Cutting through the bullshit.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

‘A light unto the nations’

A few days ago, I alluded to the chequered history of US and Australian treatment of refugees. The article I was discussing there pointed out that many refugees entering the US never even have an opportunity to test their claims due to their ‘expedited removal’. Australia has also made a point of violating Article 33 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, under which ,

No Contracting State shall expel or return ("refouler") a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

After all, it’s not as if they didn’t know what was going on in Afghanistan when, for example,

In one harrowing account, a Hazara Afghan deported after 16 months on Christmas Island and Nauru - despite his pleas that he and his family would be killed - lost his two children, aged six and nine. A grenade was dropped on their house four months after they returned to Afghanistan.

Well, in case you were concerned that Israel was on the verge of blotting its untarnished record of violating human rights, according to today’s Ha’aretz, by the end of March, they will be deporting about 70 Liberian adults and their 16 Israeli born children.

Many of the refugees have fled horrific incidents since the official end of the civil war in 2003.

three years after the end of the battles, crime and hooliganism are still dominant in many regions. The Liberian refugees who arrived in Israel in 2004-2005 tell of horrors from the ostensible era of peace. Sako Popana's uncle, for example, was murdered in 2004. Popana displays a picture showing his corpse with a bullet hole in his temple. Mohammed Sharif saw his father and his two brothers murdered in 2004 by neighbors who had joined the rebels. "Two of the murderers live in my street. They can easily organize a force and murder me at night if I return there," he says.

But, in one of a number of ironies surrounding the deportation of refugees from a country purportedly founded by and for refugees, the Israeli Interior Ministry’s move arises because ‘The UN has decided that there is no longer any danger to Liberian refugees who return to their country, and is encouraging them to return from their places of exile.’

After six decades of reviling the UN (in the American Jewish Committee opinion poll I mentioned the other day, 66% of American Jews said the UN treats Israel ‘unfairly’.) and ignoring every demand ‘the international community’ has made that Israel comply with the standards it sets, it seems on this one issue, Israel is going to take the UN at its word and blow off a handful of desperate rape victims who just happen to be Muslim, and black.

Even though Israel has decided that the Liberians deserve repatriation on the UN’s say so, I doubt it will surprise anyone that the UN’s repeated demand that Israel resettle the refugees it itself expelled in 1948 continues to go unheeded.

Underscoring the Jewish state’s humanitarian credentials, especially towards Africans, yesterday’s Ha’aretz reported,

A representative was sent by the Interior Ministry on Saturday to Ethiopia, to distribute rejection letters to thousands of Ethiopians seeking to immigrate to Israel.

…The rejected applicants have been waiting in camps in Gundar and Addis Ababa for several years, in hopes of receiving consent to come to Israel. Many of them claim they have Jewish roots from hundreds of years ago, but they are often unable to provide documentation or testimonies to prove their claims.

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