On January 10, Haaretz writer Jonathan Lis headlined, "Knesset passes (Law to Prevent Infiltration) that could put asylum seekers in jail without trial," saying:
"The bill would make 'illegal' migrants and asylum seekers liable to jail, without trial or deportation, if caught staying in Israel for 'long periods.' "
Moreover, anyone helping them or providing shelter faces five to 15 years in prison for being a good samaritan. Avoiding it involves proving they didn't know the refugee lacked residency status and wasn't guilty of alleged criminality.
Netanyahu and extremists around him sponsored the bill. It followed a similar July 2010 proposal, dropped after widespread criticism.
The measure amends the 1954 Law to Prevent Infiltration. Limited to emergency conditions, it specifically targeted Palestinian and other Arab Fedayeen freedom fighters.
The new measure targets refugees and asylum seekers and families. Minimally, they'll be imprisoned for three years. However, detentions may be extended indefinitely.
The law only allows judicial oversight by an administrative court after 14 days. It's forbidden to release detainees sooner than three years except under very hard to prove extraordinary humanitarian circumstances.
The bill's previous version mandated life sentences for refugees and asylum seekers convicted of property damage, including offenses as minor as graffiti. Persons providing aid faced five to 15 year sentences.
The Association for Civil Rights (ACRI) in Israel called the 2010 measure "one of the most dangerous bills ever presented in the Knesset." Despite softening, its new version remains brazenly draconian, undemocratic and shameful.
ACRI calls it "draconian and immoral, and its entire purpose is to deter refugees from entering Israel. The law blatantly disregards Israel's most basic commitments as a member of the community of nations and as a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees."
"The State of Israel has the right to protect its borders, but not by trampling human rights and ignoring democratic values."
In 2010, ACRI explained "lies and reality" in the bill's original version. It main provisions included:
• imprisoning legitimate asylum seekers for five years to life;
• incarcerating Darfur, Sudan refugees for seven years to life;
• those entering with weapons faced minimal 20 year sentences, including for having an ordinary pocket knife;
• organizations or individuals providing medical care, food or water, legal help, and/or shelter were criminally liable;
• those caught entering could be summarily deported to war zones or nations with notorious human rights records;
• if not immediately deported, imprisonment or indefinite detentions followed;
• judicial review was prohibited for two weeks or longer; and
• women and children would be treated like men.
The current measure targets persons entering Israel without permission or caught carrying weapons or drugs. It also applies if convicted of human trafficking. Most of its original provisions remain.
The bill's sole purpose is to deter refugees and asylum seekers from entering Israel for any purpose. In addition, migrant worker residents can be imprisoned for three years to life for misdemeanor type offenses.
Before passage, Hadash party MK Dov Khenin called the bill "dangerous, immoral, unconstitutional and contrary to the law of human dignity and freedom. It runs contrary to Israel's international commitments, and the Knesset should reject it out of hand."
Israel's Disturbing History
Israel's inhospitable history is appalling. Jews alone are welcome. International law stipulates otherwise. Article I of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees calls them:
"A person who owning to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country."
The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to help them. To gain legal protection, they must:
• be outside their country of origin;
• fear persecution;
• be harmed or fear harm by their government or others;
• fear persecution for at least one of the above reasons; and
• pose no danger to others.
The Knesset's 1950 Law of Return grants all Jews worldwide the right to citizenship and residency. Yet no refugee law exists, despite Israel being a signatory to the UN's 1951 Convention.
Among Western states, Israel is least hospitable to refugees and asylum seekers. At best, some get temporary limited stays. Most often, they're summarily denied, including those with legitimate persecution fears.
Although legally mandated to help, Israel consistently refuses.
A Final Comment
On January 11, a Haaretz editorial headlined, "Israel's anti-infiltration law is a disgrace," saying:
"Of all the antidemocratic laws that have descended on us of late, it is perhaps the most shameful."
Nonetheless, it passed 37 - 8. As a result, non-Jewish refugees, asylum seekers, or migrants seeking work are criminalized.
"Words fail in the face of such a disgraceful act of legislation. Sending desperate human beings, who come to Israel" with legitimate fears or for work can be imprisoned indefinitely without trial.
Most pose any threat whatever. Imprisoning them "is intolerable." Nonetheless, "a jingoistic" draconian measure became law.
It's more proof of an out-of-control rogue terror state unfit to live in. No wonder many Israelis vote with their feet and leave.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.