In the wake of the November 3 US Presidential elections, Sudan’s transitional interim government announced last Friday its decision to normalise ties with Israel, making it the fifth Arab regime to sign a normalisation deal. Despite this news being praised as a step towards peace, Sudanese refugees are some of the first to face the backlash.
Following the announcement from the White House that Sudan and Israel had reached a normalisation deal, US President Donald Trump and Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu each delivered triumphant speeches in which they spoke of the prospects of a peace deal in high regard. The International press repeated similar lines, branding this deal reached as a “peace deal”, implying that peace would come as a result of it.
That peace many say, is the Sudanese regime being taken off of the State Sponsors of Terrorism list by the United States, which will pave the way for investments to made in Sudan, as well as foreign aid packages to the tune of 83 million dollars in the case of the US’s pledge, just a day later.
However, what emerged following this, was that Israel is seeking to use normalisation of ties as an excuse to get rid of some 6,000 Sudanese refugees, most of which live in south Tel Aviv. Although this was covered by the International press, the racist far-right element to this was completely ignored as usual. The International Refugee Convention mandates that Asylum applications must be analysed on a case-to-case basis, which runs contrary to the language being used by Israeli politicians, which seem to be looking for a mass deportation of thousands of refugees. A mass uprooting of refugees would in this way constitute a violation of International Law.
On top of this, many Sudanese refugees interviewed, by the Israeli media, on the “peace deal”, questioned the motives of Netanyahu, citing the role of those in the 11-member Sovereignty Council – currently directing Sudan – specifically calling out Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, over their role in civilian massacres against the Sudanese people. It is also interesting that “peace deals” were signed with Arab Regimes which are all brutal dictatorships with long track records of civilian massacres, torture and other forms of oppression practiced against their own people.
Israel’s anti-Black racism and Persecution of African asylum seekers
Israel has historically rejected 99% of asylum requests, making it not only the worst Western country in terms of absorption of refugees, but the worst in treatment of those refugees also.
To demonstrate the racist way in which Israel deals with asylum seekers of African descent, we need only look at the way Israel treats white European refugees from black African refugees. For instance in 2011 and 2013, 22,000 refugees from Georgia and the Ukraine entered Israel and had each of their asylum cases dealt with on a case-to-case basis. Evidently, coming from Europe, the only way they were going to come was via plane, where they were given visas and then allowed to apply for asylum.
Pair that now with the case of roughly 40,000 refugees who entered Israel by foot, from Sudan and Eritrea, who were not given visas, due to the fact that they fled war zones on foot and entered the regime’s territory via the Egyptian border, rather than the airport. Instead of being considered for asylum on a case by case basis and being treated as their European counterpart, instead their status was registered under Israel’s infamous ‘Prevention of Infiltration Law’, originally introduced in 1954, order to deal with Palestinian refugees who travelled across the border to either see their homeland once again or commit act of armed resistance.
The Prevention of Infiltration law was later amended by the Israeli Knesset (government), to include all ethnicities, but of course Israel shares no borders with white European countries and of course now Palestinian refugees know not to cross the border as they would likely face instant death. The dealing of African asylum seekers under this Law, has in fact translated into an environment where the Israeli Jewish society has grown to view black refugees as “infiltrators” and threats to the very nature of their Jewish only ethno-State.
Ultimately, in the case of European asylum seekers, they are allowed to travel around freely whilst their asylum applications are processed and are reviewed on a case by case basis. Africans are kept in overcrowded detention centres whilst their applications are reviewed, without little to any indication of when their case will be dealt with, they are also denied their case by case basis evaluation like the white Europeans are granted. The way that African asylum seekers in Israel are dealt with, has been clearly pointed out by various leading human rights organisations to be in violation of International Law.
The same anti-black racism is even practiced against Ethiopian Jews, who are seen as outsiders and by some as not even being true Jews, despite the fact that many ethnically Palestinian Jews were once black. Ethiopian Jews additionally experience the highest unemployment rates, rates of incarceration and poverty rates than any other Israeli Jews, they are more likely than any other Jewish Israeli group to be killed by police. In the year 2013 it was revealed that Ethiopian Jewish women were for years forcibly sterilized by the Israeli regime, injected with contraceptives against their will, leading to a 20% decline in reproduction rates amongst the community. In fact Israel, after years of pushback from right wing racists, only started to facilitate the arrival of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980’s.
In the case of Christain and Muslim African refugees, their arrival began primarily in the mid 2000’s. In the space of 5 year, up until January 2018, a third of all African refugees in Israel were expelled by the Israeli regime. In February of 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to strike a deal with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in order to resettle half of Israel’s community of African refugees in other foriegn country, but just one day later Netanyahu was pressured to abandon his own deal and ignore the ruling of Israel’s own High Court of Justice, which had against deportations, beginning again to deport.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been on record countless times, repeating racist rhetoric against Sudanese refugees living in the Israeli slums of South Tel Aviv, where they have been forced to live. In 2017 Netanyahu even stated the following about walls and how he had used them to keep out African refugees, “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”.
It is an issue that could be spoken about all day, as the racism against African Asylum seekers in Israel is rampant statistically amongst the bulk of the Israeli Jewish public and throughout Israel’s ultra-right wing ethno-fascist government. So why is it that the Western press, usually concerned about racism wherever it lingers, remain “objective” and often completely silent when it comes to the reality of anti-black racism in Israel? And will the deportation of Sudanese refugees even be covered in the Western Press, or will the fear of being labelled anti-Semitic be too much for them to touch clear cut anti-black racism, weaving its way into a so-called “peace deal”?