Thursday, March 25, 2010

Walking to the Promised Land

In anthropology, the term ‘expansion’ is used to describe the spread of a population into new lands, often much larger in size. The Bantu Expansion was thus the spread of Bantu agricultural peoples from eastern Nigeria into central, eastern, and southern Africa between 1,000 and 3,000 years ago. Roughly the same period saw Austronesians expand out of southern China and into most of southeast Asia and Oceania. Finally, the last five hundred years have seen the expansion of European peoples into the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa, and Siberia.

Today, a new expansion is under way. In a zone stretching across Africa from Sierra Leone to Somalia, population growth is outstripping the carrying capacity of the land. People are responding to this situation in the same way that people have always responded: by migrating en masse to new territories and a new life.

But how? Isn’t the rest of the world already occupied by other peoples? Yes, but so were the lands colonized by the Bantu, the Austronesians, and the Europeans. What once belonged to one people can be taken by another. It’s really that simple.

This new population expansion at first spread largely into the homelands of the former colonial powers, specifically Great Britain and France. In recent years, especially since the mid-1990s, it has begun to spill into southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, as well as cities farther afield.

Israel, in particular, is becoming a prime destination. There are two reasons. First, it is the only First World nation that abuts directly on Africa. You can literally walk there from demographic hotspots in the Sahel or the Horn of Africa. Second, Israel has weak ideological defenses. In a post-national world, it is no longer acceptable to justify Israel’s existence as a land where Jews can live as Jews among Jews. The preferred justification is to present Israel as a haven for ‘victims.’ Unfortunately, this victimology can have unintended consequences.


Since the mid-1990s, 3 to 5 million people have poured into Egypt from sub-Saharan Africa. Although this population movement is widely attributed to the civil war in Darfur and to the continuing low-grade conflict in southern Sudan, there are also many migrants coming from Eritrea and elsewhere in Africa.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, some of these migrants began to infiltrate across the Israeli border with the help of Bedouin smugglers. They were not sent back, as one of them recounted:

“We were taken to the court and the judge said that it will be impossible to send us back to Sudan, which is an enemy country. But she also said that if the state will support us two million refugees will come to Israel and it will be a disaster. Then we were sent to Maasihu Prison, where I stayed for 14 months.” (Yacobi, 2009, p. 3).

The news soon spread to places as far away as Eritrea, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast. From early 2007 to the end of March 2008, over 20,000 Africans crossed into the Negev from Egypt (Yacobi, 2009, p. 13). They were split equally between Sudanese and Eritreans with smaller numbers from Central and West Africa (Yacobi, 2009, p. 7).

These African migrants have stirred up divergent reactions in their host country. On the one hand, it is difficult to turn them away when official discourse so often presents Israel as a haven for refugees:

There is wide agreement that one of the turning points in bringing the refugee issue to the Israeli public was when the campaign against the deportation of refugees focused on the Holocaust, pointing out that it was the Jewish people who had needed shelter and protection during and after the Second World War. The Jewish historical experience and Jewish collective memory became a convincing tool in the public sphere as noted, for example, by Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev who said: “we cannot stand by as refugees from genocide in Darfur are knocking on our doors” (Yacobi, 2009, p. 10)

Many Africans understand the power of Holocaust discourse in this debate:

Just before last Passover a group of African refugees volunteered to help Holocaust survivors with cleaning, painting and, more generally, with renovating their flats. This event was covered by the Israeli media, emphasizing the common fate of both Jewish and African refugees. (Yacobi, 2009, p. 10)

The influx of African migrants has thus been facilitated by comparisons with Jewish refugees of another era. This comparison is not accepted by all Israelis, like this commenter:

to be precise the only difference between janjaweed and darfurians is that the janjaweed have won the war .. otherwise the whole story would have been replayed in reverse with the darfurians attacking, raping and ethnic cleansing the arabs… this cannot be said about jewish refugees in europe who did not resist (the conflict in darfur was started by the darfurian separatists, not by the arabs) while the danger for them was a real one … it’s impossible to call the darfurian conflict a genocide and compare it to holocaust as it’s just an ethnic conflict in which both parties widely resort to ethnic cleansing. (Lotan, 2007)

This view seems to be shared by the Israeli government, which is increasingly using the term ‘infiltrator’ instead of ‘refugee,’ as in this speech by the prime minister in January 2010:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday warned that ongoing illegal African immigration posed a threat to Israel, and announced that he will ask the government to endorse a plan to erect a barrier along Israel's border with Egypt to prevent infiltration from Africa.

The barrier is meant to prevent an expected "flood" of African immigrants seeking jobs in Israel, Netanyahu said.

According to Netanyahu's plan, border guards and electronic systems will safeguard the proposed barrier, which will be partly above ground. In addition to the barrier, the government will work to increase law enforcement against employers who hire illegal foreign workers.

Addressing the Manufacturers Association General Assembly, Netanyahu warned that African immigrants infiltrating Israel from Egypt were changing the "demographic landscape" in Israel.

"I don't know if you have been to Eilat and have seen what's going on there. In Tel Aviv there are places you wouldn't recognize, this is something that must be stopped," Netanyahu said.
(JPost, 2010)

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders hope to staunch African immigration by building a ‘smart fence’ between Israel and Egypt, by interning refugees for lengthy periods, and by fining employers of illegal immigrants. As strong as these measures may seem, it is doubtful whether they will have much effect. A ‘smart fence’ can be outmaneuvered by first having a few refugees cross it to tie down the border patrol and then sending over a much larger group farther down the border. Nor will lengthy internment be a real deterrent. Many of the refugees see it as a price worth paying for admission to a First World country (Yacobi, 2009, p. 5). Finally, employer sanctions have a poor record of enforcement in other Western nations.

Israelis in general are also pinning their hopes on an end to the Darfur civil war. But even with peace there will still be an outflow of people from Darfur, as there is from other Sahel regions that have no civil conflict. The truth is that a subsistence economy on arid soil cannot support Darfur’s growing population: up from 1 million in 1950 to over 6 million today. Something has to give, and it is richer countries, like Israel, that will be called on to do the giving.


JPost (2010). PM: Infiltrators dangerous for Israel, The Jerusalem Post, January 21, 2010,

Lotan, G. (2007). Israel: Sudanese Refugees – Like Darfur, as Auschwitz

Yacobi, H. (2009). African Refugees’ Influx in Israel from a Socio-Political Perspective, CARIM Research Reports 2009/04, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies.


Mr_Zlu said...

That is why I admire the Israelis... A shame that most of the Jews living in the West are quite the opposite in their opinion.

I am afraid that one will resort to the "good old" violence to repel this future global black wave.

Max said...

Incidentally, I love how the report you states puts "foreigners" in quotes when talking about the African refugees in Israel. Uh, they're not foreigners? What?

Eugene said...

This is a delicate topic for Israel. On the one hand, of course, it's not obligated to take in anyone who's not Jewish (and by the way there are some Jewish Africans, believe it or not).

However, general sentiments of the sort "We are a First-World nation surrounded by savages" sound suspiciously like Nazi Germany, when Jews were on the receiving end of this sentiment. Thus, Jews have an "immunity" against racism and are very sensitive about it.

The Palestinian issue is a little different because the Palestinians make active political claims, and also sometimes perpetrate state-sponsored violence. But even with the Palestinians, most Israelis can relate very well to people without a home, despite the barbed rhetoric on both sides.

Because of the history of the Jewish people, Israel has always been at the forefront of humanitarian and refugee causes, and deservedly so.

Tod said...

Israel Deporting Non-Jewish Immigrants,YouTube 1/3/10 In other countries these kids would melt the hearts of the public, not in Israel. It's illegal for women who are illegal immigrants (ie non Jewish migrants) to have children in Israel.

CHINESE workers at a company in Israel have been forced to agree not to have sex with or marry Israelis as a condition of getting a job.
According to a contact they are required to sign, male workers may not have any contact with Israeli women.'

That kind of thing would be inconceivable in any western country. As for the border Egypt gets an awful lot of money and military assistance from the US and you can bet it is conditional on Egypt keeping the Israelis happy:-

THE House Appropriations Committee this week inserted $260 million in fresh security assistance for Egypt into a supplemental appropriations bill, along with $50 million for border security. No conditions were attached.'

EGYPTIAN police shot dead a Sudanese man at the Israel border on Sunday as he tried to slip into the Jewish state, bringing to 17 the number of African migrants killed there this year.[...]In June alone, police killed three African men and a 7-year-old Sudanese girl at the sensitive frontier.'

Moreover the total fertility rate of Israeli Jews is extremely high (for a developed country) and actually rising 2.88 for Jews in 2008 while it was 2.69 in 2005 and 2.67 in 2000).

So no, I don't think Israel will go the way of other developed countries.

Peter Frost said...

Mr Zlu,

Time will tell. Israel, like China, is a country where the modern post-national consensus is structurally weak. From my experience, Israeli Jews tend to be more open-minded and less politically correct than American Jews. European Jews fall between the two extremes.


The word 'foreigner' is Oldspeak.


"Because of the history of the Jewish people, Israel has always been at the forefront of humanitarian and refugee causes, and deservedly so."

At the forefront? No, I can't agree. The forefront probably belongs to Scandinavia. I agree that the Jewish historical experience is a relevant factor in understanding the African migrant issue, but this factor is interacting with other factors, notably modern post-national culture.

In this respect, Israelis are immersed in the same ideological environment as everyone else in the Western world.


The Israelis will try to 'outsource' immigration control, i.e., they'll pay the Egyptians to stem African immigration in a way that the Israelis themselves wouldn't dare do. The same thing is happening with the European Union and Morocco.

Gives a new meaning to the expression "they'll do the dirty work our people won't do."

Mr_Zlu said...


Ha ha ! Contract for the foreign workers not to touch their women !

It reminds of the "good old" days when people would go batshit insane if one ever touched their women. I think this reflex of the past will someday reappear.

As for the Israel Jewish Birth rate, it is worth noting that it is mainy due to the Orthodox jews. I really doubt that Israel will still be a piece of the West in the Middle East were they to become the majority... maybe that explains their un-politically correct behavior ?

@Peter Frost

Yep, wait and see...

As for the European jews, it is funny to notice their over-representation in the media and in the political field (as in the USA). What is even more funny is the overall liberal (leftist) attitude of the jews working in these domains. I tend to agree with you for the rest of the Jewish population though.

As for the outsourcing of the immigration control, it seems to me that the North African countries are performing on par with their reputation ("travail d'arabe") since I still see too many of them landing in my country. :)

Max said...


You mentioned before that the "era of cheap food is over." What do you mean? Or maybe I should ask, "why?" since the meaning of the statement is pretty obvious on its face...

Peter Frost said...

Mr. Zlu,

I'm just going by personal impressions. European or Israeli Jews seem to be less politically naïve. With American or Canadian Jews, I get the impression of talking with someone who's grown up in a 'bubble' with no real exposure to life.


The food crisis of the next decade will be driven by rising demand and sluggish growth in supply.

Food prices will rise sharply for the same reason that prices for other commodities will (i.e., oil, copper, iron, etc). With the rise of China's population to First World status, a billion consumers will be bidding up the price of food, and they will have the money to do it.

To a lesser extent, the same will be true for India, Vietnam, and Russia. Demand will outstrip supply.

I'm also skeptical about the potential for increasing the supply of food. The United States is heading toward a population of half a billion by mid-century, many of whom will be living on former farmland. The U.S. will have all it can do to feed its own population, let alone export food to other countries.

I'm not alone in thinking this way. A number of countries (including China) are preparing for this eventuality by buying up potential farmland in Africa.

Tod said...

African ‘infiltrators’ should live in camp

Mr_Zlu said...


Thanks for the link.

I have alwyas considered Israel to be the spearhead of the West in the middle of the islamic third world... as South Africa was the white stronghold in Africa.

It seems Israel is also suffering from the same western mental disease...

The fall of South Africa was symbolic and foretelling of our current (and future) society. I've got the feeling that Israel is a kind of modern Samson...

Peter Frost said...


If you live long enough, you get to see everything.

Katz isn't factoring natural increase and the youthful age structure of the migrants into his predictions. In six to seven years, the Sudanese/Eritrean population in Israel will have swollen to over 200,000. In ten years time, it will be over half a million.

Max said...

In ten years, the Israel population should be nearly 9 million, given the current population growth rate of 1.8%

A Sudanese/Eritrean population of 500,000 would be, what, 5.5%?

Peter Frost said...


The time for dealing with this issue is now, not when African immigrants make up 5-10% of the Israeli population. At that point, it will be very difficult to stop further population growth. There will be incessant demands for family reunification and the immigrant population itself will be growing through natural increase.

Another point: they won't be spread evenly over Israel. Towns like Arad and Eilat will be majority African and Beersheba will be close to one third African.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't saying something should or should not be done, I was just trying to estimate how large the African population in Israel was going to be.

So what do you think the most common destinations for the upcoming African wave of emigrants is going to be? Broken down by continent/region, how would you rank them? I'm thinking:

1) China - primarily because of China's trade with Africa and its booming economy, which is going to be hungry for new workers given its aging population. Also, China's population is massive, which means there are going to be more jobs available in absolute numbers as the population ages.

2) Western and Southern Europe - because of its geographic proximity and higher standard of living, mostly. Also, many Africans speak European languages already. I think Europe will actively look for immigrants outside of Africa to plug the holes in its work force, mostly India/Pakistan and the near East, though, unlike the Chinese, who will probably recruit directly from Africa because of their business ties.

3) North America - Higher standards of living plus relatively lax immigration policies should be a fairly big draw.

3) North Africa/The Near East - Geographic proximity plus higher standard of living.

5) Everyone else.

Do you think India will be much of a destination?

Peter Frost said...


If I were an African, I would head for China. The immigration controls are relatively weak and there will be plenty of economic opportunities over the next two decades.

Other possibilities:

- higher standard of living
- possibility of migrating to other EU countries
- relatively weak enforcement of immigration controls
- plenty of sympathetic enablers in the host society (e.g., other immigrant communities, antifas, etc.)

Argentine / Brazil
- higher standard of living
- relatively weak enforcement of immigration controls

- higher standard of living
- relatively weak enforcement of immigration controls once you get well past the border
- government committed to ideology of pan-Africanism

Peter Frost said...


India is starting to crack down on illegal immigration, particularly from Bangladesh. I suspect Muslims from Somalia, Eritrea, and the Sahel won't be welcome either. There's a program under way to identify all Indians (fingerprints, photo ID, etc.).

Max said...

Good Lord, they want to identify 1+ billion people??? Good luck to them, I guess. ;)

The more I think about it, the more I think China is going to be a big draw. I wonder what John Derbyshire would have to say about this. He seems to know more about China than, well... than I do.

Ann said...

The best place for Africans in the US and the UK. My parents are from Nigeria (btw, Nigerians aren't Bantu) and they immigrated to America. I have Nigerian cousins in the UK. We have assimilated with society and are doing better than the native black population.

Mr_Zlu said...


For every "good" African migant who enters into a country, there are literally thousands of "bad" ones.

As for the Nigerians, wherever they emigrate (eg. China, Japan, Switzerland), they quickly gain themselves a reputation of drug dealers and "pimps".

Thank you so much for your "enrichment".