African Asylum Seekers and the Changing Politics of Memory in Israel

  • Moriel Ram
  • Haim Yacobi
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


On 18 December 2010, an Israeli Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called, Anu Plittim, (‘We are refugees’) that provides pro bono legal support to asylum seekers1 arriving in Israel from Sudan, the Ivory Coast and Eritrea organised a charity concert. This concert was promoted by stickers that paraphrased a well-known Hebrew slang saying: ‘You can call your grandfather an infiltrator’. This title, as well as the name of the NGO, was not chosen accidently. Rather, it was meant to publically demonstrate that African refugees can easily be associated with many Israelis’ personal histories as well as with Israeli collective memory. Similarly, Itamar Mann, Annu Plitim’s chairman, claimed that ‘the Israeli government is insisting not to decide on any immigration policy. Imprisonment [of asylum seekers] is against Israel’s humanitarian obligation’. The NGO’s director, Shira Penn, further claimed that:

The reference to refugees as infiltrators is a racist demagogic meaning employed by the establishment in order to incite the public against them. You can’t frame a whole group of luck-struck individuals who are only seeking refuge just because the specific way they are forced to enter Israel makes it easier to portray them as such. Many of our grandfathers and grandmothers entered Israel in a way that today is termed as infiltration … We ourselves were refugees only three generations ago; have we already forgotten this lesson?2


Asylum Seeker Collective Memory Jewish Identity Jewish People Holocaust Survivor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 4.
    Yael Bernovsky, ‘A Concert for the Refugees: “Not Just a Sanctuary for Jews”’, Ynet, 18 December 2010, available at,7340,L-4000713,00.html (last accessed on 13 August 2011) (in Hebrew). see also 12–18-17–06-12.html (last accessed on 13 August 2011) (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Yoav Zayton, ‘Murder Charge: Got Drunk and Killed a Seventy Year Old Woman over a Trashcan Dispute’, Ynet, 3 March 2010, available at,7340,L-3861104,00.html (last accessed on 13 August 2011) (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Yoav Zayton, ‘A Public Gathering against the Infiltrators in Tel Aviv: “A Long and Faithful Battle”’, Ynet, 17 December 2010, available at,7340,L-4000504,00.html (last accessed on 13 August 2011) (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Yael Zerubavel, Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 39–43, 84–91; Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, (New York: H. Holt, 2001), 125–7.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Mekonnen Tesfahuney, ‘Mobility, Racism and Geopolitics’, Political Geography, 17, 5, 1993, 499–515; Yacobi, ‘Let Me Go to the City’.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 12.
    David Newman, ‘The Lines That Continue to Separate US: Borders in Our Borderless World’, Progress in Human Geography, 30, 2, 2006, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 16.
    A. R. Fradkin, ‘Sudanese Refugees in Israel and Egypt’, Harvard College Student Middle East Journal, 30 January, 2008.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Martin Patience, ‘Darfur Refugees Seek Israeli Home’, BBC News, Jerusalem Post, 14 March 2007.Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    Isabel Kershner, ‘Israel Returns Illegal Migrants to Egypt’, New York Times, 20 August 2007.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    See, for example, Denise Thompson, Radical Feminism Today, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001); Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  11. 32.
    Yehuda Shenhav and Yossi Yona, Racism in Israel, (Jerusalem: Van Leer Institute and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2008), 19 (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  12. 41.
    Rachel Pain and Susan J. Smith, ‘Fear: Critical Geopolitics and Everyday Life’, in Rachel Pain and Susan J. Smith (eds), Fear: Critical Geopolitics and Everyday Life (London: Ashgate, 2008), 1–19.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Moriel Ram and Haim Yacobi 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moriel Ram
  • Haim Yacobi

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations