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The Wrong Way To Stand Up For African Migrants In Israel

Dear Editor,

I’m writing regarding David Sheen’s opinion piece recently published in The Forward. Sheen’s piece omits any mention of the fact that on March 15th, Israel’s High Court issued an order freezing the forced deportation of African asylum seekers.

On March 20th, the High Court clarified that the order is not limited in time and is in force until further notice.

Thus, Sheen’s claims about an imminent forced deportation are not true (e.g. “Netanyahu’s immigration officials will soon be hunting black men down in the streets of Tel Aviv and forcing them onto planes that will ferry them to a renewed stateless existence”).

In addition, Sheen’s claim that the “organized American Jewish community stayed silent for the last five years” is also false.

Liberal and progressive American Jewish organizations have for years criticized the Israeli government’s treatment of African asylum seekers; moreover, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which represents numerous mainstream Jewish groups (including the Jewish Federations, AJC, ADL, and the Orthodox Union) signed a letter in 2014 urging the Israeli government to uphold its human rights obligations to African asylum seekers and implement a fair refugee status determination system.

Such misrepresentations undermine the just cause of African asylum seekers, as Sheen portrays their struggle as futile. Israel’s High Court has consistently pushed back against the Israeli government’s mistreatment of African asylum seekers, in response to petitions filed by Israeli human rights groups that advocate on their behalf.

Their legal battle is far from over, so supporting these organizations is a concrete way to help ensure that Israel respects the rights of asylum seekers, in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention. Here is information on these human rights groups:

Hotline for Refugees and Migrants

Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Association for Civil Rights in Israel

Thank you,

Nurit Baytch


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