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Kicking the neoliberal habit

After the 2008 global financial crisis, some of Israel’s neo-liberal fundamentalists sobered up from capitalist dogmatism and became ‘social.’ This led them to discovering Scandinavia, and lately they have been busy marketing a biased and union-free capitalist version of the ‘Nordic Model’ in Israel as well.

By Yossi Dahan (Translated from Hebrew by Orna Meir-Stacey,  Edited by Ami Asher)

(Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com)

(Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com)

It is interesting to follow the socioeconomic discourse in Israel as it developed over the past three decades. To see how the social-democratic dictionary and debate, which had previously been the province of few – a discourse revolving around values such as social justice, solidarity and collective responsibility adopted in the Nordic welfare state model – was partially appropriated and adopted by the establishment media. There were days when this discourse would be subject to heaps of contempt and mockery on the part of the neoliberal economy media, which treated anybody daring to express ideas such as social justice and social-democracy as economic ignoramuses, dogmatists and ideologists, whose vision was to turn Israel into the Stalinist Soviet Union.

Mainstream neo-liberal media included, at the time, many zealot followers like Guy Rolnik, who served at the time as economic correspondent in the IDF Radio. I recall the weekly public service broadcasts in favor of capitalists and rouge capitalism in the program “A Brief Hour about Economy,” edited and delivered at the station by the senior Haaretz economic correspondent and commentator, Avraham Tal. I recall the daily preaching for privatization, social budget cuts and deregulation to which many others in the established media were partners – but were no more than provincial copycats of their Reaganist and Thatcherite ideological allies. In recent years, particularly after the 2008 global crisis and more so since the 2011 social protest in Israel, some of these zealots have been undergoing ideological rehab, suddenly digging up the social dimension of the economy, and announcing the amazing discovery that the economy should serve society, not the other way round. The funny thing is how quickly those fickle public opinion leaders are appropriating a progressive social discourse without a word of apology or remorse. I’m not complaining, though. I can only wish them full and successful rehab without too many withdrawal symptoms.

About six months ago, on the ruins...

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Complicated justice: Must occupation be the litmus test for the Left?

While many remember Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, who passed earlier this month, for concluding that there is no occupation of the West Bank, Ofer Sitbon says we must see Levy as an activist judge with a strong sense of justice for the underprivileged.

By Ofer Sitbon

Everyone had their own Edmund Levy. Since passing away at the age of 72 two weeks ago, the former Supreme Court justice has received myriad obituaries highlighting his extraordinary judicial personality. There were those who longingly emphasized his ruling regarding Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, in which he wrote unprecedented political lines in Israel’s legal history, including: “each one of us is commanded to see himself as if the sword of the evacuation was swung on his neck” and “the right of Jews to settle in Judea, Samaria and Gaza draws its power from the same source that gave the Jews the right to settle in Nahariya, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ramle and Lod.” Levy is especially remembered for heading a Netanyahu-appointed committee that released a report stating that the West Bank is not “occupied territory,” and therefore the establishment of settlements there does not breach international law.

Along with the Revisionist side of the man who previously served as deputy mayor of Ramle on behalf of the Likud, others praised Levy for being an “outsider” justice who was never a member of the “Rehavia gang” (a group of liberal justices that controlled the Supreme Court in the 90′s and 00′s). In his eulogy, Attorney Avigdor Feldman stuck primarily to Levy’s courageous ruling about the unconstitutionality of the Citizenship Law, which banned family unification between Israeli Arabs and their Palestinian spouses who live in the occupied territories. In his ruling, Levy wrote remarkable lines such as “the Citizenship Law threatens to break down the wall of the “Jewish and democratic state,” whose robustness has protected it until now.” The effect of the law remains strong – the damage still echoes today. Its legislation is a seminal event in the history of Israeli democracy.

Furthermore, Professor Aeyal Gross eulogized the activist justice who, alongside his rightist activism, wrote also inspiring social-democratic rulings – such as the cancellation of the binding of migrant workers to their employers; and especially his resounding minority opinion about the cutting of income support (the “Mehuyavot ruling”), and echoed the views of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen:

We can only hope that one...

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Two journeys back in time to a place called home

Sixty-five years after his family fled their beloved village, a Palestinian refugee gets to realize his dream and see what is left of his fantasy.

By Assia Ladizhinskaya

“It’s good to see you’ve come back home,” sings the radio ever since Arik Einstein passed away, “Home – it says it all.” “What does it mean?” asked Waffa, as we sat on the balcony of his sister’s house, standing white and stony on the highest hill of Beit ‘Anan in the West Bank. “Everything,” I replied.

Waffa and I have known each other for a decade. A tragedy brought us together, and we get together once a year and talk about everything – everything apart from the tragedy. This time we talked about this home, to which it is so good to come back to. We compared our clumsy return experiences, and our personal attempts at feeling the taste of a mythological ‘home’ which says it all. This is how it happened:

Waffa’s family reached the small village near Ramallah in 1948, leaving the hilly village of Bayt Shanna in a hurry in order to safely settle beyond what became known as the Green Line. Although Waffa was born in Beit ‘Anan, he heard about Bayt Shanna from his parents and grandparents, who compared each winter to the winter there, every tree to the trees of the village, and each dinner to the ones they would have before the expulsion. And so it happened that Waffa kept looking back into the past; his longing for the perfection of Bayt Shanna refused to dissipate. Waffa worked as a water engineer in the West Bank, and after receiving a permit to enter Israel in order to travel on the main roads and tend to the waterworks, he offered me to visit his family’s village together. I happily accepted.

The remains of the Palestinian village Bayt Shanna, near Ramle. (photo: palestineremembered.com)

The remains of the Palestinian village Bayt Shanna, near Ramle. (photo: palestineremembered.com)

We set out on our way in the late morning. I was equipped with a giant map of the Israel National Trail, on which Bayt Shanna appeared as a tiny dot in a sea of lines. Waffa was equipped with a camera, comfortable shoes and great excitement. After 40 minutes of a tense drive, we arrived – or so...

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Fantasy of superiority: How the Israeli media pits Mizrahim against asylum seekers

Israeli journalists are only inflaming tensions by blaming longtime Oriental Jews residents of south Tel Aviv for the plight of African asylum seekers. So one must ask: why aren’t journalists actually holding the government accountable?

Shoshana Gabay (Translated from Hebrew by Benno Karkabe, Shoshana Gabay and Dana Hadadi)

May Golan is a young resident of an impoverished south Tel Aviv neighborhood, and an active member of Michael Ben-Ari’s fascist movement “Otzma Le’Israel” (Power to Israel). In an interview she gave to Haaretz, Golan succeeded in infuriating its readers with her personality and her slandering of African refugees.Golan’s written profile is another round of the Israeli press fighting racism against African refugees by exposing the dark ethnic roots of ‘agitators’: the Oriental Jews.

At the same time, the press displays the bleeding heart of the ruling class – offering those people in need a pair of worn sneakers, as one Haaretz  journalist says in his personal story.

We are disappointed in the Oriental JEw. That’s what Michael Handelzalts expressed in a Haaretz article, a day after last year’s riots in the slums of Tel Aviv. In his complaint over the ungrateful oriental Jews, he says: “we absorbed ‘Aliyah’ (immigration) from countries in distress, and then helped them to adjust to the progress that we built here, all to their benefit.” Then, paraphrasing the Book of Kings, he writes: “Our fathers watered weeds, we are beaten up by scorpions.” This statement by the disappointed journalist basically questions the Oriental Jews’ right to Israeli citizenship, which unconditionally provides them basic rights in the country.

Handelzalts, the paper’s theater critic, immigrated from eastern Europe in 1957 – a long time after the majority of Oriental Jews immigrants settled in that very south Tel Aviv neighborhood. In other words, he wasn’t born here, yet, to him it is natural to use the “royal we.” His Zionist idealization implies progress and an active attitude in society. In Handelzalts mind, the ungrateful and passive Oriental Jews do not contribute, they only profit.

This fantasy of superiority, effectively draining the core of Israeli citizenship, is well-rooted in the hegemonic class; it has been carved into young Golan’s mind as well. “I am Jewish,” she says in one of her street duels, which is to say: my Judaism is my insurance ticket, whereas my rights as an Israeli citizen are not.
Even the African refugee himself has become aware...

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For the sake of peace, it is time to put an end to negotiations

After 20 years of a failed and fictitious peace process, there is no more room for ‘processes’ that serve as substitutes for peace. There is nothing left to clarify between the two sides. The only possible compromise for a peace agreement is well known.

By Rona Moran and Hana Amouri (Translated from Hebrew by Itamar Haritan) 

The ongoing “peace” negotiations are headed for failure. Everyone knows it. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu know it, as do the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, who are participating in the negotiations under heavy American pressure. The U.S. knows it too — since the collapse of negotiations in 2000, all those grandiose declarations periodically issued by U.S. presidents and secretaries of state have a tendency to evaporate quickly, leaving behind them momentary glory for the declarers, and additional legitimacy for preserving the status quo, deepening the occupation and the perpetuating the conflict for the residents of this country.

The current situation is comfortable for the ruling parties in Israel. Most Israeli ministers do not bother to hide their intention to continue the colonization process in every part of the country. A small minority in the governing coalition, along with the Labor Party, expresses consistent support for “the peace process,” which may fool the well-intentioned observer to think that it wants a process that ends in an agreement. In practice, however, they support a peace process and not a peace agreement. In other words, they support an endless process that makes it possible to preserve American support and good relations with the international community, while shoring up the major settlement blocs and allowing various corporations to continue to enjoy enormous profits from the ongoing occupation and from the total dependency of the Palestinian economy on the Israeli economy.

It may be that the present situation is comfortable for Israel’s ruling parties. It may be that for many in the Israeli-Jewish public, the words “occupation” and “peace” sound like echoes from the past, words that are no longer relevant for present-day discussion. But for a great many Palestinians, this dummy peace process, a process that reinforces the existing situation, is insufferable. First and foremost, because it perpetuates occupation, colonization and daily violence, and dispossesses more and more Palestinians of their land.

The colonization process sentences Palestinians to a life of oppression and poverty;...

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Palestinian incitement: Genuine problem or right-wing dream?

It’s not uncommon to hear Israeli leaders accuse the Palestinian Authority and its media outlets of inciting to violence against Israelis and Jews. But is it actually true? A closer examination of the evidence reveals that the habitual blaming of the Palestinian Authority is not only mostly unfounded, it is the product of a direct line between right-wing groups and the Prime Minister’s Office.

By Yizhar Be’er (Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Erez)

John Kerry’s arrival in the region and the looming “threat” of a final-status agreement have compelled right-wing leaders to pull out the old canard of “Palestinian incitement.” So, in a frenzied attempt to keep us all on our toes, the Israeli cabinet dedicated two full hours to the latest strategic “threat” hovering above us, once again calling in the “experts,” with zero advance notice, to present the latest “Palestinian Incitement Index” findings.

Government leaders in Israel habitually blame the Palestinian Authority and its prime minister’s incitement for impeding a peace agreement. “True peace cannot come into being without a halt in incitement against Israel and without education toward peace,” said Netanyahu in a cabinet meeting. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon claimed, “The Palestinians still educate toward incitement and bigotry based on quotes from Hitler. They claim that there’s no Jewish people.” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni accepts the served-up-as-truth campaign as unassailable: “The incitement on the Palestinian side is horrible. It’s terrible to educate children to hate,” she said, despite her conclusion that it is precisely because of this that we need a diplomatic solution.

PMW YouYube clip titled: “A look at the Palestinian media,” according to which Abbas incited to violence when he referred to terrorists as heroes. (YouTube screenshot)

PMW YouYube clip titled: “A look at the Palestinian media,” according to which Abbas incited to violence when he referred to terrorists as heroes. (YouTube screenshot)

Which sources are fed to Israeli leaders when they accuse the Palestinian Authority of incitement, at a time when security coordination between Israel and the Authority is tighter than it has ever been, and when, in the eyes of many, the PA is lead by the most moderate Palestinian leader there has ever been with whom we can reach a historic compromise? Against this backdrop, the time has come to examine the...

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Beyond the market and the state: Horizons for a new kind of public housing

The choice between entrusting the right of people to a house either to the hands of a violent government or to capitalists is futile and dispiriting. But is it possible to free ourselves of this stranglehold? A conversation with Sebastian Schipper about a new possibility for public housing (and what it is like to pay rent to yourself).

Tomer Gardi and Sebastian Schipper (translated from Hebrew by Orna Meir-Stacey)

'The city belongs to all.' When the municipality builds new buildings, they are usually for the rich.

‘The city belongs to all.’ When the municipality builds new buildings, they are usually for the rich.

The following interview stems from a difficulty that I have been feeling for a while in the struggle for public housing. Put simply: on the one hand, through the struggle we demand that the state take responsibility for public housing. On the other, we see that anything the state touches turns to ash. And how could we want the state to assume responsibility and wish to grant it the power to organize the basic infrastructure of our lives, when we have personally experienced, and have seen others experience, what happens when it gains strength and exercises the power it holds? Horrifying.

This reality, which through our struggle we are forced to make this choice – that to me seems impossible – between entrusting the right to housing to the hands of an essentially violent government or to the hands of capitalists, between the vileness of the state and the vileness of the market, seems futile and dispiriting to me. I searched for a possibility of listening to and learning of experiences from other places in the world where people have tried to free themselves of this stranglehold.

Sebastian Schipper, an urban geography lecturer at Frankfurt University and a “Right to the City” activist there, came to my house. He asked to interview me, among scores of other political activists he had met, about various areas of struggle in Israel. With his permission, I turned the interview around. I asked him about a possible political horizon for the struggle that opposes both the market and the state.

Take a long breath. Here it is.

***

Which public housing models exist in Germany?

There are two: according to one model, the state or the...

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The 'reasonable person' standard and murdering one's rapist

Yonatan Hailu was convicted of murdering his rapist, Yaron Eileen, and sentenced to 20 years in prison because his actions did not meet the “reasonable person” standard. Did the judges not only hear but really listen to his testimony? Did they take his trauma into account? Did they understand that his soul was murdered, over and over, by being raped twice?

By Sharon Mayevski (Translated from Hebrew by Maya Naveh and Michelle Bubis)

Illustrative photo of a judge (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of a judge (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

The Lod District Court sentenced Yonatan Hailu – a 24-year-old man convicted of murdering Yaron Eileen in Netanya in 2010 – to 20 years in prison. Hailu claims that he was raped twice by Eileen and acted in self-defense. Before his death, Eileen had been tried for raping an under-age girl, property crimes, extortion and assaulting police officers. Hailu is described in the court ruling as a man with a normative lifestyle and no criminal record. Discounting his Ethiopian origin, neighborhood of residence, family background and the fact that he is the victim of a sexual offence, he could be a classic “guy from a good home”..No, wait… “guys from good homes” are a different story.

Hailu, who admitted to the murder, was imprisoned for two years until Supreme Court Justice Edna Arbel decreed, in an appeal, that he should be released under house arrest and that his claim of self-defense should be taken seriously. In September 2013, the District Court rejected the claim of self-defense and ruled that when Hailu and Eileen happened to meet that night, Hailu, steeped in alcohol, took advantage of a moment when Eileen turned his back to him and strangled him, and then made sure he was dead by throwing a stone at his head several times. The judges added that although they accepted Hailu’s claim that he feared Eileen because of the acts of sodomy (i.e., rape and extortion) against him, and also acknowledged Hailu’s resulting emotional distress, the defendant fully understood his actions. When finding him guilty, in September, the judges wrote that Hailu had reached a decision to murder Eileen, had prepared for the act while performing it, and had carried out the murder with no provocation on Eileen’s behalf. The prosecutors thereby proved that the three conditions required for...

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The answer to Israel's education gap is in its own back yard

Instead of importing American experts, we need to listen to those educators who are already doing the work right here in Israel. And we need the establishment to start taking full and long-term responsibility for our society.

By Marcelo Weksler (translated from Hebrew by Rachel BeitArie)

Illustrative photo of school children and a teacher in class (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of school children and a teacher in class (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

On November 17 an article was published in Haaretz that ran with the headline: “American lab for narrowing education gaps is coming to Israel”. The story dealt with a new initiative to build a school in Kiryat Bialik (a town in Northern Israel). The new school, the report tells us, will be built after the model of the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) education institutions in the United States.

KIPP’s expertise is building a program consisting of long learning hours – 67 percent more than the average in U.S. schools, designed to achieve academic success for children from disenfranchised communities. KIPP’s data is indeed very impressive and should be celebrated. Unfortunately the news story is misleading. In the U.S., when a public school is part of a charter network like KIPP, that doesn’t mean teaching hours are funded by the state, but that the network raises funds from donors to finance the school. It should be clarified that belonging to a network of charter schools does not guarantee a significant addition of academic hours, but only guarantees fund raising by the network. Hence, when we speak of a “public school” in the U.S., we mean a school that does not apply selective acceptance and does not charge parents.

There are many networks like KIPP spread throughout the U.S. that all apply similar methods of educational work in disadvantaged communities with the objective of closing academic gaps. Such networks have been around since the 1980s. In this sense, KIPP’s founders – who are American Jews – created nothing new: American educators had already led similarly important programs as far back as the 70s. One of them was Jamie Escalante, the great math teacher who was the inspiration for the movie “Stand and Deliver.”

Nor are these programs American inventions. Since the late 80s, many...

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The tragedy of the lost Yemenite children: In the footsteps of the adoptees

Between the years 1948 and 1952, thousands of Yemenite babies, children of immigrants to the newly-founded State of Israel were allegedly taken away from their parents and given up for adoption to Ashkenazi families. Now, poet and activist Shlomi Hatuka goes back and speaks to the adoptees about one of the most painful, covered-up stories in the history of the state.

By Shlomi Hatuka (translated by Miriam Erez)

Dedicated to my grandmother, who gave birth to twins in a hospital, and came home with only one of them. May her memory be a blessing.

In Tsipi Talmor’s documentary film, Down a One-Way Road, we see Sarah Pearl, the former head nurse of the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), stating the following: ”They were constantly bringing [us sick] children…as soon as they recovered, they were taken away…we were always at 100% occupancy. [Biological] parents never came. But donors did.” Pearl states that when she asked the head administrator why parents never came to visit their children, she received the following answer: “[The parents] have lots of kids, and lots of problems. So they don’t want their children.”

1.

Hanna Gibori, a social welfare worker from 1948 to 1954, and head of adoption services in the Northern District, testified before the state investigative committee that submitted its conclusions in 2001: “Hospital physicians handed over babies for adoption straight out of the hospital, without the official adoption agencies being involved.” Gibori added that if a baby was in her care, and no one showed any interest in it, it was placed with a family without being formally adopted. H. Leibowitz, then head of Adoption Services, described a Public Services Committee meeting in 1959:

“There is also de facto adoption, and it should also be considered. There are children who are in the care of the welfare system, and there are children who are placed by a third party, and there are children – and this is a tiny minority – who are placed by their birth parents.”

In a Knesset plenary that same year, MK Ben-Tzion Harel called a spade a spade: “A not-to-be-dismissed percentage of children are adopted straight from the hospital or maternity center. In some cases this is done in unacceptable ways, in a manner that borders on trafficking…”

Then there’s the April 21, 1950 letter from a Dr. Lichtig, head of hospital at the Health Ministry, to the...

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Ignoring the most promising option on Iran

What is the best response to the Iranian nuclear threat, and what is the connection to regional disarmament of weapons of mass destruction and Israel’s refusal to end the occupation?

By Yuval Eylon

The following essay was originally published in Hebrew in August 2012.[1] It recently was selected given an award by the American Philosophical Association and is therefore being republished at this time.

Author’s note:

Over a year ago I published an opinion article about Israel’s policy towards Iran’s nuclear program. I argued that the most promising policy – namely, regional disarmament – is strangely absent from the public discourse. I claimed that this absence does not stem for any view of the Iranian threat and ways of dealing with it, but is ideological: the explanation for this conspicuous absence is that regional disarmament requires regional agreements, and therefore an end of the Occupation.

In the months that passed since the original op-ed was written, Iran held elections and the new president has reached an interim agreement with the United States and other powers that suggests an agreement in which Iran forgoes any effort to obtain “the bomb” and that recognized Iran’s nuclear program and capabilities is not far.

The possible agreement only serves to highlight how shortsighted Israel’s commitment to the “strike or bomb” framework was, and what waste of resources – diplomatic and financial – it entailed. Any agreement will provide an incentive to other countries and perhaps organizations in the region to develop or obtain nuclear capabilities. It seems that the only policy that can prevent a dangerous arms race is regional disarmament from weapons of mass destruction. As argued below, this policy depends on a complete turnaround vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Prima facie, the odds for such a policy are slim, and therefore, so are the chances for halting the Iranian nuclear program and preventing the development of other programs in the years to come.

In some cases it is completely unreasonable to do what seems rational, in the narrow sense of matching means to given ends. In particular, neglect of a value or over-zealousness in the pursuit of a value, could be extremely unreasonable. For example, no reasonable person would consider kidnapping passers-by in the street even in order to harvest their organs for his loved ones. In similar vein, uncritical devotion to an end can cause blindness: think of a...

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Blue or white collar, racism prevails in Israel's job market

A new study into discrimination in the Israeli employment market finds that the resumes of Yuval Hershkowitz and Eden Almog are still going to generate far more consideration than those submitted by Yuval Amsalem and Waleed Houri.

By Yossi Dahan (Translated from Hebrew by Noam Benishei)

Illustrative photo of Ashkenazi businessmen. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Yuval Hershkowitz, an Ashkenazi Jew, and Yuval Amsalem, a Mizrahi Jews, graduated from the same high school. They recently completed their military service, where they were both trained in counterterrorism. Both of them sent their resumes by emailto potential employers seeking to recruit security guards. Their application letters were sent to employers in six different regions around Israel; the number of replies Hershkowitz received from employers asking for more information was double what Amsalem received. He also got twice as many invitations to in-person interviews.

Eden Almog, a Jew, and Waleed Houri, an Arab, both live in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. They both attended the same high school, graduated cum laude from the Hebrew University’s law school and served as teaching assistants. The two interned with the State Attorney’s office. Both are proficient in Hebrew and English, while Houri also has full command of Arabic. Almog and Houri alike have engaged in volunteer work with disadvantaged adults and children. Almog served in the army, while Houri performed his civil national service in a hospital. Eighty-nine of their resumes were sent to prominent Israeli law firms (not the same ones, but rather randomly-selected firms of a similar standing). Almog’s resume garnered twice as many receipt confirmations as Houri’s, and he received four times as many interview invitations as his counterpart.

These grim findings concerning the discrimination of Arabs and Mizrahim in the Israeli employment market are the results of a study by Barak Ariel, Ilanit Tobby-Alimi, Irit Cohen, Mazal Ezra and Yaffa Cohen of the Hebrew University, who sent those fictitious resumes to different Israeli employers. One unique feature of this study lies in the fact that it looks into discrimination at both ends of the employment market, the upper one comprising lawyers while the lower one featuring security guards.

One of researchers’ more interesting proposals for fighting discrimination based on ethnicity and nationality is to forbid employers from demanding...

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Eritrean asylum seekers: Caught between jail and death

Immigration police arresting an Eritrean refugee, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2/3/2008 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This is the story of Philmon Razena, a 25-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker. Like the other tens of thousands of others, Philmon lives under constant threat of being jailed or deported by the Israeli authorities, while also being closely monitored by the Eritrean government, which terrifies Eritreans whether they are in Israel or elsewhere. Over the past month, asylum seekers from different countries take matters into their own hands, from civil disobedience to silent demonstrations on the streets of Tel Aviv, and culminating in an indefinite general strike to protest Israel’s asylum policies. This is their story, too.

By Philmon Razena

On Saturday December 20, the Israeli media reported on a “violent altercation between Eritreans” in Kibbutz Kinneret, as well as claims that the Eritrean government is attempting to launder money out of Israel. These reports left many Israelis confused, so it is time to clarify things. The Eritrean Ambassador, Tesfamariam Tekeste, had arranged a conference in Israel and organized for the transportation of 600 members of the Eritrean community to Kinneret. Approximately 60 other people attended, including myself.

For us, this was to be a rare opportunity to ask the ambassador directly about the human rights situation in Eritrea and to ask about our families there. I went because my father has been in jail for several months. He was imprisoned because my public opposition to the regime. I haven’t heard from him since he was jailed.

The ambassador knew exactly who we were. The Eritrean government follows Eritrean dissidents in Israel who call for democracy. It also occasionally publishes leaflets threatening to kidnap or kill us.

When we entered the hall, the ambassador told the audience that we were working for the Ethiopian government, an enemy state of Eritrea. He ordered them to attack us and left the room. Eleven of us were injured, including one woman. When we called the police, they initially came to our defense. But the ambassador told them that we were armed criminals and we were arrested.

Why did the ambassador choose to hold a conference at Kibbutz Kinneret? Why did he not...

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