Holocaust Survivors Implore Netanyahu: Don’t Send Asylum Seekers on a Journey of Pain, Suffering and Death

The survivors ask the prime minister not to send asylum seekers in Israel back to danger in Africa, citing Menachem Begin’s rescue of Vietnamese boat people in 1977

An African migrant protests the Israeli government's policy to deport African asylum seekers, at the Rwandan Embassy in Herzliya, January 22, 2018.
Jack Guez / AFP

Dozens of Holocaust survivors sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday imploring him not to go ahead with his plan to deport African asylum seekers from Israel.

“The State of Israel, under your rule, has set itself a goal of reminding the world of the lessons of the Holocaust,” the 36 survivors wrote. “Therefore we ask you: Stop the process! Only you have the ability to make a historic decision and show the world that the Jewish state will not allow the suffering and torture of people under its protection.”

The survivors urged Netanyahu to “do the Jewish thing that Menachem Begin did when he took in refugees from the Vietnam War and allowed the asylum seekers to live.”

“We – who know what it means to be a refugee, to be without a home or a country that would protect and defend us from violence and suffering – cannot understand how a Jewish government can expel refugees and asylum seekers to a journey of pain, suffering and death,” they wrote.

The survivors added that, as Jews who saw the world turn its back on them in their darkest hour, they “have a special obligation not to remain indifferent and to prevent the expulsion of asylum seekers. The state must grant them fair asylum and not send them to their deaths in a foreign country.”

The signatories quoted Elie Wiesel’s 2005 address at the UN General Assembly marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“The past is the present, but the future is still in our hands. Those who survived Auschwitz advocate hope, not despair .... But will the world ever learn?” Wiesel said.

In their letter, the survivors added: “We, Holocaust survivors who were refugees, ask of you, the prime minister of Israel, to learn the lesson and not deport from Israel those men and women seeking asylum in our country.