Israel stems tide of illegal African migrants - Washington Post cries foul

Leo Rennert
Washington Post Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg seems to be carving out a weekly quota of negative articles about Israel.

Last week, Greenberg claimed that Israel's policy of isolating Gaza was "unraveling" because the emir of Qatar had managed to pay a visit to the Hamas-ruled enclave.  Never mind that about the same time Israel successfully halted and diverted a Gaza-bound vessel with its usual band of pro-Hamas provocateurs.  Or that the new Egyptian regime is allowing only a trickle of goods to reach Gaza.  Egypt doesn't appreciate radical Palestinian Islamists infiltrating from Gaza and killing its soldiers.

If an anti-Hamas strategy was "unraveling," it wasn't on the Israeli side, but at the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, where Mahmoud Abbas was fuming that the Qatari emir was guilty of lese majeste by tilting toward Hamas at his expense.  But Greenberg"s priority is filing copy that lends itself to anti-Israel zingers and spin.  Realities are not his big suit.

This weekend, Greenberg is back at his Israel-bashing beat with an article that's headlined on its website, "Israel's crackdown on illegal African migrants draws critics."  The headline on the print version - "Israel closing its doors to illegal African migrants" - isn't meant as recognition of an important achievement, but instead as an outright indictment.

What are the facts?  For the last several years, Israel has sustained a growing influx of Africans crossing from Egypt in search of a better life - 60,000 of them since 2005.  This was clearly an unsustainable breach of Israel's border.  Like any other sovereign nation, Israel is entitled to secure its borders, and its government belatedly started to act.  A high border fence went up.  Border patrols were tightened.  African migrants who managed to infiltrate were put in detention centers to prepare them for deportation.  However, genuine political refugees who might face dire consequences at home were not pushed back.

The result:  From nearly 3,000 illegal migrants who managed to infiltrate into Israel in January, the total dropped to 54 in October.  Prime Minister Netanyahu's office termed it a "success story."

But not Greenberg, who decries it as an affront to human rights -- a violation of international law.  Greenberg drums up the usual suspects - Human Rights Watch and similar groups - to batter Israel for not issuing work and  health permits to illegal migrants and absorb them as legal residents.

Would the United States, at its border with Mexico, adopt such an ultra-benevolent policy?  Methinks not.  But subjecting Israel to a double standard is a favorite gambit of its detractors.

Basically, Greenberg would have Israel roll out a red carpet to illegal migrants - something no other nation would contemplate, let alone institute.   And given the Arab Spring and revolutions blazing in neighboring countries, effective border security is even a greater imperative for the Jewish state.

But security for Israel isn't very high on Greenberg and the Washington Post's agenda.


LEO RENNERT

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers




Washington Post Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg seems to be carving out a weekly quota of negative articles about Israel.

Last week, Greenberg claimed that Israel's policy of isolating Gaza was "unraveling" because the emir of Qatar had managed to pay a visit to the Hamas-ruled enclave.  Never mind that about the same time Israel successfully halted and diverted a Gaza-bound vessel with its usual band of pro-Hamas provocateurs.  Or that the new Egyptian regime is allowing only a trickle of goods to reach Gaza.  Egypt doesn't appreciate radical Palestinian Islamists infiltrating from Gaza and killing its soldiers.

If an anti-Hamas strategy was "unraveling," it wasn't on the Israeli side, but at the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, where Mahmoud Abbas was fuming that the Qatari emir was guilty of lese majeste by tilting toward Hamas at his expense.  But Greenberg"s priority is filing copy that lends itself to anti-Israel zingers and spin.  Realities are not his big suit.

This weekend, Greenberg is back at his Israel-bashing beat with an article that's headlined on its website, "Israel's crackdown on illegal African migrants draws critics."  The headline on the print version - "Israel closing its doors to illegal African migrants" - isn't meant as recognition of an important achievement, but instead as an outright indictment.

What are the facts?  For the last several years, Israel has sustained a growing influx of Africans crossing from Egypt in search of a better life - 60,000 of them since 2005.  This was clearly an unsustainable breach of Israel's border.  Like any other sovereign nation, Israel is entitled to secure its borders, and its government belatedly started to act.  A high border fence went up.  Border patrols were tightened.  African migrants who managed to infiltrate were put in detention centers to prepare them for deportation.  However, genuine political refugees who might face dire consequences at home were not pushed back.

The result:  From nearly 3,000 illegal migrants who managed to infiltrate into Israel in January, the total dropped to 54 in October.  Prime Minister Netanyahu's office termed it a "success story."

But not Greenberg, who decries it as an affront to human rights -- a violation of international law.  Greenberg drums up the usual suspects - Human Rights Watch and similar groups - to batter Israel for not issuing work and  health permits to illegal migrants and absorb them as legal residents.

Would the United States, at its border with Mexico, adopt such an ultra-benevolent policy?  Methinks not.  But subjecting Israel to a double standard is a favorite gambit of its detractors.

Basically, Greenberg would have Israel roll out a red carpet to illegal migrants - something no other nation would contemplate, let alone institute.   And given the Arab Spring and revolutions blazing in neighboring countries, effective border security is even a greater imperative for the Jewish state.

But security for Israel isn't very high on Greenberg and the Washington Post's agenda.


LEO RENNERT

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers