Elliot Vaisrub Glassenberg
American-Canadian-Israeli queer Jewish educator-activist.
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Secret refugees-for-weapons deals threaten Israel’s security

Whose safety is protected by closed-door decisions to deport asylum-seekers and give weapons to African rogue regimes?

Asylum seekers do not pose a threat to Israel’s security, but secret refugees-for-weapons deals with rogue African regimes do.

This Sunday (Oct. 9) the Supreme Court will discuss the petition of human rights NGOs against the government’s plans to implement a policy of “non-voluntary” departure (i.e., deportation) to third-party countries for Eritreans and Sudanese who have been rejected from — or have yet to submit written applications to — Israel’s asylum process.

The human rights NGOs will likely claim, rightly, that Israel’s Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process is inherently flawed, accepting fewer than 1% of all applicants, while most Western countries accept between 20-30%. They will argue that according to international standards, any migrant transfer agreements must be public and subject to judicial and public scrutiny. They will point out that any such agreements must guarantee the rights and safety of the migrants. They will even will present dozens of testimonies that demonstrate that the people Israel already transferred to third-party countries arrived with no status and no rights, at risk of abuse, arrest, and deportation. Many have been smuggled to other countries, while others have been arrested, tortured, assassinated or have died in their new refugee journeys.

The government, however, will continue to publicly assure that it can “guarantee” the rights and safety of those transferred, though it will refuse to divulge the details of the supposed agreements that guarantee such rights or even the names of the third-party party countries for “security reasons.” The government will claim (as it has in the past) to have testimonies of transferred migrants who have experienced “no notable problems” in their new countries, though it will refuse to publicly reveal such testimonies, again, for “security reasons.”

And then, in its one-sided closed-door sessions with the judges, the government will claim… Well… We don’t know what the government will claim. No members of the public, the press, or even the plaintiffs are allowed in these sessions, of course, for “security reasons.”

Perhaps in these sessions, the state will show the judges the mysterious “secret agreements” for the transfer of migrants in exchange for weapons to East African countries — with details on the weapons secretly transferred, or rights secretly guaranteed. (Why the government cannot at least reveal the details of rights guaranteed while censoring the details of weapons exchanged is particularly befuddling.) Perhaps they will have information on secret “terrorist” networks that will somehow harm Israel, unless Israel provides enough deadly weapons to certain African regimes. Or perhaps they have other claims that have nothing to do with national security, but we will never know, because we are not allowed in.

We, the citizens, are not privy to what happens in these sessions. The state is not even required to have an independent security expert present to determine which evidence must truly be kept confidential for security reasons and which information must be shared with the public, or even which claims are true, and which claims may be, inevitably, false. The judges, for their part, though they may be experts in law, are not all experts in matters of security, and are therefore completely at the mercy of the representatives of the state and the “security” information presented to them — and God-forbid they should be seen as doing anything that might possibly endanger the “security” of Israel.

But whose “security” are we talking about anyway?

The security of the citizens of Israel, who are not allowed to know what “information” the government is keeping secret in order to protect our security? (It is worth noting that it was also confidential “security” evidence that was used to cancel the Be’er Sheva pride parade. Curiously, the same evidence was later deemed “insufficient” to press any charges against alleged threats.) The security of the asylum seekers, who are slated for deportation should their petition be rejected and who — along with their Israeli friends and neighbors, such as myself — are rightfully worried about their future safety and security, for which the State of Israel is responsible? And what of the citizens of Uganda and Rwanda, whose oppressive regimes are known to persecute their own people, including LGBTQ people and others.

And what of the citizens of south Sudan who have been killed by Israeli weapons that were resold by the unpredictable Ugandan regime (as reported last month by the UN and AP). And who knows to what other dangerous elements the Ugandan regime has resold Israeli weapons? Speaking of which, what of the international human-smuggling and terrorism rings, that have been fed in no small part of the $3,500 per/person “exit grant” — given by the government of Israel to its deportees who must inevitably use this grant to try to reach safer lands? I truly wonder how all this can possibly good for Israeli — and global — security.

And what of the security of our conscience — how are we, citizens of the state, to know that what our government is doing in our name is indeed right and just?

I am not suggesting that there is never just cause for confidential security evidence. However, I am suggesting that there must be safeguards against unilateral power held by certain representatives of the state to determine which evidence and which arguments can be presented unfiltered behind closed-doors to judges — evidence and arguments that will have a significant impact on the lives of citizens and of thousands of asylum seekers who want little more than to live in peace — and security.

About the Author
Elliot Vaisrub Glassenberg is an American-Canadian-Israeli queer Jewish educator and activist. Elliot is a senior educator at BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social change and co-chair of Right Now: Advocates for Asylum Seekers in Israel.
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