Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Darfur’s Muslims Flee From Egypt to… Israel

From Seth Freedman’s blog in The Guardian:

Hundreds of Muslims who have fled Darfur are rebuilding their lives in Israel.

“Even though we’re Muslim, the Islamic world has done nothing to protect us”, said Yassin, a refugee whose tortured flight from Darfur finally brought him to Israel three years ago. He was one of the first Darfurians to make it into Israel across the border from Egypt, and has dedicated his life to helping hundreds of his fellow countrymen who have made the same perilous journey.

Yassin, a genial 30-year-old former architect, is now director of Bnei Darfur [Sons of Darfur], an organisation which assists Sudanese refugees to integrate into Israeli society, and which last week was finally granted non-profit status by the Israeli government. Sitting in his office in downtown Tel Aviv, Yassin painted a harrowing picture of the way in which Darfurian refugees are mistreated by the uncaring and unsympathetic authorities in Egypt, which is the first port of call of many fleeing the violence in Sudan.
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Darfuri children are scared to set foot outside in Egypt for fear of attack, Yassin said, citing the slaying of dozens of refugees after a protest outside the UNHCR headquarters in 2005. “It’s not that Egypt doesn’t look after refugees in general,” he said, “after all, they treat the Somalians very well. However, when it comes to us, they are different. It’s racism [that motivates the Egyptian mistreatment].”

It doesn’t help that the Darfurians are accusing fellow Muslims of genocide, said Yassin, noting that the Muslim states who support the Sudanese government in turn claim that the refugees are collaborating with enemy states in the West. “All of the Arab countries support the government of Sudan - our problem is with the Arab League,” Yassin stated with a shake of his head at his people’s plight. Having watched most of his family slaughtered in a militia attack on his village, he fled the region hoping to find shelter in Egypt, but was soon forced to move on.

After the cold and often violent reception the refugees received at the hands of the Egyptians, Yassin decided that things couldn’t be worse on the Israeli side of the border - despite the anti-Israeli indoctrination he’d been spoon-fed when growing up in Sudan. “The government controlled all of the media back home,” he said. “The television stations, the radio, the newspapers… and all of them were very hostile towards Israel. They described it as an enemy state full of killers, and the cause of all of the world’s problems.”

He smiled at the irony of Israel turning out to be the first country where he and his fellow refugees could finally find sanctuary - although it was hardly plain sailing at first. “When the army picked me up, I spent five days on their base in a tiny room with five Egyptian men. The conditions were awful, and one of the judges was very cruel, threatening to deport me back to Egypt. She told me that I was I wasn’t welcome in Israel because I was from an ‘enemy country’ - but in the end I was transferred to a larger prison in the south.”

He spent 14 months in jail, where he banded together with other Darfurian refugees and founded an informal support group to assist one another, teaching English, Arabic and Hebrew to those who required educating. After a few months, the Israeli press started picking up the story of the refugee crisis, and soon several NGOs and welfare organisations began campaigning for their release. The UN got involved, and eventually many of the refugees were let out of jail and sent to work on local kibbutzim.

However, once free they faced large-scale exploitation by employers who took advantage of their lack of proper permits and rights, forcing them to work for a pittance and in dreadful conditions. Again, intervention from the UN and local NGOs caused a change of heart on the part of the government, who granted 600 of the 750 refugees with ‘A5’ temporary residency status, with the remainder receiving protection as asylum seekers.

And the rest is recent history. Yassin and his friends formed Bnei Darfur, and have been stunningly successful in their mission to create a self-sufficient community “that isn’t a drain on Israeli society”. Every one of the refugees has a job, a house, and access to medical care - “the only ones without jobs are the ones who’ve just arrived, and we soon take care of them”, he said. The children have been found places at Israeli schools, where they learn Hebrew and befriend their locally-born peers, and the future appears bright for those who have managed to make it into Israel.

Many Israelis took up the Darfurians’ cause on the basis that Jews have been denied refuge by indifferent countries throughout history, and that Israeli Jews should remember their own troubled past when dealing with the victims of today. However, whilst the way in which Israel (eventually) received the refugees is to be admired, there is of course the accusation of double standards to be dealt with regarding Palestinian refugees being denied the chance to relocate to the Promised Land.

But the unresolved issue of the Palestinian right of return is not something Yassin wished to be drawn on. As far as he’s concerned, Israel has provided for his people in a way that no Arab country would - and for that he’s eternally grateful. And in terms of Israel’s image in the eyes of the refugees as well as the outside world, accepting the unwanted Darfurians was both an astute and an admirable move to make.

Be sure to click on the blog link to read some of the comments. What people have to add to this story is enlightening. This one is a good example:

“Israel over its short history has managed to become home for refugees from Vietnam (Boatpeople), from Ukraine after the Chernoble disaster, and of course for millions of Jewish refugees from Arab and other Asian countries and from Eastern and central Europe.

Most of the people attempting to make their way to Israel these days from Africa are actually not Sudanese from Darfur but rather Africans from other countries, seeking mostly better economic conditions, many of whom are indeed Muslims.

It is fascinating yet very sad to observe that neither Muslim nor Arab countries wish to accommodate such migrants/refugees.”

It may be very sad to see this, but it’s certainly predictable. Muslim and Arab countries are in the emigration business. It’s a one-way street.

Found on: Big News


Chrissie said...

Not surprised by their treatment in Egypt - Egypt is notorious for discrimination against Africans and no doubt it is the same elsewhere in the less than 'black' self-appointed new 'blacks' Arab nations.

My only concern is that this generosity does not come back to bite them. If their children are sent into Mosques, will they come out not appreciating the generosity as their parents no doubt do, but regarding it as their right and work to destroy Israel.

Not mentioned here is whether they are leaving Islam or remain as 'muslims'. I get the feeling that they don't see Islam as the problem, but the Arabs. Dangerous.

Diamed said...

Fools. They went for thousands of years without a country. They finally get one, and then they let anyone who wants in to take it away from underneath their very noses. Suppose every african with as large a sob story as these darfurans were allowed into Israel, as would be consistent with their allowing these folk in. Soon enough there would be tens or hundreds of millions of starving AIDS infected african refugees crammed into the country's borders. If your children don't have a homeland, you've doomed them to wander the earth or be holocausted just like before. Israel is already 30% non-jewish. Compassion is suicide.

laine said...

Arab Muslim militias are the ones doing the killing and displacement in Darfur. Their victims are black Africans who are Christian, animist and Muslim.

Out of all the refugees in the world clamoring for a safe haven, it seems detrimental to Israel's survival as a Jewish state to let in any more Muslims of any kind. The 30% they have now are trouble enough with their high birth rate and at best divided loyalties, at worst, completely loyal to the ummah. Muslims are not known for their work ethic but are known for disruption of whatever host country they colonize.

If Israel thinks this will buy them the respect of the Muslim world (that with their silence approve the Muslim killers in Darfur) or even the West, they are sadly mistaken. All in all, not a wise move.

swamykool said...

10-20 years hence these Darfurians may well forget the persecution in the hands of their fellow Muslims. They will congeal themselves into a muslim block ally with the Arabs and make trouble for Israel.

If the Israelis have any sense left all efforts should be made to convert them to Judaism and integrate with other Israelis. And this should be done while the memories of persecution are still very fresh.

In India we have lived with the Muslims for 1000 years and we are still not friends. In our experience Muslims are very adept at biting the hand that feeds them. Israel should take her lesson from us.

Anonymous said...

This is a betrayal of Jews by Jews. Israel was founded to protect Jews, who are not safe or welcome elsewhere, with few exceptions. The refugees in this article are admirable, and should be helped, but not at Israel's expense. If Israel takes in more non-Jewish refugees, it risks being unable to protect its own people.

Joanne said...

Trust a Guardian reporter to inject a nasty note into even a positive story about Israel.

Two comments at the end of the article bothered me. The first is:
"But the unresolved issue of the Palestinian right of return is not something Yassin wished to be drawn on." Where does this come from? Clearly the reporter asked about this subject gratuitously. It's a connection that only a far left-winger would make.

The second comment refers to Israel's taking in these refugees: "And in terms of Israel’s image in the eyes of the refugees as well as the outside world, accepting the unwanted Darfurians was both an astute and an admirable move to make." OK, he did say "admirable," but he had to add "astute." Did this idiot do any actual reporting to find out if this move had been done with propaganda in mind? Or did he simply report his presuppositions as fact?

It's also occured to me that, in this heart-warming story, the Israelis are still largely portrayed as nasty exploiters, their good actions prompted by the UN and local NGOs. Note, that's "local," not Israeli. My God! Even if there's some truth to this account of bad treatment (and I don't dismiss that possibility), how could this author paint such a horrid picture of the Israelis? Weren't some of them kind without being forced to be? You're left wondering why this Sudanese fellow likes it there!

Unbelievable...the bias just oozes out of the pores.