What Will Israel Attorney General Tell His Child?

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Asylum seekers at the Holot detention center hold up their notices of deportation, April 2, 2015.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Tonight, at the Seder table, we will again read from the Passover Haggadah: “In every generation, every Jew must see himself as having gone out of the land of Egypt.” Not the physical Egypt, but rather a metaphorical Egypt. And so it is that in recent days, shamefully, Israel is hardening its heart to war refugees and their children, who in their flight sought a night’s shelter here. We would like to know how Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will feel when he sits down at the holiday table, and what he will tell his conscience about the instruction of the Haggadah to “teach it to your children.”

A people that knows all too well the suffering of persecution and exile, of all peoples, is becoming a persecutor and perpetrating exile. This of all peoples is imposing on asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan a reverse “exodus from Egypt,” from the hope of freedom and redemption to a renewed and dangerous exile.

Flying in the face of its international commitments, in total breach of Israeli law and the rulings of the High Court of Justice, the Israeli government is forcing thousands of asylum seekers to take up the staff of their wandering and head into the unknown.

If successive Israeli interior ministers at first clung to the pretense of “voluntary departure,” now the mask has dropped to reveal the true face. The choice now being given to these asylum seekers is stark: Either leave against your will or refuse and face indefinite imprisonment in the Holot or Saharonim detention centers. That is the face of Israel on the Festival of Freedom in 2015.

According to reports by human rights organizations, testimony from asylum seekers who have already experienced the welcome of the “third countries” and also investigation by Haaretz, Uganda and Rwanda cannot or do not want to guarantee the safety and welfare of the deportees. Israel is sending them there without oversight or supervision, and is abandoning them to their fate.

No democratic country in the world acts this way. Australia and Italy tried, but immediately reversed themselves on order of their courts.

Absent a prime minister who recognizes his responsibility; absent an attorney general aware of his obligation, once again we can hang our hopes only on the “judges in Jerusalem.”

Yesterday, with timing that is quite symbolic, it was announced that the “operation” had begun. This too, will go down in Israeli history.

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