Israel’s New Scapegoat

In Israel’s latest affront against Eritrean and Sudanese refugees, a draft amendment to the anti-infiltrator law that criminalizes wire transfers was passed. “Reducing the economic incentive is an effective tool to deal with the phenomenon of infiltration,” the Justice Ministry claimed. Under the bill, migrants caught wiring funds can be imprisoned for 6 months or pay a fine of approximately $7,400.  The bill also seeks to punish those who assist with transfers, carrying a penalty of 1 year in prison or a $7,400 fine or a sum equal to twice the amount that was transferred, or intended to be transferred.  Many of those opposing the presence of the African migrants claim their reasons for coming to Israel has nothing to do with them being refugees, that they are not facing any imminent threat back home.  Opponents claim the migrants are simply crossing the border for better economic opportunities.   This has absolutely no validity but perhaps pretending it’s so helps to assuage their consciences….. assuming they have one.

African migrants in Israel /Photo: Ben Piven, Al-Jazeera

In all of the debate surrounding the African migrant presence in Israel it is never disclosed the menial jobs they do, they’re doing because Israelis won’t do them. And they’re willing to do them for a mere pittance in compensation.  Whatever meager funds they do receive are primarily sent to their ailing families. It is a saga which in many aspects parallels the U.S.-Mexican illegal immigrant crisis. All of the key players exist in both scenarios: the illegal immigrants, the angry, protesting citizens and the calculating politicians/government who use these immigrants as political scapegoats and pawns. The age-old ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. They become the symbol for everything that is wrong in our country. The reason why we can’t prosper.

We, the citizens, seem to forget prior to their arrival on the scene things weren’t exactly peachy keen. Before they “infiltrated” our borders there weren’t any jobs and crime was already sprouting. Sure, there are some undocumented immigrants who engage in criminal activity — but there is no evidence they are prone to do so any more than you, me or the guy up the street.

And what of our borders, the point of entry? We have border patrol but yet somehow they miss the thousands of migrants openly walking across the border into our land? And that’s exactly what they do. Walk across the border.  There is no underground railroad smuggling them into the land. No illicit forces hiding them in trunks or cargo ships sneaking them into the country and apparently no one impeding their entry.

If the Israeli government were serious about dealing with the current dilemma of Eritrean and Sudanese refugees it would start by seeking effectual, humane solutions.  The current anti-infiltrator legislature does nothing of the sort.  But, then again, the State of Israel has never been known for its humanity.