Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Israel and the Sudanese Refugees

The story is that Israel has been refusing Sudanese refugees crossing into Israel from Egypt, and in some cases sending them back. This story has legs, because the association is that Israel has Jews who were turned back as refugees when fleeing from the Holocaust, and therefore Israel shouldn't be doing the same thing to others.

My reaction

The first thing I want to say is that I reject the Israeli government's actions on this issue. They are, in my opinion, disgraceful.

Am I ashamed of being an Israeli or a Jew? No. The current Israeli government maintains an approval rating of less than 10%. In recent periods, it has dropped below 2%. The government doesn't represent the people. It long ago stopped doing what we want or answering to our requests.

So I expect nothing better from them.

Israel's reaction

The Israeli population continues to use legal means to bring the politicians to answer for their misguided decisions, with little hope of success. And we pray that the country won't disappear in the meantime.

While the government is doing it's thing, thousands of Israelis are protesting the decision, and many thousands more are providing food, medical assistance, legal assistance, and all sorts of other help to the refugees currently in Israel. Israelis are also providing medical and relief efforts in Sudan itself, when the government of Sudan permits.

The story you're not hearing

A few things about this sad story are being overlooked by the media, and bear pointing out:

It is Egypt that took in the refugees, not Israel. Egypt so badly treats these refugees, that they are trying to go on to Israel. Furthermore, Israel is not trying to return these refugees to Sudan, but to Egypt. Furthermore, Israel has already accepted over 3,000 Sudanese refugees.

While Egypt mistreats the refugees, and even murders them outright, all the media attention is focused on Israel's actions. Which seems a little odd. Surely Egypt should be shouldering some of this animosity. So reports Meryl at Yourish, one of the few bloggers tackling this topic (here's another).

On the other hand, the excuse that Israel is merely sending the refugees back to Egypt, who then bears responsibility for what happens next, is no more valid than the U.S. sending Jews back to France in WWII and then claiming that France is responsible for what happened next. According to a quote in Yourish's post, Israel is cognizant of this.

Israel is also struggling to deal with many other problems, including daily rocket attacks and terrorist threats, threats from numerous sources, and a struggling economy.

On the other hand, Israel just received a large military aid package from the U.S., which should be useful for something.

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