Stories of Expulsion

Israel needs to make fundamental decisions on immigration; until that happens, we must freeze expulsions of foreign workers and their children.

The decision on the children of foreign workers is an example of the way the government, lacking a comprehensive immigration policy, is forced to put out fires and make decisions that only aggravate the problem and don't address it. The decision lacks logic, is unethical, complicated from a bureaucratic point of view, impossible to execute and seriously damages Israel abroad. It is revolting, justifiably so, to many of this country's people who are ashamed of the interior minister's insensitive statements, which have no place in a liberal democracy.

On the face of it, the decision is meant to be a compromise. After all, 800 children will stay in Israel, even if the conditions for this are complicated. But anyone who thought it was possible to expel 400 children lives in a bubble and ignores the social and media realities. Four hundred children, candidates for expulsion, means 400 individual stories, each captured on camera in a heartrending way. Who's the genius who thought it was possible to prevent 400 stories of expulsion, each stirring the emotions, whether in Israel or abroad?

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at the interior minister and his staff; they don't read the foreign press and many of them don't watch television. In their day-to-day interaction with people illegally in Israel, most of them Palestinians, some of them have developed what can only be described as xenophobia.

Meanwhile, not a single child has been expelled, but several dozen reports have appeared in the print and electronic media emphasizing a feeling of wrongdoing. The fact that some of the reports are manipulative and sometimes inaccurate doesn't minimize the damage in any way. Thus, both in Israel and abroad, people know that Israel expels children, even though not a single child has been expelled in practice.

Even if the analogy of Britain's expulsion of Jews from Mandatory Palestine is exaggerated and false, the government's decision means that masses of Israelis now view their government as evil. No one is talking about the 800 who will stay; only the 400 who will be expelled are registered in the public consciousness.

In all this, the fact that the problem is not the children but their parents is overlooked, as is the fact that Israel has seriously failed in recent years to meet the challenges that both legal and illegal immigration pose. All Western democracies face this challenge (for example, the expulsion of Roma from France and the racist legislation in Arizona ).

Several months ago, Liav Orgad, Prof. Ruth Gavison, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein and I wrote a document on an immigration policy for Israel on behalf of the Metzilah Center for Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanist Thought. The document highlights the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the world that does not have a comprehensive policy on refugees, asylum seekers, labor immigration and the immigrations that result from marriages.

Instead, we have articles in various laws, Supreme Court rulings, instructions issued by the Interior Ministry, and a plethora of regulations creating administrative chaos and leading to arbitrary conduct by clerks.

We were encouraged by the government's appointment of a team of ministers, headed by the justice minister, to propose an immigration policy. The team proposed a draft bill to the government, but discussions were repeatedly postponed. Instead, we deal with the problems using a shameful ad hoc approach.

Israel needs to make fundamental decisions on immigration; until that happens, we must freeze the entire expulsion process. It's also possible to avoid bringing more foreign workers into the country and try to meet the demand for employees in various professions (such as caregivers and agricultural workers ) by hiring the foreigners already in Israel illegally - whose presence the police are having a hard time coping with.

Without a comprehensive solution we are destined to repeatedly shame ourselves with rash, reprehensible and impractical solutions. Anyone who cares about our image at home and abroad should look in the mirror, at least in this case.