Jewish Journal


January 4, 2013

Stop illegal migrants, but also the politicians who demonize them to get more votes



African refugees living in a children's playground in Tel Aviv, June 2012. (Reuters)

Illegal migration is once again becoming a political football. Half a year or so ago, I wrote an article explaining why it's okay for Israel to do what's necessary in order to stop infiltration of African migrants (via Egypt and the Sinai border):

It is heartbreaking, even shocking, to see Israelis making racist comments and taking actions that smack of hate. It is also unsurprising. Israel is a small country, obsessed with the need to guard its Jewish majority. It is also too small to absorb so many poor illegal migrants.

For the last two weeks, Israelis have been debating the many complications of this problem. Questions of morality are naturally raised, coupled with considerations of the unique history of their country with its roots in immigration and persecution of the Jews. These issues have no easy solutions, and can perhaps be summed up in one question: Can a very small country have a very big heart?

The answer, sadly, is no. Not always, anyway.

But this week, in my IHT-NYT column, I demonstrate my distaste of the tendency of political parties to make illegal migration the scapegoat for their electoral troubles:

Statistically, illegal immigrants account for far fewer rapes than Israel’s legal residents. Yet statistics don’t mean much in the lead-up to election day or in areas where immigrants are heavily concentrated. There, those figures don’t do much for the locals, who feel scared in their own neighborhoods, or the immigrants, who often live in inadequate conditions and face discrimination from residents, or the local authorities, who have to manage a problem their superiors seem uninterested in solving.

Read it in full here.

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