Preventing “Infiltration”

Among the raft of new bills being considered by Israel’s Knesset is one called the Prevention of Infiltration Law. As reported by +972:

The law will enable the Israeli authorities to hold in administrative detention for up to three years migrant workers and asylum seekers with their children, just because they entered through Egypt without proper permits. Citizens and residents of “enemy” countries, including survivors of genocide and their children from the Darfur region of Sudan, could be subject to indefinite detention, as the proposed bill stipulates that persons originating from such countries or areas are not to be released under any conditions.

Freelance journalist Mya Guarnieri has written about the proposed law and related issues, and is also working on a book about migrant workers in Israel. I asked her to expand on an interesting aspect of the bill.

The Prevention of Infiltration Bill is not a proposal for new legislation. It’s a proposal to tweak an existing law that was created in 1954, specifically to criminalize the actions of Palestinians who were attempting to return to their homes and lands inside of the new state of Israel. In fact, it was back dated to apply to all Palestinians who left after November 29 1947 – so Palestinians were ‘infiltrators’ even before the state was established. According to the racist law, these people were not men, women, and children—families who want to go home—they were ‘infiltrators’. The term is dehumanizing and it’s dangerous.

In the past few years, the Israeli government has been applying this word to African refugees who enter Israel via Egypt. According to the Israeli government—and, now, much of the Israeli populous—these people are not asylum seekers. Nor are they refugees. They are ‘infiltrators’ and they are a ‘threat’ to the state. The government has linked them, psychically, to the Palestinians. The proposed changes to the Prevention of Infiltration law will codify this.

Both African refugees and migrant workers are increasingly becoming targets for Israeli racism. The Palestinians are, for the most part, separate from Jewish Israelis. The closest and most convenient target within Israel is often African refugees and migrant workers—the new ‘others’.

Mya added that she believes in a need to “re-frame the conversation not as a conflict between Palestinians and Jews but as a battle Israel is waging against non-Jews in general, against anyone it defines as an ‘other’”.


Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.