Flicking through Falun Gong (?) fishwrapper The Epoch Times (8-21/5/09) recently, I came upon a curious article titled Foreigners in a foreign land - refugees in Israel by one, Ben Kaminsky.
It was about African refugees (Sudanese, Eritrean, Congolese etc) supposedly trying to enter Israel via Egypt because, according to the author, "Israel for them is a promised land, the only land in the area in which they feel they can be saved." Blimey! To reach said "promised land," these refugees are described as having run a gauntlet of bullets, beatings and arrests (followed by repatriation to their countries of origin) courtesy of the Egyptian police. And those that actually made it to the "promised land"? Well, Kaminsky's a little more cryptic here: "The Israeli authorities seemingly fear a rising tide of asylum seekers getting into Israel and therefore are making things hard on the refugees." Seemingly fear? At which point, nagging questions start to intrude: Assuming the allegations made about the Egyptian police are true, has Israel worked out some sort of hard cop/soft cop routine with the Egyptians? And what, exactly, is meant by the statement that Israeli authorities are "making things hard on" the refugees?
Kaminsky goes on to describe "a special event that took place in a Tel Aviv Park," where "human rights activists held a holiday feast for the African refugees and used this opportunity to show their support and to raise awareness of the refugees' situation." Hm, this is getting decidedly surreal. The human and political rights of Palestinians are being trampled on a daily basis, but Israeli "human rights activists" are flocking to a park to "support" and "raise awareness" of the situation of African refugees in Israel.
And who are these "human rights activists"? Well, there's Yael Dayan, the "head of the Tel Aviv City Council... in charge of the refugees issue in the municipality." Correct - daughter of Moshe (Mad Dog*) Dayan. She's quoted as saying that the goal of the event is to "show the love we have also to people who are not Jewish and not Israeli, and it is kind of embracing the thoughts of freedom and liberty which this holiday [Passover] represents." There are "volunteers" from something described as "the Israel Activists movement," comprised of young Jews from abroad come "to learn about Israel and to volunteer." One such is even reported to have made a movie about the refugees. He says, "Without the respect for human rights, Zionism has the potential of being an evil ideology." Hello? Human rights? Zionism has always been about asserting alleged Jewish tribal rights at the expense of Palestinian human and political rights. Given that, its full potential for evil was realised back in 1948 and has been in our faces ever since. Another "activist," David Davies of London, waxes lyrical: "Human rights are the most imortant. I think this is the obligation of Israel as a country, which is virtually composed of refugees, to stand for the rights of refugees and support them in the international community - both for these refugees and for the refugees in the entire world." This is gob-smacking stuff. Israel, creator of a nation of refugees scattered throughout the Middle East and around the world, is now to be the champion of all refugees?
["Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother." - Moshe Dayan]
Who are these guys? What is this "Israel Activists movement"? Have sufficient numbers of young Jews, both Israeli and non-Israeli, removed their Zionist blinkers and begun gravitating towards the genuine activism of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to warrant a Zionist response dubbed the 'Israel Activism movement'? Or is Mr Kaminsky just being creative? Google 'Israel Activists movement' and you draw a blank - except in relation to two sites: theepochtimes.com, where the Kaminsky piece surfaces with the date April 16 and Kaminsky is described as "Epoch Times Staff;" and zionism-israel.com (described as the weblog of the Zionism-Israel Center), which has posted the Kaminsky article. At theepochtimes.com you can view some shots of the Tel Aviv "holiday feast," including one of Yael Dayan and a blue banner with the words Out of Egypt, A Seder for Refugee Rights, Happy Pesach, Holiday of Freedom.
Is the Israel Activists movement merely Zionist astroturf? Are the Africans in the photos merely extras in an Israeli PR stunt? What's really going on with African refugees in Israel? A little googling reveals a starkly different picture to Kaminsky's rosy sketch:
Here's part of a Haaretz report from October 2007: "Concern is growing about the well-being of the 48 African refugees, most of them Sudanese, who have been unaccounted for since they were detained by Egyptian security forces more than 2 months ago after being deported by the IDF to Sinai." (UN official: 48 African refugees missing since deported by IDF, Ben Lynfield, 28/10/07) Deported by Israel, the Promised Land? Blimey! And we'd been led to believe that only the Egyptians did that? "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said repeatedly that he has assurances from Mubarak that deportees would not be mistreated or sent back to Sudan... Olmert has not provided proof of this and Egypt has not confirmed the existance of such an agreement." (ibid) What, the Promised Land of the refugees conniving with the Egyptian devil to get rid of them? Who'd have thought? But it gets worse.
In March 2008, Lynfield reported that Olmert "suggested... that the army open fire on African refugees crossing into Israel to stem what he depicted as a 'tsunami' of asylum seekers threatening the Jewish state's future." (Refugees & the Jewish question, southjerusalem.com, 25/3/08) Oh dear! How could Kaminsky have missed that?
And here's Lynfield in September 2008 quoting a Reuters report: "Israel has forcibly returned to Egypt dozens of African migrants who had slipped into the Jewish state, and rights activists say they fear some are refugees who risk torture if Egypt sends them home as expected... The Israeli returns come as Egypt is under scrutiny by rights groups over its deportations of up to 1,200 Eritrean asylum seekers in June. 'It's clearly a flagrant violation of international law', Hossam Bahgat, head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said of the Israeli move... Egypt for years tolerated tens of thousands of Africans migrants on its territory, but its attitude soured in recent months after it came under pressure to halt a rising flow of Africans across the sensitive Sinai border with Israel." (Throwing refugees to the sharks, selfidemocracy.org, 14/9/08) Under pressure? From whom? Ay, that's the question.
And what's Falun Gong's motto? Ah, yes, Truthfulness, Benevolence & Forbearance.