An Israeli government plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants has sparked an unexpected backlash from liberal Israelis and their American Jewish allies who say Israel — established in the wake of the Holocaust — should never be turning away those in need.

The showdown could come to a head on April 1, when the state plans to start expelling Africans, some of whom have been in Israel for years, to an uncertain fate.

The government insists all but a select few are economic migrants. But critics charge they are mostly bona fide refugees fleeing persecution and that kicking them out would threaten their lives.

In recent weeks, Israeli pilots, doctors, writers, former ambassadors and Holocaust survivors have all urged the government to halt the deportation plan.