The abduction and murder of three Jewish teenage rabbinical seminary students – Gil-Ad Sha’ar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frankel – in the occupied West Bank three weeks ago put Israeli society on fire. The Israeli government had seemingly known they were murdered from the start but kept insisting they were abducted and might still be alive, leading to an unprecedented terror campaign against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. Media photographs of ransacked houses and seemingly useless searches, among other things, in children bedrooms, stoked Israeli Jewish rage. It meant nothing that the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the abduction; as far as the most right wing Israeli government since the establishment of the state was concerned, Abbas and his political partners Hammas were to blame and there was no point in continuing the farcical ‘peace process’. Yet, even though many Israelis do not support the settlers, the abduction made headline news, focusing on ‘our boys’ who had to be released at all costs. When the dead bodies of the three young men were found, Israel was awash with a wave of grief, rage and hatred. Gangs of young right wing Israelis poured onto the streets of Jerusalem and other cities chanting ‘death to the Arabs’; a Facebook page calling to ‘kill all Arabs’ had thousands of ‘likes’ within minutes of being posted. And very soon after the bodies were discovered, a young Palestinian boy Mohammad Abu Khdeir was abducted and burnt alive in the Jerusalem suburb of Shuafat by a group of settlers. Continue reading “The Gaza massacre, 2014”
Last December some 200 African asylum seekers started a march from the open detention centre Holot in the south of the country towards the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. ‘We are not afraid to march, sun, rain or snow. We’ll march to Jerusalem to ask the government for our rights. We can no longer stay in this prison’, said Masala, a young Eritrean marcher. After two days of marching in rough weather conditions, supported by Israeli human rights groups, they were all arrested and returned to the Saharonim jail, where the conditions are harsher.
Altogether some 53,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, live in Israel. Most have reached Israel through Egypt after a harrowing journey. Most have arrived from areas where massacres, murders, civil wars and political persecution are daily occurrences. In Israel, however, they are not called asylum seekers, but rather ‘infiltrators’ – a term harking back to the 1950s when Palestinian refugees, expelled from Israel during and after the 1948 war, attempted to get back to their homes and lands and were prevented from doing so. Continue reading “The absurdity of asylum in Israel”