Israeli Minister Calls for Even More Refugee Detention Camps? 5 of the Most Dangerous Incitements to Come out of Israel This Week

News & Politics

Another week, another series of outrages and inciteful acts and statements coming out of Israel: 

1. Minister calls for building new detention camp for Africans.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Arye Deri announced that if the country’s courts continue to stymie the government’s efforts to expel non-Jewish refugees back to Africa, Israel will undertake the construction of an additional desert detention center for the refugees. Dery told the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee that deporting the refugees against their will was “an effective tool” and that if the judiciary denies him this tool, “the Holot facility [where Israel currently detains 3000 refugees] will not suffice. We will have to build another big facility with infrastructure.”

According to the United Nations, there are about 50 million refugees in the world at present, the highest tally since World War II. Less than 0.1% of these, about 45,000, live in Israel, and almost all of these arrived in the country in the last decade. At the beginning of the current decade, top Israeli political and religious figures launched a public campaign to rid the country of these immigrants because they were non-white non-Jews, though they constituted no physical threat and amounted to less than a single percent of the population.

Hundreds of chief rabbis on the public payroll issued religious edicts forbidding Jews from renting apartments to the non-Jewish Africans. Government ministers publicly associated the asylum-seekers with diseases like tuberculosis, AIDS, cancer and ebola. State-sponsored incitement against the asylum-seekers gave racists a green light to attack Africans in the streets of Tel Aviv and across the country.

The legislator who led the most vicious attacks was Eli Yishai, then Interior Minister and chair of the Shas Party. Yishai took from the United Nations the power to decide who Israel considers a refugee and transferred it to his own advisory panel, which has since denied refugee rights to over 99% of applicants. Yishai also initiated Israel’s policy of rounding up African asylum-seekers into camps so as to “make their lives miserable” and persuade them to self-deport.

When Arye Deri took back the helm of the Shas Party in 2012, some pundits naively hoped the party would pursue a more humane policy toward African asylum-seekers. In January 2016, Deri was returned to the office of Interior Minister and granted the opportunity to make up for some of Yishai’s worst excesses. Instead, Dery has continued the work of his predecessors, rounding up non-Jewish African asylum-seekers into camps until they can be deported.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Deputy Attorney General admitted that Israel has failed to process the refugee status applications of African asylum-seekers, and that there was “no justification” for this holdup.

2. Israeli officer coerced Palestinians into sex for entry permits.

Israel’s half-century-long military occupation of Palestinian people produces new outrages daily, but an incident reported this week revealed that in addition to all the well-documented indignities, other types of abuse are being swept under the rug.

This week, a military court cleared for publication that an Israeli army officer was arrested three months ago and now faces serious charges for granting Palestinian non-citizens of Israel permits to enter the country, in exchange for sexual favors.

Although Palestinians in the occupied territories have some small measure of self-rule, Israel effectively controls all of the territories’ international border crossings, giving individual Israeli civil administration officers potent powers over Palestinians who wish to travel for any reason.

The details of the investigation have been put under a gag order, because Israel fears that if they were to be made known publicly, they could evoke enough anger among Palestinians to potentially spark violent riots.

Abusing one’s position of power in order to exploit the vulnerable for sex is an all-too-common phenomenon in the Israeli army. Also this week, it was revealed that a brigadier general due to be promoted to an even higher position in the IDF was being investigated on several sex crimes, including the rape of a subordinate soldier.

3. Israelis see no contradiction between occupation and democracy.

Sadly, the prospects for a change for the better to come from within Israeli society seem to be slim. The most recently released edition of the Israeli Democracy Institute’s Peace Index demonstrated significant Israeli opposition to the belief that democracy is dependent upon equal rights and opportunities.

Survey results showed that just over half of Israeli Jews, 50.1%, believe that the unequal treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank is justified. Nearly a third of Israeli Jews, 66.3%, believe Israel’s military occupation does not prevent it from being a “real democracy."

4. With racial tensions high, police ditch multi-culti training.

Israeli police are charged with enforcing civil law for all of the country’s citizens, Jewish, Palestinian and otherwise. For them to do their jobs effectively, they must earn the trust of the various populations that make up Israeli society. When the national police chief announces that Palestinians “sanctify death” and that for Palestinians “there is no importance whatsoever to life”—as he did the week before last—it does nothing to restore the confidence of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the institution he represents.

As racial tensions rise across the country, it would be better if Israeli public figures attempted to quell them, instead of stoking the fires of fear. Instead, it was revealed this week that the Israeli police have discontinued officer training courses that sensitize them to the challenges of working with minority communities.

The co-executive director of the group that has facilitated these training courses in the past told Ha’aretz that he has tried to reach Police Chief Roni Alsheikh in order to convince him of the merits of continuing the program, but that Alsheikh has not responded to his request.

5. Education Ministry promotes ABCs of racism and theocracy.

This week, Education Minister Naftali Bennett continued his attempts to inculcate into the next generation of Israelis the sectarian supremacist values held dear by his own political faction, the Jewish Home party. For a program designed to increase literacy among high school students, Bennett’s ministry recommended a tract calling for racial-religious segregation and turning the state of Israel into a total theocracy.

According to Ha’aretz, the book Adventures in the Rimonim Library: On a Rightward Pillard, by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, promotes the idea that Jews want their living environments to be free of Arabs and that “more holiness has to be brought into the State of Israel… until we reach a Torah state.”

Israel Incitement Watch #6 -- March 1 - March 7

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