A few days ago a police complaint was filed against Interior Minister Eli Yishai, accusing him of inciting to violence. Not inciting against foreigners; that he's been pretty consistent about over the years, taking no account of religion, race, gender or age. And from his exalted, seemingly permanent seat in Israeli government, he even harasses these people when the opportunity presents itself.
That's just the way he is, and there's nothing new about that. What changed over the past week is that Yishai has also started to publicly incite against Israeli citizens who help foreigners. In an interview with Army Radio, he called these locals "bleeding hearts who threaten the Zionist enterprise."
Yishai ought to be good at recognizing threats to the Zionist enterprise. After all, he has been overseeing the most blatant threat of all with remarkable success: the nurturing and development of a massive religious population that's poor and uneducated, and which is dependent on disproportionate political power to raid the state of its assets and perpetuate poverty and unemployment. The interior minister of the State of Israel is a classic post-Zionist.
One thing Yishai certainly does have: He has an amazing, almost seismographic sensitivity to the way the political winds are blowing. Yishai is correctly assessing the mood of the public, which is ready to accept his contemptible words.
African migrant workers and refugees are a strategic problem that has been confronting the State of Israel for several years now, and the government hasn't provided a comprehensive and effective response. It's doubtful if the interior minister is even truly concerned about this, because if were, he would probably harness all his ministerial and political abilities to try to resolve it. But he's making do with fanning the flames of hatred.
The current populist wave he's riding on is the result of suspicions that migrants were involved in several recent serious crimes - suspicions that irresponsible media are blowing out of proportion.
But it's a convenient wave to ride. South Tel Aviv's Shapira neighborhood, which in normal times is left to its own devices, has become a pilgrimage site: Within 24 hours it was visited by the public security minister, the police commissioner and the director general of the Prime Minister's Office. For some reason none of them toured Be'er Sheva, Taibeh or Rehovot, even though violent crimes that ended in deaths occurred in all those places too.
A couple of months ago, at the height of a major winter storm and under the auspices of the so-called Levinsky Soup activists, the Kehila democratic school, where my children study, agreed to give shelter to a few hundred Africans for Shabbat. During that Shabbat I visited the school with my son. We brought a few pairs of shoes that were no longer being worn in our home, and they were snapped up in a minute. We also brought a soccer ball, and my son kicked it around with a few of the refugee children, in the end giving them the ball as a gift.
According to Yishai and his supporters, my son and I are "bleeding hearts." My approach to this issue is very simple: The state has full rights to determine who can cross over its borders and to supervise such entry. But in the case of a person who has already succeeded in entering, and is barefoot and hungry and homeless - one is allowed to and should help him. In fact, it would be worth allowing him to work: The crazy, foolish regulations that block the Africans from working force them into crime.
As I see it, humanitarian aid to refugees is the epitome of humanity, Zionism and Judaism. But under the direction of the interior minister, the next firebombs may not be thrown at the Africans' crowded apartments, but at the aid centers run by bleeding hearts. The latter, at least, will be able to get service from the Fire and Rescue Service Yishai's done such a good job with during his tenure.
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