Treatment of African Migrants Is the Darkness That Lives in Our Souls

Instead of a contractor to deport migrants, Netanyahu should have been looking for a project manager who would facilitate the integration of 60,000 Africans.

These are the pointless and mind-numbing questions, deflecting attention away from the main issue, that have been raised in the matter of the journalist Boaz Bismuth of Israel Hayom: What exactly did the prime minister offer him? Was the salary excessive? Did Bismuth’s writing serve the prime minister’s interests, thus paving the way to his receiving an attractive job offer? Is he suitable for the job? Does his appointment without any tender contravene official civil service guidelines? Why wasn’t his reaction publicized? Why didn’t his appointment go through? Is the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth an “evil empire” while Israel Hayom is merely a “freebie”?

Here, instead, are the worrisome and utterly depressing questions that should really have been posed: How did it come to pass than the prime minister of Israel, a country established on the principles of saving refugees, is searching for “an external project manager responsible for removal of infiltrators”? How dare we label those miserable souls who landed on our shores “infiltrators”?

So much incitement and evil lies behind that label; how it doesn’t even occur to Israel to behave like other civilized countries and take part, even marginally, in the efforts to rescue the wretched of Africa; how people here dare speak of “upholding the law” while impudently trampling on international conventions to which Israel is a signatory; how the state tries to pass wrongful laws which are overturned by the High Court of Justice, only to then shamelessly pass new ones, meant to bypass the courts, a patently unconstitutional endeavor.

How are thousands of people who have committed no wrong imprisoned here for years without trial, with hardly anyone caring? How does one have the gall to call a prison a “live-in facility,” using this mendacious term that was coined by the authorities? How have we succeeded in demonizing and dehumanizing a few tens of thousands of asylum- or work-seekers? How did we reach a situation in which the prime minister is looking for a manager for a manhunt project, a contractor of expulsions, with a generous bonus for each one expelled? How is it that evil, racism and ultra-nationalism have won out, probably for good, in the struggle over the character of this society, which seems to have little humaneness or compassion left within it?

The very fact that Benjamin Netanyahu searched for someone to take over such a shameful position is in itself a despicable act of incitement. It indicates to Israelis that expulsion is the objective, a value in itself. It’s not hard to imagine what would happen in any other place or time if someone were appointed to oversee the expulsion of Jews who had arrived illegally. Refugees, needless to say, always arrive by illegal means. Countries that closed their gates in the past were rightly condemned by Israel and the Jewish people. How is it then that Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar remain as legitimate figures, after all that’s transpired?

Instead of looking for a “transfer” contractor, Netanyahu should have been looking for a project manager who would facilitate the integration of 60,000 Africans. This country can absorb many more, with all the attending difficulties, just as Europe can absorb millions of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrant workers. Even Jordan and Turkey, in our own neighborhood, are doing it, and in large numbers. In contrast to European countries, Israel offers no path to citizenship, as hard as it may be, to even some of these people.

How pitiful and sanctimonious is Israel’s pride when it sends aid missions to the Philippines, or when it takes in a few wounded Syrians, quickly returning them to the hell they came from.

How beautiful we are, proclaim gigantic newspaper headlines, dripping with self-adulation. The tide of people knocking on Israel’s doors was staunched using the routine methods: walls and fences. Even a freedom march held by a handful of escapees from the “live-in facility,” a concentration camp for any intent and purpose, was foiled by Israel in typical fashion: brutal arrest and a return to prison.

Everyone is only “doing his job,” or staring numbly at this darkness, the darkness that lives in our souls.

Eliyahu Hershkowitz