An analyst says the political policy of Israel is racist toward African Jewish immigrants because it tries to be in tune with the feeling of its society.
In the background of this, Israel has been rounding up and deporting Jewish refugees of African descent since June 2012 and are now building in the Negev desert one of the world’s largest refugee detention camps. The Israelis have said that some 60,000 people have come from the Sudan region in the past few years to immigrate into Israel and it’s just too many.
Press TV in its Africa Today program has interviewed Mr. Femi Okutubo, Editor in Chief of the Trumpet Newspaper in London about this issue. Joining her is from the Pan African Reparations Coalition in Europe, and Richard Millett, journalist, both from London. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.
I know you’ve not been to Israel before, but you’re an African and you follow politics on the continent and all this is happening at a time when Israel is looking to get much closer to some African leaders like Raila Odinga of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda have visited and politicians from South Sudan all have visited it in the last year or so. Does this worry you?
It does worry one and I think part of the problem, which I see here is Israel not wanting to solve or live up to what I would call its natural responsibility.
What natural responsibility?
I will elaborate on that. Obviously Israel like any other nation is governed by a number of international conventions and so on.
Part of the problem that we’re seeing here is a situation where people have come in to seek refugee status and because of the emotions that are happening from the people (Israeli society), for political reasons, they are a bit reluctant and they are dancing to the tune of these emotions.
In the process of doing that they are actually leaving people in limbo because in reality there are people for example from Eritrea and people from other countries where we know there have been situations down there.
Based on international conventions what should normally happen is that if they have come to seek refugee status, there is no two ways about it. But rather than do that, even though they have been instances where they give them a three-month temporary visa, but because of the emotions that are happening within society these people are not being documented properly, they are not being taken care of.
They can’t send them back to where they’ve come from...
Well, they want to. Of course we saw the beginnings of a major deportation, a round up, from June this year and it’s continuing to this point. In fact, they’re building a massive, one of the world’s biggest refugee detention centers in the Negev desert - that’s happing as we speak.
But then they say well look, what’s happened in the last few years, 60,000 people have come from South Sudan and Eritrea and a lot of Israelis are saying, we want to help, but it’s just too much.
You know, we hear that. But again, look at the way it‘s been going on in terms of how people are being treated; look at the comments that are being passed from inside Israel... You can liken it to the situation you have now in European countries where people are forgetting about the contributions made by these Africans to the development of those countries.
Don’t forget that Israel is a nation that was built on refugees anyway, so to sort of all of a sudden turn their back on them just for political reasons I think is really unfortunate.
It’s one thing for we Africans to complain about the treatment Ethiopians, Eritreans, South Sudanese and Nigerians - there are a lot of Nigerians in Egypt now - are getting in Tel Aviv and elsewhere.
But actually they’re choosing Israel because at least it’s better than what they would face if they went to Egypt so what are we complaining for? And Egypt is Africa.
What I seem to be hearing is there is almost like saying that two wrongs make a right, which obviously cannot be the case.
What we are saying is that every human being has certain rights, you know, the rights to human dignity to be treated fairly, to be given a fair hearing, to be able to dwell within certain dwellings.
What we are saying is that wherever they are whether it is Egypt whether it is Israel we are saying that immigrants need to be treated properly; they need to be treated within the confines of international law that guides situations of these sorts.
You’ve not been to Israel yet, you do want to go. Has this put you off or does it make you even more curious?
It’s definitely made me more curious and I’ll probably want to go there pretty soon to get a first hand experience of what’s actually going on.
As an African are your attitudes hardening or not?
Definitely. I am proudly African, I believe that Africans are one of the very best in terms of people you can find in the world and we need to be treated with a lot more respect and a lot more dignity.
It’s quite unfortunate as well that obviously one has to look at the root causes of this. Some of these migration problems have been caused by problems back in Africa itself. So whether that’s in terms of war, whether that’s in terms of famine and starvation or simple political corruption and so on, you know, those are issues that need to be address as well, but I’m sure that’s a topic for another day.