Among the children, throw out the non-Jewish ones

DAN-CHYI CHUA
Mar 02, 2011
*Special to asia!

A film on migrant children in a multi-racial Tel Aviv school just won Best Documentary Short at the Academy Awards. Now Israel is going to deport its young stars.

Some might say this is the stuff that movies are made of.

Last Sunday, the Best Documentary Short Oscar went to a film depicting the diverse races of children – some 48, according to the directors  – in a Tel Aviv School.

Exactly one week later on coming Sunday, the Israeli government is planning to kick some of these children out of the country.

The children featured in the documentary are students at Tel Aviv's Bialik-Rogovin School. More than 800 children from 48 countries study there. Many are here in Israel because their parents have come either to work as migrant workers or as refugees fleeing conflict situations, especially in Africa.

More than 100 of these children are now facing deportation, because they have failed to meet a set of criteria set by the Israeli government.

Strangers No More Movie Trailer - Bialik Rogozin School from Simon & Goodman Picture Co. on Vimeo.



Initially, 1,200 children of foreign workers were in danger of being deported from Israel with their families. A public outcry and further deliberation then followed, and the Israeli cabinet voted to adopt a set of guidelines last August which would allow some of these 1,200 to stay in the country.

The children would have to :

         1.be enrolled in the Israeli school system above the first grade

          2.have been in Israel for more than five years

          3.have been born in Israel or arrived before they were 13.

If their parents arrived in Israel illegally, they will be automatically be subject to deportation.

Of the 1,200 children being considered, 400 of them did not make the cut, and the Israeli government refused to extend a clemency on the regulation to allow them to stay.

Explained Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,

"We don't want to create an incentive for an inflow of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrant workers into the country."

 

Israel's Interior Minister Eli Yishai also made clear his stance in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ynetnews.

“Let's do it your way. Let’s say I announce these 400 kids can stay, what will all the campaigners do in one year's time, When another 400 come out of the woodwork? What will they say then? That I can deport them?"

Yishai also did not consider it  “deportation”.

“I'm not deporting kids, I'm sending their parents home to raise their kids with their families. I never said I was deporting kids. I'm not even deporting the parents. I'm returning them to their countries of origin.”

 

The problem with that argument is this: while the parents may be returning to their countries of origin, their children are not. They are born and bred Israeli. Many speak Hebrew and consider Israel their home.

If the children had been born to Jewish parents, they would have been fine. They could become Israeli citizens. But they are not. These are children of foreigners who are employed to do the work – for example, caregiving – that Israelis themselves do not want to do.

The government 's treatment of these children continues to provoke outrage among some of the Israeli public. A demonstration has been organised for this Friday to protest against the deportation.

Shortly after the deportation was announced last August, Tel Avivian artist Yigal Shtayim created a Facebook page titled “The group for sheltering the families of 400 children to be deported from Israel”. He told the Jerusalem Post,

“I’ve gotten offers to take in kids from Holocaust survivors, from children of survivors, from grandchildren of survivors like myself.

“I got messages from people who run bed-and-breakfasts and say they have an empty bungalow, from moshavniks who have an extra room, from families in cities and suburbs who are willing to let the children stay in their security room.”



The Kibbutz Movement also announced that it would round up the children and keep them in the different communities under its jurisdiction, as soon as the first child is deported.

"There are 280 kibbutzim and more than 30,000 houses. We are talking about a total of 400 children and their parents, who will be discretely dispersed between the houses. Oz Unit can enter each kibbutz and try to locate all 400 children," said a Kibbutz Movement official.

It wasn't so long ago that a young Jewish girl named Anne Frank, singled out for her race, had to be hidden by her neighbours, so the Nazis wouldn't get to her.

For a country descended from that history to now turn around to kick out children simply because they are not Jewish, it takes a special kind of audacity.

There is a word for that – it's chutzpah.

And as the Israeli government proves, it has it, in a most deplorable way.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi