Radio National's Fran Kelly interviews Robbie Sabel, an Israeli professor of international law at the Hebrew University and - ahem - former adviser to the Israeli foreign affairs ministry (Israel issues deportation notices for African migrants, 7/2/18).
Throughout the entire interview, Kelly makes no reference whatever to Israel's expulsion of Palestinian refugees, driven out of their homeland in 1948, and again in 1967, for one reason and one reason only: they were not Jews. Nor does she pick up on the word 'infiltrator', introduced by Sabel. Kelly clearly has no idea that any Palestinian refugee who tried to return was shot on sight as an 'infiltrator'. She is clearly clueless that African refugees, for Sabel and most other Israelis, Africans are simply non-Jews and therefore unwelcome in a Zionist, Jews-only state. Zionism's been around for over 100 years but this simple fact hasn't registered with Fran Kelly:
Fran Kelly: Uganda is denying reports that it's done a deal with Israeli PM Netanyahu to accept thousands more refugees from Sudan and Eritrea who are facing deportation from Israel... Robbie Sabel, why has Israel decided to deport thousands of men, Eritreans and Sudanese, many of whom have been seeking asylum... in Israel for some years now?
Robbie Sabel: Well, these people are not political refugees... Israel is a tiny country which can't absorb large numbers of these people.
FK: Robbie, can I just clarify... when you say they're not political refugees have they been assessed as genuine political refugees?
RS: Everybody who requests political asylum we assess and do not deport until the assessment is finished.
FK: So some have been living there for years. How long have they had their assessment done and have they been deemed to be genuine refugees?
RS: Most of them haven't been given but those who have requested political asylum. there's a backlog and it takes a long time but we do asses them... BTW, even political refugees can be deported but not to a country where they're liable to be persecuted.
FK: So why is Israel doing this now? You say it's about the numbers. How many are we talking about?
RS: Twenty thousand.
FK: That's not very many, is it?
RS: But we're allowing people with families and children to stay. We're talking only about single men and they've moved into the poorer parts of Tel Aviv and it's causing social unrest... And there has been political pressure in Israel to refuse to allow these people to stay permanently.
FK: Where's this pressure coming from?
RS: From the population of Tel Aviv... They say tiny little Israel can't solve the problems of the terrible situation in some African countries.
FK: Nevertheless it does seem there is something else going on here rather than just worrying about the numbers. The language being used. The government is describing some of these people as infiltrators. What is that supposed to mean?
RS: Well, legally they are. They entered the country illegally. In other words, they didn't request visas. They passed into Israel illegally. So legally they are infiltrators... But we don't deport them to countries where they're likely to be persecuted, like Sudan and Eritrea. However, African countries where there's no danger of persecution and they're wanting to go and the countries will accept them we do so.
FK: The countries you're talking about, I've heard Rwanda, Uganda, these are poor countries. Why would other African countries accept these people?
RS: Well, Rwanda had accepted nearly 180 000... These people come with a small sum and Israel is very happy to find a country. Presumably, if Canada or Australia is willing to accept them, we might support them there.
FK: Is this a bit of a moral dilemma for many in Israel [!!!], a state founded as a safe haven for Jews fleeing from persecution [!!!]... And here is it chucking out people who come seeking sanctuary. Is that causing a moral debate within your country?
RS: It is causing a moral debate, although these people are not political refugees. They're economic refugees but the mere fact of expelling people is not pleasant... But when it becomes large numbers, 50,000, we have a problem. This is not people being sent to concentration camps. People come here seeking work and they're leaving with a small sum.
FK: I understand there is resistance from some in the community. People are offering to take in migrants.
RS: There is. In fact, as an Israeli I am proud of the people of Israel. Israel is an open, democratic society but logically and economically Israel can't absorb enormous amounts of people who would prefer to work in a prosperous Israel.
FK: What is the population of Israel?
RS: It's about 8m now.
FK: So twenty thousand in 8m, is that really such a threat?
RS: No it's not, but if 50,000 is already a problem and we continue to allow them to come in it would be a problem.
FK: But it's already slowing. Israel built a fence over the past few years on the border with Egypt.
RS: The fence is just the border. If Sinai becomes peaceful again, we might see this issue. Israel can't absorb enormous numbers of refugees.