Opinion |

Mr. Kagame, Don't Cooperate With Israel's Asylum-seeker Expulsion

If Rwanda agrees to collaborate, there will be scenes of evil in Israel the likes of which haven't been seen since 1948. The lust for pure nationhood, religion and race knows no bounds in Israel

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Asylum seekers protest in Jerusalem, January 26, 2017.
Asylum seekers protest in Jerusalem, January 26, 2017.Credit: Emil Salman
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

We still have time a moment before the African refugees are hunted down like animals on our streets – streets they have faithfully and invisibly swept for years, confined to their hole-in-the-wall apartments and our restaurants’ kitchens. We still have time a moment before they are beaten and put violently on trucks and some forced onto planes. A moment before this horror takes place before the indifferent and perhaps even joyful eyes of most Israelis, we must call for help from Africa.

Perhaps the help will come from there. That, after all, is the refugees’ home continent, and it wouldn’t be too much to expect a little solidarity from its governments.

We must ask the governments of Rwanda and Uganda to say no, loud and clear, to the low-down bribery deal that the Israeli government is trying to cook up with these two countries. Uganda has already said no clearly enough; Rwanda is still stuttering. The president said yes, the foreign minister approved it, and only the deputy foreign minister has denied that there is an agreement with Israel to deport asylum seekers to his country.

This stuttering is suspicious. It does nothing to dispel the fear of deportation.

Rwanda is a country of a holocaust, a country where the fastest genocide in history took place. In 100 days, nearly a million people were murdered, a rate that the Germans could only have dreamed of. It has been 24 years since then, and Rwanda has rehabilitated itself. If it accepts this bribery deal, by which $5,000 will be paid per head for each Eritrean refugee that reaches it, Rwanda will once again stain its image.

President Paul Kagame must be told from Tel Aviv: Israel wants to use your country as its garbage can, its refuse dump. To Israel’s government and to some of its citizens the asylum seekers are human garbage to be gotten rid of – not because they’re foreigners and not because they’re “infiltrators,” but because they’re black. You should know this. You, a refugee from Uganda as a child, certainly remember a thing or two about racism and the life of a refugee.

The president should know that Israel took in more than a million Russian immigrants, at least a third of whom weren’t Jewish, with no problem. They were white. He should know that Israel has already deported tens of thousands of Africans and jailed thousands without trial. It has sealed its borders completely and now plans to deport the last of the refugees, 35,300 people, including children who were born in Israel, the elderly and the sick.

Some of them will be deported to their deaths, as experience has shown. Thousands underwent horrific torture on their way to Israel, but that will not save them from deportation either. The lust for pure nationhood, religion and race knows no bounds in Israel.

Can you imagine, President Kagame, cooperating with a racist plot intended to deport human beings only because of the color of their skin? While Europe is taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees, including in countries the size of Israel, Israel refuses to take in a few tens of thousands, only because of institutionalized racism.

Do you know, Mr. President, that while 84 percent of Eritrean asylum seekers worldwide are recognized as refugees, in Israel less than 1 percent have been recognized as such? A country of refugees closing its gates to refugees, with terrifying callousness. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Dery want to satisfy the masses that have been egged on against the Africans, on your backs, Rwandans.

The president should know that not one refugee wants to go to Rwanda, where nothing awaits them but desperation, unemployment and poverty. Don’t buy the Israeli propaganda, Mr. President – there’s no such thing as voluntary deportation. Once some people compared our two countries, Israel and Rwanda, which arose from the dust of holocausts. Precisely for this reason Rwanda must not cooperate.

If Rwanda agrees to collaborate, there will be scenes of evil here the likes of which haven’t been seen since 1948. People will be forcibly deported, expelled; children will be torn from the land where they were born. Are you, Paul Kagame, who was once a freedom fighter, prepared to cooperate with this horror for $5,000 a head?

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