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Israel's war of attrition on non-Jews

The eviction of the Sumarin family was delayed but not canceled, leaving the family in limbo. Other groups live with uncertainty as Israel wages a psychological war of attrition on non-Jews.

A Filipino boy holds a sign reading "Don't deport us!" (photo: Mya Guarnieri)

According to Haaretz, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has delayed the eviction of the Sumarins, a Palestinian family who lives in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and who were slated to be evacuated from their home on Monday.

The JNF has been trying to evict the Sumarin family for 20 years. Much of Silwan’s land has been confiscated by the state and transferred to Himnuta, a company owned by the JNF. These holdings have been passed on to Elad, a settler organization that operates the City of David park, which is located in Silwan.

After the Sumarins received an order several weeks ago to vacate the premises, human rights organizations and activists launched a campaign to prevent the eviction. While some consider the delay a victory, it points to a larger problem–it is a delay. A delayed eviction does not represent a permanent solution for the Sumarins, a family of 12 who could still lose their house. Nor does this delayed eviction address the larger issue of illegal Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli government’s complicity in the enterprise, and the far-reaching consequences for Palestinians who live under military occupation.

The occupation is not just checkpoints, movement restrictions, political imprisonments, home demolitions, and evictions. It’s also the waiting at checkpoints, waiting for a permit, waiting to see a loved one in jail, waiting to get out of jail, waiting for the bulldozer to arrive, waiting to be put on the street.

There is something torturous about living with uncertainty, with a sword dangling over one’s head. Whether that sword be eviction from one’s home or deportation from the country–it’s a reminder that one is not the master of his fate, that his life is in someone else’s hands. It’s a psychological war of attrition.

It’s not just the Sumarin family nor is it just the Palestinians–the Israeli government keeps other “others” in constant limbo, as well. There are the children of migrant workers who live under the constant threat of deportation, two years after the state announced its intent to expel them. It’s the families who have been fighting for naturalization since 2005, only for the state to continue dragging its feet. It’s the 25-year-old man, born and raised in Israel to Filipino parents, who can’t get on with his life because the state would rather ignore non-Jewish immigration than come up with a clear, consistent policy. It’s refusing to process the requests of tens of thousands of African asylum seekers, refugees who live with a constant question mark over their heads. And as the state constructs a detention center to imprison asylum seekers, the question of their status is growing ever more urgent.

Home evictions, deportations of children, the status of asylum seekers–these issues cannot be considered on a case-by-case basis. Israel’s policies towards non-Jews, or its lack thereof, must be interrogated and amended so that every man, woman, and child can go to bed at night having some idea of what the next day will bring.

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    1. david goldman, esq.

      “War of attrition on non-jews”. You mean regulating immigration like in every other Western culture is deemed to be a “war”? So for example when America deports illegal aliens working in various factories – this is tantamount to a “war”. What with the rights of the Jewish taxpayer who has to finance the dependency that thousands of third world asylum seekers creates. How/Why should the Jewish taxpayer who did not trigger the cause of their condition, liable? Do you have any idea how unsustainable it is from an economic perspective to allocate scarce resources in an already embattled country.

      No wonder you have a “masters degree in English” – your reasoning skills are so subpar as to make it impossible for you to go into a more challenging discipline.

      You desperately need to check in to the nearest insane asylum

      Reply to Comment
    2. Robynne

      Mr. Goldman….you cannot compare the two “countries”. These particular Palestinians have been living in this house since BEFORE there was an Israel! It is their house, the “state” had no right to take it from them in the first place and should not be evicting this family. While there are laws that allow the state to take someone’s land/home in America – it is not based on a family’s religion….

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jan

      Lets face the sickening truth about Israel. Israel is a racist country in which the Jewish population is preferred above all others both in law and in practice. Israel is NO T a democracy for all of its citzens. It is a theocracy and should be known as such.

      Reply to Comment
    4. mya guarnieri


      I will not tolerate personal attacks on my channel–against me or anyone else. My Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (read a little more closely, my friend) has nothing to do with my reasoning skills and being a writer is an extremely challenging field.

      Further, this post isn’t about American immigration policies.

      Next, Israel is a signatory to various UN conventions, including those regarding refugees and the rights of children (and that includes “foreign” children). No matter the cost to the state, Israel has obligations under these conventions she has signed. Those states who felt they couldn’t uphold the conventions did not sign them.

      Israel has a duty to process the requests of asylum seekers and grant them work permits so they can survive. Ignoring refugees and denying them the right to work–essentially forcing them to enter the black market where they labor for shockingly low wages–is not in line with upholding their human rights. Nor is it cost-effective, mind you–building a prison for asylum seekers is surely more expensive than allowing them to work and support themselves.

      Regarding migrant laborers, especially the children of migrant laborers, this is a problem Israel has created with her own hands. Most of the children who were born and raised here were born to parents who entered the country legally but lost their status because they had a baby here. Women have three months to send their infant back home, on pain of losing their legal status.

      This policy that forces women to choose between their legal status and their baby was struck down by the Israeli Supreme Court in the spring as a violation of Israel’s own labor laws. The state, however, is moving forward with its deportation of the families who were made “illegal” by the policy–not law, mind you–that the Supreme Court has struck down.

      If you have any further questions, and can restrain yourself from attacking me personally, I will be happy to answer them.


      Reply to Comment
    5. Mitchell Cohen

      “If you have any further questions, and can restrain yourself from attacking me personally, I will be happy to answer them.” [End of Mya]

      What is your solution to the migrants finding their way into Israel? Conflict, Jewish demography, etc. to the side, Israel is a small state with sparse resources. Do we just open our gates to anyone who finds their way here? Or do we have to enforce some kind of cap? I don’t think it is inhuman or insensitive to ask these ?’s

      Reply to Comment
    6. mya guarnieri

      Hi Mitchell, As my last comment was addressed to David, so was my close, reminding him from not attacking me personally but also remarking that I am happy to answer his questions. Sorry if that was unclear.

      No, questions are not personally attacks.

      Regarding your questions: it’s important to distinguish between migrant workers and African refugees. When you say “migrants,” which are you referring to?

      Again, Israel has brought foreign workers here herself. Perhaps Israel should put an end to the revolving door of bringing more, deporting some, and then bringing more again. This is unlikely to happen, however, as there are a lot of people getting rich thanks to the revolving door.

      Regarding African refugees–once refugees are inside, there are obligations to them, according to the UN conventions Israel has signed. Obviously, Israel cannot take every refugee in the world. And Israel has a right to secure its borders. However, once refugees are here, international conventions forbid deportation.

      None of the refugees I have ever talked to have asked for a handout. They are not looking to tap into Israel’s “sparse resources” (though Israel’s membership in the OECD suggests that your assessment of Israel as a state with “sparse resources” is not entirely correct). What they do want to do is work and survive.

      Perhaps Israel should stop bringing migrant workers in and allow the people who are here and are eager to work to enter the labor market legally by issuing them work visas. This could be one step.

      Either way, Israel needs a clear, coherent policy for the humane treatment of non-Jews.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Y.

      I find the tension between various leftist talking points to be hilarious. Is Israel “waging a war on non-Jews” or does it have “no clear immigration policy”? It can’t possibly be both. A “war on non-Jews” is a very clear policy after all.
      (The obvious answer of course, is that Israel does have a clear (and internationally common) policy of non-naturalizing guest workers, and Mya is working against it, so all the contradictory obfuscations are needed to cloud the issue).

      Reply to Comment
    8. mya guarnieri

      Hi Y,

      Thanks for reading.

      That’s the point: a war of attrition forces one side to give up due to exhaustion… after using up time, money, resources, will, etc.

      In this case, the policy is that of non-policy. Yes, it can be both.

      By the way, you speak of Israel’s “non-naturalizing” guest workers… but children born to migrant workers aren’t guest workers… they are children with certain rights that Israel must respect.

      Secondly, I noticed that you dodged the issue of Israel’s ignoring of African refugees. African refugees are not guest workers, either.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Y.

      Err.. The so-called refugees aren’t fleeing Sudan or Eritrea, since Israel has no common borders with such. The “refugees” are getting away from Egypt mostly due to economic reasons. If Israel were to set up camps, it would discharge any alleged obligations, as the policy would not be different from many other countries.
      The children of migrant workers issue is directly related to the migrant worker issue. Israel, again like many other countries, has no “jus soli” citizenship law. It has a “jus sanguinis” type and there the status of the parents is very much an issue.

      Reply to Comment
    10. mya guarnieri


      Eritrean and Sudanese refugees fear for their lives in Egypt. They face torture and rape in the Sinai.

      Most of the Eritrean and Sudanese refugees I’ve spoken to tell me that they did not have trouble finding work in Egypt. They feared for their physical safety.

      In Israel, they fear for their survival. Black market wages are very low. Sometimes “employers” take them for a day and then drop them off and refuse to pay them. None of these people are getting rich here in Israel.

      Regarding the children of migrant workers–you’re right, the issue is related to their parents, whom Israel brought here by issuing them work visas. Whether the children are citizens or not, they have rights–and not being deported is one of them.

      Reply to Comment
    11. mya guarnieri

      Y, Since you seem interested in the issue as to why African asylum seekers flee Egypt, as well, here is some info from Human Rights Watch on the issue:



      In Egypt, they face deportation to the countries they have fled from, places where they face persecution, bodily harm, and/or death. Deporting them to their home countries, in these circumstances, is against UN conventions.

      Israel has, at times, done hot returns, which means that they pick up asylum seekers at the border and just give them back to Egypt–knowing that Egypt might deport them to places where they face persecution.


      Reply to Comment
    12. Y.

      The main reason they face torture and rape in the Sinai is that they pass there in the way to Israel… Had Israel not accepted any of them, there would be no crossover attempts and no torture by the Bedouins.
      And second, you’re right, the issue is their treatment in Egypt, not what happens in their home countries. Ergo, refugee determination should see if they have something to fear in Egypt, rather than their home countries.
      Lastly, the children obviously are not to be separated from their parents. Since the parents involved have (in the typical case) overstayed their visas, the obvious choice is to send them both…

      Reply to Comment
    13. mya guarnieri


      Really? The obvious choice is to deport families rather than respecting the UN conventions that Israel has signed?

      Yes, Egypt needs to take better care of the refugees. But it’s not. And so they arrive here, where Israel is obligated to them under the conventions she has signed.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Y.

      You miss the difference. If refugee determination is based on what happens in Egypt (as it should), rather than their home countries, than Sudanese and Eritreans don’t get automatic status, and those that fail could be deported to Egypt. Also, even if the determination is passed, Israel is far from obliged to provide citizenship or residency.
      Second, I may be ignorant, but I do not recall any convention instituting “jus soli” or giving children of guest workers right to stay in country due to being born here, sorry.

      Reply to Comment
    15. mya guarnieri


      Deporting children is contrary to the UN convention on the rights of the child.

      It’s interesting that you say that refugee determination should be based on what happens in Egypt… as I stated in my article, Israel doesn’t bother to process requests at all. So, never mind what happens in Egypt–Israel doesn’t even bother with that.

      Where did I say anything about providing citizenship to refugees? My article discusses Israel’s policy of non-policy… an issue you’re trying very hard not to address.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Y.

      Lets not play dumb. If all children have right to stay, and all children have right to education in public schools, and all children in public schools are “Israeli children” (to use that organization’s name), and so. The endgame is obvious. We Israelis are not so stupid as to miss it.
      I’ve read now the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and I see no violation in it. Article 7.1 gives right to a nationality, but they already have their parents’. (And it’s limited by 7.2 which states “implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field”). Article 9 forbids separation from parents (unless it’s in the child’s best interests as determined by law), which would require sending them with their parents if the parents are deported. Art. 22 refers to refugees alone.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Y.

      As for Israel’s “policy of non-policy”, given that you complain over various actions (not neglect), there’s obviously some policy (or policies or maybe even competing policies) involved. Complain over, say, “policy of attrition” if you like, but using an oxymoron is just begging to be laughed at.

      Reply to Comment
    18. mya guarnieri


      I am Israeli, too. Or do I not count because I wasn’t born here? 😉 And then, if it takes being born here to “count” then why don’t the children of migrant workers count?

      Second, that is YOUR interpretation of the convention. According to a slew of human rights organizations, deporting the children is indeed a violation.

      Fascinating that you’re unashamed to argue so doggedly in public for the deportation of children and families.

      What is the “endgame” you speak of? Granting status to 700 children? Is that really such a threat to Jewish hegemony in Israel that you will stand here and advocate for something so cruel, so inhumane.

      Again, you dodge the issue of Israel’s policy of non-policy regarding African refugees.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Y.

      I don’t care for deportation, but I do oppose your endgame. It’s 700 past the latest criteria by the Nethanyahu government, which is past Olmert’s decision to grant status to some… It’s a never ending shellgame.**
      P.S. I had no idea where you were born, and did not imply anything.
      P.S.S. “Human right organisations” are essentially everyone who decided to register one. They have no better idea of the law than you or I.
      ** Math students may recall the harmonic series which does not converge even though each element sounds very small.

      Reply to Comment
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