The debate over the African "infiltrators" boasts a mix of half-truths, hypocrisy and naivete. There has been incitement from both sides. There are those who sanctimoniously preach that because of the Holocaust, we must open our doors to anyone seeking entry into our country. It is a good thing that Aharon Appelfeld, winner of the Israel Prize for Literature, responded to such allegations: "There is no comparison. [The Holocaust] was a genocide; they took a city and sent it to the ovens. Here we are talking about foreigners who came to us and are here among us."
Let's start with the facts: These people are not "political refugees," people who were forced to flee their homeland due to political, religious or racial persecution. According to various estimates, this definition fits no more than 20-22 percent of the infiltrators among us. The rest left their lands due to economic distress, or to enjoy Israel's comforts.
Also, in accordance with the relevant U.N. framework regulations, Israel is not obligated to become these people's shelter. Whenever a certain issue deals with Israel, however, the subject immediately turns more interesting. It becomes a club for our enemies and critics, both within and from the outside, to smack us with. As usual, claims are made about alleged human rights abuses or racism. Unfortunately, the recent wild behavior of some Israelis plays right into the hands of these accusers.
The illegal migrants in Israel are no different than the masses of African migrants who arrive by circuitous means to Spain, Italy, France and England as well. In one lovely French movie, in which a Swedish migrant worker to France is asked why he left his country, he answers: "If they could, all the Swedes would leave." Of course, this is a thousand times more true for African migrants, although according to all criterion, these people are not political refugees. Obviously we have to feel a bit of compassion towards them, but Israel can't serve as an employment office or as a soup kitchen for all the needy people in the world.
African migrants arrive via various methods to Egypt. They then meet a "handler" whose name and address they received ahead of time, and pay him a $5,000 fee to contact Bedouin smugglers in Sinai to transfer them to Israel. Here and there, of course, Egyptian police or soldiers try to stop them. But Egyptian rule in Sinai is purely theoretical; Bedouins are essentially in control there and most of the people who seek entry into Israel are guaranteed success.
The problem was created because Israel's government and municipalities have, for a long time, been asleep on the job. Citizens pay the price for this; now the authorities must quickly and decisively deal with the problem. They must not be frightened by self-righteous political criticism. There is no other Western country that would deal with the problem of illegal migrants with as much tolerance as we do.
Perhaps the potential threats have been exaggerated, but so long as we continue to ignore the migrant issue with a careless shrug, this negative phenomenon will further take its toll on our lifestyle and our society. For example, violence has increased on all sides. Racial extremism is on the rise and the situation presents a major risk for both our internal and external security. It is also a potential threat to the labor market and salary levels; unemployment may not always be as low as it is now.
The proposal to provide illegal migrants with work is akin to providing drugs to an addict; not only will it not solve the problem, but it is also likely to exacerbate and perpetuate it. It would be best if Israel would temporarily provide food and clothing for these people, until our uninvited guests return to their homelands, or any other place that volunteers to absorb them, if there is one. The first step, however, must be to stop the wave that has already reached Israel's borders. We must not leave the door open as it has been up to now.
By the way, there is another lesson to be learned as well: If we are unable to stop illegal migrants from Africa, what will we do some day when the Arabs themselves decide to exercise what they like to call their "right of return?"