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On left-wing NGOs and asylum seekers, 'Jerusalem Post' is all doublespeak

In an editorial published Tuesday, ‘The Jerusalem Post’ accused left-wing NGOs of bringing African asylum seekers to Israel in order to undermine the state’s Jewish majority. By accusing the Left of such Machiavellian tactics, the Post’s editorial board is, quite simply, inciting against those whose political views it disagrees with.

By Natasha Roth

The Jerusalem Post saw fit to publish what is ostensibly a critical editorial about the recent protests by African asylum seekers in Israel on Tuesday, but which amounts to little more than a poison-pen letter to the country’s left-wing NGOs. Using the familiar trojan horse of the demographic threat Africans pose to Israel – which, as journalist Daniel Roth pointed out, is a rather weak argument given that they form less than 0.7 percent of the population[1] – the editorial wheels out the usual threadbare tropes about why asylum seekers come here and why they stay. As if that weren’t enough, it goes on to recycle the “left-wing conspiracy” argument trotted out by veteran journalist Ben Caspit in the noisome thesis printed in the same pages last year; using the same mysterious source from a 2011 UNHCR report quoted by Caspit, The Jerusalem Post editorial board has apparently assessed that there is sufficient evidence to prove the real raison d’être of left-wing organizations is bringing about the dissolution of the Jewish majority in Israel.

These are attacks that we are accustomed to hearing. To a degree, the piece even lacks some of the bite we are used to coming across in tirades against the Left. The insidious use of tepid wording, however, masks an alarming degree of spite, while the charges leveled against the Israeli Left represent a nadir that damages both sides.

Part of the problem arises from the Post’s need to couch the recent asylum seeker protests within the framework of a security threat: this is, after all, the standard launching pad from which the Israeli government defends its more questionable policies. Given the absence of trouble in the events of the past few days – a police official at Sunday’s march told the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants that “we’ve never witnessed such an orderly protest” – a danger must be concocted, and it is the left-wing NGOs that have been saddled with that imperative. Therefore, the Post‘s approach relies on portraying leftists in Israel as devious puppet-masters: shadowy weavers of a web of lies and deception, co-opting those they claim to be helping as part of a conspiracy to “advance a post-Zionist political agenda.” The tu quoque nature of these arguments, taking age-old canards that sit at the center of anti-Semitism and directing them against leftists, is plain to see. More troubling, and unexpected, is the assertion that the “migrants are for [leftists] nothing but pawns in a larger struggle.” The insinuation that NGOs are employing African asylum seekers as useful idiots – or, worse, unwitting Uncle Tom-like figures – in a fight to undermine the State of Israel is all at once obscenely offensive, paranoid and defamatory. By accusing the Left of such Machiavellian tactics The Jerusalem Post is, put simply, inciting against those whose political views it disagrees with.

Further falsehoods and distortions abound. To try and claim, as the Post’s editorial board does, that left-wing NGOs are endangering the lives of asylum seekers deported back to their home countries by publicizing their movements, when Netanyahu himself has been boasting of the government’s efforts in this regard, shows a libelous disregard for the truth. The Post is correct in stating that the lives of those deported are in danger when they return home – illness, government persecution and renewed conflicts have all proved very real threats to those who have been pushed out of Israel. But the theory that NGOs are responsible for this endangerment is an act of contorted, Byzantine reasoning that is aimed squarely at delegitimizing these organizations and framing them for the fatal consequences of the government’s reckless behavior. The guise of concern for the lives of asylum seekers is distasteful, and representative of a new “typing and crying” tactic that seems to be taking hold in rightist opinion pieces (Hebrew).

Buried a bit deeper in the editorial is an equally disturbing message. By repeatedly decrying the idea of Israel being transformed into “a state of all its citizens” the Post is openly declaring its opposition to the notion of Israel as a democracy. By definition, a democracy is a state of all its citizens, and cannot favor one ethnicity, religion or any other social group over another; if it does, it is not a democracy. By positioning itself the way it has in this editorial, The Jerusalem Post’s editorial board has inadvertently exposed the doublethink at the heart of the rightist concept of a “Jewish and democratic state.” A Jewish state as envisioned by the Right, and indeed the government – i.e., a state that maintains a Jewish majority at all costs – is not a democracy; it is an ethnocracy.

Of course, the belief of the UNHCR report’s enigmatic NGO source that “the struggle is about the character of Israel as a state” does ring true, but not in the way that the editorial has querulously relayed it. Putting the cart before the horse, the Post assumes that NGOs’ assistance to asylum seekers is a corollary of a broader campaign to change Israel’s moral character, rather than the other way round. The same logic applies for equal rights struggles in all areas of Israel’s (or any) society – whether it be for Palestinians, non-halachic Jews or Mizrahim. It is no accident that Reuven Abergil, of Israel’s Black Panther movement, spoke to the crowd of asylum seekers in Levinsky Park today as they readied themselves for a third day of strikes and advocacy. The Post’s editorial looks at the aims of left-wing NGOs through a dark glass; the full and unobscured picture is that those on the Left wish to live under a government that adheres to its obligations under international law, in this case regarding those seeking asylum. Practically speaking, this amounts to implementing a fair and scrupulous refugee status determination process, one that is unblemished by prejudice, ineptitude and entrapment.

The article has one more – presumably unintended – trick up its sleeve. In a final flourish, it adopts subaltern pretensions on Israel’s behalf in order to justify the casual cruelty meted out to asylum seekers – a strategy historically adopted against the Palestinians. The evident misapplication of this underdog status when discussing asylum seekers, however, undermines the entire premise. Furthermore, as the world slowly wakes up to situation of Africans in Israel – mostly thanks to the stunning events of the past few weeks – there exists a real potential for the renewed awareness of Israeli society’s virulent levels of racism, a prejudice which has unfortunately, over the decades, been largely accepted as unremarkable vis-à-vis the Palestinians. In its bipolar struggle for a sparkling image alongside free reign to behave however it sees fit, Israel now has another blot slowly spreading over its copybook. One calls to mind the demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and their rallying cry: “The whole world is watching.”

For now, the strikes will go on, and smear tactics will not despoil them. As for the message that the editorial sends to the Left, only two words are needed in response: democracy, now.


[1] Data taken from latest government statistics (Hebrew), which cite a total of 53,636 asylum seekers currently in Israel. This report is from October, and the number of asylum seekers is now likely to be less. The latest Central Bureau of Statistics report cites the population of Israel as 8,132,000. This puts the number of asylum seekers as roughly 0.66% of Israel’s population. However, even if one considers this figure against Israel’s Jewish demographic – which is undoubtedly the concern of the JPost et al – the percentage is still only 0.88% (the CBS puts the Jewish population at around 6.1 million).

Natasha Roth, a British immigrant to Israel, is a researcher and former coordinator at the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC), a non-profit organization founded in 2004 by refugees and Israeli citizens to assist, support and empower refugees and asylum seekers in Israel.

Related:
‘JPost’: Leftists bring Africans to Israel in order to undermine Jewish majority
African asylum seeker protest: What do they want?

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  • COMMENTS

    1. DerAsylant

      no underclass uprising for you, lefties

      Reply to Comment
    2. Josh

      Somebody is playing a diversion game with smoke and mirrors / hidden political agendas.Why wont 30000 Eritreans hold a demonstration outside the Eritrean / American embassy Tel Aviv,They can demand the immediate removal of their Dictator etc.?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      Said the women whose salary is paid by the European Union and by the UNHCR whose organization is playing midwife to these protests.

      JPost presumes that most of the organizations behind the protests are sponsored by foreign governments and organizations that are interested in undermining the Jewish nature of the State. These governments and organizations suspiciously tend to fund organizations that make outlandish demands on behalf of Arabs, Bedouin and now ‘Africans’. These demands are consistent in their goal of overturning Israel as a nation state of the Jewish people. A ‘conspiracy’ is something hidden. These groups make such demands publicly and continue to receive a massive influx of foreign funding. Now it might be a coincidence that reading the funding sources for all such groups is a repetitive exercise, but combined with the consistent nature of the demands to overturn the Jewish state it seems unlikely. In other words, JPost has a point, and you know it.

      I too demand democracy now. The people of Israel have spoken and their message is clear. They demand that their government not allow these illegal migrants to stay permanently. I see no reason to listen to you and the alphabet soup of foreign-funded organizations that make BS claims to the contrary. The ones against democracy is you.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jenny

        To be clear, the ARDC has far more funding sources than you’re mentioning, many of which are as Israeli and Jewish as can be. The fact that ANY services in Tel Aviv have to be funded by the UNHCR in order to uphold Israel’s commitment to international treaties it has signed is an embarrassment to the state and no one else. Besides, surely you’re not calling for an end to all foreign aid to Israel? How shortsighted, if so.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          To be clear the overwhelming source of funding for this organization comes from Europe and European organizations as part and parcel of the European aid that is directed towards supporting organizations dedicated to struggling internally against the State of Israel. The fact that the UNHCR funds organizations in countries in order to politically lobby their governments is a travesty and a gross infringement on Israel’s sovereignty. Where the “foreign aid” is directed towards organizations hostile to Israel, as it is quite obviously in the case of most of the alphabet soup of organizations that post op-eds on 972mag, then yes OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE STOPPED. There should be no freedom to external funding guaranteed in Israeli law, because what Europe and European organizations are doing here is the kind of malign subversive manipulation that in all other places would be justifiably considered hostile action and treated accordingly.

          Israel’s commitment to international treaties is just fine. Illegal migrants that have no right to be here are on strike from jobs they are not legally allowed to hold. I am more concerned with Israel’s commitment to Israeli law according to which not a single one of these people should be marching because not a single one of them should be in the country in the first place.

          Reply to Comment
          • Jenny

            To be clear, you don’t really seem to know much about the ARDC’s funding (where it comes from or how it’s used), or about all of the Israelis (including its founders) and other non-European internationals involved in its activities. The UNHCR funding has literally nothing to do with this protest – it was used to provide much needed humanitarian resources that the state failed to provide as per its signature to international refugee agreements. I’m not sure in which other places the device the ARDC or any of the other groups working with asylum seekers would be considered subversive. Civil society’s freedom a basic pillar of democracy, including its funding, and the sort of witch hunt you’re proposing would surely spell disaster for democracy. Who would be the arbiter of good and bad money – you?

            Reply to Comment
    4. The government has ignored both the letter of the 51 Convention and High Court Order, employing racial categories to trump the law. The refugee crisis is as well a crisis in law. The refugees are indeed pawns in a greater game, one between the Knesset, ministerial government, and the Court. The Court has the power to stop this: close the prisons, issue writs of Habeas Corpus (certainly present under the Mandate) to release the refugees for failure of asylum process, Basic Law, and court injunction.

      This is a bid to extend the extra legal detention procedures employed in the West Bank conflict to others. Those advocating this generalization have no problem ignoring signed treaty and so law of the land. The Court is being ignored; this cannot stand.

      As to charges of NGO infiltration, the law does not void plea by origin. This is a McCarthy tactic designed to enforce pure thought, employed by both the Nazis and Soviets. Patriotism becomes enforced conformity.

      The occupation has come home to roost–starkly so now that 150 Sudanese imprisoned have are in hunger strike. Detention without due process cannot stand.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Anna Rose Siegel

      Excellent article, Natasha!

      Reply to Comment
    6. Kolumn9

      Israel has a dualist system. International conventions, even ratified ones, do not have the force of law in court unless codified in domestic law. Not only that, but under such a system the interpretation of the international convention is entirely within the authority of the legislature. The convention itself and its interpretation by the UNHRC or any other external body has no legal bearing in an Israeli court.

      You build your arguments on ignorance. You are so misinformed and delusional that it boggles the mind that you have the nerve to come here from whatever foreign hole you live in to spout off your absurd nonsense.

      Reply to Comment
      • K9, State Courts ALWAYS interpret and enforce treaty provisions unless the State has granted that power to a supranational authority, as in the case of the European Court for Human Rights, or, for that matter, the independent States ratifying the US Constitution. Very often, even in the US, Federal Law is enacted to enable a treaty provision. If, however, Congress fails to do so, the treaty itself, being enshrined in the US Constitution as the “law of the land,” may be interpreted by the courts free standing. So what you are telling me is that you think the Knesset is Supreme, and I already knew that. There is nothing “dualist” about an impotent convention absent positive law. All that means is that the convention is nothing more than a “suggestion” to the Supreme Knesset.

        If the Israeli High Court says the articles of the Convention do not apply as Israeli law, then they don’t, and no outside entity can do anything about it. I’ve never implied anything else. This is a fight over Israeli law. For example, the Court might say that the Knesset can nullify various articles of the Convention with positive law (acts of the Knesset). Or the Court might say that as the convention is ratified in its entirety by the Knesset, it must so be abrogated in its entirety by formal vote, not by selective administrative act or individual Knesset intervention in the articles. I, of course, favor the latter view. Or it could hold that all ratified treaties are meaningless in themselves, which you prefer, but I doubt, for it makes the, even on your terms, Supreme Knesset’s act of ratification rather meaningless; I suspect the Court will hold that ratification, an act of an earlier Knesset, even without enabling law, is still law which may be enforced as common law is enforced and constructed. That something may be channeled through positive law doesn’t mean it has no force otherwise.

        Since you don’t think constitutional conflict is possible, you will take the view of the Knesset, which of course will call itself supreme. And I guess, as in deity, omnipotence does enable hypocrisy. I hold that the Knesset is not nor can be supreme. The courts do have a foundational independence. That is why, apart from the African lives involved, I see this accumulating case as so important.

        As to the UNHRC, what I said in other threads is that the courts could take the harm status of refugees from a particular country, as determined by a UNHRC agent, as evidence, along with anything else, in weighing decision. The reason for doing this is that is what the UNHRC partly does; it is an expert witness. But it is always up to an Israeli Court to decide to take and evaluate such input.

        So, I’m sorry to say, I stand by what I have said herein before. Your channels want the Court to be a puppet of Knesset coalition ideology, such as it is. I think the Court is growing tired of this role, especially under 30-15 passed laws. Do I think there will be a slam dunk win (using a “foreign hole” phrase) for my view. Absolutely not. But I think the view needs to be made. And this is why I have said that these struggling African refugees are pawns in an other game.

        As to your unending personal attacks on me and others on this site, I am beginning to find them sad. Most sad, for of the other right nationalists commenting hereon you are perhaps among two or three of the most articulate. Somehow, a need or desire to silence others in slap has trumped your obvious intelligence.

        For, don’t you see, the best way to handle someone so “misinformed and delusional” who “[has] the nerve to come here from whatever foreign hole [he] live[s] in” is, why, to ignore him.

        On your own terms, no one will take me seriously. So pretend I’m not here. That’s what the superior usually do, no?

        Reply to Comment

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