Thursday, November 7, 2013


Years ago I had the opportunity of visiting Israel. It was a visit that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I was energised by the Biblical landmarks and impressed by the humility and resilience of the Israeli people. I found the Israelis hospitable, amiable and ardently religious. Through hard work and modern technology, they had managed to transform deserts into Gardens of Eden where greenery thrives and fields produce food in abundance. I saw no sign of bigotry during my visit to the Zionist state.

But when I saw a video this week exposing Israelis as anti-African and anti-immigration I was shocked. I could not compromise my positive experiences of the Jewish state of many years ago with the belligerent, abusive and deprecating attitude of the Israelis against Africans today.

Produced by David Sheen and Max Blumenthal, the ten-minute video is as expressive in its folly as it is odious and baneful in its content. A nation raised by the sweat of immigrants appears to have metamorphosed into a hateful and bigoted country of people who see no shame in treating immigrants in a cavalier and contemptuous manner.

The Israeli nation was born in 1948. For more than two decades thereafter, immigrants flocked in from Europe, the U.S.S.R. and from other Middle Eastern countries: anxious to be at the heart of the Zionist ideology, happy to escape persecution in their own countries, and looking forward to better lives. Beginning 2006 - as the economies of most Africans countries dipped and democracy floundered - Israel began to attract a new breed of immigrants: Africans. In Israel, the newcomers - mainly from Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea  began a process of integrating into the Jewish lifestyles. They did not bother anyone and did not engage in anti-Israel activities. They only wanted a quiet life away from the economic tribulations and political instability in their countries of birth.

Instead of enjoying the peace they yearned for in Israel, the African immigrants were met with hostility. The government denied them work permits and landlords refused to rent them accommodation. Soon, their presence became a matter of political discussion in the country's Parliament, the Knesset, and at public meetings. Anti-African demonstrations became a common feature in Tel Aviv and in other towns. They were called niggers, thieves and spit, and accused of spreading diseases. They were described as a "cancer" and told to return to where they came from.

All this is captured in the video circulating via YouTube called Israel's New Racism: The Persecution of African Immigrants in the Holy Land. In one scene, a big mob of Israelis is seen noisily taunting a terrified African woman carrying a baby on her back. There are also scenes showing top Israeli government officials such as the Interior Minister Eli Yishai, deputy defence minister Danny Danon and a host of Members of Parliament calling for the expulsion of African immigrants.

Comments such as: "If you bring a million Africans, it (Israel) will no longer be Jewish," and "If you want to help Africans go to Africa" directed at those who support immigration, are common declarations by Israelis who, ironically, insist they are not racists. They say Africans are a threat to the Jewish character of Israel.

To deal with immigrants, the Israel government has built a huge camp in the Negev desert called Saharonim Prison especially to accommodate non-Jews. The jail has been described by human rights advocates as the biggest concentration camp in the civilised world, offering some of the harshest living conditions. At least two thousand Africans are believed to be detained there.

The government has also built a fence along the Sinai border to thwart any immigrants who may wish to cross into Israel. Officials say since the fence was completed in 2012, only a handful of African immigrants have entered Israel and those were arrested. The Prevention of Infiltration law was also amended to give Tel Aviv powers to detain non-Jewish immigrants for three years before they are deported to their countries of origin. Although Israel's security concerns are understandable, what is seen in the video goes beyond the desire to keep the country safe from infiltrators. It is a dramatic show of racism against Africans.

The condition of African detainees in the Saharonim Prison is reported to be dire and the matter requires urgent intervention by the African Union and the international community at large. Sadly, the African Union has kept completely mum about the mistreatment of its people by the Israeli government.

On its own, Kenya - as an African country - has stood by the Israeli government in the worst of situations. It has suffered three terrorist bombings: the Norfolk hotel bombing in 1980; the Paradise Hotel attack in 2002 and the Westgate attack recently - the common thread being that all the three establishments are owned by Israeli investors. Our relations with Israel have been good and continues to be so. In all the three terrorist attacks Kenya turned to Israeli for help. Furthermore, Kenyan security officials have trained in Israel, and our country has benefited from various assistance packages from Tel Aviv. In return, we continue to work with the Jewish state by sharing intelligence information on terrorist movements in our region.

Many other African countries also maintain good relations with Israel. If Israel thinks there is a problem with African immigrants - as it seems there is - it should raise the matter with the African Union. The way the Jewish state is treating African immigrants is unacceptable and should be condemned.

Finally, we in Kenya are Africans, but we are not niggers, not spit, not cancer and certainly not psychopaths as described by Israeli demonstrators.

And that is my say.