Racist Israel to drive Africans from “Holy Land”

Israel the so called “only democracy in the region” is no different from their Arab neighbors that marginalize and discriminate against Blacks and Asians.

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Israel has initiated the first stage of a controversial “emergency plan” aimed at interning and deporting an estimated 60,000 African immigrants. Officials believe the presence of the Africans poses a threat to the “Jewish character” of the state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes immigrants are swamping his country, has claimed the African migrants “are seen by many Israelis as a law and order issue and even a threat to the long-term viability of the Jewish state.”

The Prime Minister promised that in order to stop the hiring of illegal Africans the legislation would be strictly enforced.

Israeli authorities are ready to grant 1,000 euros to any African who agrees to freely leave within five days. Some immigrants have agreed, while others are going to be repatriated by force.

Over a hundred African men, women, and children, mostly South Sudanese, have been reportedly detained in the Red Sea port of Eilat.
Senior immigration official Yossi Edelstein reported on Israel Radio “We have arrested about 140 infiltrators up until last night, the main portion of who are South Sudanese.”

The handcuffed detainees were brought to the Saharonim detention facility in the Negev Desert.

According to Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, the first to be deported are going to be 1.500 refugees from South Sudan, who fled the civil war that split their country.

“The next stage is the removal from Israel of all the infiltrators from Eritrea and Sudan, whose number comes close to 50,000 people,” the Interior Minister said.

Still, the deportation is legally questionable and the Interior Ministry admits it.

“At the moment, we are permitted only to deport from Israel the citizens of South Sudan and the Ivory Coast,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai said.

This raises concerns about those African that are going to be detained and put into camps pending deportation.

But for Minister Eli Yishai who also heads of the Shas religious party saying “no” to alien deportation plans means “shelving the declaration of independence, and the end of the Zionist dream.”

The Israeli parliament is also fueling anti-African rhetoric. Parliamentarians in the Knesset do not hesitate to label Africans “cancer” and the “AIDS to Israeli people”.

It must be said that the majority of the 7.8 million Israelis supports government migrantion policies. The latest opinion poll showed 52 per cent of Israelis agree that Africans pose a threat to Israel.

A few Israelis tend to shift blame for the economic and demographic crisis on illegal immigrants, mostly coming to Israel via the poorly guarded border with Egypt in the Sinai Desert.

There have been a number of anti-immigrant demonstrations in Israel in recent months. The latest was held in Tel Aviv this month. Some participants of the rally accused the African immigrants of coming to their country “to steal and rape”, proposing to “burn them out” and “put poison in their food”, says Ynet News.

A senior police commander David Gez has acknowledged that despite claims of raging crime in sections of south Tel Aviv where Africans live the actual crime level among the migrants is drastically lower than among Israelis.

Nevertheless, the majority of the Israeli are against illegal aliens and there have been a number of hate crimes against Africans. Last Thursday someone set fire on to an Eritrean migrant’s home in Jerusalem, injuring three men. Israeli police said it appeared to be a racist attack. One Eritrean suffered serious burns, and a pregnant woman and her husband were treated for smoke inhalation.

Those Israelis who actually communicate with the illegal Sudanese immigrants are ashamed of the attacks.

David Blum, director of the Isrotel Hotel in Eilat is reported as saying that “Most of them are educated people who fled from a bloody war in their homeland. They speak a number of languages, most of them are Christian, and they did their job in the best way possible with dignity.”

Israeli scientist Dr. Shalva Weil warns of another “threat” to the state of Israel. Dr. Weil is an anthropologist and expert on Ethiopian Jewry of Hebrew University claims that in the past 15 years there has been a sharp rise in the number of African tribes “rediscovering” their Jewish heritage.

“It’s important that in Israel people understand that millions of people throughout Africa consider themselves Jewish,” the professor said. “As far as they are concerned, they are the sons of the lost tribes, and are certain that the Promised Land awaits them.”

South Sudanese migrants receive instruction at the Immigration population Authority office in Eilat as they prepare to return to South Sudan, in southern Israeli city of Eilat June 12, 2012, where thousands of migrants reside. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
South Sudanese migrants receive instruction at the Immigration population Authority office in Eilat as they prepare to return to South Sudan, in southern Israeli city of Eilat June 12, 2012, where thousands of migrants reside. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
A South Sudanese boy is lifted as he waves goodbye to his friend on board a bus before its departure to Ben Gurion airport from Tel Aviv′s central bus station June 17, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)
A South Sudanese boy is lifted as he waves goodbye to his friend on board a bus before its departure to Ben Gurion airport from Tel Aviv’s central bus station June 17, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)
A South Sudanese boy presses his hand against the window of a bus before its departure to Ben Gurion airport from Tel Aviv′s central bus station June 17, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)
A South Sudanese boy presses his hand against the window of a bus before its departure to Ben Gurion airport from Tel Aviv’s central bus station June 17, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)
A South Sudanese man pushes a trolley with his luggage as he arrives at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv June 17, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)
A South Sudanese man pushes a trolley with his luggage as he arrives at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv June 17, 2012. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)

 

Apartheid on the Beach: Racism in Lebanon

Lebanon like it’s neighbor Israel is filled with institutionalized racism. Anti-Black and Anti-Asian sentiment is common in the region

 

Apartheid on the Beach: Racism in Lebanon

by Franklin Lamb

May 25, 2012

BEIRUT — As many visitors to Lebanon can attest, some Lebanese have the rather charming habit of asking them, “Do you love Lebanon?”  One assumes they actually mean to inquire if the visitor likes Lebanon and is enjoying their visit.  No doubt most do, given this country’s kaleidoscope of attractive and hospitable features that, to name just a few, include idyllic spring weather, wonderful topography, delicious food, a nearly unmatched collection of archeological remains from half a dozen civilizations, and not least, a friendly people who make visitors feel at home.

But with the arrival of the vernal equinox and the rebirth of flora and fauna, accompanied by rising water temperatures of the Mediterranean an uglier facet of this gifted country surfaces: racism.

Discrimination and endemic racist practices are mainly directed against foreign female domestic workers from the Philippines, East Africa, and Ethiopia, who work as maids and nannies for Lebanese families, and against dark-skinned men. At the same time, Palestinian refugees are even denied rights the others who are targeted receive, the most elementary civil rights to work and to own a home outside their cramped, fetid camps.

According to Human Rights Watch, some resorts do not even allow African and Asian domestic workers to wear bathing suits or sun themselves.  In 2005, filmmaker Carol Mansour produced a documentary on the conditions that foreign workers encounter in Lebanon titled “Maid in Lebanon.”

Each spring and summer, reports surface in the media of the many beaches and private swimming pools that are segregated and off limits to people of color and those judged to be of lesser socio-economic worth.  Among those cited regularly for blatant discrimination are several hotels whose swimming pools are off limits, as one sign at the Sporting Beach Club warned: “Maids are not allowed.”  Among the more egregious violators, according to Beirut’s Daily Star, are Villamar in Khalde, Beirut’s Coral Beach, Beirut’s Les Creneaux, and Beirut’s Sporting Club, but there are more than a dozen others.

Human Rights Watch has claimed that more than 50 percent of Lebanon’s beach clubs do not allow migrant guest workers from Asia and Africa in their swimming pools, and some even physically block their entrance at the door.

Race-based discrimination is practiced not just at private beaches but also has been attempted at Beirut’s only free public beach, the nearly mile long Ramlet al Baida shore, located within walking distance of Hamra and three Palestinian refugee camps, Mar Elias, Shatila, and Burj al Barajeneh as well as the Hezbollah area of Dahiyeh. With its wide beach, excellent sand, generally sparse flotsam and jetsam from Saida’s huge garbage mountain that Lebanon’s south to north current deposits during storms at all beaches to its north, and no entrance fee, Ramlet al Baida is popular with foreign workers and low income and refugee families from several countries in the region forced recently into Lebanon by western invasions of their country.

For years, some residents from the more than 150 high-rise apartments buildings, across from Rafik Hariri Boulevard from RAB beach, many owned by wealthy foreigners from the Gulf, have been trying to get this beach closed down in order to privatize it for their exclusive personal use.  Hezbollah and some progressive civic organizations have to date blocked the theft of this priceless public space and following a series of beach cleanups, some by Palestinian ‘camp kids’ and environmental groups, the Beirut municipality, to its credit, has started regular trash collections from RAB beach and to educate beach goers to deposit their picnic waste in the recently placed trash bins.

But this has not stopped certain publicly paid lifeguards from trying to segregate this public beach and shunt certain targeted beach users, including foreign domestic workers, Middle Eastern refugees from Iraq, Kurdistan, Africa, and Palestine, to the north end of RAB, very close to where the black brook of untreated sewage from the apartment buildings across the road enters the Mediterranean.

An investigation conducted recently by the Washington DC-Beirut based Palestine Civil Rights Campaign is instructive. One particular lifeguard at RAM justified his attempts at segregation at this public facility by claiming authoritatively that “It’s better for them (those of color and refugee status).”  When asked in what ways “it is better for them” his ideas became vaguer but he did offer his clear view that “Palestinians should leave Lebanon and that they do not work and anyhow they often don’t know how to read or write—most are illiterate.” The gentleman is from Tripoli and may have been unaware that Palestinians in Lebanon are barred by law from working in nearly every possible job, more than 70 professions at latest count. But he may know something about illiteracy up north where he hails from, including the recent United Nations Development Programs survey of Tripoli which reveals a 21 percent illiteracy rate for 15-29 year olds, by far the highest in Lebanon and one of the highest in the world, due to high drop-out rates, especially among boys in the area.

By contrast, Palestinians, even while barred generally from Lebanese public schools and with school dropout and illiteracy rates higher in Lebanon’s 12 camps than in any of the 58 UNWRA organized Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, or Syria, still somehow managed in 2011 to keep illiteracy among their countrymen at 4.7 for those aged 15 years and above, including 2.1 percent among males and 7.4 percent among females. These figures are contained in the recent report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics’ Special Statistical Bulletin on the 64th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.

Clearly Lebanon’s Parliament needs to do much more to help their disadvantaged communities such as north Lebanon with its high unemployment rates (men more than 52 percent, women at 97 percent according to the UNDP study) and to allow Palestinians the same right to work as other foreigners are allowed.

Racism-driven attempts at segregation at Ramlet al Baida public beach as well as private beaches are reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid era, current accelerating trends in Israel toward segregating Palestinians generally from claimed “open to all” public facilities, and American hostility towards blacks that in many southern communities were enshrined in law as recently as the 1950’s with racist practices and profiling continuing today.

To their credit, a few Lebanese civil society organizations such as the activist groups Anti-Racism Movement and the Migrant Worker’s Task Force are fighting against these racist practices and some Lebanese government agencies are also.

Following a frank and at times heated meeting between a PCRC delegation and Lebanese officials at the Mar Elias offices of the Beirut Municipality at which the RAB beach situation was thoroughly  discussed including the possibility of a sit-in/swim in and open-ended demonstration, or issuing a call for Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command to conduct an onsite “investigation”, Beirut Municipality officials pledged an immediate investigation with serious remedial actions as warranted.  To  their credit they kept their word and no sooner had the PCRC expressed its gratitude,  than Nada Sardouk, director-general of the Tourism Ministry, sent a letter addressed to the owners of beach clubs and pools demanding  “quality in receiving customers, with no discrimination in terms of race, nationality or … special needs.” Among the circular’s other stipulations are requirements for lifeguards and free drinking water. Sardouk pledges that citations and fines will be issued to all violators.

Lebanon, its people and government, is very capable of removing this blight of bathing facility discrimination from their seemingly simultaneously blessed and cursed country.  As Nadim Khoury, Lebanese investigator for Human Rights Watch noted recently,  Lebanon’s  Ministry of Tourism edict baring race based discrimination or attempts at segregation, “ is encouraging in principle, the key will be whether it is enforced”.

 

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But racism is unlikely to be erased overnight, either in Lebanon or in many other Middle Eastern countries where blacks are routinely looked down on. Racist taunts are often heard on Egypt’s streets, and in Yemen, darker-skinned people, known as al-akhdam (“the servants”), who make up perhaps 5% of the population, are confined to menial jobs and tend to dwell in slums. In Libya rebel militias often targeted darker-skinned people from nearby countries such as Chad and Mali and from countries further south, accusing them of being mercenaries of Muammar Qaddafi.

Filipinos, Sri Lankans and Chinese-Americans, among others, whisper of racist slurs both at work and on Lebanon’s streets. “When black or Asian friends visit,” says a young Lebanese professional, “I’m at the airport the moment they land to make sure immigration officers don’t ask inappropriate questions. It’s a disgrace.”