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Israeli children deported to South Sudan succumb to malaria

Three months ago, Interior Minister Eli Yishai deported several hundred families from Israel to South Sudan, despite unequivocal statements by human rights group that mere fact of the established state is far from the offering the safety that would allow for these families’ return; the request was at least to extend the group exemption from deportation – Israel’s mechanism of neither denying nor granting asylum – a few months longer. Even that demand was ignored. The deportees’ baggage, all 14 tons of it, was delayed for two months and kept at a warehouse in Israel, simply because the state felt that it could not be bothered to bear the expenses of sending it along. In the baggage was medicine collected for the families by Israeli volunteers from Israeli donors; it was only finally sent to South Sudan a week or so ago, but not before reports began to surface which claimed that immigration officials were helping themselves to the more precious possessions from the pile.

Dwell with me on that image for a second: Families herded into a transport which will take them to the very danger they were running from, leaving a silent pile of suitcases and clothes behind.

Within a week, the deportee children – Israeli children, either born or raised in Israel, speaking better Hebrew than most of this government’s apologists in the United States – began to die. So far, at least seven of them have succumbed to disease. Over the weekend, one of the volunteers helping the asylum seekers, Moran Mekamel, published the following photo and story on her Facebook wall:

“I’m out of words, I’m sitting and writing and erasing and writing and erasing again…
The picture shows the children of Michael and Niakor – a lovely couple deported together with their kids. On the right is Noah, next to him is Mahm, the eldest, holding little Nian, and on far left is Sunday.
Nian they lost already a month ago. He was born prematurely, and his little body couldn’t fight the malaria for long. Over the weekend I got the news that Noah died as well. Noah was born with a defective heart. He was operated upon a year ago at an Israeli hospital and was receiving medical treatment. Michael would run with him from one medical test to another, spending long days in hospitals. When the preparations toward deportation began, the family filed a request to stay a little longer, until Noah stabilises and his chances of survival improve. Their work permit was taken away from them, the money ran out, and the family could no longer sustain itself, with dignity or without it. This is what they call in Israel “voluntary departure”.
They found out their deportation date at a 24 hours’ notice, so there wasn’t much time to organise. The night before they left I went to see them, together with a wonderful woman from Arad. She had gathered many medicines and asked me who she should give them to; it was clear to me we should take them to Michael. I climbed to their upper-story flat and was stunned to see them pack by candle-light: the electricity was cut off already a month before. Michael was packing and I was watching the three elder kids to make sure they don’t burn anything or eat the medicines I brought, which to them looked like candy. They flew the next day. Every parting is painful. This parting was horrifying – they were flying to a country that was only just established and lacked any ability to treat complex medical cases.
Here we are today, three months later, and within the last month alone, these two parents lost two children, and the two remaining ones are sick as well. Sunday is already in hospital with malaria, in serious condition, and Mahm is sick at home. “I’ve only two children left,” Michael told me today over the phone.
The family doesn’t have money to properly treat their remaining children. The hospitals are at full capacity and more people leave them in shrouds than on their own two feet. I ask you, beg of you to help me scream the story of these children and their fate, dictated by the heartless, immoral Israeli government.
I intend to raise money for this family. Michael’s voice echoes in my head: “I must save my children,” he told me. And I promised to help. You can reach me on students4refugees@gmail.com.”

On a systemic level, the deaths of these children is the product of Israel’s immigration policy – one of the narrowest, most rigid policies of its kind in any loosely democratic country. On a cultural level, their death and the public complacency over the deportation which lead to it to produce a culture of fear, that conflates absolute hegemony with survival, and makes adult human beings think that a family like this actually poses a risk to the future of this country.

But there is also personal responsibility involved here: Yishai used his power of discretion to order the deportation of these children. I’m finding it difficult to point to any reason but populism: There was no law obliging him to deport them, nor a pressing financial need to do so. Israel, which prides itself so much on its relatively robust economic situation, could well have tolerated several hundred families, most of them with working or able parents, and even to take care of the few, like the late Noah and Nian, who needed medical attention. And at any rate, the economic side of their predicament hardly came into play.

I have no idea how to stop him, except to voice support for fellow Israelis who already vowed to hide children from immigration police, even in blatant violation of the law. The least I can do is to encourage you to help Moran buy medicines for the surviving children of this one family. It will not change the policy and won’t matter “in the grand scheme of things,” but it would make all the difference in the world to them.

This post was modified and corrected 

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Two points:

      You write: “Three months ago, Interior Minister Eli Yishai deported several hundred families from Israel to South Sudan, despite unequivocal statements by human rights group that the newly-established state is far from the kind of safety that would negate these families asylum claim.” I was one of the activists protesting and pushing the government to let the South Sudanese stay in Israel. The points raised by human rights organizations was not that South Sudanese are refugees, but that their Group Protection needs to be extended for a few months. No one in the human rights organizations thought that the vast majority of South Sudanese nationals who resided in Israel had a chance of receiving a refugee status even if Israel’s asylum examination system (RSD) was adequate. The Refugee Convention specifies what kind of persecution entitles a person to a refugee status, and the beating of children at school, lack of running water or medications are not one of them. Undocumented migrant workers from Nigeria, Ghana, etc who were deported from Israel have also died of diseases like malaria, but that does not make them refugees.
      The asylum claims of South Sudanese are being denied all over the world now. The UNHCR lifted its prohibition on deporting South Sudanese and it was clear that sooner of later, most of them would be deported, the question was the timing. The message of the campaign was ineffective because it pointed out structural problems (the health system, high infant mortality rate, illiteracy, treatment of children and women, etc.), problems that cannot be addressed in a short time span, while asking for a short extension of the Group Protection (a few months, no more). Obviously, even if the campaign was more convincing, no one in the govt would care.

      Second, you write: “I have no idea how to stop him, except to voice support for fellow Israelis who already vowed to hide children from immigration police, even in blatant violation of the law.” You are mixing up the issues here. There was such group of Israelis who said that they are willing to hide children of migrant workers. There’s no such group for children of asylum seekers/ people whose group protection has elapsed. The group of Israelis for children of migrant workers never actually operated on any realm other than facebook. The group was operated by well-meaning but misguided people. Israeli NGOs highlight the deportation of children, but they are deported with their mothers and sometimes siblings and fathers too. The people who signed up to the group expected to get a cute Filipino kid and not a whole family of migrants. There was no willingness of the migrant women to part with their children, obviously. And the parents are here to work and send money to their family, not hide in the house of some Israeli. Thus, the group was never operational.

      Reply to Comment
      • Dimi Reider

        Hey Elizabeth – all good points and I’ve amended the opening accordingly. I still stand by my view that while there was no law /preventing/ Yishai from deporting these kids, there was also no law /obliging/ him to do this. Hence, it was purely a matter of personal discretion and a purely political move, which – to my mind – is unforgivable.

        Reply to Comment
        • Of course, countries extend group protection all the time. The US did so for South Sudanese nationals just around the time when Israel began deporting them.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Marial

      MY sister’s daughter pass away one week ago,the cause of death was meningitis, she died at the age of 8 months and she was born in Isreal. the Question is; if they were in Isreal do you think it would happen to her? or die because of meningitis.
      what I know is: Isreal is taking care of their interest in South Sudan in term of Investment and cooperation with goverment of South Sudan but not the people of that country. what let us separate from Arab was their interest on land and not the people on that land, that is why we become a nation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Yes, Israel is a foreign country which deals with the government of South Sudan. The job of caring about the people of South Sudan is that of the South Sudanese government.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      “Israeli children” – nice troll.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      Let’s try that story again, only now without the melodrama.

      Several South Sudanese children died in South Sudan. They had recently been deported from Israel where their parents found refuge during the Sudanese civil war.

      Reply to Comment
    5. sowhat

      Stop with the guilt trip. They will never be allowed to step foot in Israel again. Nobody wants them in Israel. Tell your paymasters that.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Is that what you’re going to tell God when he calls you to account for your guilt? So what?

        Reply to Comment
    6. Woody

      It’s clear that there is some responsibility on Israel’s part, but how can you expect a country that barely acknowledges its internal populations to recognize there are other people – humans – outside of the Jewish fold? The world is for Jews and everyone else can die, unless they serve some frier servile purpose. Eli Yishai is just acting like who he is – an Israeli official. If you have a problem with him, you should have a problem with this state as a whole.

      Reply to Comment
    7. “…a culture of fear, that conflates absolute hegemony with survival, and makes adult human beings think that a family like this actually poses a risk to the future of this country.”–I think the conflation cited is real but not without prior cause (the suicide bombings). I think also that this inherently racial calculus is employed beyond the occupation and that it has produced a purity populism. Recall that the South Tel Aviv race riot was incited by MK’s holding staged events, although this event is destined for oblivion. The US can be similarly callus; but there is a contravening priciple of individual justice that sometimes becomes manifest in specific cases. I would say that the possibility of individual justice is being negated by a clear purity populism fueled by members of the government rather than solely by others within the socio-politics of Israel. As K9, above, demonstrates, this case and your reaction to it is seen as existentially inappropriate. A hard line here reenforces hard lines elsewhere. Absent this, however, at best only a few lives would be saved. I know–only.

      Reply to Comment
      • LS

        Greg, I don’t know whether you are Jewish or not, I also can make only limited sense of what you have said (I lay the blame for that at both our doors) – but I do know that whatever the reasons and justifications for these deportations every Jew should hang his or her head in shame to know that we have sent children to their death. This is what we have done, regardless of “socio-politics” or anything else.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          What we have done is send South Sudanese back to South Sudan. That some of them died there is not our problem, nor our responsibility.

          This seems like the kind of shameless guilt trip according to which someone dying somewhere must be ‘our fault’ because there was something we could have done or not done to prevent it.

          No, I don’t accept this. The South Sudanese were not our responsibility, and they did not turn into our responsibility by illegally crossing the border. They were temporarily allowed to stay on the basis of compassion, and now you are trying to use that compassion as a means of forcing permanent responsibility on all of us for the lives of people whose sole claim to our concern is their illegal entry into the country.

          You feel that responsibility personally? Fine. Get on a plane and go help them. Or does your responsibility for them end the moment they have left the country and that it was only their temporary presence in the country that caused you to feel any concern for them as people?

          Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            “What we have done is send German Jews back to Germany. That they were killed there is not our problem nor our responsibility.”

            You slap in the face every member of the righteous.

            Reply to Comment
        • LS, if I am Jewish, I know not; my family background is mostly unknown on one side. I was saying I think Dimi right that there is a purity populism growing in Israel, but that it is being steered top down, as in the South Tel Aviv incident. It is up to you living Israel to change that. K9 is right that legally there was no reason to stop their deportation. But there is justice of the moment. I believe the occupation is hobbling justice of the moment for non Jews in Israel, a change in world view, a purity populism. I think this populism had causes (the bombings), but it is now morphing into something quite general. I don’t know how you–Israelis–stop it. The case of migrants trapped within the two border fences for several desert days is bad too. You have to decide not to do this anymore. And that somehow must resonate with the people. How? I don’t know.

          Reply to Comment
    8. Lisa K.

      There’s a lot of sad news coming out of Israel these days, but I found this story to be the most depressing. I’m thinking of the righteous Gentiles who risked their own lives to save my father from the Nazis. And I can’t help but wonder: where are the righteous Jews?

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Why, are there Nazis in South Sudan waiting to kill those deported?

        Reply to Comment
        • Mareli

          The children in this story were born in Israel. Doesn’t that make them Israeli citizens? If not, then where is their country? I know Jews who are ashamed of this action by the Israeli government because of the command of God to be kind to the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

          Reply to Comment
    9. Tomer

      Another brilliant Leftist Idea here – Bring in millions of Non Jews into the country.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Mitchell Cohen

      My heart goes out to this family. It REALLY does. With that, I have a question. Can Israel save the world? How many refugees should Israel take in? 100,000 500,000 1,000,000
      If you say a million, then what if these four children were refugees number one million and 1, 2, 3, and 4? I’m sure you all know that there are committees that need to make decisions all the time, like which medicines are included in the health fund basket and which are not. For some people, not including a medicine in the health care basket can be a death sentence. This is not to say, that for THIS family provisions could not have been made. Israel cannot save the whole world though and there will be some refugees who will be left out in the cold.

      Reply to Comment
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