It’s been one month since the Israeli government made public its plans to use the threat of imprisonment to force African asylum seekers to “self deport” to Rwanda, where we have reason to believe that they might once again face similar terrors to those they came to Israel to escape.
The response in Israel has been inspiring. It reminds me of the way Americans responded when President Donald Trump first tried to implement his Muslim Ban. We protested. We showed up at airports. We donated to the ACLU.
In Israel too we’re seeing a flurry of smart, strategic grassroots activity aimed at stopping the deportation. Some are organizing grassroots pressure against the deportations. Others are getting “unusual suspects” — be it residents of south Tel Aviv, or pilots, or Holocaust survivors to speak out. And then there are those who are providing legal and other support to the refugee population itself – we cannot underestimate the need this community has for information about their options and for protection from those who are trying to take advantage of their misery.
As this opposition to the deportation policy has grown, organizers began to conceive of the potential impact of a large demonstration that would show the strength of the push back. That event is now set for February 24th in Tel Aviv.
NIF’s role is to be an engine of this type of activity. I am proud of the way our community is showing up right now – including the sheer number of people from around the world who have stepped in with financial support for NIF’s Emergency Grant Program.
This global support is making itself felt in other ways too. One example is this letter that the New York Times wrote about by 900 Jewish clergy that we were able to mobilize in partnership with HIAS, T’ruah, and Right Now.
The moral imperative behind our work is clear. Sending people who came to Israel seeking refuge back to danger is wrong. Our role, as principled people who care about the content of Israel’s character, is also clear: to stand by those Israelis who share our values in this fight. To do otherwise would be unthinkable.