Israeli lawmaker: time to ‘shatter blatant lies’ about African migrants

Israeli lawmakers defended the government’s deportation policy for African migrants. 

By: World Israel News Staff

The Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee on Monday held a heated debate over Israel’s pending deportation of thousands of illegal African migrants.

The debated focused on Israel’s plans to deport migrants who entered the country illegally, sending them to an unnamed, safe country in Africa. The plan was approved by the High Court of Justice, which is extremely protective of minority rights.

At the opening of discussion, Committee Chairman Yoav Kisch quoted the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who, while explaining his decision in 1977 to grant citizenship to 66 Vietnamese boat people, said that “we remembered, we never have forgotten, the boat with 900 Jews [the St. Louis] having left Germany in the last weeks before World War II … traveling from harbor to harbor, from country to country, crying out for refuge. They were refused … Therefore it was natural that my first act as prime minister was to give those people a haven in the Land of Israel.”

Kisch contrasted Begin’s decision with the current situation related to African migrants, slamming those who claim that these migrants are “asylum seekers” for whom death awaits in their home countries.

“What hasn’t been said during the campaign which has been waged over the past few weeks? ‘Racists,’ and ‘you are sending people to their deaths.’ The time has come to shatter blatant lies,” he stated.

He also denounced “the cheapening of the Holocaust.”

“People are making false use of the term [when relating to the migrants]. The first lie is that we are talking about refugees. Most of them are not refugees, but infiltrators. We will protect the refugees and send the work migrants back,” he said.

“The second lie is that we are sending them to their deaths,” Kisch continued. “While the agreement [with the African destination country] is confidential, it is being thoroughly scrutinized by the High Court of Justice, which determined that it adheres to the law’s stipulations.”

‘False and misleading’ motives

“We are being preached to out of a false and misleading sense of purism,” he charged.

He vowed that the deportation, slated for April, would be carried out.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said that while “disagreements are legitimate,” a large part of the discourse is “based on false data.”

“The state of Israel is being accused of persecuting the Africans. In 2017, before the [deportation] plan, some 3,200 [African] migrants left Israel willingly to their home countries or a third country. That same year, we forcibly deported 5,300 non-Africans, from Ukraine and other countries. Since 2007, some 64,000 Africans infiltrated the country, of which 37,800 are still here. These figures do not include children who were born here. In 2017, 14,000 requests for asylum were filed; 7,700 by Ukrainian nationals, 1,748 by Eritreans, 906 by Sudanese nationals and 190 by Ethiopian citizens; 6,500 of these requests were processed; 11 African infiltrators were recognized as refugees and were given asylum,” Deri said, pointing to the hard data.

During the debate, Kisch removed MKs Oren Hazan, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg from the room for constantly interrupting the discussion.

As she was being removed, Zandberg, of the far-left Meretz faction, said, “I know it is not pleasant to hear… You are friends of Nazis.”

Kisch charged her with a “sickening, cheap use of the Holocaust.”

Zandberg has yet to apologize for her offensive comments.

Asked by Kisch if the government’s policy discriminates against African migrants, Population and Immigration Authority Director-General Shlomo Mor-Yosef said that the authority’s “job is to preserve the state’s identity” as a Jewish state.

“Soldiers defend the country, and we at the Population and Immigration Authority protect its identity, in accordance with the policy of Israel’s governments,” he said.

“People are deported every day, from every country – democracies and dictatorships alike. Every country dictates who enters it and who doesn’t,” he said, using Switzerland as an example of a country where it is hard to obtain citizenship.