The Issue Isn’t Racism

No discussion of the problem of illegal immigration can begin without an acknowledgment that we’re talking about human beings who have had the misfortune to be born in impoverished, often oppressive, countries, and who are simply trying to fend for themselves and their families.

But that tragic reality comes up against another reality: The prosperous nations of the world simply cannot provide jobs and sustenance for all those seeking to escape the Third World. Sovereign countries have a right to preserve the integrity of their borders and to place the needs and interests of their citizens above those of the rest of the world.

Nowhere is this truer than in Israel, which has the right, and obligation, to preserve its character as a Jewish country, the only one of its kind in the world.

The news this week was dominated by the plight of some 60,000 illegal migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, who are demanding what they claim to be their rights. They want to be recognized as political refugees, which would make it impossible for Israel to deport them to their countries of origin (according to U.N. regulations), while the government says they are economic migrants, meaning that they are in Israel in search of better-paying jobs, and therefore can be sent back home.

It’s obvious that the successful demonstrations held this week in Tel Aviv, which drew tens of thousands of people, would have been impossible without the active involvement of left-wing groups in Israel. After all, most of the migrants barely speak Hebrew and lack the organizational know-how and funding to arrange for large-scale rallies that require police permits and logistical support (buses, signs, media interviews and so on).

The left obviously had a major role in declaring a three-day work strike, not the kind of thing that individual illegal workers in restaurants or hotels would think to organize, and in the decision to go to foreign embassies to call for international pressure to get Israel to meet their demands.

To be sure, the agenda of the left is not human rights. It is an attempt to turn Israel from a Jewish country into a country of all its citizens. It supports granting full rights to all illegal migrants, not out of concern for human rights, but out of disregard for the need to maintain Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.

As usual, the left doesn’t care about how much damage its campaign does to Israel’s image abroad. Israel is unfairly being cast as racist, when the issue has nothing to do with racism, and it was condemned this week over the issue by a senior U.N. official (as if the United Nations was lacking an excuse for condemning Israel).

Interior Minister Gideon Saar is correct when he says that Israel is being tested. “In Africa there are tens of millions looking for a place to escape to,” he said this week. “We are the only Westernized country in the region with a land border they can cross, so they come to Israel. We must keep up our efforts.”

While a security fence that was built along the Israel-Egypt border, at a cost of NIS 1.4 billion, has succeeded in halting the flow of infiltrators, something must be done about the 60,000 who are already in the country, who are creating serious social problems. A recent State Control Committee report states that the crime rate in south Tel Aviv — where the vast majority of the migrants have settled — has increased by 400 percent, and people are afraid to walk alone on the streets, especially at night.

(It’s no accident that the illegals don’t live in the neighborhoods of the leftist liberals who are championing their cause.)

Israel is fighting the battle against illegal immigration — which is also being faced by the United States and other Western countries — in a measured, reasonable, dignified way. It is looking for countries that will take them in and offering financial payments to migrants willing to leave voluntarily. According to Saar, around 5,000 are leaving each year. “There are no magical solutions,” he said. “The problem did not come about in one day, and it will not be resolved in one day.”

The government’s overall approach to the problem — build a fence to stop new infiltrators and gradually find ways to send home those who are in the country — is correct.

Israel has historically shared its cutting-edge technologies in medicine, agriculture and desalination with the poorest countries of the world, in an attempt to improve the quality of life there. It is a role model to the world on how to absorb poor populations, as it has done with wave after wave of immigrants from impoverished countries, providing them with housing, education and welfare.

But it cannot open its gates to illegal migrants who threaten not only the safety — physical and spiritual — of its citizens, but the Jewish character of the country.