A new book about Israel’s crusade against asylum seekers and undocumented workers strikes at an essential truth about the precarious status of non-Jews in a self-defined Jewish state.
“The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others,” Mya Guarnieri Jaradat, Pluto Press, 2017.
In a small apartment in south Tel Aviv, a Filipina woman hides her Christmas tree in the hallway, away from the windows, fearing that were someone to spot it from outside she might be found out and wind up being deported. On the outskirts of a park in the same city, prospective employers size up a row of African asylum seekers, trying to determine who is the strongest and therefore who will be the best pick for a day’s cheap labor. In a church not far away, immigration agents burst in and detain an African man, despite his having a valid visa.
These picture postcards from Israel are scattered throughout Mya Guarnieri Jaradat’s new book, The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others, published by Pluto Press. The book chronicles, through a blend of assiduous reporting and frank anecdotes, the country’s war on non-Jewish migrants, be they asylum seekers or foreign workers. Jaradat, who is also a blogger for +972, leads us around Israel and takes us in and out of the homes of her subjects, most of whom have congregated in south Tel Aviv — an area with which the author is clearly intimately familiar. Through their experiences, and Jaradat’s personal reflections, we learn about the toll that Israel’s crusade against undocumented workers and asylum seekers takes on its victims.
Jaradat’s book, the bulk of which deals with the years-long evolution of Israel’s treatment of African asylum seekers, arrives at an all-too-fitting moment. The process feels dishearteningly familiar now: the chaos of an inadequate legal framework to deal with a sudden influx of asylum seekers, which gives way to legislation (and a southern border wall) designed to keep as many people out as possible while hastening the departure of those already arrived. The backdrop is instantly recognizable, too: populist rabble-rousing, media scare stories, ill-fated attempts to blunt structural racism, and shocking episodes of street-level brutality. Zoomed out from the specifics, we may as well be reading about France, Hungary, Slovenia, or even the United States.
Yet these trends began...Read More