There are several dozen refugees from Sudan in Israel today. Most of them have been in detention for months and have never been brought before a judge. In April, Bauer wrote a letter to the editor of Haaretz harshly condemning Israel’s treatment of these refugees. "What kind of law do we have that allows genocide refugees to be detained without trial, leaving them to rot in jail for months?" he wrote. In the wake of this letter, Attorney Anat Ben Dor of the Refugee Rights Program at Tel Aviv University contacted Bauer. She asked him to become one of the undersigners of an appeal demanding that the detention of refugees be carried out only under court supervision.
In an affidavit submitted to the High Court of Justice, Bauer compares the detention of these Sudanese refugees to the detention of German Jewish refugees by Great Britain and the United States in the late 1930s. "The Jewish people have a long history of refugeehood," writes Bauer. "A handful of black refugees, whose families have been murdered because of the color of their skin and their ethnicity, have come to Israel. They are seeking asylum. The idea of deporting them to some other country is horrifying. To cast them out of yet another country is immoral."
He adds: "I think it’s a scandal. There’s a law from 1954 against infiltrators, and this law has been used to send these people to jail. It’s not that there was any government resolution or ministerial decision, you know. It just slipped through. It’s an administrative thing, as they say.
"These refugees from Sudan should be granted asylum because they’re political refugees," he continues. "They should be allowed to stay here as long as they like. If the agreement signed by the Sudanese government and some of the rebels holds up, they will want to go back to their homes and families. But we shouldn’t be pushing them or deporting them. People who came here to seek refuge should be given refuge."
Even if they come from an enemy country?
"Darfur is not an enemy country. Sudan is an enemy country, and these people are being persecuted by the government of Sudan. This is exactly what the British said. Jews came from Germany, and certain government officials decided they were ‘citizens of an enemy country.’ They built a detention camp on the Isle of Man, between England and Ireland, and sent thousands of them there. After a while, there was an outcry. These were people who were being persecuted by an enemy country and seeking refuge. Incidentally, the United States did the same thing. It rounded up a thousand or so Jewish refugees and sent them to a camp in Oswego in upstate New York."
Isn’t that a good way to smuggle in spies?
"That’s what the British said, too. So they started checking them out, one by one, and soon discovered that these were people who were against Germany – not for it."
"In Darfur, black Muslims are being persecuted by Muslim Bedouin tribes who are allies of the extremist Islamic government. 400,000 of them have been murdered – not 200,000 as it says in our papers, or 180,000 as it says in The New York Times. I don’t know where they got those figures. Out of a population of 4.6 million in Darfur, at least 2 million are sitting in refugee camps."
Aren’t you worried that the moment we grant asylum to Sudanese refugees, they’ll come pouring in?
"Not really. I don’t think there’s any real threat here. So a few people will escape from the camp in Egypt, get through all the Egyptian checkpoints and sneak across the border. How many will make it? Another hundred, another two hundred? There have been precedents that worked out well. We took in refugees from Vietnam, from Bosnia. Why not follow that model?" …
What do you think about the comparison drawn between Israeli occupation and the Holocaust?
"There is no basis for comparison. People can resist occupation. I don’t think our actions are acceptable, but to compare that to genocide? To compare that to the Holocaust? It’s totally ridiculous. When the settlers were being evacuated from Gush Katif, nearly everyone who was interviewed said Holocaust this and Nazi that. How dare they cheapen the memory of the Holocaust? How dare they make light of the murder of 5.8 million Jews? In a certain sense, any Jew who said such things in Gush Katif is a Holocaust denier." …