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On the dehumanization of African migrants in Israel

January 23, 2014 at 4:36 am

The right to land and the right to live have taken on a sinister dimension in Israel, as courts consider Israel’s ‘right’ to expel African migrants to an unidentified country in East Africa. The Supreme Court has requested that the government disclose all details of the forced transfer, including the name of the country, within a week. The deal is allegedly beneficial for Israel and the prospective host country – Israel ‘purifies’ its state while bequeathing the African host country with monetary and agricultural aid.

Burdened with the stigma of illegality in Israel’s mainstream media due to irregular entry, migrants have suffered an additional derogatory term – infiltrators, as described by the country’s government. According to Netanyahu, “We have stopped the infiltration phenomenon into Israel… Now we are focused on the infiltrators leaving”. The alleged infiltration has lessened dramatically, with only two migrants – ‘infiltrators’ according to Israel’s rhetoric, have managed to cross into Israel since the construction of the fence on the border between Egypt and Israel.

Israelis have expressed views similar to xenophobic comments uttered in other countries, claiming that the soaring crime rate and ‘no-go areas’ are a result of the influx of migrants. Last month, however, a protest held against migrants turned violent, with Israelis reported to have beaten African migrants and damaged their residential areas.

A common complaint is that by accepting ‘tens of thousands of Africans’, the Jewish character of Israel risks serious damage. Invoking the identity of the Jewish state has become routine in Israel’s depiction of any other person not of Jewish origin. In this scenario, the excuse has served to absolve Israel of its international responsibilities under the ‘Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees’, since it is highly impossible to determine with absolute certainty that migrants would not be deported to their country of origin once within the territory of the host state.

Right wing Israelis seem to view the existence of migrants as an undesirable occupation of territory, while obliterating any reference to the expanding and illegal occupation of Palestinian land perpetrated by Israel. It is possible to discern a trend of blame and impunity in this regard. The myth of right to land exhibits itself in a domineering, racist sentiment sanctioned by the Israeli government. Migrants and Palestinians are regarded as obstacles to the preservation of illegality sanctioned by the UN; hence discourse of elimination is regarded as the norm. Whether by denying existence, as in the case of Palestinians, or denying safe haven to migrants, Israeli policy moves towards a self-imposed supremacy through which it views minorities as undeserving of territory, regardless of the fact that the land was illegally expropriated while bequeathing a history of massacres upon the indigenous Palestinian population. The supremacy in turn leads to impunity, as Israel deems itself above any negative criticism, let alone accusations of human rights violations. Rarely has a nation been subjected to such an abusive pattern of absurd and incoherent logic – violations are deemed legitimate to bolster Israel’s preoccupation with security and ‘moral concern’ regarding the Jewish state.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.