African Women Voices
African migrants in Tel Aviv have just stopped their strike in these days, after they have been on the streets to ask for their refugee status to be granted. Obviously media went nuts about this whole issue and many continued to blame Israel for its inhumanity in treating African migrants (or illegal immigrants, as they call it in such an old-fashioned way).
One voice stood to defend the country that suffered persecution literally on its own skin, that’s Sari Schwartz, “a senior writer for a leading global women’s health organization” says the Jerusalem Post. In a piece named “Israel, migration and international development: The inextricable link” Ms Schwartz defends Israel commitment in Africa to improve people’s lives so that they would feel less the need to migrate. She writes:
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of political opinion, one thing is certain: before making allegations about Israel’s inhumanity, it is important to recognize that the strong history between Israel and Africa neither starts nor ends with the issue of migrants. Israel’s intrinsic commitment to upholding human rights and longstanding history of contributing to foreign aid across Africa cannot be ignored. Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation in the Foreign Ministry, and Israeli based nonprofit groups alike are just some of the ongoing examples of that steadfast commitment.
The piece goes on praising the work of Israel in Africa and pointing out that even the US has issues with migration flows, and I dare to add Europe to the list of troubled destinations. How can anyone disagree with this?
However, dear Ms Schwartz, the problem with Israel is a similar one to Italy (though distantly). The real issue comes from sentences like:
If we don’t stop their (African migrants) entry, the problem that currently stands at 60 000 could grow to 600 000, and that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state. This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity.
Let me spell it out, the problem comes when a political figure – in this case the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu – associates migration with identity threats to a nation. We can break this down even further: if you say that another culture is threatening the identity of your culture, you are not speaking against migration and international development, you are speaking against a multicultural scenario. You are envisioning a one-culture or one-religion state. Does that ring a bell?
Why does this matter? Because of its effect on Israeli. People willingly or unwillingly pick up what politicians say (see the war in Iraq and how many people agreed to it first and then changed their minds). It’s like educating children, if you teach them to be afraid all the time, they’ll grow up defending themselves from unnecessary events or people. If you teach them to be open to the world but yet think through about their decisions, they will grow up accepting diversity.
Now, what kind of children is Israel raising?