Daily Archives

December 29, 2015

From a distance: what’s the connection between the infiltrators, the housing crisis, and society’s status gap?

By | Immigration | No Comments

By Ayal Gabbai and Ro’i Yelnick

A new position paper by Ayal Gabbai, former director of the prime minister’s office, and Ro’i Yelnick, an Institute researcher, presents the existential problems which are created by the infiltration of foreigners into Israel. The paper raises significant questions which must be asked and offers practical solutions.

The housing crisis – Currently (2014) there are somewhere between 40,000-60,000 infiltrators in Israel. Most live in extreme conditions: four to six people in one apartment. Their conditions impact the Israeli population and create a housing crisis – in recent years tens of thousands of apartments have been occupied by the infiltrators.

Education and welfare – The main challenge facing the educational system is what and how to teach the foreign student and whether they are to be considered permanent students or transient. The problems compound because the main burdens (welfare, education, and health) fall on already weakened regions, cities, and government infrastructures. Many of the infiltrators live in south Tel Aviv, Eilat, and Arad, none of which are swimming in resources.

Beyond presenting the problem, Gabbai and Yelnick discuss the identity of the infiltrators – do they immigrate for work purposes or are they refugees fleeing for their lives? According to Gabbai and Yelnick, there are organizations which take advantage of the phenomenon in order to destroy Israel’s character as a Jewish state and try to turn the country into a state of all its residents.
Gabbai and Yelnick suggest a number of possible solutions:

  • Take a definitive stance on how to treat women and children who are stopped at the border, in Israeli territory, and suffer from hunger and thirst. What should be done about an infiltrator who attempts to breach the border fence? What means can be used to stop him – rubber bullets, tear gas, other means?
  • Create a feeling amongst potential infiltrators that Israel is not a place to which they should emigrate. This feeling can be created by sentencing infiltrators to long jail sentences and preventing infiltrators from working and earning money.
  • Establish holding camps which will allow the country to achieve two goals: in gathering the infiltrators the country can fulfill its humanitarian obligation while preventing their earning a living in the country. Another way to make Israel less attractive to infiltrators is the threat of returning them to their home countries. There are those who would mock a plane returning 300 infiltrators to their homes, for there are tens of thousands of infiltrators, but the sight of such a plane would have an enormous mental impact, and it is important to understand and to make it clear that the point is not only to be rid of the infiltrators currently in the country but also to stop the flood of infiltrations.

The question of immigration is part and parcel of the basic societal dilemmas which we call, in the current context, the dilemma of “solidarity limits.” National solidarity is not only a practical and appropriate solution but is also an idea which is a suitable companion to basic liberal rights and freedoms such as the right for self-definition and the right of free association.

The currently most accepted and stable limits of solidarity are the borders of sovereign nations in general and the borders of nation-states specifically. Countries are characterized by territorial limits and by the sovereignty they apply to the territory they control. It is this sovereignty which is decisive in immigration issues. International agreements and the principles of basic morality require countries to help refugees — especially those running for their lives — but in principle leave the formalities of immigration to the various sovereign nations. Countries are not required to grant refugees citizenship or even integrate them into society; they are only required to prevent the refugee’s extradition to places which represent a danger to life. All countries apply selection criteria for immigration and in many countries these tests center around the country’s national identity and the identity of those seeking to immigrate.

Both theoretically and practically, Woodrow Wilson’s liberal philosophy about the right to self-identification was exceptional. This right finds expression in the immigration policies of many countries. The idea of self-identification also was expressed in the foundation of the League of Nations, and while the League recognized the right of the Jewish people to define its own identity and to found a national home for the Jews, it is undoubtedly true that this recognition was the fruit of efforts by the Zionist movement.

At the center of the Zionist ideal is the founding of a national home for the Jews in the land of Israel. The Zionist ideal therefore places immigration of Jews to Israel as a central organizing principle. Anti-Zionist agents would refuse both the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel and the right of a Jewish state to exist. Both Zionists and anti-Zionists connect the rights of immigration and the existence of the State of Israel.

After the foundation of the State the Zionist ideal was expressed in the Law of Return and in citizenship laws. Challenging these laws means challenging the right of the State of Israel to exist. Laws like the Law of Return exist in many liberal-democratic countries, and attempts to challenge them in only the State of Israel are an aberration from what is accepted as ideal and as common practice.

The results of the War of Independence, the Israeli immigration laws, and the Jews’ longing to return to the land fulfilled the Zionist ideal in two ways. First, the clear and stable majority of Israeli citizens are Jews. Second, the percentage of worldwide Jews living in Israel is steadily growing.

A comparison of immigration statistics shows that nationality does have an influence in some countries. For example, similar vocabularies and a feeling of pan-Arabic nationalism explain immigration patterns within Arab countries. On the whole, though, the main variable in immigration patterns is an economic one. Modern theories emphasize the importance of degradation and social distance alongside economics as factors leading to emigration.

The triangle of nation-state, democratic regime, and immigration policy has accompanied Zionism since its earliest days. Jews have been persecuted for being Jews throughout the diaspora. Zionism strove to solve the Jewish problem in every single place by establishing a nation-state to which Jews from the whole disapora would immigrate. Since the Zionist enterprise began, the Zionist leadership and the Zionist majority championed the establishment of a democratic nation-state which would continue the work of ingathering. The overwhelming assumption of the Zionist leadership was that the state which would be established would be a Jewish and democratic state, a nation-state of all its citizens. The attempt to create a contradiction between these two elements, in the context of immigration or in any other context, is neither correct nor ethical. It denies Zionist philosophy, distorts the international experience of the modern era, and stands in contradiction to the political, practical, and judicial reality in the State of Israel. The claim of a universal right to immigration and a universal requirement to integrate immigrants is baseless — morally, legally, and practically — both in Israel and in every other country.

For the full position paper (in Hebrew)

Refugees (?) in Israel

By | Immigration, nation state | No Comments

On the Legal Status of the African Immigrants in Israel

By Nir Amran

The Israeli public has been intensely occupied with the arrival in Israel of many African immigrants and refugees over the past decade, their sojourn here, and the obligation of the State toward them, but it seems as though the public debate is missing something and that before our eyes it is falling into the typical pattern of polarity in which cookie-cutter opposing arguments clash. This is especially clear in the debate about the infiltrators’ legal status; each side “bases” its argument on a variety of concepts and ideas – briefly reviewed in this paper- and although most are indeed connected to this complex issue, they are used in a mix-and-match fashion and not always in the proper context.

The purpose of this paper is to summarize the base for claims about the status of infiltrators as seen in international law and expressed in Israeli law and to show the complexity of this legal issue. This document does not try to arbitrate between the claims, only to uncover the correct origins and contexts of concepts drawn from the world of international law and to raise practical questions about their implementation. The document also draws attention to the legal issues which arise from the geo-political and security aspects of the subject.

Special emphasis is placed on the use of legal sources — primary and secondary, learned publications and the work of publicists, and even news items from the press and the internet — to expand and enhance the public debate. These sources are brought to the readers’ attention at the end of the document.

In the conclusion possible plans of action are presented which are based on the rationale behind international and Israeli laws and which support Israel’s desire to find a solution which will be both humane and in keeping with the goals of preserving the country’s Jewish character and social stability.

For the full analysis piece (in Hebrew)

Non-citizen Foreigners in Israel

By | Immigration, Recent | No Comments

Ariel Finkelstein

The phenomenon of non-citizen foreigners living inIsrael has gained widespread recognition because of the infiltrations on the Israeli southern border. Even so, it seems that the public discourse is deficient and is often influenced by manipulation and incomplete data. The purpose of this document is to summarize and organize the primary data and opinions on this topic and serve as a basis for a serious, productive discussion leading to policy. This document will not propose such policy; it will only present the facts and opinions of the various parties to the public discourse. Effort has been made to present the widest set of facts and a variety of opinions and their roots, with no attempt to reach a conclusion.

The document refers to three main groups of non-citizen foreigners in Israel:

1. Infiltrators: Foreigners who have illegally entered Israel on the Egyptian border and who were caught at the border or within the country.

2. Foreign workers: This group is sub-divided in two – foreign workers with valid work permits and foreign workers who entered Israel with valid work permits which have since expired.

3. Tourists without valid permits: Foreigners from underdeveloped countries who entered Israel as tourists and stayed without valid permits. It is thought that most of them work illegally.

The document shows that according to official statistics there are currently some 55,000 infiltrators in Israel and another 93,000 tourists without valid permits. There is debate about the number of foreign workers: the Population and Immigration Authority claims there are some 85,000 foreign workers in Israel while the Central Bureau of Statistics has the group at 110,000 strong.

The infiltrators have come almost entirely from African nations and the absolute majority is male: 85% of this group are adult males and the rest women and children. In contrast, the tourists without valid permits and the foreign workers are mainly citizens of Asiatic and Eastern European countries, evenly divided in terms of gender: some 52% are male and 48% female.

Beyond the statistics about non-citizen foreigners, this document presents the current arguments in Israeli discourse. The document presents the legal, moral, criminal, and medical basis of the public debate over the infiltrators and their absorption. Amongst the claims discussed: Is Israel obligated by the UN Charter to consider the infiltrators refugees? Is the crime rate amongst the infiltrators higher than normal? Do they represent a security threat? Do they represent a medical threat to the rest of the population? The document also presents the various claims about the economic impact of foreign workers and the question of whether their employment leads to unemployment for Israelis. Public discourse does not include any reference to tourists without valid permits, so the various claims about this group’s status are not presented here.

To The Survey of Data and Opinions (December 2014)

The time has come to terminate the activity of UNRWA

By | Immigration | No Comments

By Nir Amran[i]

Throughout THE Protective Edge Campaign (July-August 2014), the Israeli public was exposed to media reports concerning numerous shooting incidents by Hamas from UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) facilities and compounds, such places that by definition are supposed to be neutral, for example:  schools, clinics, offices and humanitarian detention centers and shelters.  Also uncovered, was the fact that the UNRWA offices served as storage places for weapons, explosives and missiles belonging to Hamas, thus endangering  the lives of the very Palestinians most in need of the  Agency services.  Upon discovery, these weapons and ammunition were returned to “the local authorities”.

Much data has been collected over the years by the Israeli security forces, as well as during previous military operations such as Pillar of Defense and Cast Lead, corroborating an existing link between the Agency and anti-Israeli aggressive activity, especially terrorism.  Ever since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2006, the Agency has become a kind of executive branch of Hamas, employing many of the terrorist organization’s own people.

It is very likely that once the new Government in Jerusalem takes office, the peace discussions will resume – with the USA, Europe and Egypt acting as mediators – tackling some of Hamas’ “long term” demands – those that were set aside previously as “too tough to crack at the present time”.  Examples of the issues to be negotiated are Hamas’ demand that a sea port be built, the setting free of additional Palestinian prisoners and the opening up the border crossings completely.  Israel, on its part, will presumably demand a complete demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, and the close and effective supervision of goods and donated funds entering it.

This is the opportune moment for the Israeli side to raise yet another important demand, one which is not wholly new:  in light of the hard evidence the Israeli defense forces now possess proving the corruptibility of the Agency for Palestine Refugees, and the fact that it bears responsibility for significant terrorist activity – the activity of UNWRA in Judea and Samaria and Gaza must be terminated.

Such a demand at the present time, could serve as a valuable lever in renewing the process that began in wake of the Oslo Accords (and later suspended): a process intended to terminate UNRWA’s activity in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and to transfer its authority to the PA (the Palestinian Authority).

If such a demand were made by Israel at the present time, it would have a good chance of being accepted, since it is in the common interest of both Israel and the PA, and would also benefit the mediators – Egypt, Europe and the USA.  The mediators are interested in weakening Hamas, and have already expressed their basic consent (in the past) to transfer some of the funds donated each year to UNRWA to the PA instead[ii] in the interest of  strengthening PA leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).  Mr Abbas is perceived by these mediators and by many others in the international political arena to be a pragmatic and moderate leader.  It is also possible that as a result of this move, the leadership of Hamas would be weakened further, and that the Palestinian Authority would be able to regain control of Gaza.

Effecting this change will be a significant step in the long-term objective of both Israel and others: bringing about the termination of the unique and exceptional mandate given to UNRWA to deal with the Palestine refugees of 1948 – a mission it has failed to achieve any success over the past 65 years.  It is a well-known fact that, over the years, UNRWA has chosen to attack Israel by means of political and terror-supporting activity rather than concentrating its focus and efforts on finding a solution for the distress of the refugees, e.g. by helping them settle down and obtain citizenship and fair treatment in their various countries of residence.  Such a results would go far to help resolve the conflict.

The current situation, outlined delineated below, presents the international community with a window of opportunity to bring about the end of UNRWA’s harmful activity in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, followed perhaps by similar actions in other countries in which it is active.

To the full paper (Hebrew)

[i] Nir Amran is a doctoral student in the Department for Conflict Resolution, Management and Negotiation at Bar Ilan University.  Following his law studies at Bar Ilan (M.A. Legal Studies), he wrote a thesis titled “Who is a refugee?  The definition of a refugee in international law and how it can be implemented in the State of Israel”, which also examined the legal aspects of the ties between the State of Israel and UNRWA.

[ii] The relative portion, intended for refugees in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, of the overall sum of monies and good transferred to the Agency for the benefit of refugees in all the regions in which it is active, namely: Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza and Judea and Samaria.