Israel extends humanitarian aid to Western Africa in 2014 to help fight ebola. (MASHAV/Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation)

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.

By: Judith Bergman, MIDA

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 entered Israel only 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.

Greenblatt Runs an Organization, Netanyahu Runs a Country

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 number of illegal Africans currently living in Israel — of which the dire situation in south Tel Aviv is a constant reminder — nor the potential number 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’?

Europe Deported 175,000 Migrants in 2016. Did Anyone Notice?

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.

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”.

Helping Africans on the Continent

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.

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.