Israel's Illegal Immigration Problem

America’s ally, Israel, seems to be facing immigration problems similar to ours in some ways.  American Thinker interviewed author Liad Shoham about his book, Asylum City, which deals with Israel’s illegal immigration problem. 

The Israeli Cabinet recently passed a controversial bill, which declares Israel a Jewish nation-state, and institutionalizes Jewish religious law.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the vote that the bill was necessary even though the country is 66 years old, “There are many who are challenging Israel’s character as the national state of the Jewish people.”

Shoham feels that Israel is facing the same questions that arise in the US: should border security be implanted before solving the immigration problem?  What to do with those illegally in the country, and is there a humanity issue? The problem in Israel has arisen from the Eritrea Africans who are trying to escape persecution by migrating to Israel through the Sinai Peninsula. 

He explained that the basic law of Israel allows for any Jew in the world to have automatic citizenship for the simple fact that they are Jewish.  Eritreans are not Jews, but Christians, so when they crossed the Sinai Peninsula without a visa they are considered illegal immigrants.  Since Eritrea has a very harsh totalitarian regime Israel policy prevents them from being deported.  It goes back to why Israel was established in the first place, that not many countries would protect the Jews from the Nazis during World War II.  The quote by Menachem Begin best summarizes the intention, paraphrasing: ‘Israel cannot stand by when people are being persecuted and are not accepted by any other country.’

The Eritrean status is listed as “Asylum Seeker,” a legal term.  They are not refugees because they will not be granted the rights of citizenship with free education and health services.  Nor are they illegal immigrants because they cannot be deported like someone who crossed the border illegally and was from France, for example.  Israel never deports any group that is persecuted.

The exploit and abuse of the Eritreans on their journey is very similar to what the Mexican drug cartels are doing to the illegals coming to the US.  In his book Shoham discusses how the Bedouins that are hired to move the illegals across the desert have kidnapped them for sex trafficking, held them hostage for ransom, tortured the men and raped 90% of the women.  Israel is unable to control the crimes because they take place outside their border.  Within Israel there are those who have set up businesses surrounding the asylum seekers needs.  For example, since they are not allowed to open bank accounts, Mafia bosses have become their bankers that transfer money to the asylum seeker’s family.

Also similar to the US immigration problem, the Israeli government has allowed them to find jobs, although there is a difference; the Eritreans are not allowed to attend schools, get health benefits, or have any rights as citizens.  However, to prevent an increase in crime, the police told the government the asylum seekers should be allowed to work.  Currently the government is turning a blind eye, realizing the jobs they are taking are ones Israelis don’t want, the menial jobs of washing dishes, cleaning streets, and picking fruit.

The author understands how Americans are upset with what is currently going on regarding racist claims since Israel is facing the same condemnations.  He told American Thinker, “People claim Israel is doing it because they are Africans, but it does not matter the color of their skin, that is irrelevant.  Israel has accepted Jews from all over the world:  Ethiopian, Chinese, Hispanic, Eastern European, and Western European, but the underlying thread is they are all Jews.  We cannot grant the Eritreans citizenship because we need to preserve the Jewish identity of Israel.  After all Israel is a Jewish state.  99% of Israelis agree and feel Israel has the right to keep its borders and to prevent permanent status to people who want to stay here.”

He further noted, “Many Israelis are sympathetic to them but realistically understand Israel is not able to support them financially.  A few think they should be given full rights and citizenship.  Another viewpoint is to deport them back immediately.  But the overwhelming majority feels they should not be deported and they should be given minimum basic rights while at the same time making sure the border is secure with the building of a wall.  The question arises what will happen to those already here, approximately 70,000 out of a total Israeli population of 8 million?  When I started researching the book I thought a lot of Israelis would tell me ‘securing our Sinai border, and preventing people from coming here is unacceptable.’  One of my surprises is that nobody claimed it.  Everyone believes Israel is not the solution for Africa and since they came here illegally they should not be made citizens.” 

Maybe every American should read this book, Asylum City, to understand how to handle illegal immigrants.  Israel has not given them benefits because they do not want to encourage people to enter the country illegally.  For those that argue that a wall does not work, they should look at the statistics: after building one between Egypt and Israel the number attempting to enter Israel illegally has decreased significantly.  I hope that citizens of the US will become as pragmatic as those in Israel when it comes to maintaining a national identity.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.