One can enjoy eating sausage without feeling an obligation to visit the slaughterhouse or the sausage maker.
One can also enjoy the benefits of government without worrying about all the details about how the community is kept safe from crime, polluted air, water, and food, or any other disturbance.
Some will say that injustice is not in the same league of enjoying meat. Human rights are more a cause for worry than animal rights, and even more important that wrestling with the need of most of us for meat. Vegans of the world, let us hear. You may be on a wave.
It occurs to me that I am writing this on Thanksgiviing. The holiday is not celebrated here, except perhaps for the case of some ex-patriates who cannot abide the loss of a good feed. Generally speaking, Israeli ovens are too small for what Americans have bought at their supermarkets in recent days. In your place I would enjoy the meal, without telling the little ones the story of those turkeys on their way to the supermarket.
There is some concern about one of the dark corners of this society. Dark in the sense of unknown, and perhaps beyond the desire of most Israelis to know. Like the innards of the sausage industry, we don't worry about everything.
Also dark in the view of some Israelis, because it represents one of the places they find injustice.
The issue is the country's treatment of the migrants who come over the border with Egypt.
If you enjoy pondering legal complexity with a great deal of uncertainty, this is a good place to begin.
International treaties provide certain rights pertaining to asylum for individuals fleeing persecution. However, one of the complexities is whether those rights apply to individuals who have passed through one or several countries on their way to reaching the country where they claim asylum. According to the "safe third country" principle, an asylum seeker can claim protection only in the first safe country reached after leaving the country of origin. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/07/12/how-can-the-asylum-system-be-fixed/expand-the-safe-third-country-idea-for-asylum-seekers
By this principle, Israel is not the proper address for asylum seekers who have passed through Egypt, and perhaps other countries, since leaving their place of origin. Egypt may not be a paradise, but so far we do not hear of Egyptians fleeing their country and claiming asylum in Israel. The migrants reaching Israel come from African countries--most of them apparently from Eritrea--and their claims of refuge ought to have been presented to Egyptian authorities, or those of some other country on their way to Egypt.
Should Israel accept responsibility for an unknown--and apparently increasing number of Africans--who see it as one of the better places to seek a homeland?
Israel is working to build a barrier along the border with Egypt that is meant to prevent, or at least discourage the migration. Most of the border is still an unmarked line through the desert. There are outposts and patrols by Israeli and Egyptian soldiers, but nothing close to assuring a closed frontier.
It is not easy to discover the numbers of migrants coming over the Sinai, their origins, or the justice of their claims about persecution. They come without documents and claim what they want. Getting to the Israeli border is neither easy nor pleasant. We hear that they must pay Beduin smugglers to guide them, and that the smugglers exploit them financially, sexually, and--according to recent reports--drug some and turn them over to Egyptian physicians who extract organs and leave the donors to die. Egyptian soldiers act to prevent the migrants from reaching the Israeli border. They kill some and take some into custody. Without anything close to decent information, we can only wonder whether those activities are meant to satisfy Israeli demands that Egypt stop the migration through its territory, or are part of Egypt's chronic warfare against the Beduin of Sinai.
A substantial number of the migrants encounter Israeli soldiers patrolling the border. Again, we do not know if this is most of the migrants, or how many get across unobserved and find their way to the communities of Africans in the nearby city of Eilat or further north in Tel Aviv. There they do what illegal migrants do elsewhere in the underground industries of menial work in restaurants, hotels, gas stations, agriculture, house cleaning, and gardening.
Those apprehended by IDF patrols go to a prison being expanded to accommodate them while individual cases are judged pending decisions about refugee status or return to their home country. Insofar as the migrants lack documents, it is no easy task to determine where they are from, or how justified their requests for asylum. African countries are not eager to accept undocumented individuals that Israel claims to be their nationals. A substantial number of refugees say that they are from Dafur or elsewhere in Sudan, where abuses make such claims attractive to human rights activists. Israel has no formal relationship with the Sudan that can aid with identification or repatriation.
Israel's human rights organizations claim that the migrants are not given adequant representation to establish their claims, or sufficient medical treatment to deal with their problems. The prison service does not go out of its way to facilitate inquiries. A recent article in Ha'aretz is characteristically generous in reporting the claims of human rights advocates, without pondering the knotty question as to what Israel should be doing for migrants coming from who knows where via Egypt. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/out-of-africa-and-into-saharonim-1.397366
Not a pleasant story for Thanksgiving? Neither are the stories of all those turkeys.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at November 24, 2011 03:48 AM