By: Arik Bender
Fitting that this proposal was circulated in the run-up to Passover by an “observant” MK. It is becoming increasingly clear that for the fundamentalist strain of Jewish Orthodoxy and its secular nationalist allies, the only problem with our history of persecution is that Jews were the victims.
How can this extreme moral exceptionalism be reconciled with the belief of many, if not most, Jews worldwide that our values compliment a cosmopolitan and humanistic world-view? It cannot. A Jewish schism is just a matter of time.
*Work camp, Katzele’s version
The establishment of an “infiltrators’ city” next to the border with Egypt that would be built by illegal residents from Africa, which would be the only place they could live; hiring these refugees and immigrants to do state sponsored labor such as building the new border fence and paving roads for the benefit of the residents of southern Israel — these are just some of the proposals raised by MK Yaakov (Katzele) Katz of the National Union and chairman for the Knesset committee to examine the problems of the foreign workers, to battle the phenomenon of the infiltration of tens of thousands of refugees and African work immigrants into Israel.
In a letter filled with harsh expressions that was circulated by Katz on the web, he explains: “It could well be that these jobs will be hard on the infiltrators and this will cause them to advise their relatives not to follow them to Israel. Tens of thousands of immigrants, the majority from Eritrea, have infiltrated Israel and another million are on the way,” Katz wrote. “In 100 years of labor Israel built a Jewish state here, and in ten years, the infiltrators could cause this all to go down the drain.”
Katz begins his letter with a call to the residents of Tel Aviv to “wake up,” since, by his predictions, within six to seven years there will be about 100,000 illegal infiltrators in the city. He also explains who is responsible for the phenomenon: “The rulers of Sudan and Eritrea, together with the Egyptians, are gradually taking over the State of Israel (…) the infiltrators move into the Hatikva neighborhood, they deluge southern Tel Aviv and every day they advance a few dozen meters closer to Dizengoff, on their way to Akirov and Ramat Aviv.”
“There is no avoiding the need for the prime minister to declare a state of emergency,” Katzele said, and even called to order IDF soldiers to shoot any infiltrator trying to enter Israel. He also proposes to fine anyone who employs infiltrators from Africa illegally hundreds of thousands of shekels.
Organizations that assist refugees and asylum seekers were shocked by MK Katz’s proposals. Activist Elisheva Milikovsky said that they “express moral obtuseness and cruelty toward asylum seekers who came to Israel because of the danger posed to them in their own countries. We are astounded that on the eve of Passover of all times, Katzele does not remember the biblical injunction ‘because you were strangers in the land of Egypt,’ which expresses our obligation to treat all strangers among us with respect.”
Attorney Oded Feller from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said: “This surreal letter by MK Katz only proves what human rights organizations have been screaming for months: ever since Katz was appointed chairman of the committee for foreign workers, the committee’s discussions have deteriorated to an unprecedented low and have become a display of racist hatred and inconceivable cruelty, led by him. In Tel Aviv, as in all of the State of Israel,” Feller added, “there are Jewish refugees who fled for the lives from Europe, and for them, asking for asylum is a tangible and painful memory.”