thus treated as a class. I don’t know who this ‘unwanted race’ is unless you consider Eritreans and Sudanese to be a race apart from the numerous black people that Israel has integrated the past 30 years. So, I fail to see where this red herring about race has an even remote factual basis.

            And again, I repeat. There is no reason to abrogate the convention. It does not apply. That some European countries wish to be more liberal with their own immigration policies is their own business. The usual line of argument for why Israel should hear refugee cases for Eritreans is that in other countries they get hearings and receive asylum in 75% of the cases. That is an argument on the basis of how other countries interpret the convention, not on the convention itself.

            And it most certainly is not up to the Court to determine the interpretation of an international convention. It is up to the Legislature to do that when drafting local laws that would theoretically be consistent with international conventions it ratified. And even if the Legislature wishes to change the local law because it chooses a different interpretation of the international convention it is still not within the authority of the Court to intervene. The idea that the current legislative body can’t change laws that were passed by the previous legislative bodies is absurd. Only from the position of granting the Court an overriding authority to judge on the basis of its own ideological considerations can such a position be defended. And to be even more blunt about it your interpretation of the convention and even that of the UNHCR are just as irrelevant. The Legislature creates the law of the land.

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            Greg – here is the question. Let’s say that the case of an Israeli killing an Arab family in cold blood went to the High Court. The High Court rules that not do Arabs not have a right to life, but that there is a legal obligation to kill them.

            Should the Knesset and the Israeli people adhere to this? Should they defer to the High Court?

            This, not unlike many of the High Court decisions including its decision regarding the infiltrators, would be an example of ruling by decree without applying the law in good faith.

            Should the Israeli people adhere to the High Court’s rulings absolutely, regardless of whether they are in good faith? Should they adhere only to those decrees that are made in good faith? Or should they adhere only to those decrees that YOU agree with?

            We’ve been doing a lot of talk about the nature of democracy here. Where exactly in the philosophy of democracy is it found that courts are tasked with ruling by decree, without referencing the law and the will of those making the law in good faith?

            Reply to Comment
          • Adam, Justices of the High Court are appointed, and those appointed the last decade are overall distinctly more conservative than the Barak 90′s. Even so, the detention camp decision was 9-0. If you are a Knesset Supremacist then it indeed doesn’t matter what the Court says or does; even its administrative decisions become subject to potential Knesset blockage. The thesis I support is that law has multiple points of genesis; no institution owns it. Courts are limited in many ways; for instance, a case must be brought to them–they cannot proclaim as a legislature can.

            Your killing Arabs example (interesting choice), although quite extreme, does point out that a court may not go where you want. Plessy v Ferguson in the US effectively legitimized much of Jim Crow for over 50 years; the decision was finally (implicitly) overturned in Brown v Board of Education, which took another 20 odd years to be effectively implemented. There is no guarantee under judicial review. But it tends to act as a ratchet: once rights are declared, they are difficult to lose completely.

            Majoritarian rule can create laws which lock the present majority electorally. Indeed, a majority can dissolve all elections–which is the counter example to your Court says kill Arabs argument (and that is how Hitler took power–via a legislative handover, quite consistent with Knesset Supremacy). The Boycott and Nakba Laws act to prevent organization on lines deemed unacceptable politically, not in terms of violence, but thought. The reason for doing this is to prevent the thought from expanding; an alternative is being smothered for the sake of the present majority. Which is perhaps the most important underlying point: electoral majorities change. Indeed, shortly after election the views of the electorate can change, for overall outcome can alter views on how someone voted. More, you elect parties who define eligibility lists, not actual persons, and one’s place on a list may change. Even if personalities (limited to the top of the list, mostly) were directly chosen, their acts can alter electorate perception. An election becomes a self referential act which alters the voting electorate itself. Rights prevent these processes from locking in a present representative majority via the very laws it creates.

            In the case at hand, the State has refused asylum hearings, and rebelled against, yes, the Court’s interpretation of Basic Law previously passed by the Knesset. If you want majoritarian representative rule, as I keep saying, abrogate the convention. You seem to accept doing that, which is honest.

            Having independent institutions tends to prevent either of these extreme Knesset or Court law cases from occurring. It does not stop conflict; consider how abortion is still a major political and at times legal issue in the US. What has happened in Israel is that the High Court has been deflected just about from the foundation of the State, mostly on issues of security. But security in this land easily slips into racial/ethnic categories. Since security trumps in the polity, the Court has in the past mostly accepted subordination. Now, however, a clear case in law has emerged unrelated to the usual security fears yet employs the same racial/ethnic categories used to quell the Court elsewhere. The Court has taken a stand, enraging the Knesset ruling coalition. This is institutional growth.

            Finally, rights adjudication usually focuses on the individual. Fascism merges the individual into the State or (usually ethnic) group. It will be rather hard for a Court employing rights jurisprudence to be fascistic. But what I hear the Knesset Supremacists saying is overtly so.

            All of this would go away if asylum hearings were held. Several years have gone by since the claimants have arrived. Their information has decayed. Even in a country with documented persecution not all refugees need be subject to it. Certainly some of the refugees are economic in the usual sense. Frankly, after watching how the State has acted so far, I wouldn’t want to be subject to a hearing organized by it. I don’t know what the courts will do if hearings lead to major denials. It might be that would form the institutional compromise, the Court saying “you heard us, had the hearings, that’s enough.” Or, if the hearings blatantly violate evidence and process, more conflict could come. What I am certain of is that this and the previous government have brought this on themselves by not forming hearings early, hearings more likely to go unchallenged; instead it built a prison in the desert, now two of them. Think about it.

            Reply to Comment
      • Adam Dayton

        Okay, you caught us. We are giant hypocrites. We really don’t give a damn. Actual self-interest trumps feeling so good about ourselves because we aren’t hypocrites.

        In reality, there is no hypocrisy here – the Jews returned to their homeland and built a civilized country out of a backwards wasteland. The Africans have infiltrated a country to which they have no ties, and they have nothing to offer society (how many of the Eritreans, for example, are PhDs?

        Reply to Comment
        • “The Africans have infiltrated a country to which they have no ties, and they have nothing to offer society (how many of the Eritreans, for example, are PhDs?” : Another reason to abrogate the convention, don’t you think?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ted O.Haile

            No body is illegal but maybe undocumented due to the un transparency and cheating of the authorities on the frist meeting ….crossing the road border

            Reply to Comment
    3. Tomer

      Illegals are illegal !
      What cannot you understand?

      Send these people back home on the next flight back. Their relatives are waiting for them!

      Reply to Comment
    4. JG

      Adam Dayton: “It is fundamentally anti-democratic to bind the Israeli people to absurd legal standards.”

      Oh yeah, how dare to bind a country, who claims to be the only democratic one and a beacon of morality, to some legal standards for democratic countries.

      Reply to Comment
    5. the sould go bag to africa

      Reply to Comment
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