Opinion

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Most Evil of Them All?

The way Israel is treating asylum seekers - without compassion, empathy, humanity - is the definition of evil

Asylum seekers stand in line in the rain at the Interior Ministry in Tel Aviv.
Meged Gozani

The Justice Ministry’s attitude toward asylum seekers who suffered horrifying torture by human traffickers in Sinai is the definition of absolute evil. According to the dry formal wording, according to international law, the State of Israel is not responsible for the victims of the torture, since it was not carried out by government organizations or within Israel’s borders, and helping them is a right and not an obligation (“Israel begins expelling asylum seekers from Holot detention facility,” March 6). In the sealed room they haven’t heard of compassion, empathy, humaneness.

About 4,000 such asylum seekers, in need of assistance and psychological rehabilitation, arrived in Israel; about 1,000 have already been kicked out, after ongoing evil pressure wielded on them by the government. Those who remain are being left to die a psychological death for the third time – within an inhumane, impenetrable wall, the glorious product of a government that doesn’t remember and doesn’t learn: Once they died on the journey here; the second time in detention camps; and now a third time, at night, from nightmares in which their torturers appear and continue to rape them, beat them and urinate on them.

The “procedure” has become the protective cloak with which the government wraps itself in self-righteousness, when it successfully fights them by means of committees and groups whose entire purpose seems to be only to prolong their death throes.

In 2012 an advisory committee on refugees was established, which ruled that “the Israeli government must provide a humanitarian solution to those who arrive here after they have endured torture camps in Sinai.” The panel created two teams to deal with collecting data, sketching a profile of the victims and finding medical solutions. Nothing happened.

In 2014 it was decided that the team investigating the topic of torture would make recommendations to the committee as to how to define victims of torture, and what benefits they should be granted. Again nothing happened. In 2016 Israel was reprimanded by the UN Committee Against Torture for failing, at the least, even to identify the victims of torture.

In late 2017 a Justice Ministry team was finally created to investigate the subject of torture; it has been joined by another team tasked with formulating criteria “for identifying and mapping the population and assessing its needs.” Identification, mapping and assessment – wonderful words, serious and professional.

But after all the information has been gathered, the victims are known and the terrible stories are familiar – what else is necessary? A literary analysis of the narratives? Collecting testimony from the torturers? Of course there is no timetable limiting the foot-dragging in the “mapping.” It was only decided that the most seriously affected individuals would receive therapy, of an undetermined nature, and primarily – that help would be given only to those not designated for deportation in the first round. Nobody is talking about ongoing or deportation-free help. And when will the second round of deportation begin? Prior to therapy, during the course of it, or only at its end?

Two years ago Vered Lee interviewed Dr. Diddy Mymin-Kahn and Sister Azezet Kidane, authors of a unique and essential book, “A Guide to Recovery for Survivors of Torture,” which has been used by many asylum seekers (“At least 7,000 Eritreans in Israel survived torture, rape in Sinai,” June 6, 2016). Their descriptions of the horror and nightmares should upset anyone afflicted with a modicum of humanity.

No less fascinating were the social network responses, which spit at the article. One could serve as a motto for the government’s conduct: “These are African criminals who conspired with Bedouin criminals to invade Israel in exchange for sums that in Africa are possessed only by criminals There was no ‘torture’ and there is no case here for enabling these criminals to settle among us.” The “mapping and assessment” teams couldn’t have done a better job of describing the pillar of fire that guides them when they come to examine the “case.”

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil,” wrote Hannah Arendt. The evil ones in this story seem to have already made up their minds where they belong.