refugees - Reuters - November 26 2010
An African man sits on the ground after being detained by Israel's military for crossing illegally into Israel from Egypt. Photo by Reuters
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There is no need to delve too deeply to assess the wondrous intentions of the Israeli government, which yesterday resolved to build "a detention facility for infiltrators" in the Negev. Indeed, the intentions are there for all to see, since the government declares them boastfully and unabashedly.

According to its own explanation, the government wants the refugees' experience in our country to be a bad one. In fact, so bad that they will not even dream of coming here anymore, and that the shelter over their heads which they crave will be sought elsewhere.

One gets the impression that the ministers who supported the decision did not bother to glance at the updated map of human suffering. Had they done so, they would see that the vast majority of refugees have come to us from cannibalism-ridden countries like Sudan and Eritrea.

These people do not have many alternative routes of escape. It was not by choice that they came here and will continue to do so. Rather, it was due to an existential necessity - a situation over which they had no control and which could not be deterred. It isn't the force of attraction that compelled them to grab onto us, but the force of repulsion: The fear of death pushed them away.

Thus, Netanyahu and company will not be able to stop them in their tracks. They'll just succeed in making these people's lives more miserable. Malice of the heart - and a particularly inadequate brain - gave birth to this decision. Nobody can threaten people sentenced to death with a "detention center."

The refugees know that Israel is not a haven for them, but neither is it the hell from which they've fled for their lives. At the very least, Israel does not shoot "the infiltrators," which is to its credit. That is a disgraceful task which it leaves to its neighbor, Egypt, while playing the role of deaf and blind. Israel doesn't see those who are shot and killed on its border, it doesn't hear the screams of terror let out by those tortured, robbed and raped. And already there have been instances recently in which soldiers have refused orders to launch a "hot pursuit" - namely, to chase men, women and children back over the border and to their deaths - simply because they did not have the stomach for it.

Physicians for Human Rights yesterday issued a statement which described the decision as "the mark of Cain." But the mark was given to Cain not to imprison him, but to save him.