History always repeats itself. Africans now face the same prosecution and discrimination Jews faced by the Nazis in the Jewish ghettos. Fleeing civil wars, prosecution and poverty in their own countries, approximately 53,000 asylum seekers currently live in Israel. According UNHCR, the majority of Africans are from Eritrea (36,000) and Sudan (14,000). Refugees cannot be deported back to either one of the two counties because of the likelihood of persecution according to the international refugee law. Considered to be a democratic country, Israel denied these Africans any employment opportunities and benefits. Africans not only face discrimination but blatant harsh racism from Israelis population and government alike. Citizens have taken to the streets with protests to raise their voice, carrying ‘go back to Africa’ slogans. These protests usually end with random attacks on Africans, African homes and businesses. Israeli citizens have gone to lengths to let the Africans know they are unwelcome. Israeli politicians have said one too many racist remarks, Rabbis have instructed Israelis not to rent out apartments or welcome Africans into their communities. Their main argument is that migration of African refugees and asylum seekers is threatening to the Jewish state and the Jewish way of life. They argue that need to preserve their identity from a few thousand Africans. The irony of all this is that Israel is a state that was built on 60 years of occupation. It’s important to note that Africans are not seen as a security threat and haven’t participated in any terrorist acts against Israel.
Many Africans are denied basic benefits and take refuge in parks. Videos show Africans attacked with verbal racial abuse while waiting on busses or in supermarket queues. American journalist David Sheen stated: “The current level of racism in Israel can be compared to what has been experienced in other Western countries 50, 60 years ago. People are insulted in the streets. Often when blacks board buses, people would plug their noses and block the seats near them, opening the windows ‘while ranting ‘Ah! But we don’t need all these blacks!’ In other countries, people are embarrassed by their racist thoughts. They do not divulge them in public. Here, not quite. They are confident and proud on their racism.”
Sadly, most Africans are willing to contribute to the prosperity of the country, even going too far lengths to integrate into Israeli society by learning the language and adopting Judaism as their religion. The government came up with an anti- infiltration law in 1954 to prevent Palestinians to return to their property; however they have recently amended this law to deal with the migration of Africans. Under the new version of the law, Africans can be arrested on sight and held in prison for up to 3 years without trial before being deported. Before deportation, Africans are held in terrible conditions in the largest deportation center of its kind in a developed country.
Israel has released voluntary departure policy which has been steadily increasing. It has been recorded that 2,200 Africans have departed voluntarily since the beginning of 2014. The threats of corruption and harsh treatment of Africans can be the reason behind this. Israel also offers a grant of US$3,500 to those who agree to voluntary departure. Refugees are calling for a fairer and more dignified treatment of refugees. “We demand that the law be revoked, the end of arrests, and the release of all asylum seekers and refugees imprisoned, Instead of being treated as refugees by the government of Israel, we are being dealt with as criminals,”
Africans are not only the losers because of Israel’s xenophobic nationalist ideology, but also on a global context. With the recent issues of migration in Europe and overcrowded camps in their home countries, African refugees and asylum seekers are the losers of globalization.
Balqis Hindash, Middlesex University Dubai campus