The Population and Immigration Authority launched an operation, about a month ago, to encourage the “willing departure” of the Filipino community in Israel. The Authority’s Director-General, Tomer Moskowitz, realized that money is “the cheapest solution.” And indeed, the Population Authority offers Filipinos, those residing in Israel without a permit and wishing to leave the country, $1,500 per family member at departure, and $300 per month for the following year, in addition to airfare.
Moskowitz and xenophobic Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked have learned from experience. They do not mean to get enmeshed in the same criticism they drew two and half years ago for deporting children who were born in Israel to Filipino mothers, lived here all their lives and speak Hebrew as a first language. Instead they have found a way to tempt their parents to leave. The thought of 790 Filipino children growing up in Israel, speaking Hebrew and threatening the purity of the Jewish race keeps Shaked awake at night. “Illegal residents should know that Israel will not stand by and will not allow facts to be set for it and illegal settlement in it,” she said.
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It is true that if you’re going to deport, it’s better if you pay for it. Even the Migrants and Refugees Hotline was forced to commend the choice of economic incentive. “It can be assumed that an economic incentive may help in returning home, especially for single mothers with their small children, and the Population Authority does well to offer such an incentive,” it said in response. However, the Hotline added, “A financial incentive, generous as it may be, will not lead to the mass departure of families that have managed to survive in Israel for many years despite the harsh restrictions. It would be best to grant them status.”
Indeed, the more generous the package, the more the very desire to deport should be questioned. Why is Israel pulling out all the stops to get rid of them? Why can’t we accept the fact that a tiny community of Filipinos, whose children were born and grew up here, will live here as Israelis in every way?
Those who know the ill wind that blows through the Population Authority and Interior Ministry know it won’t end with financial incentives. First they try it nicely, then they’ll do it the other way. Although no new deportation operation has been announced, the Filipino community held a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday. “No deportation of children,” and “The kids aren’t going anywhere,” they called, symbolically waving Israeli flags.
Rather than finding more and more creative ways to deport them, the approach should be fundamentally altered: Remove the threat hanging over the Filipinos and formalize their status in Israel. The State of Israel has serious problems, requiring attention and treatment. The Filipino community is not one of them. Leave the Filipinos alone.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.