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Video: Israelis who would deport refugee children

Despite protest rallies, media condemnation and an Oscar-winning film about the Tel Aviv school many of them attend, the Minister of Interior continues to insist that he will deport several hundred children born in Israel to  foreign workers. At a recent demonstration to protest the pending deportation order, the author interviewed counter-demonstrators who wanted the children expelled for what they claimed were religiously-sanctioned reasons

By David Sheen

If progressive people want to affect public policy, it is not enough to listen to the pronouncements of conservative politicians and prepare talking points that refute their arguments. You must engage in dialogue with people on the street, the average Joe or Jane who votes the right wing into power, to understand what motivates them.

Take the case of the children of non-Jewish people of color that have migrated to Israel in the last several years.  Interior Minister Eli Yishai has decided to deport them, and in order to shore up support for this decision, he has stated that these people are ‘polluting‘ the country, responsible for bringing in drugs and diseases.

The logical liberal believes that by exposing the truth about these immigrants — even Israeli police statistics prove that the crime rates in their communities are lower even than the national average, not higher, as the haters claim — they will succeed in convincing the average Yossi or Hanna to not support the deportation.

But people got it twisted. It is not the case that Yishai is convincing Jewish Israelis that non-Jews are inherently evil and inferior. Of course, it is absolutely abhorrent that a government minister makes these claims — but he is in sync with his constituency, a large section of the Jewish population, maybe even the majority.

This past Friday, left-wing Israeli Jews held a rally in a public park in central Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the non-Jewish children slated for deportation. Several dozen right-wing Israeli Jews countered-rallied, demanding that these kids — and all other non-Jewish people of color in this country — be deported immediately.

Esther Eikaphei, a pupil at Bialik-Rogozin School in South Tel Aviv (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

In interviews with some of these people, a very scary vision of Israel emerges. According to this narrative, by advocating for democracy and human rights, left-wing Jews are traitors to the Torah, which advocates Jewish supremacy. For them, it is not enough to expel the non-Jews; their Jewish collaborators must be expelled as well.

It is widely known that many fundamentalist Christians in the U.S.A. believe that their god will soon come to earth and kill all non-believers. But it is largely unknown that many fundamentalist Jews believe this, too. Not only do they want the country to be devoid of all non-Jews, but they even believe that non-Jews deserve the death penalty.

It is wonderful that the film Strangers No More — about a Tel Aviv school that happily accepts non-Jewish children — won an Academy Award last week. But that story is just the exception to the rule that proves the rule: that the government of Israel, and many of the Jewish people of Israel, want them all gone, as soon as possible.

Fundamentally, at issue is the “Jewish and democratic” character of the state. When “Jewish” and “democratic” come into conflict — as they must — many Jewish Israelis fiercely believe that “Jewish” must prevail. Until the Israeli left addresses these ideological underpinnings, its struggle against the symptoms of Judeo-supremacy will be Sisyphean.

Feelings for Foreigners from Blue Pilgrimage on Vimeo.

David Sheen is a documentarian and designer who lives in Tel Aviv and reports on converging catastrophes and ecological responses in Israel and around the world. His website is www.davidsheen.com

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    1. Mikey

      Israel should treat the foreign workers and refugee-seekers justly, but Israel is a small country and can’t take in an unlimited number.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Emma

      I really don’t think this is a racist issue (although for sure there are racists out there).

      This is to do with upholding the law and controlling illegal migration. There are far more than 400 kids, not to mention their families, and please explain why (for example) a 2 year old born to Ukrainian parents who entered Israel on a tourist visa should not be deported. Deportation of families is an everyday occurrence in all Western European liberal democracies.

      You also fail to mention that more than 700 children who meet specific criteria have been allowed to stay with their (extended?) families.

      How can you call Israel immigration policy racist when we are paying billions of sheqels to bring non-Jewish Ethiopians into the country.

      Most Israelis support the expulsion because they understand that Israel’s right to exist is predicated on it being a Jewish state. That’s why we are here and we have to observe the law – even when we don’t like the law.

      No one is talking about deporting refugees or people in danger of their lives. We are talking mostly of 3 and 4 year old children who will have no problem adapting to life in the countries of their parents (exactly in the way that 12 year old Esther shown in the picture above has absorbed into Israeli society).

      I sincerely hope that you publish this comment. I am not racist, but object to illegal immigration.

      Reply to Comment