Elliot Vaisrub Glassenberg
American-Canadian-Israeli queer Jewish educator-activist.

Why I stand with African asylum seekers

Join me in standing with African asylum seekers against unjust deportation.

Last year, the Government of Israel announced that it would start deporting Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to third-party countries (Uganda and Rwanda); those who refuse to comply would face indefinite imprisonment. The Supreme Court of Israel is currently discussing the legality of this policy and is expected to rule very soon.

Tomorrow (Thursday, January 26, 2017 – 28 Tevet 5777) the African asylum seeker community is organizing a mass protest in Jerusalem with a simple appeal to the Supreme Court and the Knesset: “Don’t deport us!”. They have invited all those who care for human rights and dignity to stand with them.

I have decided that I will stand with them and this is why:

Because my People were once strangers in a strange land, persecuted and oppressed, and they came out of Egypt in search of refuge and asylum.

Because “you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).

Because “in every generation we must see ourselves as if we ourselves left Egypt” (Passover Haggadah).

Because “you shall not turn over a slave who seeks refuge with you. He shall live with you in any place he may choose, within one of your gates. You must not mistreat him.” (Deuteronomy 23:16).

Because my grandparents were refugees, and had they not crossed many borders in search of asylum, I would not be here today.

Because I believe that Israel should be a Jewish State, a state built upon Jewish ethics and values, and not a state “only for Jews.”

Because, though Israel may not be able to accept every refugee in the world, the State of Israel can and must grant asylum to those of its extant 40,000 African asylum seekers who are so deserving.

Because the State of Israel’s current refugee recognition rate of 0.1% is unacceptable, reprehensible, and absurd.

Because I refuse to accept Benjamin Netanyahu’s self-serving lie that “they are not refugees,” because I have met them, I have heard their stories, and I have heard their cry.

Because I refuse to let the Government of Israel scapegoat all Africans for all the ails of south Tel Aviv, while they dangle the destitute residents of south Tel Aviv as their political pawns.

Because I refuse to give into fear, and I insist upon moral fortitude and hope.

Because I will not let my country exacerbate the global refugee crisis by dumping its refugees back in Africa, into the hands of human traffickers, forcing them to begin their refugee journeys anew; because I believe that every country must do its share, including my own.

Because human beings are not for sale; and refugees should not be traded for weapons.

Because I believe that all human beings are created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1), and that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights); that my life is worth no more and no less than another’s.

Because one day my grandchildren will ask me, “Where were you when Israel tried to deport its asylum seekers, victims of genocide and tyranny, back to Africa?”, I will say, “I stood by their side.”

For these reasons and more, I will stand by their side.

Will you?

For more information on tomorrow’s protest see:

For coverage of the government’s “Deportation or Indefinite Detention” policy (a.k.a. “Rwanda or Saharonim” policy) and the current Supreme Court case on the policy, see:

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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