Jewish Journal

Tel Aviv as a “City of Refuge”?

by Jeremy Elster

March 6, 2014 | 5:30 am

On February 20th, a panel comprised of individuals with diverse viewpoints spoke on how to create political solutions to the challenges facing African Asylum Seekers in Israel. On the panel sat Orit Marom, Public Awareness and Advocacy Program Director of ASSAF, Maariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini, and Johny Gordon, a representative of the asylum seekers. The panel was moderated by Rabbi Chananel Rosen, co-director of Yakar.

Israel currently refuses to recognize the Africans as asylum seekers or process individual applications to determine if they are refugees, as it is required to do so under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. Instead, they built an 'open air detention facility' named Holot in the Negev to detain the asylum seekers indefinitely. Starting last month individuals were given summons to begin reporting to the facility.

In this report, we focus on the comments of Ben-Dror Yemini, a self-styled "leftist" who led the trend to call the asylum seekers "infiltrators" and "illegal aliens". While refusing to accept the pervasive presence of racism in Israeli society towards the asylum seekers, even in his own work, he also called Eritrean remittances to family members providing support to terrorism.

So what solutions does Ben-Dror Yemini offer? And what do you think can be done with the asylum seeker population?

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Jeremy Elster is a Southern Californian native and New Israel Fund/SHATIL Social Justice Fellow working as the International Communications Coordinator for Israel Social TV...

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