For Asylum Seekers in Israel, Incitement Instead of Justice

It’s hard to expect a change of course from a government whose justice minister diminishes the rule of law to an all-time low while the rest of its ministers are busy inciting one group against another.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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The Holot detention facility. The judge said testimony of deportees who described their lack of rights in Uganda and Rwanda was merely anectdotal.
The Holot detention facility. The judge said testimony of deportees who described their lack of rights in Uganda and Rwanda was merely anectdotal. Credit: Ilan Assayag
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

“As a citizen, I’d be happy if my state displayed more compassion, even toward those suspected of infiltrating Israel to make a living,” wrote High Court of Justice President Miriam Naor on Tuesday, in the court’s ruling on a petition against an amendment to the Infiltration Law.

Justice Naor stressed that the Holot detention facility was not the solution she had envisioned when she suggested – in the first verdict on the Infiltration Law amendment – an alternative facility to imprisonment.

She cited from that first verdict this week: “This could have been the state’s finest hour, finding humane solutions in keeping with international law despite the reality foisted on it.” But the state chose the merciless way and sponsored legislation – three times – that enables imprisoning asylum-seekers without trial.

Despite Naor’s disappointment, the High Court panel she headed chose to intervene only in the matter of the length of internment in the Holot facitlity. It did not stipulate that imprisonment in the facility itself is wrong. Reducing the maximum incarceration in the detention center from 20 months, as it was until now, to 12 months is cold comfort.

This comfort is even colder in view of the belligerent incitement campaign launched shortly before the verdict by no other than Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Writing on her Facebook page, Shaked announced that, in anticipation of the court’s ruling, she would post video clips every two hours showing the plight of residents in south Tel Aviv due to the presence there of asylum-seekers. She posted a clip showing a black man beating a woman – which transpired within minutes to be a clip filmed in Turkey.

That’s an example of the superficial, shabby incitement practiced by some ministers, who behave like the worst cyber thugs. In a law-abiding state, a justice minister who tries to intimidate the court with lies and racist urban legends would be forced to resign.

The doubts that some of the judges raised regarding the state’s policy toward the asylum-seekers – mainly the small number who are recognized as refugees, compared to other states – should have led to a different verdict. However, they suffice to demonstrate the need for a new policy toward the asylum-seekers, without denying their freedom.

It’s hard to expect a change of course from a government whose justice minister diminishes the rule of law to an all-time low and the rest of its ministers are busy inciting one group against another. That is what they’re occupied with, instead of solving the real, longtime distress of the poor south Tel Aviv neighborhoods. But it’s our moral and legal obligation to demand of the government that it make this change.

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