Maya Paley writes: According to Israel’s Anti-Infiltration bill, infiltrators can now be detained for a minimum of three years and a maximum of forever. The detention facility consists of tent cities and constructed buildings in the Negev, which is being run by the Israel Prison Services. Detainees will also not be permitted to work.
Jews in the Diaspora, overall, have responded to this negative media attention as just another biased and unwarranted attack on Israel. Others have dismissed the asylum problem as an issue Israel needs to deal with on her own without meddling by those of us in the Diaspora. Some say vaguely that they worry about Israel’s demographics. And still others say it’s not a priority issue when we have Iran and Hezbollah threatening us.
Unfortunately, these are all excuses.
According to the Refugee Convention of 1951, which Israel helped establish and then signed, the Africans entering Israel through Sinai are “asylum seekers.” Strangely, the only people calling them asylum seekers are the Israeli humanitarian organizations. Even the international news agencies call them “migrants.” The Israeli government and Israeli news agencies call them “infiltrators.” The numbers of asylum seekers entering Israel has steadied since the fence has been built along the border, and the reality is that, according to a recently published Knesset report, they are only 0.75% of the population.
Words carry weight in national and international policy. According to the Refugee Convention, asylum seekers cannot be criminalized for entering a country, as they are not illegally crossing the border. They are seeking asylum and should, therefore, undergo a process through which they apply for refugee status and end up either accepted as refugees or denied status. This process, termed Refugee Status Determination, does not exist in Israel (although the government will claim otherwise). [Continue reading...]