A heated discussion erupted on Monday, January 29, during a meeting of a Knesset committee on the pending deportation of African refugees and asylum seekers from Israel. Speaking before the Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection Committee, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said that an unnamed country has agreed to receive African refugees who are to be forcefully deported from Israel.
During the heated debate, six opposition MKs were removed from the hall – Stav Shaffir, Merav Michaeli, Oren Hazan, Michal Rozin, Issawi Frej and Tamar Zandberg – as was an activist from south Tel Aviv, Shula Keshet, who is fighting against the planned deportation.
Communist MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) said during the discussion that while the migrant problem is significant, the government was “inciting instead of proposing real solutions and changes to the situation.” According to Khenin, “We are talking about people in distress who came here fleeing genocide and benighted dictatorships.”
Over 140 teachers signed an open letter on Tuesday, January 29, calling on the government to change its decision to deport the asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda. Another 190 leaders in Israel’s education system, including former education ministers, winners of the Israel Prize for Education, former members of Knesset, and the presidents of major Israeli educational institutions also published a letter on Sunday, January 28, calling on Education Minister Naftali Bennet to intervene and stop the deportations.
In the teachers’ letter, addressed to the prime minister, the education minister, and members of the governing coalition, they wrote: “It is on us, teachers, to set an example for our students, the very students who we educate to be socially involved and concerned with human freedom and dignity. We call on you to change your decision; otherwise, history will judge us with the utmost severity for committing this terrible injustice. Now is the time to show humanistic leadership, based on Jewish values, and to set an example for the world.”
Also coming out publicly against the deportations in recent days have been teenage pupils, architects and town planers, students, lecturers from all Israeli universities and colleges, Israeli rabbis, doctors and nurses, psychologists, former diplomats, musicians and compositors, journalists, attorneys, environmental activists, authors and poets, actors and directors, airline pilots and Holocaust survivors.