We all know that there are events and phenomena in Israel which are infuriatingly surreal, in particular its bureaucracy. However, there have been a series of events since the weekend that simply beggar belief, and try even my own weathered patience.
Foremost amongst my feelings of bewilderment is wondering how many other people apart from me find it surreal that people, who are forbidden by law to work, are nonetheless going on strike.
There are many who sincerely believe that it is the duty of the government to view them as refugees in order that they should receive the requisite rights and benefits. Even if that were the reality, there remain several equally important points of contention that we need to take in to account.
The first is one of definitions: How many of these people are actually refugees? It is entirely understandable that people from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan wish to move somewhere where the rule of law is respected, and economic opportunities abound. The contradictions arise when those same people attack the government for functioning on the basis of that same principle of rule of law. In addition, it is important to know that for the purposes of international law, refugees who cross more than one international border, as is the case here, are not considered refugees in the third (or fourth) country.
The second point is that the unfortunate truth is that the influx of migrants has seen a rise in crime in the areas where they have congregated, specifically, South Tel Aviv, Arad and Eilat. Residents, who tend to be vulnerable and/or elderly, have seen their neighbourhoods degenerate with a surge of assaults and other unsavory and criminal behaviour. This is not to say that every migrant is a criminal, but rather that we have to face the reality honestly and with clear eyes and make sure that law and order is enforced, especially in socioeconomically depressed areas.
The third factor that we need to consider is the economic reality we live in. According to official figures, between 60,000-70,000 migrants have arrived in Israel in the past five years as well as around 120,000 guest workers whose visas have lapsed. That constitutes one percent of the population, a statistic which has real implications for the provision of local services. The real irony in this case is that it is the same Left here that calls for withdrawals from Judea and Samaria in the name of protecting the Zionist Dream and a clear Jewish majority in the one place that remains to us. Maintaining a Jewish majority would be impossible with an open-door policy to economic migrants.
Fourthly, we would do well to see how immigration has been handled in Europe, in particular in the last twenty years. The intolerance and sectarianism that manifests itself in Greece’s Golden Dawn, the Hungarian government against the Roma, Muslims in France and the rise of the UK Independence Party in Britain are all rooted in the failure of government to set out and enforce a clear and transparent policy, developed in concert with the concerns of the public.
Finally, was I the only one who noticed how all the slogans that were on the placards and were shouted by the demonstrators were in English? Almost as if the whole thing was orchestrated…