Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood obsesses, imputes racism, over Israeli construction of detention facility

A guest post by Anne, who blogs at Anne’s Opinions

Last week the Guardian slaked its anti-Israel obsession with an article written by Phoebe Greenwood focusing on a proposed detention center for refugees and illegal infiltrators into Israel.

The tone of the article is immediately apparent with the title “Huge detention centre to be Israel’s latest weapon in migration battle“. The use of the contentious word “weapon”, the lack of the word “illegal” in referring to the migrants reflect the automatic bias of the Guardian against even the most innocuous Israeli acts.

Addressing the article itself (all highlights are mine), it begins innocuously enough:

A vast detention complex is rising from the sandy grounds of Ktzi’ot prison in the Negev desert, close to Israel‘s border with Egypt, which will become the world’s largest holding facility for asylum seekers and migrants.

When it is completed, at an initial cost of £58m to the Israeli government, it will be capable of holding up to 11,000 people.

Greenwood then immediately takes on a sneering tone towards Israels’ very real concerns about illegal immigration, implicitly accusing PM Binyamin Netanyahu and his coalition of paranoia:

Despite unprecedented protests at rising costs of living, and increased threats to national security in a volatile, post-Arab spring Middle East, immigration is of such paramount importance to Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition that it has skimmed a minimum of 2% from every ministry’s budget to fund the construction and start-up costs of the building.

Despite Greenwood returning to factual reporting for a couple of paragraphs, quoting Israeli government spokesmen and officials about the numbers and implications of illegal immigration, she returns to her disdainful attitude towards Israel’s legislation:

In January, the Knesset passed a controversial bill categorising anyone attempting to enter the country through its southern border as an “infiltrator” who can be detained for three years – longer if they are from a “hostile state” such as Sudan.

“If we find any bona fide refugees, some will be able to stay and others will be sent to a third country that accepts refugees,” said Regev.

Greenwood goes on to compare the numbers of refugees allowed in to the UK with the numbers allowed in by Israel, ignoring the vast differences between the two nations. For instance, Britain does not have any hostile nations on its borders, let alone the 4 or 5 bordering Israel, not counting the assorted terrorist organizations, all of whom have an interest in flooding Israel with refugees, both to hamper it economically and socially, and in order to smuggle in terrorists amongst the refugees.

She then evokes an emotive tale of a teenage refugee from Sudan:

Mubarak, 18, arrived in 2009. He fled Darfur in western Sudan when the Janjaweed militia destroyed his village. The militiamen pursued families as they fled to nearby villages, looking for children to fight with them. His parents told him to run for his life.

He was 15 when he arrived in Israel and was held at a detention camp for women and children for 22 days, with up to 30 children in one small tent. He says the days in detention were the longest of his life.

“I didn’t know what would happen to me. No one said when I was going to be let out. That was the worst thing, not knowing. When you aren’t able to move, to go anywhere, you have too much time to think,” he said. “It’s not a good place to be. To think people would be staying there for three years, they would all be driven crazy. We are refugees. We aren’t supposed to be in jail.”

But Mubarak is not recognised as a refugee in Israel. Immigrants from Sudan and Eritrea are currently offered “group protection”, which means they cannot be sent back to their home countries – but nor are they afforded any rights or state support.

Yes, Mubarak’s story is indeed very sad, but this all ignores the unfortunately very real risk that refugees from countries hostile to Israel may include terrorists in disguise. Phoebe Greenwood does not see fit to include any reaction from Israel’s defence and security echelon who could give some much-needed background and context to Israel’s fears. For example in this Ynet article from last year:

The IDF officers told Netanyahu that al-Qaeda and its offshoots may attempt to send Sudanese refugees across the Egyptian border and into Israel with the aim of setting up terror cells in the Jewish state.

A senior military official told the PM that the terror group may attempt to recruit people in Sudan and train them. Al-Qaeda will then have the recruits infiltrate Israel, set up terror cells and recruit other refugees to carry out attacks in Israel, according to the army official.

Netanyahu was told that the past four years have seen 20 attempts by terrorists to infiltrate Israel through the breached Egyptian border.

Returning to the Guardian’s article, Greenwood allows Israel’s authorities to defend the quality of the centre (the new detention facility will have libraries, teachers, day care, basketball courts and several hairdressing salons) but cannot resist the hectoring derision from human rights group and of course, good old Amnesty with its in-built bias against Israel:

Following pressure from human rights groups, the space allocated per person has been increased from 2.5 square metres to 4.9, including bathrooms. According to EU standards, the “desirable” size is 7 square metres. A high-ranking official involved with overseeing construction of the centre says: “It will be very comfortable. But at the end of the day, we are dealing with people who have entered Israel illegally. I am not making them a hotel – although it’s not too far from one.”

Amnesty Israel’s position is that however much the conditions are improved, the prolonged detention of refugees is still illegal. “Detention should never be used as a deterrent. Asylum seekers should not be treated as criminals,” it argues.

The article concludes with a complaint from Israel’s civil rights organization:

Oded Feller, a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, is among the activists opposed to the construction of the Ktzi’ot complex. Detention centres, he argues, are places where asylum applications are processed and people should be held only for a matter of months.

“It doesn’t matter if they have places to learn and play, they will be held there,” said Feller. “It will be a prison for people from Africa. The Israeli government is building a refugee camp, not a detention centre.

I can’t see that there is much difference and I don’t understand what Feller’s complaint is. Does he really want Israel flooded with hundreds of thousands of foreign migrants with all the economic, social and security problems that will accompany them?

Besides the egregious tone of this article, we have to wonder once again at the Guardian’s microscopic focus on every action and decision by Israel’s authorities. Does the Guardian bring as much outrage and faux-concern for the well-being of refugees who are trying to enter Britain for example?

How many articles have there been on Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre? A simple search of the Guardian shows no opinion pieces and only a couple of news items since 2010! In fact there are several refugee and migrant detention and removal centres throughout Britain, but none of these provoke the same outrage as does one single such centre in Israel.

Let’s also examine other refugee centers around the world and how the Guardian reports on them. The Guardian itself published an article this month on “Asylum seekers around the world – where did they come from and where are they going?”. Interestingly, Israel is not mentioned in the entire article. Obviously it is not such a huge refugee detaining center as one would imagine from Greenwood’s article.

A search of the “refugees” tag in the Guardian reveals that there is very little negative reporting of any refugee detainment center anywhere in the world besides Israel.

I eagerly await an outraged and emotional articles from the Guardian on the United States Immigrant Detention Centers, the various European immigrant detention centers in Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Ukraine (besides the UK), not to mention Australia.

The implication in Phoebe Greenwood’s article that Israel’s detention centre is somehow inhumane and racist portrays once again the bias that is inherent in Guardian reporting on Israel.

When one considers the fact that there is hardly a country without an illegal immigrant detention centre, plus the numbers of migrants relative to population size and the regional and geopolitical facts on the ground in Israel, one can only but shake one’s head in dismay once again at the Guardian’s obsessive focus on the Jewish state.

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