Israeli Holocaust Survivors Urge Netanyahu to Cancel Plan to Expel African Refugees

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Israeli Holocaust Survivors Urge Netanyahu to Cancel Plan to Expel African Refugees

"We—who know what it means to be a refugee, to be without a home or a country that would protect and defend us from violence and suffering—cannot understand how a Jewish government can expel refugees and asylum seekers to a journey of pain, suffering, and death."

African migrants take part in a rally in front of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on January 8, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

African migrants take part in a rally in front of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on January 8, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

In a sign of growing opposition to the recently approved resolution, a group of Israeli Holocaust survivors has urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to "allow suffering and torture of people under [Israel's] protection" and to toss out the country's plan to expel tens of thousands of African asylum seekers.

In their letter sent Thursday, the 36 signatories wrote, "We—who know what it means to be a refugee, to be without a home or a country that would protect and defend us from violence and suffering—cannot understand how a Jewish government can expel refugees and asylum seekers to a journey of pain, suffering, and death."

"Especially as Jews, who have had the world turn its back on us in our most dire hour, we have a special duty to stave off indifference and prevent the asylum seekers' expulsion. The state must provide them with fair shelter and not send them to their deaths in a foreign land," they wrote.

Netanyahu, for his part, has referred to the Africans as "not refugees, but infiltrators."

Haaretz notes that their plea follows "airline pilots, writers, college professors, doctors, lawyers, university students, social workers, filmmakers, and rabbis attempting to prevent the planned deportation by the Israeli government of nearly 40,000 African asylum seekers over the next two years to either their home countries or other countries in Africa."

In their letter sent last week to Netanyahu, cabinet members, and President Reuven Rivlin, for example, hundreds of Israeli academics said, "The history of our nation requires Israel to serve as a model for the treatment of children and adults who seek refuge from ethnic cleansing, persecution, and political violence, from human trafficking, from rape, and from torture."

Rabbis for Human Rights, meanwhile—taking a cue from sanctuary jurisdictions in the U.S.—has launched the Anne Frank Home Sanctuary movement, promising to house those on the expulsion list.

Giora Amiro, one of the signatories to the new letter, told Ynet: "I'm asking the prime minister to intercede with the minister of the interior, intercede with his judgment, and for these refugees to be welcomed here, at least until the danger to their lives passes. It's the most humane thing we can, and must, do, both as Jews, former refugees and people, human beings."

Given the outpouring of support by those on the left for the migrants, Nazareth-based in British journalist Jonathan Cook asks, "Is the terrible suffering Israel is now inflicting on African refugees not also the moment for liberal Israelis to appreciate that Palestinians have been enduring similar abuses for seven decades?"

"Has the time not finally arrived when liberal Israelis need to mount a campaign of civil disobedience on behalf not just of Africans but of Palestinians too?" he concludes.

 

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