Asylum seekers in Israel

September 25, 2013 by Robin Margo
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Both Israel and Australia face challenges regarding asylum seekers and refugees and, in both countries, there have been attempts by some to dehumanise asylum seekers.

NIFA-LogoLast week, Israel’s High Court of Justice overturned the 2012 Anti-Infiltration Law, under which some 2,000 women, men and children were being detained for at least three years, most in a specially constructed camp in the Negev, without trial and under harsh conditions.  The Court held that prolonged administrative detention of asylum seekers violates Israel’s Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty and disproportionately impinges on a person’s right to freedom.

The majority of the detainees are citizens of Eritrea and Sudan – countries to which their citizens, according to the Israeli government’s own directives, cannot be returned due to the threat that would present to their lives.

The petitioners included New Israel Fund grantees the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Kav La’oved and the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

The decision of the Court adds to its reputation as a pillar of Israel’s democracy and will assist those seeking to reintroduce humanity into the conversation about asylum seekers in Australia.  But some in the Knesset are already speaking out about re-legislating “anti-infiltration” measures and even against the High Court’s authority to overrule such unconstitutional legislation.

Other NIF grantees working in this area include Power in the Community, which brings refugees and residents of South Tel Aviv together to work for better access to education, health care and other necessities, and Physicians for Human Rights, which operates a health clinic for asylum seekers.


Robin Margo is president of the New Israel Fund Australia



13 Responses to “Asylum seekers in Israel”
  1. Robin says:

    So, dear Readers (if any have stayed the course):
    on this issue (how asylum seekers and refugees should be treated) you have:
    (a)on the one side, the unanimous opinion of nine Justices of Israel’s High Court of Justice, ACRI, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (whose policy is made and endorsed by its constituents, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia, the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Community Council of South Australia, the Hobart Hebrew Congregation and the ACT Jewish Community Inc.), Mark Leibler AO, AIJAC, the Union for Progressive Judaism, Jewish Aid Australia, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (whose policy is made and was recently reaffirmed by a plenum of Deputies elected by members of the Board or nominated to represent them by its constituents, BJE, Access Ezer, the Association of Jewish Engineers, AUJS, the Australasian Jewish Medical Federation (NSW), the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors & Descendants, the Australian Friends of Tel Aviv University (NSW), the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society, the Australian Jewish Historical Society, B’nai B’rith Council of NSW, Bondi Mizrachi Synagogue, Central Coast Shalom Progressive Jewish Congregation, Central Synagogue, Child Survivors of the Holocaust Group (Sydney), Coogee Synagogue, Cremorne Synagogue, the Eastern Jewish Association, Emanuel School, Emanuel Synagogue, Friends of Bar Ilan University, the Great Synagogue, the Jewish Arts & Culture Council, Jewish Centre on Ageing (COA), the Jewish Folk Centre, JewishCare, the Joint Committee for Jewish Higher Education, Kehillat Masada Synagogue, Kesser Torah College & Synagogue, Maccabi NSW, Friends of Magen David Adom Australia (NSW), Mandelbaum House, Maroubra Synagogue, Masada College, Moriah College, Mount Sinai College, NAJEX, the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia NSW Division, Newcastle Hebrew Congregation, Newtown Synagogue, North Shore Synagogue, North Shore Temple Emanuel, the NSW Association of Sephardim, NSW Board of Progressive Jewish Education, NSW Jewish War Memorial Community Centre, NSW Society of Jewish Jurists & Lawyers, Parramatta & District Synagogue, Sir Moses Montefiore Jewish Home, South Head Synagogue, Southern Highlands Jewish Community Group, Southern Sydney Synagogue, State Zionist Council of NSW, Strathfield & District Hebrew Congregation, Sydney Jewish Museum, Technion Society of Australia (NSW), The Jewish House, The Shalom Institute, WIZO NSW, Wolper Jewish Hospital, WomanPower and Zahal Disabled Veterans Organisation); and
    (b) on the other side, Paul Winter, Sam, Danny Kidron, Abigail, Otto Waldman and those who think like them.
    It’s a democracy, so you can make up your own mind.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      A delusional and farcical acount. On essential matters concerning Jewish issues, in a genuine democratic manner, all those organisations listed above are FUNDAMENTALLY oposed to NIF’s principles and practices.
      Extrapolating on an incidental issue, a non essential subject in the complex set of concerns within the Jewish community when in actual fact, all those organisations, the great majority of the Jewish community, are rejecting in massive numbers NIF.
      Show us ,Robin, how many members has NIF put together in the years it has been “functioning” in Australia. All we know is that an impresive unimpressive number of communal redundancies are afiliated.
      I am not worried at all that my entire Jewish community has made up its RIGHT mind about NIF.
      With “arguments” like this, little wonder NIF has been a failure in Australia.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    What is really insignificant is the ACTUAL number of Jews in Australia who are afiliated with NIF.
    In actual fact, NIF has failed to garner the kind of popularity, acceptance as an ideological platform. They do make, however, a lot of noise, something the grand majority of Jews ignore. The mere passing of a motion at a poorly attended NSWJBD monthly plenum means very little. The motion was stupid in as far as the genuine interests of the Jewish community. Asylum seekers arriving in Australia and subject to security rules are not at all an ardent issue. Whether they are allowed to roam freely without a suitable residential status or not is not such a big topic. As it happens, the new Fed. Gov. has far more stringent principles in this regard and, in spite of the passing of the resolution at a monthly plenum of the NSWJBD which contradicts the known official line, NOTHING will change. So, the actual winners are those behind Paul Winter’s objection and behind his impeccable logic. Thus, once again, NIF has failed to achieve anything at all, yet another rational outcome, one well deserved. NIF know too well what they can do with the motion.

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    Ample evidence is available that Israel’s High Court admonished severely ACRI.
    ACRI has been responsible for advancing the notion of Israel being an apartheid State. ACRI has been known for persitently criticizing Israel’s essential institutions charged with safeguarding Israel’s security by using farcical notions of “human rights”. The real human rights of the Jews within Israel do not form a matter of concern for ACRI. Implicitely NIF, under the guise of the same misleading notions of “humanitariasm” constantly promote the interests of any other ethnic, religious group in Israel but the JEWISH majority. The entitlements of the Jewish State are only secundary to ACRI and NIF and principal attention is paid by them to those who contain serious elements of enmity toward the very State which allows them to live in the historic Zionist space under clear respectful conditions.
    Robin ought to be comprehensibly descriptive of NIF and ACRI if moral credit is to be afforded to his areas of public concern. Paul Winter is a genuine Zionist who deserves better than being unfairly criticised from quarters demonstrably not as worthy of Zionist credentials.

  4. Abigail says:

    Robin Margo you a sanctimonious so-and-so. What gives you the right speak to Paul Winters in that tone. Who do you think you are?

    What you fail to understand is the majority on the Jews in this country think the same way as Paul Winters and it is you who is wrong, with your holier than thou attitude. It’s people like you on the far left who have turned people away from the NSWJBD.

    ‘strongly endorsed by most organisations and members in the Australian Jewish community’ As far as I can see and from what I have heard, a mere handful of leftists answered.
    Winters’ allegations about the vile NIF and groups it funds, with money from less than desirable sources, are entirely true. But there is no point in arguing with twisted minds such as yours.

  5. danny kidron says:

    Being able to live anywhere a person wants, in any country, in Robyn Margo’s back yard, in my spare bedroom or in Paul Winter’s garage, is not a human right. It is not a human right! A country has, by international law, the right – nay, the obligation – to its citizens to approve or reject applicants. Try becoming an American or Swiss or Japanese or Saudi citizen.
    Denying those who want to live in any of the above places is not a crime against humanity, neither is it dehumanising them to do so.
    It is true that returning the asylum seeking refugees to their countries of origin would put them in danger.
    It is also true that the people still living in those countries are actually, now in danger.
    There are 2 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, another few million in Darfur, Eritria, Sudan, Afghanistan and the list goes on. All are in danger. Give all those millions half a chance and they will be in Tel Aviv and Sydney tomorrow. Because they face danger back home, is it dehumanizing them to deny them a space on Naharia and Bondi Beache?
    What about the “palestinians’ right of return”? After all, they are in danger living under the rule of hamas and fatah not to mention “Israeli occupation”. Isn’t it dehumanizing to deny them rights given to Eritreans and Sudanese?

  6. Sam says:

    Why is this web site giving oxygen to people like this?

    You would not permit Australians for Palestine, so why him. It is one and the same.

  7. Sam says:

    Do I read you correctly?
    < one of a tiny handful who voted against when a plenary session of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies voted overwhelmingly this month to reaffirm its policy on asylum seekers and refugees.
    A TINY HANDFUL? There were no more than a tiny handful in attendance so I am told. Less than a 100. That is a tiny handful out of a population of around 44,000. Miniscule more like it.
    The part I find to be is the fact that the far left appear to have a firm hold at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Overwhelming and very worrying
    The NIF, a group which was in receipt of funding from the notoriously anti-semitic Ford Foundation.
    A group which financed various NGOs to give false and misleading evidence to the Goldstone report.
    ACRI a group which instigated legal action claiming Road 443 was an ‘apartheid road’.
    ACRI a Jewish group? A group which received huge amounts of money from European countries and again from the Ford Foundation. It loses all credibility
    The New Israel Fund is an organisation formed to delegitimize the State of Israel.

    No it is not false. If it were true thousands would be running to support you. The only people supporting the NIF are those who would happily see the end of the State of Israel.
    I agree there is no point in arguing with a closed mind such as yours.

  8. Robin says:

    Paul Winter alas is one of the notorious local dehumanisers of asylum seekers. He was one of a tiny handful who voted against when a plenary session of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies voted overwhelmingly this month to reaffirm its policy on asylum seekers and refugees. Fortunately that policy and the similar policy of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (available on their websites) have been strongly endorsed by most organisations and members in the Australian Jewish community.
    Winter’s comments on ACRI show both ignorance and malice. ACRI is Israel’s oldest national civil and human rights organisation. It has a proud record of achievements over more than three decades and its role and the important contribution it makes to Israel’s democracy are well respected by Israel’s High Court. It is not the role of a national human rights organisation to comment on other countries.
    Winter’s allegation about NIF is also entirely false. But there is no point in arguing with closed minds.

    • David says:


      ACRI had every right to petition the High Court to challenge legislation passed by the Knesset as being unconstitutional.

      The Knesset has every right to see its objectives attained by ensuring that any such legislation is not again open to successful challenge.

      I think most Israelis would not be happy to see the decisions of their democratically elected Knesset frustrated by the voices of a few unelected Judges. Respect for the rule of law is however paramount and cannot be rejected – no matter what any individual may feel.

      No doubt this issue of infiltrators will be eventually resolved to the satisfaction of both the Knesset and rhe Court. That is the strength of Israel’s democracy.

      NIF funding of ACRI and other non- governmental organisations (NGO) by large overseas donors including foreign Governments – is NIF’s choice.

      It is my choice to criticise NIF for doing so and alert others to not support or contribute funds to NIF whilst it continues to fund organisations such as ACRI.

      Bragging rights in situations such as this are a two-edged sword and NIF needs to face up to the criticism it has received from Paul Winter for funding ACRI.

      There are many worthy organisations that NIF support and can support without having to go down the track of foreign donors who financially support NGO’s that use the word “Apartheid” or the term “ethnic cleansing” in relation to issues of concern to them in Israel.

      Take a stand against these NGO’s and withdraw financial support for them and you will find NIF will be more readily accepted in Australia.

      I am constantly amazed at the closed minds of those heading NIF in Australia who do nothing to stop the NIF brand being trashed world wide because it continues to financially support NGO’s like ACRI.

    • admin says:


      This one too personal.

  9. Paul Winter says:

    The Israeli HIgh Court arrogantly dismissed the elected government’s and the electorate’s problems with illegal economic invaders who were engaging in criminal and anti-social activies. Israel, like all other countries, has the right to decide which refugees it will accept and non-Jews who are a threat to Jews in the Jewish state, whose lives are only endangered by fellow mohammdedans as they try to sneak across Sinai, has every right and reason to repatriate them.

    That those “refugees/asylum seekers” remaining in Israel was supported by NIF’s grantee ACRI tells us a lot about both organisations. ACRI was chided in the High Court for calling route 443 and apartheid road, repeatedly calling Israel an apartheid state, Israeli responses to Arab violence as collective punishment, denounced Israel’s security barrier as contravening international law, declared that Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem was illegal and has a problem with Israel being a Jewish state.

    ACRI’s true aim is denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination. ACRI complains of no civil right abuses in the areas under PA or Hamas control. That NIF funds ACRI shows that its true mission is the dismmantling of the Jewish state and that its claim of being pro-Israel is mere disinformation.

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