Monday, April 14, 2014

Uganda and Israeli Racism

 A century ago, Theodor Herzl - the father of modern political Zionism - proposed Uganda as a temporary refuge for persecuted Jews. Uganda is now on the receiving end of other persecuted peoples, this time African refugees who have sought asylum in Israel only to be imprisoned in detention facilities and then returned to the Africa.

 The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in a February 2014 article titled "Israel secretly flying asylum seekers to Uganda", harsh conditions in the detention centres plus nominal financial compensation have facilitated the deportation of many migrants under the guise of "voluntary departure". Uganda's denial of the existence of any deportation agreement with Israel renders accountability for human life even less of an option

The Israeli director of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants on this non-solution to refugee plight: "It is known that Uganda deports asylum seekers to their countries of origin." The organisation also said that " 'voluntary departure' is the result of heavy and illegal psychological pressure on detained, isolated and desperate asylum seekers, which more than once has included threats and lies....the position of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees is that people cannot be considered to be acting of their own free will if the choice they have is between detention and being sent back to their country".

One  reason for the disingenuous rendering of a "voluntary" exodus of refugees is, of course, to prevent an already precarious demographic balance in Israel from tipping in favour of non-Jewish non-whites. There has been political incitement to anti-African violence and the forcible injection of Ethiopian women with contraceptives.  The Israeli regime insists on referring to African asylum seekers as "infiltrators", which connotes criminality and facilitates the illusion of a steady stream of enemies that must be combated. Between November 2012 and May 2013 the Jewish state had approved only one asylum application from a population of approximately 60,000 non-Jewish African asylum seekers in Israel. The applicant happened to be an albino.

"When Israel rounds up and deports African refugees, it makes a mockery of the millions of Jews who died during World War II because no one would grant them shelter,"  Israeli-Canadian journalist David Sheen noted.

Apparently so indistinguishable from one another in their blackness that they can be repatriated to any old place in Africa.

 What does Uganda stand to gain from participating in outsourced inhumanity? A 2013 Vice magazine report details the perks of the arrangement: Weapons discounts and military training for African countries willing to take on Israel's dirty work.  Uganda's interest in Israeli weapons is perhaps less than surprising given the behaviour of its own army and security forces, often characterised by torture and other human rights violations. In 2003, Haaretz ran a story on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's visit to Israel for the purpose of "arms shopping", an excursion that was said to have been "arranged by an arms merchant, Amos Golan of the Silver Shadow company, who represents IAI [Israel Aircraft Industries] and other Israeli defence industries in Uganda".

 A Vice magazine article notes that, as of September of last year, approximately 40,000 of the African "infiltrators" were from Eritrea, "a country with one of the worst human rights records on Earth". The author goes on to comment, with well-directed sarcasm, that "these people aren't coming to Israel because they fancy upping their matzah intake or living on Palestinian land illegally; they're genuinely trying to escape persecution and find a way to survive".

From Al Jazeera

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