Some facts about Israelís illegal immigration problems
By Bruce Kesler
ENCINITAS, California ó international media usually seeks out and features negative news about Israel or exaggerates it or treats it in a biased manner. So, too, on the issue of African immigrants to Israel. There is a natural, and commendable, empathy for peoples in dire straits or whose experience, by large stretches of analogy, may be compared to other groups, like Hispanics or Blacks in the US, but that alone does not merit one-sided coverage of this issue or the lack of facts and context.
As in the US, it is difficult to count the number of illegal immigrants, so hard numbers of illegal African immigrants in Israel are estimates. According to Wikipedia, there were about 26,000 in July 2010 and 55,000 in January 2012. Estimates of new arrivals are about 1,000 a month, which would bring the June 2012 number to over 60,000. Two-thirds are estimated to be in south Tel Aviv and another 20 percent in the resort city of Eilat. Some other estimates of illegal African immigrants in Israel are higher. This is a lower percentage of illegal immigrants than in the US, but Israel should not wait until it is as large a problem as here. There are also about 150,000 Black Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Black Ethiopian Jews were helped to immigrate by Israel.
As in the US, there is certainly racism against Blacks within Israel. There is also acceptance and substantial aid within Israel, as in the US for its illegal immigrants.
As in the US, the primary issues, however, revolve around culture and poverty among most illegal immigrants. The illegal Africans are not Jewish nor do they have common culture in most other respects. Nonetheless, Black African Christians in Israel have been permitted to establish churches as religious and community centers, while Christians and their churches are attacked by Moslems in other countries. As in the US, poor and uneducated illegal immigrants are a significant drain on the stateís resources.
Although claims of extraordinary crime rates among illegal African immigrants are overstated, it is a rising problem and, as elsewhere in the world, often targeted at each other.
In a civil rights oriented Israel, efforts to form a united front among people of color within Israel are in its initial steps, but there are deep divisions between those of lighter and darker coloration, between Moslems, Christians and Jews, between countries of origin, etc.
Israel honors the highest international standards regarding illegal immigrants. Only those from Eritrea, the majority of the Black illegal immigrants, are eligible under the UN Convention Relating To The Status Of Refugees, due to the unsafe conditions there. Others may be deported, but neither their countries of origin nor Egypt, across whose Sinai border with Israel they come, are willing to take them.
Israel issues three-month-at-a time temporary residence permits to most Black illegal immigrants, which also allows them to have employment and housing. That isnít the case in the US.
As elsewhere, most of the illegal immigrants are economic refugees, seeking a better life in Israel, compared to their countries of origin or the countries they pass through on their way to Israel. Bedouin smugglers aid their crossing the Israeli border, and many remain deeply in debt for their passage.
Holding camps capable of housing several thousand Black illegal immigrants are being built by the Israeli government.
For security purposes, Israel is in the process of erecting barriers along the Sinai border, which may also help reduce the number of future illegal immigration.
France, Spain and Italy have a colonial involvement with North Africa and elsewhere, from which their large illegal immigrant population comes and many go on to elsewhere in the open-border European Union, creating political, safety and economic concerns. Israel does not have any such ďresponsibilityĒ for the countries from which the Black illegal immigrants come.
This is a thorny problem for Israel, not improved by misleading reports.
Kesler, a freelance writer based in Encinitas, may be contacted at bruce.kesler_at_sdjewishworld.com
Received on Sat Jun 09 2012 - 10:43:18 EDT