There is not a single Jew in the world today who is not a descendant of refugees. Our history is filled with stories of escape, hunger, deportation, fear, suffering, and persecution. We, the children and grandchildren of refugees, have a special moral obligation to treat refugees today as our people should have been treated in their times of need.
The African immigrant/refugee crisis in Israel is not a regular political struggle. Both the Israeli government and the anti-deportation campaigns accept that refugees and migrant workers may be deported, but only on the condition that they are returning to a safe place where they will come to no harm. This issue is not a clash between the left and the right; it is not even truly an argument. When carefully considered, it becomes clear that both sides of this issue are agreeing about the most important points.
What makes this issue unique is that no one can seem to agree about the facts. One side calls these people infiltrators and migrant workers, while the other calls them refugees. One side claims their destination is a safe home port, the other claims those who are deported will suffer the brutal and unforgiving fate.
We, the World Union of Jewish Students, call upon the Government of Israel to halt deportation plans until the safety of the destination country can be guaranteed beyond all doubt in a transparent manner. We ask it to implement a sound asylum policies in line with Jewish values and international law.
Additionally, we call upon our friends - the Israeli public, Jews around the world, and human rights and NGOs - to help Israel and work together with its government in coping adequately with this complex problem.
We encourage all parties to be mindful of nuance and careful with their language, so as to create a positive, cooperative discourse, focused on an actionable, ethical solution to this challenge. This solution would take into account Israel's security, as well as its social and demographic needs, while also employing Jewish values and empathy towards this marginalized community.
The State of Israel has a historical and moral obligation to do more that the legal minimum. We ask that the government instate a follow-up system, so we may have a clear conscience, secure in the knowledge that those seeking asylum are truly safe.
We ask that Israel reform the asylum process and establish a clearly defined refugee status in Israeli law, so that those who truly qualify for recognition as refugees can be afforded the protections they deserve.
Let us stop falsely accusing each other of hidden agendas, and instead work together towards ensuring the safety of all people.
Avigayil Benstein President, World Union of Jewish Students