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The tragedy and threat of African refugees in Israel

With at least 60,000 now in the country and 2,000 to 3,000 more coming every month, African refugees, for all the trauma they have been through, are unassimilable in this country. The first in a three-part series.

On Friday, with the headlines screaming of Eritreans raping a 15-year-old Israeli girl,  I went with a photographer friend to the Hatikva neighborhood in South Tel Aviv to get a sense of how the Jewish residents were feeling toward the Africans, and vice versa. I was surprised to see no hatred on the faces of the Israelis nor fear on the faces of the Africans. Everyone looked calm, doing their Friday afternoon shopping, selling and running around.

But this, of course, was just on the surface. An Israeli woman standing outside her front door, in her 30’s, of Yemenite background, asked what we were doing, and when we said we were doing a story about the situation with the Africans, she came down, unasked, and started taking us around the neighborhood. She pointed out the little grocery stalls run by Africans, and complained that they open them without business licenses and nobody stops them. “Can an Israeli do that?” she demanded. “They’re taking over.”

On the walls along Ha’etzel Street were posters for the anti-“infiltrator” protests planned for this Tuesday and Wednesday evening, and for the one that had just taken place. “We are the country – don’t mess with us,” warned one. “Move them to North Tel Aviv,” read another.

This is not new; the anti-refugee movement has been building for a couple of years. I’ve heard “black peril” talk from several people I’ve interviewed in Hatikva, and there are very, very few dissenting voices. The difference is that now there are headlines about a rape by Eritreans, which came about a week after the headlines about a rape by Sudanese.

The night before, when I read about the terrible attack on the 15-year-old girl near the central bus station, the “capital” of Israel’s foreign worker and African refugee population, I felt “my side” had not only lost, my side had been proven guilty. I felt that as insanely racist, hateful and mendacious as they are, the xenophobes, the Eli Yishais and the Kachniks, had been right on the basic point all along. The refugees have become an intolerable presence in the neighborhoods where they’ve settled, and if something isn’t done to reduce their numbers and stop more of them from coming, this won’t be just a local problem in South Tel Aviv and a handful of other neighborhoods, it’ll be a national problem, an intolerable one.

Starting in 2006, when there were fewer than 200 African refugees in the country, I wrote dozens of op-eds and features in The Jerusalem Post saying Israel has to take in these horribly victimized people, to let them live freely, to allow them the opportunity to work, start families and remain here.

Private citizens distributing food to refugees in Levinsky Park (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

That was when there were a few hundred, then a thousand, then a few thousand, then several thousand refugees – before the complaints from Israelis in South Tel Aviv , Eilat, Arad, Ashdod and Ashkelon began surfacing, when it was possible to write such complaints off as a few people’s irrational reaction to black people. I heard plenty of warnings, and not just from right-wingers, that an open-door policy to the refugees would encourage huge numbers of others to follow, but I didn’t want to take those warnings seriously, and my sense is that pro-refugee activists, lawyers and other journalists didn’t want to take them seriously, either, or they told themselves things would work out.

But those warnings have come true. There are at least 60,000 African refugees, mostly from Eritrea, in the country now. The head of the UN refugee office in Israel, William Tall, told me in late March that 2,000 to 3,000 more are crossing from Sinai into Israel every month – double last year’s rate.

These people come here with heavy, heavy “baggage”: many were robbed and tortured and many women raped by their Bedouin smugglers en route through Sinai to the Israeli border. They’re all escaping unimaginable hell in their home countries, with the Sudanese having been subject to harsh racism and at times violence during their years-long stopover in Egypt.

Some are mentally ill from the ordeal. Some sleep in Levinsky Park near the central bus station. With the refugees now barred en masse from working legally, a Skid Row scene has developed among them. The refugees are overwhelmingly young men, and include very few unattached young women. Most of them live two or three to a room in absurdly cramped apartments.  There’s a lot of drinking and fighting.

The refugees are no longer a relative handful of people whom Israel could assimilate. Their numbers, rate of increase and concentrated presence have turned them into a subculture of pariahs in Israeli eyes, unassimilable anywhere in this country, with nowhere else to go. They’ve settled massively in the midst of poor, mainly Mizrahi, right-wing Jews in South Tel Aviv and Eilat, who are not used to living among black people, who see them hanging around with nothing to do, sometimes drunk, and who typically refer to them as kushim – “niggers.”

The awful rape that came to light on Thursday – three Eritreans were arrested and police say their DNA matches the DNA left on the girl – raises a very hard question: Are the local residents right when they accuse the Africans of habitually committing violent crime, or is it just their fear of young black men, especially young black men at night, that’s talking?

As long-time activist Sigal Rozen wrote, the police statistics used to say the refugees were actually much more law-abiding than Israelis in general; now they say the opposite. Like Rozen, I suspect the police are doctoring the statistics now because that’s the way the political wind is blowing. (In years past, police said they didn’t keep separate crime stats for foreign nationals; now they’ve got separate categories for Eritreans and Sudanese.)

But if you look at the refugee community’s profile, they’re destitute; barred from legal work; traumatized; alien in a fearful, hostile land; with very few families and top-heavy with young men, many of whom drink excessively – it would be something of a sociological miracle if they didn’t show a high rate of crime, including violent crime.

As for rape – again, this is a community with lots of young men and few single women. They come from one of the extremely poor, desolate, war-torn countries of Africa, a continent where sexual violence is a widespread plague.

_____________________________

Add all this up, and what do you get? Not that all African refugees in Israel are criminals or rapists, nor that most of them are, nor that a lot of them are, certainly not if we’re talking about serious violent crime like rape or aggravated assault or murder. No one except a psychotic racist would deny that the overwhelming majority of Africans here are law-abiding.

But if you take the crime rate, including the violent crime rate, including the rape rate, among 10,000 random African refugees here and compare it to the rate among 10,000 random Israelis, would it be higher? Given the community’s profile, I would be surprised if it wasn’t, despite the past police statistics Rozen quotes that showed it to be actually much lower.

No, I think the Israelis in South Tel Aviv have more than just a “subjective” reason to be afraid of refugees. On one hand, I have no doubt they exagerrate the danger greatly; I’ve heard loads of generalities from a couple of dozen residents, but no personal experiences of being assaulted by refugees, nor even second-hand accounts. (Again, though, I’ve only talked to a couple dozen people about this.)

On the other hand, I don’t think the people in South Tel Aviv, Eilat, Arad, Ashdod and Ashkelon have made the whole thing up out of nothing but color prejudice; I don’t think the police’s latest statistics are completely made up, either; and if African refugees in Israel have a relatively high rate of violent crime, including sexual violence, I would find it the most natural thing in the world, given where they come from, what they’ve lived through and the way they’re living now.

If there were only thousands of them here, they could be treated strictly as humanitarian cases and “adopted” by kibbutzim and moshavim like many were in the beginning; they could work and go to school and be assimilated and get married and have families and become Israelis. But with at least 60,000 here and 2,000 to 3,000 more arriving monthly, all of them crowding into a few neighborhoods of poor, conservative, frightened Jews, they are a threat to the fabric of this society. Given their numbers, there’s a limit to how much compassion Israel can show them. At this point, we have to worry about our own first.

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    COMMENTS

    1. caden

      Larry, I just saw a pig fly by my window. And this is going to make your head hurt. But this was a good one.

      Reply to Comment
    2. max

      Larry, I guess your post won’t collect many comments…
      .
      With close to 100,000 refugees in Israel by the end of the year, when the border fence is finished, what are Israel’s option for solving the problem? Moving them further north or east will probably not work…

      Reply to Comment
    3. n c

      “Take care of our own”?!! but…”if I am only for myself, who am I?”

      Reply to Comment
    4. I haven’t seen any breakdown of the refugees’ origins. I’d be interested to know what proportion are south Sudanese. You may recall this news item from three months ago:
      South Sudanese refugees must leave Israel (JTA, Feb 1 2012) — South Sudan nationals living in Israel will have two months to return to their home country or face deportation, Israel’s Interior Ministry said. Since South Sudan became an independent nation in July, refugees from the area no longer require protected status in Israel, according to the ministry. South Sudanese nationals will be offered about $1,300 and a plane ticket if they leave voluntarily before the Mar 31 deadline, Haaretz reported. After that they will be deported. Israel recognized South Sudan on Jul 10 2011, one day after it declared independence from Sudan. The countries established full diplomatic relations two weeks later.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Answering my own question: since about 2007, the majority of Sudanese asylum seekers have come from Darfur. Prior to that, the majority came from southern Sudan. The following is from
      http://www.ardc-israel.org/sites/default/files/cerd_ardc_final.pdf
      .
      There are currently (Jan 30, 2012) an estimated 45,000 asylum seekers in Israel and over 90& of this population has arrived since 2007. Eritreans and Sudanese represent 60% and 25% of the population respectively. Other significant groups of asylum seekers are from Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Less than 10% of the asylum seeker population in Israel is permitted to apply for refugee status. Further, certain nationalities, which currently includes Eritreans and Sudanese, are denied the opportunity to even enter the ‘refugee status determination’ procedure to seek refugee status. Instead such nationalities, which collectively represent approximately 90% of the total asylum seeker population in Israel, are granted temporary group protection which confers an inferior, unstable status that must be renewed every three months. In other words, these individuals are denied the opportunity to apply for refugee status in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Sorry to keep adding to this, but it’s quite interesting. If I have understood correctly, the reason 90% of asylum seekers do not qualify even to apply for refugee status is that they are adjudged to come from ‘enemy states’. Sudan (prior to the independence of south Sudan) was adjudged to be an ‘enemy state’ because of its supposed ‘support for terrorism,’ and this meant that all Sudanese were ineligible to apply for refugee status, even though they were fleeing from areas seeking independence from the Sudanese state. Eritrea is defined as an ‘enemy state’ because of its supposed support for Somalian rebels.
      .
      Apologies for the misprint in the previous comment (90& for 90%).

      Reply to Comment
    7. Aaron

      Larry, God bless you for writing this. Well, I’m an atheist, but I can’t think of any other way to express how much I appreciate this article. It struck just the right balance, finding the perfect path between the demagogues on one side and the limousine liberals (and childless leftists) on the other.
       
      “Tragedy” is correct, in the sense that both the Jews and the Africans are victims of a conflict that, given the immigration, was inevitable. Many on the left are unable to see tragedy, only melodrama: racist Jews against saintly Africans. This was an honest and courageous article.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Appreciate it, Aaron. From one atheist to another, God bless you, too. 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    9. max

      @Rowan, the UN defines and grants conditions for temporary group protection

      Reply to Comment
    10. Elisabeth

      Thank you for the article. It is clear that this is growing into an intolerable situation, and Israel cannot be called upon to deal with such huge numbers of refugees all alone. But what to do? (I am sure people would love to move on north to Europe, and perhaps letting them do so would call attention to the situation!)

      The frustrating thing is that it is a problem that is too big for single individuals, and even single states to deal with: All kinds of western trade policies disadvantage African development and agriculture. In the short run ‘we’ benefit from these policies (which is why they are in place), but in the long run, it is to the disadvantage of us all.

      Can you imagine what a boost it would be for Europe to have a thriving developing Africa as a close-by trade partner! (Well actually, the economic growth rates in a number of African countries are quite stunning right now, so maybe things will change.)

      Of course economy is not all there is to it: Many are really fleeing war and persecution. Are there no agencies checking the refugees background, trying to find if they are truly at risk for their lives and eligible for asylum such as in European countries or the US? Or are the numbers too high to do a proper chack? (Or or are the Israeli politicians not prepared to allot the funds to such a system?)

      I really appreciate your not describing people who risk torture and rape to escape their situation as just ‘economic refugees/parasytes’, while at the same time taking the problem seriously.

      Reply to Comment
    11. sarah

      This has been true for wave after wave of immigrants. Many of the racists are probably Russian, looking forward to having a new kid on the block to pick on.

      Reply to Comment
    12. caden

      Except they are not immigrants to the country who want to make a life and contribute to the place. Are they Sarah. There fleeing a bad situation and are going to the onyl country in the area who won’t mow them done. The “zionist entity” imagine that.

      Reply to Comment
    13. caden

      bad spelling, off my blackberry

      Reply to Comment
    14. Piotr Berman

      This is really strange. After the attack on Eilat road by a Beduin group IDF was supposed to increase vigilance of Sinai border, so 100 people can cross it each day? And IDF has an enormous surplus of troops. To confiscate 2 laptops and 10 memory cards in Ramallah 10 jeeps full of troops were sent. Settlers get armed escorts for harassing Palestinians. Every village that has protests has copious IDF presence. And it seems that there is a special battalion for fighting with trees, and few other for fighting with outhouses, animal sheds, and yet another for demolishing roads to Palestinian villages.

      And a battalion at BGA in case of a flytilla.

      And IDF has to plan all these activities. Like they plan to demolish cisterns in 12 villages that got aid from a British organization to renovate them. All the structures and trees have to be mapped, analyzed, and plans of actions have to be made, with contingencies, together with diplomatic measures and countermeasures.

      Perhaps time comes to shift some attention to Negev?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Piotr Berman

      Someone somewhere wrote that 99% of refugees from Eritrea are Christians. I started to check, and it is a bit strange. First, Christians are about 1/3 of the population. Second, the rulers are a Marxists (or pseudo-Marxist) dictatorship, with top guys being Christian.

      Apparently, they outlawed all Christian sects except three, of course the traditional Ethiopian Orthodox (same religion as Egyptian Copts) are allowed, disallowed sects consist of new Protestant converts. Apart from their fragmentary religious tolerance, it seems to be African equivalent of North Korea. Somewhat similarly Marxist dictatorship in Ethiopia produces no refugees.

      Eritrea had a war with Ethiopia over Badme area 14 years ago, and Eritrea remains insanely repressive and militarized. Allegedly, conscripts serve 7 years. Seems that repression and stiffling control affects ordinary Eritreans, while in Ethiopia mostly the elite.

      It seems that Eritreans flee to Ethiopia and only from there some trek north. Ethiopian government relaxed somewhat the rules for refugee camps, allowing work outside the camps, but one can imagine that the opportunities in remote border regions of Ethiopia are scarce. Improving conditions of refugees in Ethiopia would be probably the most cost effective and humane approach.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Rafael

      The Fascism checklist applied on Israel.
      .
      1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – YES.
      .
      2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – HELL YES. Left-wingers and human rights activists are portrayed as traitors and the government refuses to cooperate with international human rights organizations.
      .
      3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – YES. Palestinians, Africans, Iranians — you name it. There’s definitely no dearth of scapegoats.
      .
      4. Supremacy of the Military – YES. The armed forces are privileged in government resource allocation and soldiers are glamourized.
      .
      5. Rampant Sexism – NO, not yet. But things are worsening for the women.
      .
      6. Controlled Mass Media – NO.
      .
      7. Obsession with National Security – DEFINITELY YES.
      .
      8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – YES, and increasingly so.
      .
      9. Corporate Power is Protected – IDK.
      .
      10. Labor Power is Suppressed – IDK.
      .
      11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – YES.
      .
      12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – YES. At least when the crime is perpetrated by non-Jews.
      .
      13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – YES. Israel’s score on the Transparency Index has deteriorated more than any other industrialized country’s — it is perhaps in the top 10 countries who’ve seen corruption perception worsen in the last 20 years.
      .
      14. Fraudulent Elections – NO.
      .
      Israel’s socre: 9/14.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Raphael

      NC: “Take care of our own”?!! but…”if I am only for myself, who am I?”

      That’s a highly selective and misleading excerpt from a famous quote, almost begging to be put in context. Rabbi Hillel’s aphorism was:

      “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
      If I am only for myself, what am I?
      And if not now, when?”

      I’m no religious scholar, but Hillel was clearly expressing the need to strike a balance between altruism and looking out for one’s own interest. These two imperatives are sometimes in conflict; a great contemporary example of this would be the surging influx of African migrants into Israel. If you consider Hillel’s quote in its entirety, you’ll realize that Derfner’s article is portraying the issue through the same moral prism as Hillel articulated.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Philos

      @ Larry Derfner, I think a better way to start the discussion, and it is a very important one to have, is first to set out your terms of reference with regards to the whole issue. Why? Because the first question that must be tackled is how to discuss this without being or coming off racist.
      .
      And, I am afraid, that there are elements of racist language in your article. This one in particular stands out in my mind,
      .
      “if African refugees in Israel have a relatively high rate of violent crime, including sexual violence, I would find it the most natural thing in the world, given where they come from”

      Reply to Comment
    19. Daniel de França MTd2

      @PHILOS Indeed, this part of the article sounds very racist, mainly because of the part you quoted. That also annoyed me, but not from expecting political correctedness of a discourse, but as being coherent with the discourse with the right of return expected to millions of Palestinians (“rapers” vs. “terrorists”). But it this is not full piece. I will wait for the 2 other parts.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Daniel de França MTd2

      @RAPHAEL, I guess you’d recommend me to buy more books from Israel Shahak. There are more quotes in those in this kind of context.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Jess

      I have never read an article on this website that I disagreed with more. This is exactly the same kind of argument racists everywhere use, except with “not to be racist, but” tacked on several times. What the hell does it mean to be “assimilated” anyway? Think about it, read some articles about anti-Latino bigotry in the US, realize that you said something racist, apologize, move on.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Rebecca

      The Israeli government approach of first sticking its head in the sand, and then excluding the African refugees from legal employment and social services, has backfired. No matter how intolerable they try to make life for these refugees in Israel (and it’s pretty bad), where they came from and where they have to go back to is worse. Even wholesale deportation is not a solution. In addition to the questionable legality and possible human rights violations of deportation, new refugees will simply replace the departing ones.

      There’s really no alternative to starting to give this population education, the opportunity to work, and hope of a better life. These refugees are motivated to advance themselves and could eventually cover the costs of services through taxes.

      Reply to Comment
    23. max

      @PHILOS, “given where they come from” means ‘given the hell and atrocities they went through and came from’.
      What’s racist about it?

      Reply to Comment
    24. MP

      Why not make them citizens, educate them, and let them find jobs? If 3000 Jews a month were immigrating there, Israel would find room, right?

      Reply to Comment
    25. Philos

      @ Max, “given where they come from” is a racist. Let’s try a thought experiment.
      .
      Israelis are rude, brutish and only understand the language of physical violence and force, which is only natural given where they come from.
      .
      Not nice when said about us and not nice when said about them either.

      Reply to Comment
    26. max

      @PHILOS, sorry, I fail to understand you… The idea that a rough background would statistically affect future behavior is quite common and has implications in law and policy.
      What Larry writes is that _if_ the ratio … is found to be higher … he would find it natural due to the above.
      It’s a statement in a social context, not a racist assertion.
      It’s the same as saying (regardless of the underlying facts) “_if_ Israelis are rude, brutish and only understand the language of physical violence and force, _it could be understood_ given where they come from.”

      Reply to Comment
    27. Elisabeth

      For what it is worth: I was interested to see a comparison between the Netherlands and Israel. In the ninetees 30 to 40 thousand asylumseekers per year came to the Netherlands (1994 was a top year with more than 52 thousand). It was the years of the war in Yugoslavia. From 1990 to 1999 the total number was 322 thousand. From 2000 to 2010 the number was 181 thousand. (11 to 15 thousand per year is now normal.) That means Israel is now getting the same number of people per year as the Netherlands in the ninetees, while the territory (excluding West Bank, Goland, East Jerusalem, Gaza) is about half.

      The population density is rather close (377 per km2 in Israel, 397 per km2 in the Netherlands).

      After the whole asylumproceedings (which can take years) have been gone through only one third receives a permanent residency permit in the Netherlands. People who do not receive the permit are deported or disappear from view and survive as illegal residents.

      Reply to Comment
    28. max

      ELISABETH, I wonder where you got your numbers from – could you have used immigration numbers instead of asylum seekers?
      .
      http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/12/how_many_asylum_seekers_come_t.php
      .
      Regardless, Holland has more than double the Israeli population, and the effect of the change in demography has had an enormous, negative effect on the Dutch political discourse.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Elisabeth

      I see now that the numbers in the link you provided agree with the numbers that I gave in my comment:

      “This year around 13,000 people will apply for asylum in the Netherlands but only 8% of the 1,200 people polled by De Hond got the figure right. The refugee total has been around this level for years, Vluchtelingenwerk (an NGO that aids refugees in the Netherlands) says.

      Some 21% think more than 50,000 refugees will arrive in the country this year – a figure only reached once, during the Balkan conflict in 1994. Just 14% under-estimated the total.

      Most people also thought each refugee brings four people with them under family reunion rules. In practice the average is less than half a person, according to Vluchtelingenwerk figures.

      ‘We are constantly being told there is a tsunami of asylum seekers, which in fact does not exist,’ director Dorine Manson said in a statement. ‘This is endangering our willingness to accept refugees.’

      Apparently, people believe that the numbers reached during the Balkan conflict in the ninetees (which got a lot of publicity at the time) still apply today, while in fact the average of the last ten years is half of the average of those ten years.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Elisabeth

      You have to realize that the REAL change in demographics in the Netherlands because of asylum requests is of course negligible (as the numbers clearly show). But the IMAGINED change in demographics has influenced politics (or rather, certain politicians have made clever use of fears that are not rational if you look at the actual numbers).

      Reply to Comment
    31. max

      ELISABETH, it may not make sense to refer to the _REAL_ change when it doesn’t apply with the appropriate segmentation. The majority of the non-Western immigrants live in the 4 major cities, which have only approx. 15% of the population, so their presence is many times more significant than their % in the overall population would imply.
      Hence the public concern.
      .
      Likewise, as long as it was the mayor of Eilat complaining, no one cared much. Now that it affects Israel’s major centers it’s too difficult to ignore

      Reply to Comment
    32. Elisabeth

      Are your numbers (in your last comment) Dutch or Israeli?

      Reply to Comment
    33. Elisabeth

      Oh, I see Israeli of course. But in that case the problem is socio-economic problem.

      I do have the impression though, that the asylumseekers are seen as a ‘demographic threat’ to Israel, rather than just a poor segment of the population with a higher crime rate that needs extra assistance.

      By the way: ALL immigrant communities have a higher than average crime rate. There is nothing racist about saying that. The reason is that immigrant communities (apart from usually being poor and less educated) consist overwhelmingly of young men.

      It may differ a bit per country but on average 90 percent or more of crimes are committed by men, and within that number young men are again overwhelmingly responsible. (Excuse me for being so sexist!)

      Reply to Comment
    34. max

      Dutch, a couple of Wikipedia entries

      Reply to Comment
    35. max

      As I wrote, the numbers are Dutch but the pattern is repeated in Israel.
      And you’re right: in Israel the socio-economic aspect is probably the least important, as it could be addressed via relatively simple means. However, they aren’t being applied because of the fear that they will increase the inflow and aggravate the demographic threat.
      I suspect that once the border is sealed and the inflow contained, the atmosphere will relax enough to ‘rationalize’ the situation

      Reply to Comment
    36. Elisabeth

      The end of the Balkan war decreased the number of asylum seekers in Europe, but an even more important reason is that the European Union sealed its borders (“Fortress Europe” it is called) which – as I have read a while ago – is a major cause for the increase in people trying to get to Israel.

      Look at this depressing list documenting the death through drowning and suffocation (etc.) of desperate people on their way out of poverty and war. It is very matter of fact but devastating to read.

      http://www.unitedagainstracism.org/pdfs/listofdeaths.pdf

      Only shutting them out (as is done now) is surely not the humane way.

      Please take some time to look at this list and the way in which these people died… My God what a tragedy. People taking such risks must have good reasons for doing so, even if they are ‘just’ economic.

      Israel will now be doing the same thing we did earlier: Seal the borders… We are all selfish, aren’t we.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Jayman

      Don’t deport them. They’re refugees plain and simple. Instead, there are some things Israel can do.

      First, one of the posters said that we should deport the South Sudanese. Ok, but not until we train many of them militarily and in terms of many different kinds of skills so they can go back and build the economy and the military supremacy of South Sudan.

      Also, I think every effort should be made to convert as many of these Africans to Judaism as possible. They are a potential gold mine for new converts to Judaism. I know that the Rabbinate will oppose this, but the Rabbinate has become obsolete and obstructionist. If it means empowering the Reform, Conservative, liberal Orthodox, and Karaite movements so that they can perform state-recognized conversions, then so be it. After all, with the new government, Israel is no longer beholden to religious parties.

      Reply to Comment
    38. I hope you’re feeling proud tonight, Larry. The great and the good are with you, starting with Michael Ben-Ari, but it won’t stop there. Your future is assured. You will be able to retire soon to a penthouse flat in an upscale area of Tel Aviv, or possibly a gated community full of well-heeled whites who’ve got with the program and made it. No more bowing and scraping to left-wing scum for you.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Rowan, what’s the big difference between your accusations against me and some right-winger who would accuse you of cheering the Jew-killer in Toulouse? Screw the both of you.

      Reply to Comment
    40. Larry, there’s a very significant difference between me and those (if there are any) who cheer the Jew-killer in Toulouse, and it illustrates how very lazy and self-satisfied you are and how little you actually know about anything. We could call this the’ Avishai Raviv syndrome’, if it helps:
      .
      An ex-chief of the French spy agency says Merah might have acted as an informant to the local equivalent of the FBI. ­The speculation comes as Yves Bonnet, a former intelligence chief, says Merah might have passed information onto the DCRI, a French domestic intelligence agency. “He was known to the DCRI, not especially because he was an Islamist, but because he had a correspondent in domestic intelligence,” Bonnet told La Dépêce newspaper on Monday. “When you have a correspondent, it’s not completely innocent,” he remarked. On Tuesday the assumption, worthy of a huge scandal, was rebuffed by DCRI head Bernard Squarcini. Merah was indeed interviewed by a local intelligence agent in Nov 2011, Squarcini said, but this was because the agency “wanted to receive explanations about his trip to Afghanistan.” As Merah stated he went to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 as a tourist, he was let go but placed on a watch list. Merah “did not serve as an informant to the DCRI or any other French intelligence service,” stressed the DCRI head.
      (Russia Today, Mar 27)
      .
      Was Mohamed Merah a French secret service informant? So says a former head of an intelligence agency here in France. Also, an Italian paper says Merah travelled to Israel in 2010 with the support of French spy agencies.
      (France 24, Mar 28)
      .
      In an interview this week with the Toulouse paper La Dépêche du Midi, a former security chief, Yves Bonnet, said it was “striking” that Merah seemed to have a DCRI “handler”. “Having a handler, that is not an innocent thing,” he said. “I don’t know how far his relationship, or collaboration, with the service went but it is a question worth raising.” Bonnet was head of the counter-espionage service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), from 1982 to 1985. This was one of the two agencies merged by Sarkozy in 2008 to form the DCRI. The merger generated much jealousy and anger. Government sources suggest that this could to explain Bonnet’s “unhelpful” remarks. This week, an Italian paper, Il Foglio, citing “intelligence sources”, said Merah travelled to Israel in Sep 2010 using cover provided by the French external espionage service, the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE). A spokesman for the DGSE, the French equivalent of MI6, dismissed the report as “grotesque”. Squarcini has said Merah was never an informer for any French security agency. Le Canard Enchaîné newspaper reported yesterday that Merah and his family were bugged by the DCRI from Mar to Nov 2011. The bugging ended abruptly, Le Canard said, at about the time of the future killer’s meeting with the DCRI agent in November. However, the body which authorises telephone surveillance said later that the bugging began in Nov 2011 and was dropped in Feb 2012 because it revealed nothing important.
      (Indy, Mar 29)

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    41. max

      Larry, good luck arguing with a conspiracy theorist, who’s not Jewish but spends his time reading obscure theological fringe essays, who doesn’t speak Hebrew but can explain the root of every Hebrew expression, biblical to modern 🙂
      .
      I think that every Israeli could voice her/his concern, either way. I think that racism should not be tolerated.
      I also think that concerned non-Israelis should lobby their governments to understand that although Israel is the closest refuge for these poor people (somehow the Arab Spring didn’t cover this area), it can’t be expected to handle it by itself. They need to help, and each of the commentators here should volunteer to either pay for or shelter a refugee in her/his home.

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    42. No, Rowan, you conveniently read me wrong. I wasn’t comparing you to the Toulouse murderer, I was comparing your accusations that I’m a racist – because I think people tend, in general, to be affected by the environment they grow up in – to those who would accuse you of endorsing the Toulouse murders because you’re a harsh critic of Israel.

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    43. There’s a name for that: “argumentum obscurum per obscurius.”

      🙂

      Did you know Merah actually only killed his Jewish victims because he couldn’t find any French soldiers of African descent to kill that day? He had already killed three. On Mar 23, Ange Mancini, intelligence adviser to President Sarkozy, said Merah had actually wanted to kill another soldier, but arrived too late and instead attacked the Jewish school nearby.

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