Over 400 Film and TV Artists Call on Israel to Halt Deportation of African Asylum Seekers

Three Israel Prize winners are among actors, directors and writers signing public letter asking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to let asylum seekers stay in Israel; move follows similar letter last week by 35 prominent Israeli authors

Demonstrators protesting in south Tel Aviv against the deportation of asylum seekers, January 9, 2018. Their signs say "South Tel Aviv against deportation" in Hebrew.
Moti Milrod

More than 400 artists from the worlds of film and television have signed a public letter calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent the deportation of African asylum seekers and allow them to stay in Israel.

"Zero Motivation" director Talya Lavie.
AP

Among the signatories are three Israel Prize laureates: filmmakers Ram Loevy and Yehuda Ne’eman, and cinematographer David Gurfinkel.

The letter was also signed by directors Samuel Maoz (“Foxtrot”), Eran Kolirin (“The Band’s Visit”), Talya Lavie (“Zero Motivation”), Dina Zvi-Riklis, Julie Schles, Tomer Heymann and Roni Ninio, as well as actors Chelli Goldenberg, Riki Blich, Nelly Tagar and Roy Assaf.

"Foxtrot" director Samuel Maoz.
Uriel Sinai

“For several years there have been asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan living here. They came here as a last resort, as refugees,” the letter stated. “They gave birth to children here who were born in Israel and aren’t familiar with any other place; they work – when they’re allowed to; they dream about a better life. And now the Israeli government and Knesset members want to deport these people, who bear the burden of emotional and physical pain. They all want to live here and to live in dignity. Their number is very small, less than half of one percent of the Israeli population, and they don’t create any real problems.

“Israel has no financial difficulty in absorbing them and giving them a life of honor. There’s no problem with turning them from invisible people with no identity into residents with a name and an identity – and, along with the identity, responsibility and a contribution to Israeli society.”

The letter adds that an unbearable situation has been created in south Tel Aviv – both for the asylum seekers living in subhuman conditions and the original residents, who suffer the consequences of the situation due to the government’s refusal to grant asylum to the refugees and letting them the earn an income.

“We, directors, writers, producers, actors, women and men, representatives of the film and television industry in Israel, demand that the deportations be prevented, and expect you to act with proper morality and compassion, and give these people a permanent sanctuary in our country,” the letter said. “Remember that you were a stranger in the land of Egypt.”

Eran Riklis, who has taken a 7-year-old Eritrean girl who lacks residency status under his wing, told Haaretz: “The deportation of the asylum seekers justifies civil disobedience. This country can’t be allowed to deport people who lack the ability to defend themselves.”