Immigration, Aid, and the Israelization of America


African migrants demonstrate against the Israeli government’s policy to forcibly deport African refugees and asylum seekers from Israel to Uganda and Rwanda, outside the ­Rwandan Embassy in the Israeli city of Herzliya, Jan. 22, 2018.(JACK GUEZ/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March/April 2018, pp. 18, 38
Special Report
By Delinda C. Hanley

BACK IN 2002, longtime reader Dr. Clyde Farris wrote a letter to the Washington Report in which he said, “I am greatly disturbed by what I can only refer to as the ‘Israelization’ of American foreign policy. By that I mean our foreign policy resounds with a tone of belligerence and seems to lack regard for world opinion. It is the attitude of ‘we are totally good and they are totally evil.’ It is the attitude that the life of one of us is more important than the lives of hundreds of them.”
Both Americans and Israelis should be troubled by that kind of worldview, fueled today by both President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Both leaders advocate a brutality that seems born of racism, with little concern for the  hunger, homelessness, health and even death of those they consider adversaries. “I find this deterioration of our moral code truly alarming and I am concerned that someday our behavior will come back to haunt us. Whoever is advising our president in these matters is serving our country poorly,” Farris concluded.
Americans are constantly reminded that Israel and the U.S. share core values. Sure enough, America’s all-powerful defense industry and disregard for human rights or the rule of law abroad, and policing issues like surveillance and entrapment at home, are beginning to resemble Israel’s. Both countries are facing criticism for immigration and humanitarian aid failures.
Netanyahu calls asylum seekers from East Africa who crossed into Israel from Egypt on foot, before the construction of Israel’s border fence, “illegal labor infiltrators.” The Israeli government describes asylum seekers as economic migrants and not refugees, calling them dangerous. Many of them perform the manual labor Israel used to depend on Palestinians to do. There are currently about 35,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel, and another 5,000 children of asylum seekers. Netanyahu is planning to forcibly deport them to Rwanda and Uganda.
Reports from Sudanese and Eritreans asylum seekers, already deported to Africa from Israel, are harrowing. They’ve been robbed, sold into human trafficking and even killed, according to researchers quoted in Haaretz. A grassroots effort, including Holocaust survivors, airline pilots, writers and rabbis, is fighting the deportations. El Al pilot Yoel Piterbarg, wrote, “Refugees who are already living among us cannot be thrown away like stray dogs back to their countries, where suffering, rape of women and girls, and agonizing death awaits them—places like South Sudan and other African countries. Let the refugees remain here and be taken care of immediately, as human beings. Just like the Jews were refugees once, wanting to be cared for and not thrown out.”
Like Netanyahu, President Trump demonizes immigrants, especially from “s—hole countries,” and calls for a Muslim travel ban. Like some Israelis, many Americans are protesting the brutality of deporting immigrants, splitting up families, and evicting children who have grown up here. Trump has doubled down on the deportation of noncriminal illegal immigrants, and sees none of the economic contributions of immigrants. Like the Israeli prime minister, he forgets that his country was made prosperous by those who came from afar.
In President Trump’s first State of the Union address, he emphasized fear of gangs, criminal immigrants and foreign threats. He implied that America has put immigrants ahead of its own citizens, the “forgotten men and women” of America. Trump invited the parents of two African-American girls murdered by MS-13 gang members to his Jan. 30 address. As the parents wept, he promised to put MS-13 gang members in prison or on deportation flights. He also condemned “chain migration,” which he claimed allows immigrants to bring “virtually unlimited” numbers of family members to the U.S. Trump went on to blame the Diversity Immigrant Visa, also known as the green card lottery, for terrorist attacks in the U.S. (During Trump’s campaign he called for a border wall like Netanyahu’s, which Mexico would pay for. Instead, U.S. taxpayers will once again foot the bill, just like they did for Israel.)
Trump didn’t talk about the immigrants who came to America, many of them fearing for their safety, who have been sent back to their home countries, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, to violent deaths. He didn’t mention that, days earlier, immigration officials deported Amer Othman Adi, 57, a Palestinian businessman who had been living in the U.S. for nearly 40 years. After a routine ICE meeting, Adi was put on a plane to Amman.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who fought Adi’s deportation, said, “Amer was a pillar of the [Youngstown] community and brought commerce to a downtown that craved investment…In a highly irregular rebuke of congressional authority by ICE, Amer Othman was ripped from his four daughters, his wife, and the country that he has called home for over 30 years…I hope President Trump comes to realize that when his words become public policy in places like Youngstown, families like Amer’s are ripped apart,” Ryan said. “I’m sad that America, and the American presidency, has become a place where politics outweighs doing what is right.”
“A year of Trump’s ‘America first’ agenda has radically changed the U.S. role in the world,” Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum wrote in a front-page article published in the  Jan. 22 Washington Post. The U.S. transformation “from a global leader working with partners to try to shape the world to an inwardly focused superpower that defines its international role more narrowly” is diminishing America’s role in the world, according to diplomats interviewed in the Post article.
A Gallup poll conducted in 135 countries, released on Jan. 18, showed that international support for U.S. leadership in the world dropped from a median of nearly half of people approving, under President Barack Obama, to fewer than a third under his successor.
A letter to the editor published in the Jan. 24 Washington Post, from Albert Fairchild, a retired U.S. diplomat, stated that Trump’s “undisciplined mouth can undo in seconds years of constructive work by U.S. diplomats and development experts.”
Trump took another move from the Israeli playbook this winter by cutting U.S. aid to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which operates schools, health clinics and other community projects (see p. 12). UNRWA’s Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl said, “It is very clear that the decision by the United States was not related to our performance. This has to be part of the debate that took place around Jerusalem.”
Whenever Israel gets the urge to punish Palestinians, it cuts off electricity to Gaza, compounding the misery of Gazans already enduring Israeli restrictions on food, medicine, building supplies and freedom of movement. President Trump’s cut in aid to Palestinians will worsen already dire humanitarian conditions for refugees in Gaza and Lebanon.
The world is growing weary of global crises, including famines in South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, and conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine. Need is growing and leaders like Netanyahu and Trump who place security and the interests of a wealthy minority above everybody else are destroying our moral code. Peacemakers, legislators, voters and donors need to step up to repair what our leaders are breaking.

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