African refugees in Israel
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Campaigns ignore migrant issue
Op-ed: Politicians stopped talking about refugees as soon as election campaign got into full swing

Just like that, without advance notice, they simply disappeared. You haven't heard of them or seen their pictures in the newspaper, and not one minister has said they are threatening our security and undermining our very existence.


As soon as the election campaign got into full swing, the refugee issue disappeared. The refugees themselves did not disappear of course, but they never really interest those who used them to threaten and frighten from the Right or apologize and show mercy from the Left. What really interested these politicians was how much political gain could be made from people who have nothing; not even bread for their next meal or a home to go back to somewhere in the world.


The man who profited most from them was Eli Yishai, who wanted to translate the hatred toward those "diseased" people into votes. He even got the entire government mixed up in the construction of a kosher concentration camp where people from Eritrea and north Sudan would be held until they would have enough and ask to go back to the place where they are, on occasion, butchered, raped and imprisoned.


The State allotted millions of shekels for the construction of the camp, but then the attorney general determined that the refugees cannot be deported, and Aryeh Deri said Shas must not be led to "a place of racism." Since then the refugee threat has disappeared from Shas' nightmares.


מחלקים מזון ב"מרק לוינסקי". המגזר האזרחי מטפל (צילום: תומי הרפז)

Soup handed out to migrants at Levinsky Park (Photo: Tomi Harpaz)


The situation is no different on the Left. Yishai was criticized by those who consider themselves more humane than he is: "The refugees should be allowed to work; we must understand that some of them will remain with us; they must be accepted as equal human beings." It was all very graceful, but it remained on a verbal level. The leftist parties didn't stand in line to translate their words into acts of compassion and assistance.


Yishai, Miri Regev and Michael Ben-Ari fanned the flames of hatred, and compassionate words were spoken on the other side, but on the ground it was only regular citizens who cared enough to provide the refugees with food, protection and temporary dwellings. The refugees are no longer worth any votes, so they will have to wait.


The next battle, in case the Right does have the heart to understand, will be over shelter. Some of us believe the refugees deserve a little more than a park bench.



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