As most of you undoubtedly know, Ariel (Arik) Sharon, 85, former prime minister of Israel, passed away yesterday, after eight years in a comatose state following a stroke.
In some quarters, the news is filled with laudatory articles about him. For in his younger days he was a brilliant and fearless military commander whose strategies were critical in the victories in 1967 and 1973. Subsequently, as a government minister, he fostered the building of communities in Judea and Samaria.
None of this can be taken away from him. Nor would I wish to do that.
In Arab and related anti-Israel quarters there is obscene jubilation at his death, with the leveling of accusations against him that are absolutely not true. He was not responsible for the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. And, I hasten to point out, he did not initiate the Second Intifada by going onto Har Habayit. That Palestinian Arab war against Israel begun in 2000 was not a spontaneous uprising of anger – it had been thoroughly pre-planned by Arafat, who was waiting for a pretext to begin. It is important that this record be kept straight. The anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish media saw him as a special target for vilification, so that he was represented – with outrageous injustice – as a monster. This cannot be allowed to stand. Against such accusers I stand read to defend his record.
And yet… and yet…
Minister Naftali Bennett says we should leave discussion of the disengagement for another time. This is, surely, a response to the principle of not speaking ill of the dead, and in particular the very recently deceased. I respect that, and yet cannot let pass mention of the expulsion from Gaza (Gush Katif), which Sharon pushed through the government, and which was an unmitigated disaster for this country from both a diplomatic and security perspective. It generated a time of enormous national pain from which we have not yet recovered. As I see it, the Gush Katif expulsion was a betrayal of Sharon’s mandate from the electorate, and a betrayal of the nation. It represented a reversal of all that he was understood to represent until then, and left many highly bewildered. There seems no way to reconcile Sharon’s different policies, although a great many people are struggling to do just that.
Sharon is lying in state today and will be buried next to his wife Lily at his Negev farm tomorrow.
For eight years, the neshama (soul) of Arik Sharon floated between this world and the next. Perhaps now he will find peace. And may we, having learned important lessons about standing strong, move on to peace for the soul of our nation.
One of the issues I want to focus on today is that enormously problematic situation of the African migrants currently in Israel. You may well have heard – via some of those same anti-Israel sources I referred to above – about how lacking in humanitarian sensitivity Israel is with regard to policy on these migrants. As they present the situation, Israel can do no right. If there is an opportunity for attacking us, they grab it.
A few basic facts:
Most of the 50,000 plus Africans, primarily from Eritrea and Sudan, are NOT refugees – even though they, and the left wing press and NGOs, would represent them as being so. Of the 53,000 African infiltrators in our country, only 1,800 have applied for asylum, on a refugee basis. This information comes directly from Israeli Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa’ar. (See an interview Sa’ar did with the JPost: http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx) It is enormously telling.
What are they? Economic migrants. Life is hard in their countries, so they decided to move on to a place where they have hopes of earning better money. Far and wide in Africa, the word is out that Israel is “the” place to go.
But, obviously, they didn’t applied for entry into the country on work visas. They are precisely what Sa’ar calls them: infiltrators. They entered our borders illegally. This is a situation no country can tolerate. It means relinquishing control of the borders: every nation has the right to control who enters. If we were to lose control, then millions who would prefer to live here than where they now live would attempt to enter, ultimately overwhelming the nation.
Note what Israel’s Foreign Ministry said recently about this issue (emphasis added):
”The situation in Israel is much more complex than that of other developed countries. Israel is the only developed country with a land border with Africa, which makes it comparatively more accessible for those who wish to enter. Moreover, due to Israel’s unique geostrategic situation and the current political instability surrounding its borders, it becomes practically impossible to develop regional cooperative solutions with countries of origin and transit, as done by other developed countries, such as European countries and the US.”
It is my understanding that Israel has more illegal economic infiltrators in absolute numbers than all of Europe combined. The developed nations simply do not permit an influx of third world people in large numbers such that can weaken their stability.
Israel is a very small nation: 50,000 infiltrators from a radically different culture – with no genuine allegiance to Israel but only concern for what they can garner from Israel -are far, far more than can be accommodated. The vast majority came via Israel’s border with the Sinai. That border has now been closed, as a fence has been constructed across its length. But there remains the issue of what to do with those who are already here. The government of Israel is determined to find solutions for their going elsewhere. There have been some voluntary repatriations, but most would leave to third countries.
While there certainly are issues of humanitarian concern and human rights for the African migrants, the rights of Israeli citizens must also be considered. In areas where these infiltrators live, there is an enormous increase in crime, including rape; in certain neighborhoods – notably in south Tel Aviv – people are afraid to go out at night.
Please note: this does not mean every single infiltrator is a criminal or violent. In no way do I intend to imply this. But these are desperate people, and desperation leads to criminal or violent behavior in some instances. What is more, there are costs to the nation in terms of medical care, for example, that are a burden on the Israeli taxpayers.
Last week, there were massive demonstrations by tens of thousands of the Africans, appealing for the right to stay and work.
Their efforts have backfired for a simple reason: It clear that they are being manipulated and choreographed for purposes that are destructive to Israel.
Gideon Sa’ar (see above URL), is convinced that outside bodies are initiating the protests (emphasis added):
“The infiltrators are not the ones asking for protest permits. They are not the ones paying for the buses…
“It is legitimate to disagree with government policies. What infuriates me is when organizations make libelous statements about the State of Israel and the demonstrations in front of foreign embassies and the verbal attacks that are carried out in front of international media cameras. Israel has nothing to be ashamed of and is coping with this phenomenon just as well as other Western nations that have dealt with this problem.”
The goal of those underwriting the protests, clearly, is a weakening of Israeli society and of the international image of Israel. Do not be taken in…
Before moving on to another topic, I want to make one additional and extremely important point. David Lev has written (emphasis added):
“But the reason they [African illegals] were able to do so [organize impressive demonstrations], said Yisrael Hayom Thursday, was because they had some ‘inside help,’ from an Israeli organization funded by the UN, EU, and the leftist New Israel Fund. According to the report, the demonstrations this week in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were organized by the “Refugee Assistance Fund,” an organization led by several well-known Israeli leftists. Among those funding the group is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, various European Union groups, and the New Israel Fund, infamous for funding leftist projects and organizations like Peace Now, Yesh Gvul, etc.”
This touches upon a related, but different issue: the meddling, behind the scenes, of foreign organizations and governments in what goes on in Israel. Legislation is being developed that would address some aspects of these situation.
I have written several times about the rapidly changing Middle East. After World War I, and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, France and Great Britain essentially divided control over the area and drew arbitrary borders to create states, without concern for the ethnic and religious (Christian, Druze, Sunni, Shi’ite, etc.) groups contained within those borders. These groups have been to a considerable degree kept under the thumb of autocratic rulers, who themselves may have been members of a minority ethnic group. That autocratic rule suppressed self-assertion by the various other groups and lent the superficial impression of a unified nation. I think in particular of the Alawite rule in Syria and the Hashemite rule in Jordan. (In Lebanon there is a history of serious and violent tensions between Christians and Muslims, with ongoing instability.)
Now, with the seriously misnamed “Arab Spring,” states are beginning to break apart – we see this is Syria, in Iraq and elsewhere – with various religious and ethnic groups asserted themselves. A particularly important example of this is with the Kurds, who are a legitimate ethnic, cultural group that inhabits adjacent regions in Iraq and Turkey. They are aiming for an independent Kurdistan.
Within Israel, we are beginning to see something similar, as there is now a movement to differentiate Christians from Muslim Arabs. Coalition Chair Yariv Levin (Likud) is attempting to institute measures that would legally differentiate the groups. Christians would receive an identity as a minority group separate from Arabs, and give them their own representation.
“Out of ignorance, the government has been lumping all of the minorities – Druse, Christians and others – under the category of ‘Arab’ since the establishment of the state, even though there are big differences among them. Since there are many more Muslims than members of other groups, the result is that only Muslim concerns were met…
“This idea came from Christians who asked me to do this following similar activity pertaining to the Druse minority.
It’s not surprising that Christians want to be separated from Muslims. This is the only place in the Middle East where they have security and freedom of worship. Many Christians don’t want to be known as Arabs, but as Maronites or Aramites.”
This strikes me as imminently sensible. The Christians here who traditionally have been identified as “Arabs” actually have various cultural roots. Most of them practice religions such as Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox, with each church having liturgy in that respective language. That is, in an “Arab” Greek Orthodox church in this part of the world, you will find prayers in Greek, and so forth. Knowing this, it has long occurred to me that these Christian “Arabs” are truly ethnically different from the Muslim population.
Now this is being recognized. Says Levin,
“I’m doing justice to this community by connecting them to the country and preventing Islamist extremists from forcing an identity on them that they don’t want.”
What is of significance here is the movement to encourage the Christians to fully identify with Israel and to enlist in the IDF.
In her column on Friday, Caroline Glick writes about this phenomenon (emphasis added).
She mentions Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest in Nazareth, who, she says, “is responsible for the 300 percent rise in Christian Arab enlistment in the IDF in the past year.
“Nadaf does not hide his goal or his motivation. He seeks the full integration of Israel’s 130,000 Christians into Israeli society…
“As he explained in a recent interview…’in light of what we see happening to Christians in Arab countries, how they are slaughtered and persecuted on a daily basis, killed and raped just because they are Christians. Does this happen in the State of Israel? No, it doesn’t.”
What we are seeing here, says Glick, is “the natural result of the most significant revolutionary development of the so-called Arab Spring: the demise of Arab nationalism.“
Glick – citing Ofir Haivry, vice president of the Herzl Institute – then proceeds to offer an analysis of the situation that I think is brilliant:
“…Arab nationalism was born in pan-Arabism – an invention of European powers during World War I that sought to endow the post-Ottoman Middle East with a new identity.
“The core of the new identity was the Arabic language. The religious, tribal, ethnic and nationalist aspirations of the peoples of the Arabic-speaking region were to be smothered and replaced by a pan-Arabic identity…
“But now pan-Arabism lies in ruins from North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. The people of the region have gone back to identifying themselves by tribe, religion, and ethnicity. and in the case of the Kurds and Berbers, non-Arab national identity…
“As Haivry notes, Israel’s central strategic challenge has always been contending with pan-Arabism…
“Since its inception, pan-Arab leaders always saw Israel as the scapegoat on which to pin their failure to deliver on pan-Arabism’s promise of global Arab power and influence…
“…Once, Israel could see the dangers in pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism. But since 1993 [Oslo], says Haivry, Israel’s national strategy has been based on appeasing the secular authoritarian pan-Arab leaders by offering land for peace to Syria and the PLO.
“Haivry notes the Shimon Peres is the political godfather of Israel’s accomodationist strategy, which is rooted in a mix of perceived powerlessness on the one hand, and utopianism on the other.
“The sense of powerlessness owes to the conviction that Israel cannot influence its environment. That the Arabs will never change. Israel’s neighbors will always see themselves primarily as Arabs, and they will always want, more than anything else, Arab states…
“The so-called Arab Spring has put paid to every one of the accomodationists’ beliefs. From Egypt to Tunisia to Iraq to Syria, Israel’s neighbors are fighting each other as Sunnis, Shi’ites and Salafists, or as members of clans and tribes, without a thought for the alleged primacy of their Arab identity…”
It is time for a revamping of government thinking on a significant scale, declares Glick:
“…The Netanyahu government has failed to recognize the implications of the death of pan-Arabism. In maintaining their slavish devotion to the two-state formula, and viewing the Arabs in the Galilee, Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem and surrounding states as an impenetrable bloc, they are placing Israel’s future in the hands of actors who have already disappeared or will soon disappear…”
I encourage you to read this entire piece, and share it:
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.