Illegal African migrants are no less a threat to Israel than Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Thursday.
Government propaganda against African migrants workers in Israel reappears in the same form over and over again: migrants are blamed for some menace threat that endangers the very foundation of Israel itself. From Knesset members to local mayors, government authorities have blamed migrants for the country's economic woes, for purported criminal activity, and for "altering the face of Israel" - claims we challenged here, here, and here.
Most recently, the Israeli government has blamed migrants for inadvertently funding Hamas. In this article published by Haaretz, a government spokesperson offers an obscure explanation of this allegation: migrants tend to use non-institutional means to send remittances home, which often involves enrolling a Palestinian intermediary. This Palestinian middleman, who takes a small share of the cash, is essentially the only "proof" supporting these inflated claims. The assumption that the Palestinians in question are working for Hamas, appears simply that - an assumption.
Such propaganda has incited violence against African migrants, a phenomena that media outlets and rights organizations documented widely this past year. Just a selection of these disturbing headlines include:
Israel's tendency to transform the most ordinary of things into an existential threat is a well-acknowledged tactic. It allows Israel to justify unfair and crude policies - including a 10,000 person dentition center, relentless threats of mass forced deportations, and asylum practices inconsistent with international law.
Israel's discussion of issues involving migrants and assylum seekers in particular is an essential one - its current refugee policy is virtually non-existant, based instead on a compilation of ad-hoc rulings. However, a comprehensive, humane resolution cannot be found in xenophobic hyperboles. Six Israeli NGOs, including The Hotline for Migrant Workers, recently boycotted a Knesset session on migrant workers, stating that:
Following the unruly incitement against asylum seekers and human rights activists by members of Knesset, we decided not to attend the session to which we were invited.
During the past sessions we learned that these meeting are nothing more than a platform to spew incitement against asylum seekers and activists by Knesset members, including those who initiated the upcoming meeting.
These organizations work to combat official narratives by promoting productive, tolerant, and factual dialogue. Such discourse is essential to addressing both the political and social issues at stake. Migrant Rights has also contributed to this conversation over the years: