Opinion

The Sick Historical Precedent for Israel's Asylum-seeker Expulsion Push

Israel's push to expel 45,000 African asylum seekers and migrants borrows from Eichmann's 1938 playbook for expelling Austria's Jews

African asylum seekers at Israel's Saharonim detention center.
Ilan Assayag

Sometimes even historys sense of humor exceeds the boundaries of good taste. This time its no joke; its not even irony or sarcasm. Its just a bitter, sardonic spit in the face.

On March 13, 1938, Austria was annexed to the Nazi Reich amid cheers and excitement. Slightly more than five months later, on August 26, 1938 the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration (the Zentralstelle fr jdische Auswanderung) was opened, headed by a talented executive named Adolf Eichmann.

Its objective was to organize and expedite the expulsion of Jews from Austria. It bears remembering that in 1938, before the war, the Final Solution and the death camps, the Nazis merely wanted to purify the Reich of the stinking Jews swarming in it.

Eichmann, a disciplined and diligent manager, developed an efficient system for accelerating emigration: forbidding Jews to work, rescinding their rights, discriminatory and humiliating laws, confiscation of property, taxes, boycotts, exclusion, monetary incentives, turning a blind eye to acts by the racist rabble and of course, threats of imprisonment for those who refused to leave.

And it worked.

Within around three months Eichmanns immigration authority expelled 45,000 Jews. Many others abandoned everything and fled for their lives, without availing themselves of Adolfs services.

Most of those who remained were murdered.

The state founded by those fugitives now also has an immigration authority. It, too, is essentially an expulsion authority. It deals with exporting members of inferior races and religions. Recently it has been assigned the weighty task of expelling 45,000 burdensome blacks. They are burdensome because they arent white, and also a bit because they arent Jews.

They are non-Jews and blacks, which is really too much.

For years the Israeli expulsion network has been using against them the entire arsenal of abuses that proved itself in Eichmanns office – forbidding them to work, denying them rights, passing discriminatory and humiliating laws, taxes, boycotts, exclusion, monetary incentives, turning a blind eye to the acts of the racist rabble and of course, threats of imprisonment for those who refuse to leave.

But its not working so well. Blacks, it turns out, are like crabgrass. They arent easy to uproot. There was no choice but to ceremoniously announce an operation.

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority is also seeking to hire workers; expulsion workers. Help wanted ads were published in newspapers, and one of the prerequisites is experience in this field of endeavor. There are lots of Jews with related experience, but most of them experienced it as expellees, not as expellers, and thats not whats required.

Nor is there any point in approaching veterans of the Nakba – when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the War of Independence. Theyll deny it ever happened. It seems, therefore, that the best list of those with experience can be found in Yad Vashem. The immigration authority ought to look there.

This operation to deport refugees is a co—production of Interior Minister Arye Dery and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Theyve allotted two years to the mission of expelling 45,000 shvartzes. How shameful! Eichman and his team at the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration expelled 45,000 Jews in a few months. Dery, Erdan and their team at the Central Bureau for the Emigration of Shvartzes need two years to expel an equal number of people. Oy vey, look how we fall short. We obviously still have a lot to learn from them. But we can at least say that were moving in the right direction.

Only Ms. History looks at us from above, with a malicious smile on her face as she sees the persecuted become the persecutor, the refugee become the expeller, the uprooted become the uprooter, the oppressed become the oppressor, the beaten become the beater, the trampled become the trampler. Its true, she whispers to herself, I really am repeating myself. But I find this role reversal exceedingly funny.

I dont find it funny at all. My parents were expelled from Vienna. My country is desecrating their memory.