Remaining 500 South Sudanese Christians in Israel deserve humane treatment


This summer Israel’s government has initiated a policy of deporting South Sudanese Christians to the newly declared nation of South Sudan.

Human rights groups and others have criticized Israel’s government for its handling of the matter.

Whatever criticism of the Israeli government’s handling may be warranted, at least Israel did provide this civilian population with refuge for several years.

In sharp contrast, refugees from South Sudan crossing the border into Egypt are typically shot at and frequently killed. And conditions for them once they enter Egypt have not been much better: at least 26 unarmed Christian Sudanese civilians were bludgeoned to death by Egyptian security forces in Cairo December 30, 2005 outside the the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Egyptian government ordered the attack. The UNHCR, which had failed to resettle the refugees, unconscionably said that, sad as the attack was, no one was to blame.

As this excellent opinion piece, reprinted from the Boston Globe, explains it, “there is more than enough shame to go around when nobody may be blamed for the murder of people regarded as nobodies.”

Like any sovereign nation, Israel has the right to deport illegal residents.

But it should also be noted the South Sudanese Christians, a largely self-sufficient population, were gainfully and peacefully employed, mostly in Israel’s hotels and restaurants as dishwashers, janitors, and cleaners during their time in the country and posed no economic burden. Moreover, contrary to incendiary statements made recently by certain Israeli politicians, the rates of crime committed by members of their community are actually lower, according to Israeli police records, than the rates of crime among the general population in Israel. Any perception among Israelis that this population posed a security threat was regrettable, and hysteria-based.

In the wake of this summer’s deportations, I am told about 500 South Sudanese Christians remain in Israel. Shachar Azani, spokesman for the Israeli government, has written in response to my queries in reporting the story, “Israel distinguishes between illegal migrants and asylum-seekers and looks into each case individually, in accordance with criteria set forth by international legal standards as well as Israeli law.”

The 500 or so South Sudanese Christians who remain in Israel are families with small children, the sick, and those married to individuals with permanent resident status.

Perhaps the treatment of people who do not have power is the truest test of a nation’s or an individual’s character. Moving forward, one can hope that Israel, which again has done more than any other middle eastern country to treat this population humanely, will uphold the highest ethics and demonstrate both compassion and reason.

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