The new law, which subjects any African refugee who attempts to enter the state of Israel to three years (or longer) in prison without trial or due process, is an amendment to the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law that defines an infiltrator as anyone who:
“has entered Israel knowingly and unlawfully and who at any time between the 16th Kislev, 3708 (29th November, 1947) and his entry was –
(1) a national or citizen of the Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Saudi-Arabia, Trans-Jordan, Iraq or the Yemen ; or
(2) a resident or visitor in one of those countries or in any part of Palestine outside Israel ; or
(3) a Palestinian citizen or a Palestinian resident without nationality or citizenship or whose nationality or citizenship was doubtful and who, during the said period, left his ordinary place of residence in an area which has become a part of Israel for a place outside Israel.”
In other words, the 1954 law targeted Palestinian refugees, who were evicted from their homes during the 1947-1948 nakba and attempted to return to their lands in the new state of Israel. These are refugees that Israel created and, in violation of international law and numerous UN resolutions, Israel continues to leave these people without a homeland.
But in both Israeli history and the contemporary media, the Palestinian refugees are not refugees—they are “terrorists” or “infiltrators,” intent on destroying the “Jewish and democratic” state. While a very small number of Palestinian refugees were, indeed, militants, the vast majority were people whose sole “crime” was acting upon their desire to return to their lost homes.
Today, the language the state of Israel and the local media use to describe African refugees is equally misleading. For the most part, they are not called “refugees” or “asylum seekers”—even though Israel tacitly acknowledges their status by not deporting them. They are called “infiltrators” who pose a “threat” to the state. Additionally, they are falsely labeled by the state and media as work migrants.
At the end of the day, the justification for both the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law as well was the new amendment is one and the same – the maintenance of the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Thus, in the name of the Jewish majority, the state of Israel deprives refugees, whether Palestinian or African, of their most basic human rights.
Published originally in AIC and Mondoweiss.