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Workers Vanguard No. 1129

9 March 2018

Israel: African Migrants Face Mass Expulsion

No Deportations!

Carrying signs declaring, “No to Deportation,” “We’re All Humans” and “Refugees and Residents Refuse to be Enemies,” 20,000 Israelis and African migrants rallied in south Tel Aviv on February 24 against the first phase of the government’s plans to expel some 40,000 African asylum-seekers, including more than 5,000 children born in Israel. Under a January edict announced by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the migrants, most of whom are from Eritrea or Sudan, must agree to “voluntary departure” (i.e., expulsion) to Uganda or Rwanda. Otherwise, they face indefinite imprisonment. Already, about 3,000 are crammed in brutal conditions in Holot, a concentration camp in the Negev Desert surrounded by razor-wire fences. Notably, a group of pilots from Israel’s national carrier, El Al, have announced that they will refuse to participate in the government’s deportation scheme.

Migrants fleeing repression and war in sub-Saharan Africa began to arrive in Israel in large numbers in 2005. In December that year, Egyptian police attacked an encampment of 2,000 refugees from Sudan, including what is now South Sudan, slaughtering dozens, including children. Facing such brutal repression, as well as daily discrimination, tens of thousands of African refugees left Egypt to make the harrowing trip across the Sinai Desert—where they faced rape and torture at the hands of traffickers and a shoot-to-kill policy by Egyptian authorities—in the hopes of reaching Israel.

Once in Israel, they endure all-sided racism. Most are denied work permits, though many have managed to eke out an existence in unofficial jobs such as dishwashing and cleaning hotel bathrooms. They are subjected to beatings, stabbings and outright murders by racist mobs. Government officials vilify the Africans as “criminals” and label them “infiltrators.” In 2012, Eli Yishai, then Netanyahu’s interior minister, blatantly stated that Israel “belongs to us, to the white man.”

The following year, Israel completed the main part of a steel barrier along its 150-mile border with Egypt’s Sinai Desert, effectively putting an end to African migration to the country. For those in Israel, government policy has been, in the words of Yishai, “to make their lives miserable.” In June 2012, the Knesset (parliament) adopted an amendment to its Prevention of Infiltration Law allowing authorities to detain refugees and their children and jail them indefinitely. Enacted in 1954, the law targeted Palestinians who sought to return to their homes after the mass expulsions of 1947-48. This is but one example of how the measures directed against African refugees were prepared by decades of dispossession and repression against the Palestinian people, which is the defining feature of the Zionist state.

Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!

Many African migrants came to Israel believing they would find relief in a country that has long touted itself as a land of refuge for Jewish masses fleeing the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi terror. But the reality is that exercise of Israeli national self-determination was carved out of the living body of the Palestinian nation. To this day, Israel maintains itself through the national oppression of the Palestinian people.

For more than 50 years, Israel, backed to the hilt by U.S. imperialism, has subjected Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to life under military rule with no rights. Palestinians are imprisoned behind concrete walls, electrified fences, trenches, razor wire and military checkpoints. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, they are terrorized by hundreds of thousands of Zionist settlers who act as auxiliaries to the Israeli occupation and rob Palestinians of their land and homes. In Gaza, Palestinians endure a starvation blockade, raids and assassinations. Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens of Israel—some 20 percent of that country’s population—suffer widespread discrimination in housing, jobs, social services and virtually all aspects of life. Accorded far fewer rights than Jews under Israeli law, they live under constant threat of having even these rights stripped away.

What is posed in Israel today is a fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, including the African refugees and everyone else who has made it into the country. But this basic democratic demand raises far deeper issues in a country like Israel. The Zionist rulers rail against “infiltrators” because the influx of non-Jewish immigrants runs up against the very foundations of the “Jewish state.” Key to the maintenance of a Jewish majority in Israel is the “Law of Return,” which grants citizenship purely on the basis of Jewish ancestry at the expense of non-Jewish immigrants and the native Palestinian population.

Israel/Palestine is a case of two interpenetrated peoples laying claim to the same piece of land. Under capitalism, the exercise of national self-determination for Israeli Jews necessarily comes at the expense of the Palestinians. Racist measures like the “Law of Return” and the denial of the right of return for the millions of displaced Palestinian refugees and their descendants are at the heart of Zionist Israel. Only within the context of a socialist federation of the Near East can the conflicting national claims of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs be equitably resolved and the right of return for Palestinians be realized.

The deep-seated chauvinism against the Palestinian people is woven into the very social fabric of Israeli society. The same racist mobs that rally on Israel’s streets chanting “Death to the Arabs!” also mobilize in mob violence against African migrants and demand their expulsion. It is hardly a surprise that dark-skinned Ethiopian Jews have also been targeted by racist thugs. For decades, Israel, a supposed haven for oppressed Jews, refused entry to the Jewish population of Ethiopia. Beginning in the late 1970s, thousands of Ethiopian Jews sought to make the trek to Israel. But as Canadian journalist David Sheen pointed out, Israeli authorities refused to accept them unless they provided the government genealogical “charts to prove their Jewish lineage” (, 30 October 2015). Languishing in Sudanese refugee camps, 4,000 of these refugees died.

It was only in the 1980s and ’90s that Ethiopian Jews were brought into Israel, where they were used to fill some of the lowest-paid jobs in the country. And from the time of their arrival, Ethiopian Jews have faced rampant racism in housing, education and work. They are often forced to abandon long-held cultural practices in order to assimilate into what Israel claims to be “proper” Judaism. When they donate blood, it is regularly thrown away. In 2013, following a public exposé, the government admitted that it had been deceptively injecting Ethiopian women with Depo-Provera—a potent and long-lasting contraceptive—causing a dramatic fall in the community’s birth rate. 

Accounting for less than 2 percent of Israel’s population, Jewish youth of Ethiopian descent make up more than 30 percent of those held in juvenile detention. Some 40 percent of Ethiopian Jews who serve in the military have at one time or another been thrown into a military prison. In 2015, Ethiopian Jews, many inspired by Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., held mass demonstrations after two cops were filmed viciously beating an Israeli-Ethiopian soldier. At the same time, for the Palestinian masses in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, an encounter with an Israeli-Ethiopian soldier is an encounter with an enforcer of Zionist occupation and rule.

Israel’s European-derived Ashkenazi elite also dominates the Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish population—i.e., Jews who left or were expelled from North African and Near Eastern countries. Many of these Jews live in poverty, with the average income gap between them and Ashkenazi Jews exceeding 33 percent. At the same time, Sephardic/Mizrahi Jews, who make up a substantial part of Israel’s proletariat, are generally under the sway of the most racist and right-wing forces in the country. This is often the product of conscious policy. The government, for example, settled many African migrants in the impoverished, working-class neighborhood of south Tel Aviv. They then incited the local population against the refugees, though some residents have come out in defense of the African refugees. Using Sephardic/Mizrahi Jews as a bulwark for his government’s racist expulsion of Africans, Netanyahu declared to a howling mob last August, “We are here on a mission to give back south Tel Aviv to the Israeli residents.”

The Ashkenazi rulers’ policy toward Near Eastern Jews has always been one of racism since the founding of Israel. Those who arrived in the 1950s were sprayed with DDT and held in squalid settlement camps. As part of their assimilation into Israel, they were forced to renounce cultural and linguistic ties to the countries from which they came. In Israel, where nearly half of the Jewish population came from Arab and Near Eastern countries, less than 2 percent of Jews today can read and write Arabic. Between 1948 and the mid 1950s, Israeli authorities told thousands of displaced Near Eastern Jews, chiefly from Yemen, that their newborn children had died. In what came to be known as the “Yemenite Affair,” many of these children were kidnapped and given to Ashkenazi Jews to raise. At the time, Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion denounced Arab Jews as “without a trace of Jewish or human education.”

For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!

This January, celebrated Israeli author Amos Oz joined 34 other prominent writers in issuing a letter to Netanyahu calling on the prime minister “to stop the deportation of asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan” and of their “children born in Israel who are asking of us only one thing: to live.” Years earlier, Oz supported the launching of Israeli military attacks against Gaza in 2008-09 (which killed well over 1,000 Palestinians) and in 2014 (which killed 2,300 more). For liberal Zionists like Oz, defending 40,000 desperate African refugees seeking nothing more than to be accepted into Israeli society is cheap and helps to embellish the image of Israel internationally. The Palestinian question is something else altogether. When Oz calls for a Palestinian state within the Occupied Territories, it is in the service of maintaining the ethnocratic nature of Israel as a Jewish state.

Indeed, the large influx of non-Jewish immigrants took off under the liberal Zionist government of the late Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. After subduing the first Palestinian Intifada in the early 1990s, Israel’s rulers moved to replace Palestinian labor from the Occupied Territories with that of foreign migrants, many from East Europe and Asia. Today, at least 300,000 migrants toil in construction, agriculture and other low-wage industries. Denied any and all rights, these migrant laborers live in constant fear of police breaking into their homes in the dead of night to arrest and deport them. Many children born in Israel to immigrant parents have been deported along with their families to countries that are totally foreign to them.

The many fissures in Israeli society should underline that it is a capitalist society replete with contradictions. The fact that the Israeli Jewish proletariat is in thrall to Zionist ideology underscores the necessity of forging a Leninist vanguard party. Committed to the struggle to shatter the Zionist state from within through proletarian revolution, such a party would fight to win the Israeli proletariat to the understanding that it shares the same class enemy as the Palestinian people: the Israeli capitalist rulers. For the Israeli working class, liberation from capitalist exploitation cannot be realized without the fight for Palestinian national liberation.

What is necessary is to consolidate the cadre that can lay the foundation for revolutionary workers parties—in Israel and throughout the rest of the Near East. As sections of a reforged Fourth International, these Marxist workers parties will fight to unite the proletariat of the region—Arab, Persian, Kurdish and Israeli; Muslim, Christian and Jewish; native-born and immigrant—in struggle on the basis of a program of world revolution. The International Communist League devotes itself to the task of building such parties as the indispensable agencies for proletarian rule.


Workers Vanguard No. 1129

WV 1129

9 March 2018


West Virginia School Strike: Militant Union Battle Ends

No to Medicaid Cuts!


“World Socialist Web Site”: Anti-Union, Not Socialist


For Quality Medical Care for All!

U.S. Capitalism Deadly for Black Mothers


Israel: African Migrants Face Mass Expulsion

No Deportations!


Communism and Women’s Emancipation

(Quote of the Week)


German Trotskyists Say

No to SPD Coalition with Merkel

For a Revolutionary Workers Party!