Posts Tagged refugees

Mental asylum: on refugee processing and protections

There have been two undeniable tragedies over the past few days as two boats carrying asylum-seekers have capsized en route from Indonesia to Australia (fortunately, the latest one seems to have been rescued fairly effectively and the loss of life was far less, although there was still one dead and three still missing). As most readers would know, this has re-sparked the gigantic debate about Australia’s asylum-seeker policy – which has reached a fervour not seen since… the last time this happened.

There seems to be consensus that the government has to “do something” to “stop the boats”. Just what that means exactly is under fierce debate. There are three main options being pushed, so I figured that I would summarise these for all you lovely people and then give some quick thoughts on the right way to go.

1. The “Pacific Solution”

This is the Liberal Party’s pet policy – they want to replicate what was done under then Prime Minister John Howard and then Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock. This solution is designed to provide strong disincentives for people to attempt to reach Australia by boat.

It’s kind of a two-pronged assault. Firstly, anyone who arrives in Australia unlawfully and then claims asylum will be given a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) – meaning that they are permitted to remain in Australia until it is no longer dangerous for them to be in their country of origin, at which time they will be deported “home”. This is supplemented by opening an Australian-administered asylum-seeker detention centre on a tiny Pacific atoll called Nauru, so that no one who tries to reach Australia unlawfully by boat will actually reach Australia and there are no guarantees of ever getting there.

2. The “open arms” solution

I call it that with my tongue in my cheek. This is the line being pushed by the Greens and various “refugee advocates”. At its core, the argument is that any form of offshore processing of refugees is cruel and so we should process them all in Australia and let them into the community as soon as possible.

Typically, for the people who are advocating it at least, this is a very nice and well-meaning policy but is a little detached from reality and would create huge problems if put into practise. The biggest problem is that, contrary to this narrative, not all “boat people” are just really nice, desperate people who are fleeing horrible persecution to make a contribution to our great, multicultural nation. Some of them are that, but some aren’t. In fact, the easier it seems that it is to get into Australia, the more likely it is that people who are not genuine refugees will come over.

Once someone destroys their travel documents (as these “boat people” are want to do), it is very difficult to figure out exactly who they are. This results in a small but significant number of these asylum seekers fleeing not persecution for their race, religion or politics, but for their involvement in organised crime – or even terrorism. Ignoring that element of them is dangerous, it would take just one bomb on a major piece of infrastructure and the public reaction would mean that our borders are sealed permanently (not to mention the horrible loss of life that it would inevitably entail).

3. The “Malaysia Clusterfuck Solution

This was the brainchild of the Gillard Labor government and requires a little background. The most important thing to know is that the Pacific Solution worked – boats had essentially stopped coming in 2007 when Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister. The new ALP government then set-about dismantling the Howard/Ruddock policies, which they had been calling “inhumane” for years, and boats promptly began coming again and have been increasing ever since.

When running for the 2010 election, Julia Gillard – aware of the political difficulty that these boatloads of asylum seekers presented for her government – announced an “East Timor Solution”. This claimed to provide the same effect as the Pacific Solution, but was supposed to be somehow different because East Timor is a signatory to the Refugee Convention (a weak argument as the Nauru centre was Australian-administered, so it was not really material whether or not Nauru had signed the Convention). Regardless, it transpired that Gillard had not seen fit to run this little idea past, you know, the East Timorese. Suffice to say it didn’t go very far.

After East Timor collapsed, the government was desperate for a solution and began floundering. They then had the genius idea of announcing that they would negotiate a solution with Malaysia after they approached Malaysia, but before they had actually negotiated a solution. Malaysia was calling all the shots and they knew it, so they eventually agreed on a kind of asylum-seeker trade: they send 4,000 Burmese Christians in exchange for 800 (presumably) Iranian and Afghani Muslims from Australia. They hate Christians, we hate Muslims, everybody wins.

After the huge outcry in Australia regarding the way refugees are treated in Malaysia (let’s just say that it involved caning of bare buttocks), the government did get Malaysia – not a signatory to the Refugee Convention – to agree to respect the refugees’ rights. In an explicitly non-binding agreement.

Problem for the government was that the Convention is annexed to the Migration Act and explicitly referred to in the provisions allowing asylum-seekers to be processed offshore, so the High Court ruled that the decision to implement the Malaysia Solution was not made according to the power conferred on Chris Bowen, the Immigration Minister, which requires that the rights and protections of refugees under the Convention are respected. The government then tried to remove these protections, but this was (thankfully) blocked by pretty much everyone else in Parliament.

Offshore in general

So here comes the real analysis (woohoo!). The most common argument against offshore processing (chiefly the Pacific Solution) is that it made no real difference and the number of unlawful arrivals in Australia is just a reflection of global trends (see, eg, this). This claim has absolutely no basis in any fact or evidence. The numbers speak for themselves really. Consider this table first from the Australian Parliament:

Year No arrivals
1999 3721
2000 2939
2001 5516
2002 1
2003 53
2004 15
2005 11
2006 60
2007 148
2008 161
2009 2726
2010 6555
2011 4565

Now, look at this table from the UNHCR:

Share of main receiving countries of asylumseekers in total number of applications

Countries 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
United States 15% 13% 13% 15% 17%
France 9% 9% 11% 13% 12%
Germany 6% 6% 7% 11% 10%
Italy 4% 8% 5% 3% 8%
Sweden 11% 6% 6% 9% 7%
Belgium 3% 3% 5% 6% 6%
United Kingdom 8% 8% 8% 6% 6%
Canada 8% 10% 9% 6% 6%
Switzerland 3% 4% 4% 4% 4%
Turkey 2% 3% 2% 3% 4%
Austria 4% 3% 4% 3% 3%
Netherlands 2% 4% 4% 4% 3%
Australia 1% 1% 2% 3% 3%
Greece 8% 5% 4% 3% 2%
Norway 2% 4% 5% 3% 2%

That is very clear evidence that Australia’s number of asylum seekers has not been keeping up with global trends. To the contrary, the number of asylum claims in Australia relative to the rest of the world has tripled since 2007. I don’t need to bother with more sophisticated statistics (although many have), anyone who looks at that data without blind bias can see that something made Australia far more attractive to asylum seekers in 2007 than it had been before.

On the other hand

I now have to write what is possibly the most difficult thing that I have ever written on this site.

Here goes…

Greens leader Christine Milne has a point.

Australia takes a negligible number of asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia (somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60p/a) – the two sources of these boats. Both of these countries are not good places for refugees and in Malaysia they are actually persecuted, meaning that they still have refugee status and (as mentioned before) it is illegal to deport any refugee back there.

Disincentivising the journey is all very well, however it will not work so long as the incentive to come is still stronger. The refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia know that they have almost no hope of ever being resettled, they cannot go home and they cannot stay where they are. Getting on a boat is their only hope and while that remains true, they will continue to come.

The solution requires that incentive to be changed as well. Australia needs to substantially increase the number of refugees that we take from Malasia and Indonesia, it’s as simple as that. Once we are taking several thousand a year, they will know that they would probably make it here eventually if need be and the UNHCR camps would look more appealing than our detention centres.

To summarise

Given all of the above, here is the ideal solution in my opinion:

Combine the Pacific Solution and the surprisingly lucid Milne solution. Have a processing centre on Nauru (which, by the way, does great things for the impoverished island nation as well) but also commit to taking a few thousand asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia each year. It will make the boat journeys seem unappealing while providing another option for the truly desperate people in Indonesia and Malaysia.

And no deportation to Malaysia. I was almost throwing my iPad against the wall this morning while Gillard was on it trying to sell that solution as though it is really the humanitarian thing to do. She was advocating for the removal of all the refugee rights under the Convention as ratified in Australian legislation, simple as that. It is disgraceful and inhumane – no amount of spin will change that. The principle of non-refoulement lies at the very core of the refugee framework, which means that you cannot deport someone fleeing persecution to a place where they will still be persecuted. According to Gillard and Bowen, refoulement is the humane choice. Go figure…

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African Migrants in Israel – Betar Australia open letter to Danny Danon

Regular readers will have seen the rather concerning rhetoric coming out of, inter alia, Likkud MK Danny Danon regarding the African migrants in Israel. Regular readers will also know my feelings towards Mr Danon — particularly that he misrepresents his ideological forebears and is in many ways betraying the Revisionist Zionist tradition.

I have just seen this open letter to Danon from the Australian branch of Betar — the youth movement of Likkud’s father, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, of which Danon is world chair. As it is an open letter, I will reproduce it in full and hope it gets as much exposure as it deserves.

While the letter, I think, speaks for itself, I do want to extend a huge kol ha’kavod to Betar Australia for standing up for the values on which their movement is based.

An open letter to MK Danny Danon,

We are writing to you in respect of your position as the chairman of the Knesset committee for Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, the chairman of World Likud and as a past chairman of World Betar. Recently we have seen a number of attacks on African migrants living in Israel. Regardless of their status in the country, these attacks have come as a shock and an embarrassment to us as Jews. However, your words in regard to the “national plague” (that is commonly referred to as African migrants) have greatly upset us as Betarim.

We would like to reiterate that Betar Australia firmly subscribes to Betar’s key stance of ‘Had-Ness’ – our most important value is Zionism, we subscribe to the importance of the Jewish majority and our highest flag is the Israeli flag. We do acknowledge the complexities related to the influx of African migrants, and we are not trying to mandate a policy to you from the other side of the world; however we believe that you need to urgently reassess your policy in regards of some of the important ideological principles held by Betar and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

When Jabotinsky wrote “in the beginning, God created men” (The Story of My Days, 38); he was referring to mankind as a whole, to our shared origins and our shared humanity. This aspect of humanity is unequivocally expressed in our ideological principle of Hadar. Hadar, as you know does not specifically refer to the Jews – it refers to how all people should treat themselves and others in a ‘princely’ manner.

These people fleeing conflict from Africa, who have chosen Israel because they know it is a moral and free country, are just as human as us. In fact, in their present state, they are unmistakably similar to us as Jews. We have always been refugees; our ancestors have been refugees since the destruction of the first Temple up to our grandparents, who fled a climax of persecution around the world. Menachem Begin saw this when he allowed Vietnamese refugees who had been rejected by the rest of the world to settle in Israel, even granting them citizenship, as the minister, David Levy, the former Minister of Absorption said, “May they lend a hand to save women and children who are in the heart of the sea without a homeland, and lead them to safe shores.” Israel desperately needs to develop policy to deal with this crisis and to deal with it humanely. We reiterate that we are not seeking to dictate policy from outside of Israel. However, as Jews and Betarim we do expect for the political establishment in Israel to act decently and to approach this issue humanely, without prejudice and to acknowledge the responsibilities that Israel has towards refugees as a signatory to both the UN Refugee Convention (1951) and Protocol (1967).

Human rights have, apparently, been trademarked by the Left of politics, but as our ideology shows they have origins in the Right and as Begin’s story and the history of past Likud government’s show; it has almost always been the Right which has implemented the humanistic policies that have rendered Israel as ‘a light unto other nations.’ As Betarim, we urge you to reconsider your stance regarding these people and we request that you ensure that Israel fairly determines who needs protection and offers them this. To deport people to persecution and danger is not the act of a Jewish State. Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years and their state should not be one that has a hand in leading others to suffer the same fate. As Jabotinsky wrote, “there is no power that would be able to tear from one’s heart the hope for a better future.”

Ki Sheket Hu Refesh – Because Silence is Mud.

Tel Hai,
Betar Australia Inc.

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I’m either disgusted or slightly amused

Guy Bechor in the Jerusalem Post, talking about the conspiracy hatched by anti-Israel NGOs who are going around Africa to encourage people to go towards Israel so they can flood Israel with Muslims and end its Jewish majority.

I can’t figure out if this is supposed to be satirical or not. If it is, it’s not a bad send-off of the paranoia sweeping some segments of Israeli society. If it isn’t, its an extremely worrying indicator of the paranoia sweeping some segments of the Israeli society.

Before we lose control – JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

A number of associations, NGOs and others have encouraged this African immigration to Israel. They begin by directing the emigration from the countries of origin, preserving it, preventing it from running into obstacles in the Sinai Peninsula, and providing it with a warm home in Israel. They have spread and continue to spread the rumor in Africa that Israel is a paradise, and that it can be reached by foot.

These are not migrant workers who stand before us, and not refugees, but a majority of African Muslims who come here to settle, and never leave.

The numbers: According to official data of the State of Israel, the rate of Muslim immigration from Africa is about 1,000 a week (this was the situation last month), and nearly 4,000 per month (which is double the numbers from a few months ago). Since there is no one who knows exactly how many of these infiltrators we now have here, the estimate is that there are between 80,000 and 120,000 of them in the country.

South Tel Aviv has become a small Sudan, the infiltrators in Eilat already constitute about 20 percent of the population, and this is also the situation in certain neighborhoods in central Israel – Pardes Katz in Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, suburban Petah Tikva, Sderot and Rishon Lezion. They have even reached the Galilee already.

Everywhere, on the side of the roads, you can spot the newcomers. They are surveying their new country, surveying its wealth, their wealth.

For the record, the “obstacles in the Sinai Peninsula” he mentioned are the Egyptian police/military who shoot refugees on sight and the local Beduins, who kidnap refugees and hold them for ransom, subject them to torture and sexual assault and then kill them when they can’t pay (these are not exactly wealthy people here).

I refuse to believe that someone who was not writing some kind of cynical parody would actually refer to those as “obstacles”…

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The cancer that is eroding the Jewish character of Israel

Source: Activestills.org

Source: Activestills.org

It is hard to put into words what I feel about the events in the South Tel Aviv suburb yesterday with the bitterly ironic name of Hatikvah. That said, putting things into words is what I do. So here goes.

I’ll begin with someone else’s words: Ha’aretz journalist Ilan Lior, who was actually there and watched the whole thing play out. Here is how he described it:

How a Tel Aviv anti-migrant protest spiraled out of control – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

I have been a journalist for ten years. I’ve covered terror attacks, funerals, car accidents, and protests. I’ve seen fury, frustration, despair, and sadness in a variety of places and forms. But I’ve never seen such hatred as it was displayed on Wednesday night in the Hatikva neighborhood. If it weren’t for the police presence, it would have ended in lynching. I have no doubt. Perhaps a migrant worker would have been murdered, perhaps an asylum seeker, or maybe just a passerby in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Israel’s asylum seeker problem

I have written in the past on how Israel provides its African asylum seekers with a safe haven that is unmatched by any other country that side of Europe, but also that they still face difficulties. The situation that they find themselves in is depicted very well in this piece by Daniella Cheslow and I recommend clicking through and reading it, but in essence: Israel has no policy.

Tens of thousands of people have been fleeing for Israel over the past decade, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea. The horrors that they face at home and during the journey do not bear thinking about. Amongst other things, they are hunted for their ethnicity, quite literally shot on sight by Egyptian forces, and often abducted by Sinai Bedoins, held to ransom and then tortured to death when they can’t pay (African refugees do not tend to have a lot of money).

After weeks of travelling through harsh deserts, often on foot, they cross the border into Israel – where they are greeted by the Israeli border guards, given food and medical attention, taken to a detention centre in South Israel so that Israel can figure out who they are, and then given a one-way bus ticket to Tel Aviv.

That is the end of Israel’s plan for them. They arrive in Tel Aviv with absolutely nothing – no working visa, no knowledge of Hebrew, no friends, no family, no support network. There are now 60,000 of them – almost 1% of Israel’s entire population – and the Israeli government has had no policy at all to deal with the issue. For reasons outlined here by Shallya Scher-Ehrlich, this is in breach of international law.

What happens next is quite obvious: they serve the same functions as large groups of illegal migrants anywhere else. They work in below-minimum-wage jobs for people unscrupulous enough to employ them in these conditions, they live in crowded accommodation in the poorest neighbourhoods and, out of desperation and because criminal gangs are one group that do not exclude them for the colour of their skin, they often become involved in crime (although reports of them massively increasing crime rates are highly exaggerated).

The areas that they moved into were previously (and in some cases still are) the ones predominantly inhabited by Israel’s other marginalised groups – Jewish immigrants from Arab countries and from Ethiopia, or ‘Mizrachim‘. How the old residents have reacted was captured quite well in a profile by Ben Hartman on Sophie Menashe, a Mizrachi Jew who found herself to be the last Jew in a building now inhabited by African migrants:

Jpost | African influx to TA worries elderly Jewish holdout

Despite the descriptions of a gilded past, these neighborhoods were never upscale and had a persistent reputation for being crime-infested. However, the influx of Africans has added racial conflict to the already troubled social dynamic and has left many veteran residents feeling foreign and outnumbered. …

The apartment was once a source of pride for Menashe. …

Over the years, her neighbors grew older and died or moved out, and more and more foreigners moved in; first foreign workers, mainly from West Africa and East Asia, and over the past five or six years, East African migrants and asylum- seekers.

The sentiments that Menashe expressed toward the African migrants left little room for nuance: They carry AIDS and other diseases, are violent drunks and might be part of a plot hatched by the Jewish state’s enemies to flood Israel with African Muslims, creating a demographic threat to bring down the country from within.

Although such views would offend a wide swath of polite Israeli society, they come from a place of fear and frustration, and from long days spent cooped up in her apartment, afraid to step out into a world that has shifted beneath her feet – where Menashe now feels like a stranger.

These tensions have recently started coming to a head, and the government is finally reacting as a result – building a fence along the border to Egypt and building a massive detention centre to house the asylum seekers. In many ways, it seems as though they are taking a leaf out of Australia’s book.

Whatever your views on mandatory detention, one particular leaf that Israel has now taken is unambiguously disgusting, hateful and unjustifiable. That “leaf” is the 2005 Cronulla riots, which in many ways were mirrored by yesterday’s events in Tel Aviv.

This car with an African driver was attacked by the mob. Photo: Ha’aretz

I began the post with Ilan Lior’s eyewitness report of the incident and another, by Hagai Matar, can be read here. The worst part is undoubtedly the fact that the crowd was fuelled mostly by Members of the Knesset.

Hatikvah was a riot

Let’s be clear though, while some of these were government MKs, the protest was against the government’s policy. The protesters and the speakers were complaining that the government has not been harsh enough on the refugees. What the parliamentarians said, however, was disgraceful. Lior quotes Michael Ben-Ari, a Kahannist, saying, “there are rapists and harassers here. The time for talk is over.”

Wore still was the quote from Likkud MK Miri Regev, which I feel the need to emphasise in bold:

“The Sudanese are a cancer in our body. All the left-wingers that filed petitions in the Supreme court should be embarrassed – they stopped the expulsion.”

As a few have pointed out, this is precisely the kind of abhorrent, racist rhetoric that Iranian leaders use to refer to Israel and Jews, rightly drawing condemnation from most of the world.

Even worse, it is the kind of language that Sudanese President Omar Bashir uses when he’s busy inciting genocide against the black Africans in his Arab-ruled country. This is precisely what these people fled in the first instance, hoping for a haven in Israel, yet they are met with the same revulsion. It’s sickening.

Even this was not quite the evening’s the low point.

Ben-Ari, Regev and Major Karnage favourite Danny Danon  managed to rile the crowd enough that they transformed into a mob and began attacking the journalists mentioned above for being “traitors” and allegedly “throwing rocks at checkpoints” (which, needless to say, both of them deny ever doing).

The mob started chanting “Sudanese to Sudan!” and making their way towards the largely African neighbourhoods. What ensued was beyond harrowing. The mob went around South Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African-owned businesses, looting African-run shops and attacking passers-by who happened to be black.

I cannot think of any epithets that even approach how repulsive this is. Jews Sans Frontiers, a group with whom I do not often agree, compared it — not unjustifiably — to Kristallnacht. Watching some of the footage, this is exactly what comes to mind:

Danon’s response? Well, he figured that he’d pen an op-ed. This was published in the Jerusalem Post the morning after the riot:

Deportation Now! – JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

We are at a critical crossroads with a strategic demographic threat developing within our borders that may upend our country’s very character as a Jewish and democratic state. It is nonsensical that such large numbers of illegal infiltrators from Africa are settling permanently in our country and so little is being done to rectify this problem. This is especially highlighted when taking into account that the crime rate among the infiltrators is almost double the rate of that in the general population. The desperately necessary solution is a three-pronged program to end this dangerous phenomenon: stop, arrest and deport.

A threat to Israel’s “character as a Jewish and democratic state”.

No.

The rhetoric that Danon was supporting and that pogrom he incited is exactly the sort of persecution that Israel was created to prevent. The Zionist dream was formed when Jews had to regularly endure this kind of treatment and longed for a place where they would be away from it, where they would be able to live without fear — not a place to import the violent prejudice that plagued the countries from which they fled.

The concept of a “Jewish state” may be difficult to define, but it was definitely not meant in the same way that the Nazis spoke of a “German state”. Whatever some anti-Zionists may choose to believe, Israel was never intended to be a land “cleansed” of non-Jews. It is supposed to be a homeland for the Jewish people, that to some extent embodies Jewish values.

This riot was about as far from Jewish values as anyone can possibly stray. Where is the “light unto the nations” now? Who is “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

It is not the African migrants that are eroding Israel’s Jewish character, it is Danon, Regev and Ben-Ari. They are the cancer that is eating away at Israeli society, propagating this vile racism — not to mention trying to unravel the Constitutional basis for Israel’s democracy.

National unity

If there is some hope left to find in Hatikvah, it is in the fact that these MKs did manage to unite the Jewish people — against them. Jewish organisations around the world condemned what happened. Similar for everyone in Israel beyond a handful of extremists.

Even someone like Neil Lazarus — who has literally made his career out of defending everything Israel does — has come out strongly against Israeli racism as a result.

Moreover, the critical voices include members of the Government who are much more important than Danon:

Netanyahu condemns southern Tel Aviv violence – Israel News, Ynetnews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on Wednesday’s violent protests in southern Tel Aviv and made it clear that “there is no room for the actions and expressions witnessed (in Tel Aviv). I’m saying these things to the general population and the residents of southern Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand.”

Rivlin: ‘Lawmakers Must Guard Their Words!’ – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News.

[Knesset Speaker Reuben Rivlin said that t]he people “may demonstrate and protest and demand the government formulate a solution, but there should be no incitement – and it is forbidden to use the same tactics anti-Semites used against us [in the Exile].”

“We suffered greatly from incitement and harassment,” Rivlin said. “We must be committed to sensitivity and finding just solutions. The main problem is not the infiltrators and refugees, but the lack of a clear policy from the government of Israel.”

It is important to maintain perspective. As Michael Koplow pointed out, there were only about 1,000 people who attended the rally, and fewer still who actually rioted.

Also, while I did use the word “pogrom”, this is not like the state-sanctioned pogroms that the Jews of Eastern Europe were subjected to. Happily, no one was killed or seriously injured on the night – thanks in no small part to the heroic actions of the Israeli police. Israeli society has overwhelmingly condemned what went on and it has been made clear by the Prime Minister and the President that this kind of thing has no place in Israel.

In that spirit, I strongly believe that the Members of Knesset who were involved in the affair should be forced to resign. What they said and did is absolutely unacceptable and their parties should not countenance that behaviour.

Also, I will be donating money to the African Refugee Development Centre in Tel Aviv, I suggest that you do the same.

I will leave you with some words from Adam Ibrahim, a leader of Israel’s African migrant community:

An African migrant’s plea for a few basic rights – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

If you don’t want us here, don’t turn your rage at us, because we have no choice. I have nowhere to go. I just want to live in safety. I agree to be deported to any African country, other than Sudan. I just want to live with dignity, without people talking about the color of my skin, and I want to stop feeling hostility on the streets.

It is important for me to say that we are not a burden on society. We work for less than minimum wage in jobs that Israelis wouldn’t want to do themselves anyway. We pay rent, and make do with organizations that we established ourselves. It is hard for me to hear Eli Yishai’s statements in the media. Their impact on Israelis is tremendous, since in Israel everyone listens to the news.

The state is spreading negative propaganda against us – they say it is unsafe here because of us. I feel that the Jews are doing to us the exact same thing the Germans did to them. Don’t talk nonsense – we are in the 21st century. Don’t talk about skin color, don’t talk about slaves and don’t say that I stink. We want to see a real democracy – not only words.

I know that I will never have equal rights here. I just want to receive the few rights that I do deserve as a refugee.

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Your depressing Israel reading for the weekend

Just when things were starting to get more happy around here, these came up.

Numero uno: an article by MK favourite Diaa Hadid on the issue of detaining Palestinian children that has been getting a lot of exposure over the last couple of months. As usual, Hadid presents one of the most balanced perspectives out there and her reporting is appropriately damning of all sides.

There is, for instance, disgraceful treatment of children by the IDF:

Israel policy of detaining kids questioned – The Denver Post.

BEIT UMAR, West Bank—When Mahmoud al-Alami was 9 years old, an Israeli soldier caught him throwing rocks, took him out of his uncle’s arms, slung him over his shoulders and carried him away.

Mahmoud, now 10, says he was subsequently blindfolded and shackled, slapped and ordered to confess to throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers and identify other children doing the same.

But then, there is the disgraceful use of violence in protests that Palestinians and their sympathisers try to spin as “peaceful”:

Israel’s military points out that rocks Palestinian youths throw can be dangerous and even deadly. In September, an Israeli settler and his year-old son were killed in a car cash after stones were thrown at their vehicle on a highway that crosses the West Bank.

“It doesn’t matter if it was thrown by a 12-year-old or a 20-year-old if it killed somebody,” said an officer in Israel’s military justice system, speaking on condition of anonymity under briefing regulations. “We still have to take minors to trial. It’s still a serious offense for us.”

Then, of course, we have the disgraceful inculcation of a violent mindset into Palestinian children, which creates this whole cycle in the first place:

Mahmoud denies he was throwing stones at soldiers when he was detained for several hours in February last year. He says he was hurling rocks at friends pretending to be Israeli soldiers—a game the children call “Arabs and Jews”—near a military watchtower in his home village of Beit Umar. Nearby soldiers thought he was targeting them, he said.
“It was just a game,” the fifth-grader said.

And, as usual, we finish by being reassured that nothing will change:

The arrests warp relations in tightknit villages too because children are bullied to confess against their neighbors. Parents fight over whose child squealed on whom, said Fatima Awad, 50, whose son Mohammed was imprisoned for six weeks at age 14 for throwing rocks.

Mohammed, who is now 15, said his mother doesn’t let him attend demonstrations anymore.

“All of us throw stones, it is not one or two children,” Mohammed said. “If they take a few kids, will it stop? No. There will be others.”

*sigh*

Meanwhile, Israeli journalist Dimi Reider has written a piece on Israeli democracy for the New York Review of Books. Reider’s piece does not exactly give a balanced perspective, but nevertheless makes some frightening observations. I feel that I have to point out both what is good and bad about Reider’s piece, so bear with me Read the rest of this entry »

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The Nuba mountains and more proof that we don’t care about black people

New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof has apparently based himself on the border of Sudan and the new state of South Sudan as the two states seem to be moving closer to war. This is nothing new of course, South Sudan was formed because of the near 30-year civil war being fought in Sudan, only now it will be a “real” war since South Sudan is an official state these days.

Kristof’s reporting thus far reveals that little has changed in Sudan over the past half-century or so. The nostalgia is far from heartwarming. Over this period, the Arab regime in Khartoum has been systematically ridding the land of its black African residents in order to gain control of fertile farmland and also vital oil-rich regions. They began with the South, whose residents follow mostly Christianity or various African pagan religions, then they moved to the mostly Muslim region of Darfur and they are apparently now using the same policy in the Nuba mountains.

In Sudan, Seeing Echoes of Darfur | New York Times.

Bombings, ground attacks and sexual violence — part of Sudan’s scorched-earth counterinsurgency strategy — have driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in South Kordofan, the Sudanese state where the Nuba Mountains are located. In some ways, the brutality here feels like an echo of what Sudan did in Darfur, only now it is Nubans who are targets.

“They said that they want to finish off the black people; they said they want to kill them all,” recalled Elizabeth Kafi, a 22-year-old Nuban who said she was kidnapped in December by Sudanese uniformed soldiers. She and others say that the mostly Arab Sudanese soldiers scorn Nubans partly for their darker skin, partly because some are Christian, but mostly because many Nubans back an armed uprising against decades of Sudanese misrule. In 23 days of captivity, she said she saw the soldiers use guns to execute several Nuban men, including her grandfather and brother-in-law. She described watching soldiers gang rape and then cut the throat of a young Nuban woman, and also stab to death the woman’s 3-year-old son.

What is even worse is what happens to those who flee. If they don’t get absorbed into the UNHCR hell-holes surrounding Sudan, they walk north, trying to reach a safe haven in Israel. On the way, they have to go through the Sinai, where many are kidnapped and ransomed by the local Bedouins and they are quite literally hunted by the Egyptian army, who shoot African refugees on sight.

Diaa Hadid has written a very confronting investigation into what these people face during their journeys.

Plainview Daily Herald > AP Headlines.

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The young man from Sudan holds his arms close to his sides, as if still at the mercy of smugglers who he says poured hot melted plastic over his back, whipped him with wires and beat him with sticks as he lay face down and naked.

He pulls up his shirt to reveal scars that crisscross his arms, back and stomach.

Mutasim Qamrawi is among a growing number of African migrants reporting they were tortured in Egypt’s Sinai desert by smugglers despite promises to sneak them into Israel, where they hoped to find freedom and a decent job. The smugglers then extorted the migrants’ families for more money.

“You sit in your own grave until you can get the money. That is the only way to leave – or death,” said Qamrawi, 22, who was held in captivity for four months.

Human rights advocates say the situation is worsening, because smugglers are using harsher torture methods and demanding more money – as much as $40,000.

What is happening in Sudan is no Holocaust, it is not nearly as industrialised or systematic as the Nazi genocide. The Nazis aimed to eradicate the Jews from the planet, whereas the Sudanese Arabs are more showing callous indifference to a group of people of a different race who live on land that they want for themselves. That said, there are few arguments to make that eradicating the black Africans living on valuable land in Sudan does not amount to genocide. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was indicted for genocide by the ICC in 2009 and has been flaunting this indictment ever since.

Of course, none of this raises an eyebrow because, as I have written before, the world does not care about black Africans. They fall at the bottom end of the spectrum in terms of value of human life. If Jews are really serious about “never again”, this is not a situation that we can ignore in good conscience. Don’t let the world stand by as the Sudanese genocide continues.

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Them’s Fightin’ Words

The so-called “Malaysia solution” is dead in the water, taking with it whatever hope Labor had of being reelected in the next decade. With poll ratings at historic lows and still dropping, it would take something drastic to change the fortunes of Gillard and Co.

So what if that’s not so crazy? Maybe something drastic is exactly what is needed. Think about it this way – the biggest tragedy of the High Court stopping us from sending asylum seekers over to Malaysia because apparently Malaysia doesn’t respect “human rights” enough for some people is that we have lost face with Malaysia. It’s not a good look for Australia, the superpower of the Asia/Pacific region, to have a crummy little country like Malaysia looking all indignant and complaining to everyone that we don’t keep our promises.

After all, we had an agreement, right? 800 Iranians and Afghanis for 4,000 Burmese. Fair trade. Now we have to take the Burmese and we still have all these damn Afghanis sitting around with nowhere to ship them off to.

We want these guys

What would not only give the Gillard government the popularity bump that it needs, but also help our great nation look like we’re the shit once more? Put that way, the answer seems glaringly obvious:

We need to invade Malaysia!

Seriously, what could possibly go wrong? Malaysia doesn’t have any money! There’s no way they could possibly compete with all of those pricey American fighter jets that we have gathering dust in the outback somewhere. And special forces? Australia has the best in the world baby, those Malaysians got nothin’. It’d be over in a day, then we can send as many of these goddamn terrorists asylum seekers there as we wanted. What would the Malaysians do about it? Cry to mama?

We don't want these guys

More to the point, everyone around would know that you don’t fuck with the Aussies. And history has shown time and time again that nothing boosts the old approval ratings of politicians than a good war, especially if they can declare victory! It makes for a great photo-op and, as we all know, photo-ops win elections.

All this can be ours

I for one am looking forward to being able to use the newly-enslaved people of Malaysia for simple tasks that I can’t be bothered doing at the moment. I’m also looking forward to adding a few new exotic holiday destinations to Australia’s repertoire – it’d be great for our tourism industry. Plus, there are heaps of natural resources just sitting there for the taking.

Finally, Australia doesn’t really have any great victories under its belt. Our greatest achievement was getting our ass handed to us by Turkey. We need a better excuse to go out and get smashed – one that doesn’t require us to still be lucid enough at dawn to stand and watch some dudes walking past. We can turn ANZAC day into the day of mourning that it deserves to be and rather celebrate our nation’s military prowess on Malaysia Victory Day, hopefully somewhere in the July-October public holiday dry season.

So Gillard, Smith, Rudd, quit sitting there with your head in your hands (or your hospital pillow) and start drafting that declaration of war. Australians need you. The world needs you.

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Violence in Syria over?

Maybe, maybe not. See HERE for more information.

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