Tag Archives: africa

Israeli mercenary firm proposes “violent action” against African refugees

The Israeli daily Maariv recently reported [in Hebrew] that BTS, a mercenary firm run by a former Israeli army colonel and veteran bodyguard, Beni Tal, proposed to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai a plan to violently expel thousands of African migrant workers and refugees living near Tel Aviv’s central bus station.

According to Maariv, Tal told Tel Aviv municipal representatives he would gather intelligence on the African migrant population before sending in hundreds of security guards to cuff them and ship them away on buses or trucks. “This should be a very violent action,” Tal said.

“I have never seen a place so violent, not even in the roughest parts of New York,” Tal remarked. “So we need to bring in guys who are not afraid of anything, put people on trucks, and within six months return the bus station to its residents… This population [Africans] is very problematic.”

Though the Tel Aviv municipality ultimately rejected Tal’s proposal, Maariv reported that a municipal official brought the plan up in a meeting of the Israeli Knesset’s Special Committee regarding Foreign Workers. The representative claimed he raised Tal’s proposal merely to highlight the supposed severity of the situation in southern Tel Aviv.

I have spent countless hours in Tel Aviv’s central bus station and in the surrounding Neve Shaanan neighborhood, where much of the city’s migrant worker population lives. The only people who have ever threatened me there were plainclothes agents from Israel’s Oz Unit, which routinely accosts and arrests migrants around the bus station, and who once stopped me by the bus station to demand proof I was in the country legally.

The neighborhood may be impoverished and overcrowded, but it is hardly dangerous by urban American standards. When a Maariv reporter confronted Tal with the fact that crime in Neve Shaanan was no higher than anywhere else in the city, he protested that the statistics were false, but was unable to produce evidence to support his point.

Some migrants from Africa have arrived in Israel to occupy the menial jobs that Palestinians performed before they were tucked behind a separation wall and Gaza was completely besieged. They are the glue that holds Tel Aviv together, washing dishes, cooking food, cleaning bathrooms, and changing children’s diapers so the city’s Jewish residents can enjoy the First World, Eurocentric lifestyle they have come to expect. Others arrived from Africa fleeing war and civil strife. By some estimates, 60 percent of Sudanese migrants are eligible for asylum status.

David Sheen’s devastating video documentary [above] illustrates how Israel’s draconian approach to African refugees is rooted in deeply ingrained racist attitudes and an official policy of countering demographic threats. Sheen’s report highlights how security concerns were manufactured to establish a pretext for enforcing the state’s exclusivist priorities against those condemned as “infiltrators.”

The recently passed “Prevention of Infiltration Bill,” which mandates a three year prison sentence without trial for illegal migrants, was nothing more than an amendment to the pre-existing 1954 “Prevention of Infiltration Law” enacted after the Nakba to prevent Palestinian refugees from reuniting with their family members inside the newly created state of Israel. As Israeli human rights activist Leehee Rothschild wrote, “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.”

Last month, Israel began construction on what will be the world’s largest detention center. Labeled by none other than Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin as a “concentration camp where people are warehoused,” the prison will sit in the Negev Desert on the grounds of what was once Ketziot Prison, a detention camp for Palestinian detainees staffed by the Atlantic Magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg. The new super-jail is being erected for the sole purpose of containing migrants and asylum seeking refugees fleeing from Africa.

Describing the desert prison as a “humanitarian solution,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified its construction on the grounds that African refugees threaten to “change[] the character of the state.”

This was originally published at Al Akhbar English

At The Party, And The Morning After

I’ve been experiencing some problems with my blog but I think my tech guru, Shama Davis, has worked them out. So now I can belatedly post some video I shot from Michigan Ave after the big Grant Park rally. This is the sight and sound of the Republican death shroud lifting:

An hour after the announcement of Obama’s victory, I received a flood of texts and phone calls from friends across the country — from DC to New York to Anchorage, Alaska — telling me people had filled the streets of their cities to celebrate. It was a dreamlike moment for me. After covering the campaign since early 2007, and the right since the middle of Bush’s first term, I could not have imagined witnessing such a cathartic national celebration of the death of Republicanism. 

The passage of Prop 8 dampened my sense of elation. It is clear that the Christian right is not going away any time soon, and that the movement has staked out the battle over gay rights as the final phase of the culture war. Considering that black Democrats were arguably the swing vote in Prop 8′s passage, Barack Obama must do more to cultivate his most loyal base of support against insidious Christian right ploys. 

Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff did not surprise me. For all his post-partisan posturing, Obama is at his core a political animal who knows he won’t survive his first two years without playing hardball. The congressional Republicans are more extreme than ever, and consequently more marginalized. By using social issues and tax policy to hammer Obama, and by ginning up pseudo-scandals as they did under Clinton, the congressional GOP hopes to peel off a dozen or more seats in 2010. As a veteran of Clinton’s battles with Gingrich, Rahm understands this is no time for bipartisanship. I have my issues with him on policy — his support for the Shuler anti-immigrant bill, ramming NAFTA through Congress, his extreme Likudnik tendencies (see these shocking comments by his father, a former Irgun member) — but his political instincts seem good. On the other hand, he could alienate everybody and foster a dysfunctional environment in the White House. Time will tell.

Obama’s likely Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, is another issue. Read what I think about him below the fold.

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