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Israel Is Exposing Africans to Danger of Slavery

An African migrant prays during a 2014 protest outside Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem. (Ariel Schalit / AP)

You’ve probably heard that right now, in the year 2018, African men, women and children are being sold at slave auctions in Libya. What you may not have heard is that Israel—the recipient of more United States military aid than any other country in the world—is putting tens of thousands of Africans at risk of torture at the hands of those very slave traders. How did these refugees come to find themselves in Israel to begin with? And why is Israel now expelling them all?

First of all, Israel is connected to Africa—northeast Africa. And as African people flee the dictatorships oppressing them and ethnically cleansing them, they flee in every direction, including northeast, to Israel. Those that have fled to Israel believed its claim to be a democracy, and thought that a state supposedly established to provide a safe haven for refugees would understand them and grant them asylum.

But they were wrong. In 2012, Israel built a high-tech fence on its border, cutting the country off from the rest of the African continent, to ensure that no more refugees could enter. And once it was completed, the government worked on forcing out the 65,000 African refugees that had already made it into the country. At first, Israel feared what the world would say if it sent these refugees right back to the tortures they had fled. So instead of outright deporting them, it announced an official policy to “make their lives miserable” in order to drive them all out.

Hundreds of Israeli chief rabbis issued a joint religious edict decreeing that it is a sin against God to rent apartments to African refugees. Israel’s political leaders baselessly accused the Africans of being incorrigible criminals and of spreading diseases. And for years, the government outright refused to examine African refugees’ asylum requests. When it finally did, Israel earned itself the distinction of having a higher refugee rejection rate than any other country in the world, over 99 percent.

And then the government built the largest detention center in the world, and rounded into it thousands of refugees off the streets of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. All this in order to “make their lives miserable,” so that they buckle to the pressure, grudgingly relent and agree to self-deport back to Africa. In this way, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to ethnically cleanse the country of between a third and a half of all African refugees in just five years.

All this was bad enough. But now an old-new evil spirit is sweeping across the globe. Buoyed by a worldwide wave of white supremacy, Netanyahu now realizes that it’s no longer necessary to coerce consent from these African refugees in order to deport them. Netanyahu’s new plan is to simply round up the remaining 35,000 African refugees, and physically force them out of the country. If any refugees refuse to leave, Israel will jail them for life. In December, the measure passed in the Israeli parliament with a large majority, and the country’s Supreme Court gave the policy its stamp of approval.

Netanyahu is beginning to boast about Israeli xenophobia, and trying to convince some European Union allies to adopt its racist policies—and purchase its high-tech fences to keep refugees from reaching Fortress Europe. If Israel is allowed to expel its remaining African refugees, it will send a clear message to the EU that it’s legitimate for any country to adopt anti-refugee rules and keep out black and brown people that are fleeing for their lives—without even a sense of shame.

Let’s not pretend that Israel is some kind of safe haven for black folks. In recent years, the government’s racist rhetoric has led to lots of vigilante violence against this community. African refugees have been murdered by Israeli lynch mobs across the country. Even the babies of African refugees have been violently attacked by Israeli racists: In Tel Aviv, a kindergarten was firebombed, and a 1-year-old baby was stabbed in the head. No Israeli has ever been sentenced to jail for any of these savage hate crimes.

But the fate that awaits these refugees if they are forced out of Israel will be far worse. Israel has bribed the government of Rwanda with tens of millions of dollars to agree to take in the refugees that Israel expels. But the refugees aren’t granted status there. Instead their documents are confiscated, and they are quickly forced to leave the country and begin their search for safe haven all over again, from scratch. While seeking protection in Europe, they are falling into captivity in Libya, where they are tortured and raped, mutilated and murdered.

Because Israel is so heavily dependent upon U.S. political support, Americans are actually in a position to end this ethnic cleansing before it’s completed. But out of fear of offending supporters of Israel, the mainstream media has mostly neglected to report critically on the country’s race wars. Will U.S. outlets report on Israel’s planned expulsion of African refugees before it’s carried out? And if they do, will U.S. citizens, horrified by the return of slavery, call upon Israel to stop sending black folks into bondage in 2018?

David Sheen
David Sheen is an independent journalist and filmmaker born and raised in Canada, now reporting from the ground in Israel*Palestine. His written and video work focuses primarily on the country’s racial and…
David Sheen

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