The battle against the Israeli government’s plan to forcibly deport 38,000 Africans seeking asylum took a turn for the better last week. The High Court issued a temporary order to the government to cease deportations until it submits a response to a petition to the court against the expulsion. The government has until March 26 to respond; however, given the optics of expelling refugees as the nation celebrates the Passover festival of freedom, some observers expect the controversy to be held over until after the holiday.
Meanwhile, on Friday, hundreds of Israeli school children marched with the children of asylum seekers in Tel Aviv to protest the deportations. With an emergency grant from the New Israel Fund covering the costs of the march, these school children from more than ten schools spoke directly about their opposition to a policy of expelling people with no safe place to go.
“We came in the name of the principle that the State of Israel is composed of refugees who had the doors slammed on them. We can’t do the same thing to people from other terrible places,” said one of the school girls to Israeli news-site Ynet.
“I am a son of a Filipino immigrant and I was born in Israel. A few years ago we were supposed to be deported and I remember how scary and hard it was. I have friends who are 18 who would have wanted to be drafted into the army. Think how they feel about the deportation. We invite you to our school to come and see how much we are like them,” said a student at a south Tel Aviv school that teaches many of the refugee children. Some years ago, with the help of the New Israel Fund, advocacy groups secured the right to stay in Israel for many children who were born there to legal migrant workers.
Some of Israel’s nationalists, however, remain dead-set on deportation. Over the weekend, activists from the extreme-right organization Im Tirtzu along with some south Tel Aviv residents who support deportation staged a demonstration outside the home of Chief Justice Esther Hayut, to protest the court’s temporary injunction. Activists from Power to the Community and South Tel Aviv Against Deportation, NIF grantees which represent both people seeking refuge and veteran residents of Tel Aviv, quickly organized a larger counter-demonstration. Some of the right-wing demonstrators physically attacked the Power to the Community, including hitting its director, Shula Keshet, while the police stood by.
NIF and its grantees are seeking remedies for the violent behavior of the right-wing activists.
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir