Often these days, Israelis get the feeling that diaspora Jews feel entitled to sit back and call out instructions and demands from the sidelines, like fans at a football game, without having to bear the consequences of their advice. A case in point is the hot debate over the so-called anti-infiltration law, intended to allow Israel to deport African migrants who have been in the country illegally for a decade or more. Groups outside Israel are seeking to defeat the law and, it seems, to embarrass and defame the State of Israel for passing it.
The law--which applies to Africans, mostly Sudanese and Eritreans, who crossed illegally into Israel through Egypt between 2006 and 2012--gives a March deadline for them to leave the country or face incarceration. Those who leave sooner receive a $3,500 grant as well as a plane ticket. Those who would risk harm by returning to their home countries will be sent to third countries, reportedly Rwanda or Uganda. To encourage compliance, the law also withholds 20 percent of wages earned by infiltrators, to be disbursed upon their leaving the country.
Although there are almost 40,000 such illegal migrants in Israel, the law targets only males over 18. It does not apply to women, children, parents of small children, the elderly or even men who applied for asylum by January 1.
The interference of outsiders into this internal Israeli problem is even more egregious given the sincere heartache of Israelis themselves over this far-from-simple issue. Israeli doctors, pilots and high-profile businessmen have joined a chorus of infuriated protestors against the law. Thirty-six Holocaust survivors signed a protest letter to the prime minister.
Given the collective memory of Israelis of forced wandering, fear of death from enemies and painful denial of shelter, this is perhaps no wonder. But the truth is that most Israelis, myself included, overwhelmingly support this law. A recent Israel Today survey found 58 percent of Israelis in favor and only 23 percent against.
To understand why, one must look at the sorry unfolding of this tragic story. Ten years ago, Israel opened its doors to Africans braving the long trek through the Sinai Desert who were shot in cold blood by Egyptian soldiers and more often than not raped or murdered by their Bedouin smugglers. For this act of compassion, Israel found itself flooded by more than 61,000 Africans, almost all of whom took up residence in poor areas of South Tel Aviv. A 2015...