The Chutzpah of Preaching Ethics to Israel

The ADL criticizes Israel for expelling illegal infiltrators in a meaningless act of virtue signalling, while Israel is one of the leading providers of aid to African countries.

Israeli Ambassador to South Sudan Hanan Godar distributing aid to locals (photo - Israeli FM)

Large parts of the West, including American Diaspora Jewish leaders, appear to have decided that unless Israel desists from its plan of deporting thousands of single, male Africans who infiltrated Israel illegally during the past decade or so, then the Jewish state is either deeply “racist” or inhumane. In any rate it is certainly, they claim, compromising its “Jewish values”.

Now, there is nothing new in the fact that most people seem to love nothing better than a bit of virtue signaling, especially if it can be done at the expense of the Jewish state. However, the latest virtue signaling over the illegal African migrants in Israel seems of even poorer taste than usual, given the disproportionately large humanitarian contribution of Israel to the world, especially Africa.

For decades, Israel has been helping other nations flourish, while usually getting absolutely nothing in return, apart from being condemned by every conceivable international organization from the EU to the UN.

No matter how much Israel does though, it seems it is never enough. Not for the world in general and not for the leaders of US Diaspora Jewry in particular, who constantly obsess over the fate of “Jewish values” in the much harassed Jewish state.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote this to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January: “As American Jews, one of our greatest concerns is the well-being and security of Israel…We also care about our shared Jewish values and refugee heritage—a very human concern that reaches across borders and distances—and unifies us as a people. We therefore strongly urge the Israeli government to refrain from implementing this plan…Addressing this issue in a humane and responsible manner remains no easy task, but it is the Jewish and ethical thing to do…”

Giving illegal migrants, the majority of whom only entered Israel to seek a better economic future, $3,500 each and passage to a safe third country, as Israel has offered, is actually an ethical thing to do, especially if one considers the alternatives.

Whereas Greenblatt runs an American-Jewish organization, Netanyahu runs a country. As such, other considerations than those of Jewish ‘purists’  – geopolitical realities for example — come into play.

Jewish community leaders can afford to focus on ethics only while keeping their hands clean of actual decisions — which cannot be guided by ethics alone — because what they say and do generally has little consequence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, has to deal with the harsh unpleasantness of actual reality and the potentially damaging consequences of his decisions for the entire state of Israel.

One geopolitical reality that ethical purists conveniently ignore is that millions of Africans are waiting to leave the African continent to seek better economic futures in Europe and elsewhere in the West.

Israel is a tiny country, slightly larger than New Jersey. It obviously cannot house the numbers of illegal Africans currently living in Israel — of which the dire situation in south Tel Aviv is a constant reminder — nor the potential numbers of African migrants, who would be encouraged to come to Israel, if Israel were to annul its plan of deportations.

Why is the ADL’s Greenblatt not appealing to Israel’s neighboring countries, all of them much larger than Israel, to take Africans migrants in? Would that not be ‘ethical’?

Notably, Europe deported more than 175,000 migrants in 2016, a fact that barely caught anyone’s attention. France, for example, deports illegal African migrants back to Africa on a regular basis. No one calls France “racist” because of this fact.

Speaking of the “ethical thing to do”, there is a particular chutzpah in preaching to Israel about ‘ethics’. Israel spends a disproportionate amount of resources –compared to its tiny size — on humanitarian aid all over the world, especially in Africa, and has done so for decades. Israel cultivated a strong relationship with Africa from the earliest beginnings, when the newly ‎decolonized African nations emerged.

Israel sent thousands of Israeli experts in agriculture, hydrology, ‎regional planning, public health, engineering, community services, medicine and scores of other fields ‎throughout Africa between 1958 and 1973. Thousands of Africans trained in Israel during the same time. Unlike Europeans, who lived in their own, segregated compounds, the Israelis lived among the Africans they came to ‎assist on the African continent.

(Photo – Israel FM)

In keeping with this tradition, just this month an Israeli Foreign Ministry delegation headed by Ambassador to the South Sudan, Hanan Godar, distributed 20 tons of food to refugees in South Sudan affected by the civil war in the country.

According to an Israeli news report, the Israeli Ambassador announced that Israel will be receiving 60 students from southern Sudan for agricultural training in the coming year as part of the Israel Foreign Affairs Assistance Mission. The students will stay in Israel for a year and will work on farms and study agriculture at Kinneret College.

Twenty students from South Sudan studied this year in Israel and the government has since decided to triple the number from the African country. Apparently, the Israeli ambassador’s announcement was widely covered in the local media where Israel is viewed as a “giant contributor in foreign aid”.

The mindless advocates of taking in tens of thousands of African migrants do not appear interested in helping Africa as such. Taking in 30,000, 50,000 or even millions of African economic migrants is never going to help all those Africans left behind on the African continent; it will only help those who were resourceful enough to escape.

(Photo – Israeli FM)

Israeli development projects are already helping the Africans on the continent, by teaching them crucial skills to help themselves, their villages, cities and countries, in order to thrive in the future.

That kind of help, as opposed to the public virtue signaling of the likes of the ADL, is genuinely ethical, because it helps the majority, not just the minority that was strong enough to escape.


Judith Bergman is a columnist and political analyst

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1 comments on the article

  1. Excellent article. Our big problem is that when it comes to PR, Israel is rubbish at it – it’s never really accepted the need for it – and so are our communal organisations who are meant to be defending/promoting Israel and Jews: which means we are losing the PR war.

    I’m old enough to remember when the majority of people in the UK supported that plucky little country had taken on 5 Arab nations and won. Those days are gone. Our enemies recognised that the couldn’t win on the military battlefield so they created a new battlefield – public opinion – and launched a massive campaign using words instead of rockets, shells and bullets; and we responded with nothing apart from the occasional low-key denial of some allegation.

    They attacked us. We didn’t attack them; we simple tried to refute what they were saying. That’s why it’s accepted by the public by and large that the’settlements’ in the West Bank are illegal as is Israel’s security presence there – the ‘occupation’ – despite the fact that both conform to the Oslo Accords and the Camp David Agreement.

    Many years back I raised this lack of positive action with a then Vice President of the Board of Deputies and the then CEO of the JLC. I was told that there was nothing to worry about; they had it all under control, they had the ear of government and that the secret of success was ‘quiet diplomacy’. Well, look where that’s got us, while our enemies are gaining ground with every false accusation they make against Israel.

    I believe that our big problem is that we don’t shout loud enough. We don’t shout loud about the things that our enemies do like squandering international aid monies on paying stipends to terrorists and their families or buying private jets. We don’t shout loud enough about Israel’s contributions to the world, some of which are outlined in the article. Positive coverage in local media is not enough.

    And my generation hasn’t done enough to educate its children and grandchildren which is why they are drifting off into faux-Zionists organisations like J Street and Yachad – Jews who continually criticise Israel but rarely have a bad word to say about the people who state openly that they want to wipe Israel off the face of the map.

    In order to survive we need to win back public opinion and support. We know from the experience of the past 50 years that we can’t do that by sitting back and waiting to respond to what they’re saying.

    Anyone who follows team sports knows that there’s a big different between one that doesn’t want to lose (or at least by not too much) and one that wants to win. We need to be more like the latter. We need to seize the initiative and attack them rather than merely responding to their daily attacks on us.

    Do we have the leaders who recognise that the current strategy – if such exists – has failed us and continues to do so and bring about this change of direction? I bloody hope so.