Our elected officials boast about deporting genocide survivors

Israel’s leaders are proud of themselves for deporting asylum seekers, while the state continues to trample over their rights and deceive them. What have we come to?

By Moran Mekamel

South Sudanese refugees board a bus in Tel Aviv bus station taking them to Ben Gurion airport where they will be deported to south Sudan with 150 people on a flight leaving that same night (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)
South Sudanese refugees board a bus in Tel Aviv bus station taking them to Ben Gurion airport where they will be deported to south Sudan with 150 people on a flight leaving that same night (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

On Tuesday, it was announced that the government is planning to forcibly deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to “third countries.” Those who refuse to leave will be jailed in Saharonim prison for an indefinite amount of time.

This latest step is not wrapped in pretty words such as “returning by choice” or “benefit packages,” whose goal is to cover up the government-sponsored horror show taking place here. Those behind the decision pride themselves over how aggressive, hard-headed and crass it is. Forced deportation will actively push people to a place they don’t belong, to a place of danger.

I sit and wonder to myself what were those terrible incentives provided to Uganda and Rwanda, which Israel classifies as “third countries” — although it refuses to name them — so that they would agree to take in those whom the state has incited against for years. A formal agreement between the countries? No. Transparency? No. Assurance that those deported will be safe? Definitely not.

So what do we have? Behind-the-scenes deals drenched in blood, suspicion of assistance through forging documents (a worker in the Population and Immigration Authority has already been interrogated over this issue), temporary travel documents that are taken from them upon their arrival in the country, threats of deportation to their home country, a lack of security, stability or protection. In short: a perpetual cycle of being a refugee.

Mending pieces of a broken heart

Since the approval of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, there has not been a single Western country that has deported survivors of genocide, ethnic cleansing and totalitarian regimes. Our elected officials are proud of their “solution,” and all the while the state simply ignores requests for asylum, tramples over the rights of asylum seekers and, worst of all, continues to deceive them. This all happens and not even the tiniest bit of morality can break the onslaught of evil, without history and collective memory teaching us to act differently, without even considering the fact that these are just people.

Many testimonies have been gathered describing the fate of those who have already been deported. There are those who have been arrested, tortured, disappeared, persecuted and forced to flee again and again and again. And there are those who are no longer.

An Israeli activist says good bye to a south Sudanese child who is waiting in a bus taking him from Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion airport where he will be deported to South Sudan along with another 120 people on a flight leaving the same night.
An Israeli activist says good bye to a south Sudanese child who is waiting in a bus taking him from Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion airport where he will be deported to South Sudan along with another 120 people on a flight leaving the same night.

Last summer I flew to Uganda to meet with South Sudanese who were deported in the summer of 2012, and with deportees from other areas of Sudan and Eritrea. In truth, I went to mend the broken pieces of my heart. I went to visit friends that had lived in Israel for 5-8 years, until one day their lives were violently uprooted and were sent somewhere else. Some of them were deported to South Sudan and were forced to flee once again in the face of another civil war. Others were deported straight to Uganda, a country that the only thing asylum seekers have in common with is the color of its citizens’ skin.

Read more: Israel hasn’t recognized a single Sudanese refugee

I hoped and prayed that I would discover that they had found some hope for the future, that I would have something to hold onto, because the thought that we are responsible for their fate there is too much for someone with a good head and a good conscience. My hopes were dashed.

Nearly three years have passed since that forced deportation. Since then I have not stopped receiving phone calls full of bad news. Children crying in the background, longing for friends who they left behind, disease, war, mourning. The pieces of my broken heart have turned into slivers, but the worst part is my moral failure.

The true face of the state

I cannot stop thinking about my grandmother and grandfather, who came here on a boat full of Jewish refugees from Europe, without papers or permits, and were sent to Cyprus. I, Moran Mekemel, the granddaughter of infiltrators, cannot understand, cannot fathom how the hatred has become so blinding and all-encompassing. How the fear-mongering and incitement worked, and the world just keeps turning.

There is no doubt that when it comes to asylum seekers in Israel, there are many hateful people who spend much of their energy “taking care” of these people who have managed to defeat death. Much resources, time, manpower and taxpayer money has been channeled into dealing with less than 50,000 people who came to find asylum. In the beginning they gave them a one-way ticket to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. Then they gave them temporary visas without any social rights. After that they gave them names and nicknames and hate. After that came the prisons with the pretty-sounding names. And now, moments before Passover — the holiday of freedom — we’re giving them another present: forced deportation.

A few months ago, a young Sudanese girl with tears in her eyes asked me, “Why does everyone here have normal skin color and I don’t?” She won’t be here for very long. This is how it is. This is the true face of the state.

Moran Mekamel is the head of “Students for Refugees” at Ben-Gurion University, a human rights activist and a MA student in social work. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

13 responses to “Our elected officials boast about deporting genocide survivors”

  1. Eliana says:

    So this is how the children and grandchildren of the victims of the Holocaust behave when they get their turn to be on top and decide the fate of a minority they don’t like? Shame.

  2. Jello says:

    We’ll be happy to deport them to Canada or Britain if you want.

    90% of the illegal migrants are working age males. They came for the same reason that poor people try to get to Europe – in order to move to a country where they can make more money and send it back to their families. For the most part the biggest dangers these people faced was while they were trying to illegally enter Israel from Egypt. The Europeans may choose to believe their stories and are rich and stable enough to provide them with asylum. We will not. Were we to grant these people asylum then hundreds of thousands will follow. We are not going to play this game. Europe would be smart to follow suit.

    You are welcome to move to their countries if you wish to help them. They are leaving. One way or another.

    • Eliana says:

      Because they threaten your precious racial purity. Nauseating.

    • Eliza says:

      Strange is it not how Israelis are doing the exact same thing to a group of people who are facing genocide, no one is listening to them…..just like no one listened to the Jews in pre war Germany but the irony is lost on you! Chosen people my ass….if there is a god them that god must be hanging his head in shame at the so called chosen people….shame on you all!

  3. Ellen L. says:

    Is someone actually moderating these comments? We can all disagree on policy, but calling someone an “ignorant cow” is not something worthy of publication.

  4. Eliana says:

    From a commenter, tj, on Haaretz: “Before your PM came out of the closet with his racism and his avowal of no Palestinian state, and before he broke the relationship agreement in a public and inglorious manner, the President was obligated to act as he did, because he only his wise suspicion and perceptions of the PM, nothing concrete, no evidence. Even with evidence of the PM’s duplicitous and deceitful behavior and display of values inconsistent with those this country hold, and the President’s call to “reassess the relationship”, some are condemning him but, that will not impede him for being more objective w/Israel. Today I read two shocking articles about Israel’s “values” that are supposed to be the reason for our “close” and “blind” relationship w/Israel and I want to vomit. One, that Israel holds the dead bodies of 19 Palestinian soldiers killed in the last military incursion, as bargaining chips, I guess, maybe for land swaps???? Two, that Israel has had 5 children die since January, in the day camps set up for children of refugees from Africa who are working there in your country. This has been going on for a long time, children dying in those centers, and, reportedly, the government is trying to make it so miserable for these refugees to get rid of them. They quote that the refugees are seen as “enemies”….more enemies???….and their children, as cancers. Why does Israel take in refugees?? To look good? Did Israel learn all of this from the Torah and the Rabbis? I don’t know but Israeli Jews are very different from American Jews. I’m going to send the President a link to both of these articles, in case he needs a push.”

    • Jello says:

      Haaretz in English is a newspaper for ignorant people looking for their does of daily Israel loathing.

      Israel holds the bodies of Palestinian terrorists to trade them in the future for prisoners or bodies. Israel does not take in refugees. These people are illegal work migrants. The US president was hostile to Israel long before Netanyahu won the last election.

  5. Joel says:

    A Sudani day worker stole my heirloom jewelry. I wish him the very worst, wherever he is.

    Piece of shit, really.

    • Brian says:

      Fascinating, coming from a guy who thinks it fine and dandy to steal Palestinian’s heirloom land. You want us to feel your pain. But not theirs. Fascinating and very revealing.

  6. Cheema Khaled says:

    The Hypocrisy is glaring and Everyone can see it. Meantime Jews in Britain are “Uncomfortable” and thinking of emigrating to Arizona.

    I wonder why so many Jews only see their own suffering down the centuries? And now they finally get a State of their own they behave in just the same abusive manner they complain about others having treated them?