Fighting for Dignity

Fighting for Dignity

Migrant Lives at Israel's Margins

by Sarah S. Willen

18 illus.

  • Paperback
  • 9780812224900
  • Published: May 2021
  • Hardcover
  • 9780812251340
  • Published: August 2019

In Fighting for Dignity, Sarah S. Willen explores what happened when the Israeli government launched an aggressive deportation campaign targeting newly arrived migrants from countries as varied as Ghana and the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, and Ukraine. Although the campaign was billed as a solution to high unemployment, it had another goal as well: to promote an exclusionary vision of Israel as a Jewish state in which non-Jews have no place. The deportation campaign quickly devastated Tel Aviv's migrant communities and set the stage for even more aggressive antimigrant and antirefugee policies in the years to come.

Fighting for Dignity traces the roots of this deportation campaign in Israeli history and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and shows how policies that illegalize and criminalize migrants wreak havoc in their lives, endanger their health, and curtail the human capacity to flourish. Children born to migrant parents are especially vulnerable to developmental and psychosocial risks. Drawing on nearly two decades of ethnographic engagement in homes and in churches, medical offices, advocacy organizations, and public spaces, Willen shows how migrants struggle to craft meaningful, flourishing lives despite the exclusions and vulnerabilities they endure. To complement their perspectives, she introduces Israeli activists who reject their government's exclusionary agenda and strive to build bridges across difference, repair violations of migrants' dignity, and resist policies that violate their own moral convictions. Willen's vivid and unflinching ethnography challenges us to reconsider our understandings of global migration, human rights, the Middle East— and even dignity itself.