In this day and age, almost no matter where you live, it is hard to take pride in government. Here in Israel there's lots to brag about. Technological leadership, thriving economy, the warmth of our society, the way our youngsters defend their fellow citizens against attack in a never ending terror war ... but sadly, our elected leaders are not usually part of the positive images. So when they get caught doing something right, it's a noteworthy surprise. A story in today's Ha'aretz is one of those surprises.
Interior Minister, Meir Sheetrit, announced that hundreds of Darfur refugees will be granted citizenship of Israel. Estimates are that around 2,000 African refugees have found asylum in Israel, but the issue is not without its problems. With their pursuers having shifted whole new populations into the Sudanese homes and villages, they will have nowhere to go even after the fighting is over. It is clear that the 2.5 million who have been displaced cannot be absorbed by tiny Israel. It is also difficult to differentiate between economic opportunists and genuine refugees – not to mention the security risk associated with potential infiltrators from an enemy state said to harbour Al-Qaida. To date, the Israeli Muslim community has not come forward, and so those who are in Israel do not have a local community into which they easily integrate.
On the other hand, the Jewish state, which was rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust and became a haven for hundreds of thousands of Jews chased out of Arab countries and has a collective memory of exile to Rome and Babylon, dhimmitude in Arabia, the Spanish Inquisition, and European pogroms, cannot stand idly by.
Darfur is a world responsibility, and one in which it would be reasonable to expect the Arab and African nations to take a lead. Arab states, as yet have shown no inclination to rein in the racist Arab Muslims who are engaged in rape, pillage and plunder of the most barbaric dimensions. Nor have they shown the slightest inclination to protect the persecuted black Muslims. It is worse. In a most repulsive story, Egyptian border guards murdered Sudanese refugees trying to cross the border, seeking refuge in Israel. A physical "tug-of-war" with Israeli border guards over one of the refugees ended in an Egyptian "victory" after they pointed their guns at the Israelis. The poor refugee "prize" was simply dragged back over the border and clubbed to death. Nor have African nations offered succour to their Muslim and animist coreligionists. And the Western world has been equally unwilling to offer haven.
As we approach the Rosh Hashanna new year, we and the Sudanese refugees can only hope that the example set by Israel, absorbing a number so large in terms of its relative population, and granting the protection and benefits of citizenship to the stateless, will be part of fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isiah "The law will go out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Press your government to take heed and act.