“We cannot blame foreigners for all of our country’s problems. They weren’t the ones that changed our country. We cannot take advantage of their struggle and legislate against them.” These are the words of the chairman of the Knesset Labor and Social Affairs Committee, MK Eli Elalouf, which he said during a discussion about easements of the Deposit Law for specific demographics among the asylum seeker population.
“Kav LaOved”, along with other organizations, has brought a petition against this law to the High Court of Justice over a year ago. This law robs asylum seekers of a fifth of their salaries, with one purpose in mind: encouraging them to leave the country. This petition will be discussed in the court again in July, and now, the government seeks to instate regulations that will reduce the rate of the deposit to 6% for certain parts of the asylum seeker community: parents of children, people over the age of 60 and those who would be exempt from the law due to physical or mental health reasons.
The discussion held yesterday in the Knesset, was split into two sides: on one side are “Kav LaOved” and other organizations, holding that as long as the law continues to exist, there is a need to expand this exemption from the law to additional demographics, such as women and people of low incomes. On the other side are those who hold that none of the different demographics among the asylum seekers should enjoy these easements. To the contrary: the asylum seekers must be forced into frustration by any means necessary, even by poverty that will cause asylum seekers to give up medicine, food and education for their children.
Kav LaOved and other organizations hold that the success of these easements is unclear, as they are are too minor, and don’t include other vulnerable populations; the enforcement of these easements will be complicated, and it would be a burden especially for those who are already struggling to survive.
Due to these differences of opinion, the regulations weren’t approved, but not before the chairman of the community made a heartfelt speech, denouncing the attempts to further push asylum seekers into poverty, denouncing the repeated attempts to cast doubt and hatred against asylum seekers.
Here are his memorable words:
“The explicit policy of our government is to allow as many [asylum seekers] to leave the country as possible. However, our government needs to take into account democratic, Jewish values. We cannot blame foreigners for all of our country’s problems. They weren’t the ones that changed our country. I will not allow us to hurt the people who came here in distress, because it reeks of racism. We cannot take advantage of their struggle and legislate against them.
Poor neighborhoods deteriorating – that’s the state’s fault, and not theirs. My personal background has been in these neighborhoods for many years, before the foreigners have arrived. Maybe because of them, our neighborhoods will get what they deserve.”
Elalouf addressed statements that treated female asylum seekers as if they have children simply to obtain money from the state.
“How could you judge a child and say ‘child factory’, or use other terms that I am ashamed to admit citizens in my country use? Those who condescend above a woman or a child’s situation, and attempt to make a political tool of it – that’s shameful. Let us not forget that once, we weren’t in a state of our own, either.
Start talking about others in humane terms. Those who will dare and hurt refugees in this committee will be kicked out of this room. ‘Child factory’?! How could we say that?! Shame. And then you dare to call yourself a faithful Jew.”