Monday, September 24, 2012

Israel's mistreatment of refugees

Israel's lethal apathy towards refugeesIsrael seems to have crossed a series of red lines in its handling of asylum seekers; as Yom Kippur and its message of ‘return’ approaches, the injustices committed by the state mean that the gates of repentance are gradually swinging closed behind us.
By Natasha Roth and Natasha Roth | Sep.24, 2012 | 11:29 AM

Migrants from Eritrea rest in a building, used to house people waiting to be smuggled into Israel, near the Egyptian-Israeli border in Sinai December 25, 2010. Photo by Reuters

"Help us return to You with a whole heart..."
We say these words from the Kol Nidrei service near the beginning of Yom Kippur's 25-hour fast, abstaining from food and drink in order to repent and prepare for a return to God. Yet how are we to return with a whole heart, when we seem to have no heart at all? Barely a month ago, we endured the slow, macabre spectacle of a group of Eritrean asylum seekers stuck for a week behind a fence just inside our border, all of them silent witnesses to Israel's lethal, prejudicially-informed apathy. We were starving them in preparation for a return, too, albeit one to either the infernal torments of the Sinai, or to another captivity in Saharonim prison. 
There is a growing sense that Israel has, over the past few months, crossed a series of red lines in its handling of asylum seekers. From the violent riots in May to the aforementioned desert fiasco in September, the government has laid itself a moral minefield, and each detonation caused by its casual and disastrous cruelty erodes our ability to return to some sort of ethical equilibrium. The seething injustices committed in the name of demographics are having a corrosive effect on our right of spiritual return; with each wrong, we can hear the creaking of the gate gradually swinging closed behind us, ready to clank shut completely.
Israel's intransigence and lockdown as a city of refuge comes in spite of full awareness of the terrors African immigrants have escaped. As an illustration, Eritrea (from where most asylum seekers in Israel have come) inflicts on its citizens all the crushing exploitation, neglect and restrictions one would expect from one of the most viciously enforced dictatorships in the world. 
Yet whatever desperation they faced in their country, for the majority the misery is only beginning once their journey starts. If they are fortunate, the worst they will suffer is privation and exposure from having to trek through the desert. All too frequently, however, asylum seekers are kidnapped by Bedouin smugglers, who keep them chained up in the Sinai. In order to extort ransom money, the victims' families are dialled and made to listen while their relatives are tortured. It is hard to imagine a more lacerating phone call. This can continue for weeks or months; scorching days of blood and iron, in exchange for cold cash. Somehow, however, when faced with groups of people who have been subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse, the government and the army find it within themselves to either leave them floundering in the desert or put them in another prison, further postponing lives that are becoming defined by locks, keys and metal bars. 
Examples of the consequences of this chain of events are common currency at the African Refugee Development Center in Tel Aviv. Tesfay (not his real name), a 35 year-old Eritrean man whom the ARDC has been assisting, was kidnapped in the Sinai and held in chains for 6 months, during which time he was severely tortured. Now, after finally receiving a temporary licence to remain in Israel, Tesfay has had to leave his job washing dishes in a restaurant; the extent of the damage caused to his arms and hands has left him unable to hold a plate properly. And yet, for all the physical suffering and injustice he has endured, his most aching concern is his reliance on others, and his inability to support himself. "I am a man", he keeps telling me. If this is a man, then those who would see him imprisoned and deported are not worthy of the same classification.
Nonetheless, there are those in Israel who hold the conviction that such people are deserving of yet more ill-treatment. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, with his increasingly impenetrable chainmail of hubris and hatred, seems determined to squeeze every last drop of agony out of African immigrants before he can kick them out and bolt the door behind them. Each rush of blood to the head Yishai experiences, with its accompanying spurt of violent rhetoric to the media, is another turn of the screw for asylum seekers in Israel. 
Such is the climate of aggression that has been cultivated here that many Sudanese coming to our office have begged to be allowed to return to warzones, rather than remain in Israel. Yet there is no return for these people, and as long as we continue to fire bullet after bullet of prejudice at them, there won't be for us, either.
We must be humane to be human, and we must recognize that humanity in action can return humanity as a state to those who have had it stripped away. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you", says a quotation from Ezekiel in the machzor, the prayerbook of the Days of Awe. To claim those for ourselves, we must first offer them to the bruised wanderers among us.
Natasha Roth made aliyah from the UK in March 2012, and is currently the Identity Claims Coordinator at the African Refugee Development Center in south Tel Aviv.
The African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) is a non-profit organization found...See More

The UN shames itself by allowing Ahmadinejad to address its membership

Here is the United Nations Charter Preamble.  Read it, then ask yourself this question:  Why is Iran a member of the UN and why is Ahmadinejad permitted to speak?  He has taken every opportunity to disregard the Charter and to threaten the annihilation of Israel and the Jewish people.  If Hitler were alive today would he be permitted the same right to address the United Nations, which was specifically established to eradicate the type of hatred that Ahmadinejad spews out to the world.  He long ago discredited himself and his nation as members of the UN.



  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,


Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

A new Grimm's Fairy Tale entitled "Cinderblock Gate." In this one, someone breaks into Lttle Red Lying Hood's office, mysteriously wipes out the hard drives, steals Grandma's cookies, and leaves. Little Red Lying Hood's staff doesn't password their hard drives? "Oh my," they cry. Little Red Lying Hood cries "foul" and runs all the way home. But the Big Bad BS Squad that actually has a brain figures out the crime in .47 seconds and solves the case. And everyone lives happily ever after except the Mad Hatter who serves coffee at the Tea Party brunch since this is National Coffee Week.

The first-term congressman was informed of the damage Sunday and quickly decried it as a "politically motivated crime" and "an assault on democracy and the political process."

Continuing, Grimm declared the episode indicative of something that he thought would take place elsewhere in the world.
"This ignorance, of violence, I would expect in the Middle East. You know, that wouldn't shock me at all," Grimm said. "But here on Staten Island, a family-based community, we're better than that."
The New York Daily News reported that police have found no evidence of forced entry at the building and are investigating the incident as an act criminal mischief, not burglary.
Grimm is currently under federal investigation over allegations that he took illegal donations during his 2010 campaign. The Tea Party favorite has denied any wrongdoing amid an ongoing probe that has focused on his connection to a wealthy Israeli rabbi.
Intruders were able to clear data from the hard drives by installing Linux on office computers. Grimm told authorities that the sensitive polling data, voter information, and other campaign material contained in the hard drives had all been backed up "literally hours before." He suggested that a suspect could have gained access to the building because his campaign hadn't changed the locks since it changed hands from the car dealership that had previously occupied the building.
Nathan Smith, a spokesman for the Grimm's Democratic challenger, Mark Murphy, also denounced the attack in a statement from the campaign.