Hush, We're Deporting Survivors

Ever since Sudanese refugees arrived here, Israel has not disdained any means in its attempt to get rid of them. Neither the lessons of history, the protests of human rights organizations, the commands of conscience nor moral considerations interfere in the least.

The descriptions reported by survivors of the horror taking place in Sudan's Darfur province sound as though they were taken from the era of the Cossack pogroms against the Jews: Rioters gallop into town on horseback, kidnapping and raping the women, killing the men and burning the houses.

Over the past year, nearly 300 Sudanese have infiltrated into Israel. Some of them survived the ethnic cleansing being carried out by Arab militias in Darfur, with the support of the Muslim government in Khartoum. The survivors fled first to Egypt, but suffered from harassment and economic distress there, so they fled to Israel.

Ever since they arrived here, Israel has not disdained any means in its attempt to get rid of them. Neither the lessons of history, the protests of human rights organizations, the commands of conscience nor moral considerations interfere in the least.

Immediately after they cross the border, they are arrested. The first groups of detainees were held without any legal justification, until Major General Gadi Eisenkot, who at the time headed the Israel Defense Forces' Operations Directorate, ordered that they be deported. He did not conduct a hearing for them; he did not take into consideration the fact that they had turned themselves over to IDF soldiers with their hands in the air; he did not even examine the refugee certificates they had been issued by the United Nations in Egypt. Had the Red Cross representative to the Ketziot Prison not come to visit other prisoners and discovered them by chance, no one apart from members of the security forces would have known that the Sudanese were in Israel. Following the visit by the Red Cross representative, their existence became known to Moked - the Hotline for Migrant Workers, which embarked on an attempt to clarify their situation.

It emerged that the Sudanese were being held in prison under an emergency law legislated 25 years ago in the context of the young state's struggle against infiltrators. Its advantage from the state's perspective is that it is the only law on the books that makes it possible to hold a person under arrest without judicial review. Even the Emergency Powers Law stipulates that administrative detainees must be brought before a judge within 48 hours.

The state decided to use this law after a court released 20 Sudanese from detention because the state did not succeed in proving that they presented a security risk. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz approved the use of the infiltration law to prevent further releases. Mazuz gave the authorization even though the Justice Ministry itself admitted that the law is flawed. The ministry is working to amend it, though very slowly, so that it will include judicial review of the detention of infiltrators.

The state could have achieved the same result under the Entry to Israel Law, which includes judicial review, but enables the state to hold a person in detention if his release is liable to endanger national security. As noted, however, the state did not succeed in proving that the refugees were dangerous. The Shin Bet security service argued that they were potentially enemy operatives, because a branch of Al-Qaida is active in Sudan. However, the Shin Bet did not have specific intelligence about any connection between the detainees and the organization. Moreover, it is not reasonable that victims of the Sudanese regime and its minions would cooperate with an Islamic terror organization supported by the regime.

When human rights organizations petitioned against the detention of the Sudanese, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to allow the detainees judicial review. The state did not blink: It proposed that the IDF Southern Command's prosecution be in charge of the process - that is, that the body that is holding the detainees should review itself. The petitioners objected, as did the justices. It was decided that a special judge appointed by the defense minister would hold hearings for the detainees, and the state promised the court that the detainees would be brought before him within two weeks at most.

The judge was appointed on July 2, but it was only on December 13 that he began to hold hearings for more than 130 Sudanese who are being held at Ketziot, some of them since the beginning of the year. Thus far, he has held hearings for detainees held at Ma'asiyahu Prison and has ordered the release of several dozen of them. In the opinion that the state submitted to him, it argued that Sudan is a source of weapons smuggled into Gaza. But the judge, Elad Azar, rejected this argument, noting that the Sudanese crossed the border with only the clothes on their backs and turned themselves in to the security forces.

The state hoped that it would be able to deport the Sudanese quietly, without anyone knowing. However, the refugees' existence was discovered, their number grew, and the UN sent experts to Israel to interview the Sudanese in preparation for finding a country of refuge for them. Israel made it clear that it was exempt from any obligation to take them in, because they are citizens of an enemy state.

The state raised this argument despite the fact that Israel is a signatory to a treaty that obliges it to grant refuge to anyone whom the UN recognizes as a refugee. Moreover, as noted, the Sudanese are victims of that enemy state's regime, and as the well-known proverb has it, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The UN hinted to Israel that its excuses were lame, and in response, Israel brandished the Al-Qaida card and argued that agents of the organization had infiltrated among the refugees.

If I were Australia or the United States, two countries that the UN has asked to grant asylum to some of the refugees, I would submit a vehement protest. If this group indeed contains agents of the terror organization that blew up the Twin Towers and killed dozens of Australian tourists in Bali, why does Israel want to send them more potential terrorists?