The disgraceful attempt by President Trump to expel 200,000 legal Salvadoran residents from our country as well as Haitians and others from "s…hole" countries has received extensive media coverage. It warrants no additional comments in this column.
What has not received adequate coverage in this country, especially in the Jewish press, is an almost identical scenario playing out in Israel, spearheaded by Trump's moral equivalent, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Here's the story. There are an estimated 27,000 Eritrean refugees living in Israel, as well as 7,500 Sudanese and 2,500 people from other African countries. There are also 5,000 children born in Israel to these refugees. Netanyahu announced that they must leave Israel by April or face imprisonment indefinitely.
It has been reported in the Israeli press that Netanyahu has signed a secret agreement with Rwanda to compensate that government, or at least its officials, $5,000 dollars for each refugee that it accepts. For their part, the refugees face unemployment, starvation and discrimination in Rwanda.
Israeli government functionaries have warned that this plan is unrealistic. Given the spotlight of world opinion, Rwanda may well refuse to cooperate with deportations that are done by force. The refugees are quite adamant that they will not leave docilly. In response, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan suggested that the refugees will have to be handcuffed as they are led into the evacuation planes.
The idea of using an airlift is also in doubt. This past December, German pilots refused to fly Afghani citizens who were being deported from Germany back to Afghanistan. It may well be impossible to find an accommodating airline. The optics on world media of shackled refugees being carted away may also be a little too much, even for Israel, to ignore.
Coupled with the above, the threat of permanent incarceration is not realistic. Israel already has over 8,000 Palestinian prisoners in its jails. Adding 40,000 refugees would require years of building new physical facilities, as well as expending a mass number ofshekels that could be better used to buttress its faltering social safety net.
It's not that these refugees are an economic drag on the Israeli economy. The hotel and restaurant industries employ 12,500 refugees and are anticipating an increase in this number. There is already a critical shortage of labor. Hotel industry executives indicate that if the refugees were to be deported, there would be no one to clean rooms and it would require either closing whole floors or even shuttering entire hotels. This is in the face of the imminent surge of tourists in April and May. The only way around this dilemma would be to import Filipino workers. Well, at least they are not black.
That last statement brings us to the moral core of the problem. Although little noted in this country, the commentary in the Israeli press has been bitter. Gideon Levy, inHaaretz, never one to pull punches, writes: "Israel wants to use (Rwanda) as its garbage can, its refuse dump.
To Israel's government and to some of its citizens the asylum seekers are human garbage to be gotten rid of – not because they are foreigners and not because they're 'infiltrators,' but because they're black."
Levy continues, "The lust for pure nationhood, religion and race knows no bounds in Israel…Israel took in more than a million Russian immigrants, at least a third of whom weren't Jewish, with no problem. They were white."
B Michael, in Haaretz, sarcastically comments: "They are burdensome because they aren't white, and also because they aren't Jews. They are non-Jews and blacks, which is really too much."
Michael reminds us that after Germany occupied Austria in 1938 it took Adolf Eichmann a mere three months to expel its 45,000 Jews. He writes, "(Israel has) allotted two years to the mission of expelling 45,000 shvartzes. How shameful! Eichmann expelled 45,000 Jews in a few months…My parents were expelled from Vienna. My country is desecrating their memory."
I have a personal problem. The world refers to Israel as the "Jewish state," thus reflecting on the entire religion and its practitioners world-wide, rather than merely on Israel's national identity. Israel's actions affect my religious equilibrium as well as my own moral compass.
Hearkening back to 1939, when we Jews were unwanted refugees from Germany, I suggest Israel deport these dark-skinned people back to Africa in a ship called The St Louis II.
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Warshal: Eritrea, Sudan, Israel and my personal conscience
By Rabbi Bruce Warshal
The disgraceful attempt by President Trump to expel 200,000 legal Salvadoran residents from our country as well ...