A protest against African refugees in South Tel Aviv last week descended into what one member (MK) of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, called a “pogrom.”
Last Wednesday, a rally was held demanding the expulsion of the 60,000 Africans now in Israel. It followed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying that Israel needed to prevent “illegal infiltrators flooding the country.”
Following the rally, people with dark skin were attacked in the streets, cars were attacked and shops selling to Africans had their windows smashed and were looted. Rioters threw firecrackers at police horses and attacked journalists, calling them “traitors.”
One woman posed for a photographer wearing a white tank-top on which she had written the words “Death to the Sudanese.”
The rally had been addressed by a number of government MKs. One, Miri Regev, said the refugees are “a cancer in our body.” Another MK, Danny Danon, head of the Knesset caucus “for dealing with the problem of the infiltrators,” said: “the infiltrators have to be expelled. We shouldn’t be afraid to say that word – expulsion, now.”
It has followed politicians at the highest levels, including Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and including the mayors of five other cities, calling for the imprisonment and expulsion of the refugees.
When I see a pogrom led by inciters … I wonder how they have the nerve to call themselves Jews.
They don’t understand the meaning of Jewish morals or collective Jewish memory, nor do they understand the meaning of Jewish existence.
Israel’s President Shimon Peres said that “hatred of foreigners contradicts the foundations of Judaism.”
A counter-protest by hundreds of Tel Aviv residents happened on Thursday (pictured) and others have been trying to protect the refugees from attacks, such as walking African children home from school.
Wenesday’s riots were not an isolated incident. Groups working with refugees have been threatened and three weeks ago buildings used by refugees, including a center with a kindergarten, were hit by Molotov cocktails.
Blogger Yossi Gurvitz writes of attending a rally by MK Michael Ben-Ari, a former member of Meir Kahane’s racist Kach party, the day before the riot where his non-white girlfriend was subjected to viscious racist and sexist slurs, and violence by middle-aged women and children after daring to challenge Ben-Ari.
Gurvitz points out that the reason South Tel Aviv remains poor and lacking in services is because the government’s policy for 35 years has been to “create a welfare state – in the West Bank.”
The government of Greater Israel does not have the money for welfare in old Israel, it is busy making facts on the ground beyond the Green Line. And if you want to make facts on the ground, you need settlers. The ideological base is limited. You need to entice people to go there. You want a welfare state? Better move to Beit El.
Like the other inciters – with Netanyahu, long-time national champion, in the lead – Ben Ari doesn’t want the national conversation to turn in that direction. It’s so much better to stir hatreds and resentments.
Crimes by refugees receive maximum media attention. MK Regev, who spoke at Wednesday’s rally about “a cancer in our body,” told Haaretz:
I condemn any violence from any side, but I understand the rage and hurt of the residents, of the families that live there. They tell us: ‘Help us. We are being humiliated, look how we live, we are afraid to leave the house.’
Notes the Jerusalem Post:
Though the crime rate among African migrants is lower than among the general population, according to figures compiled by the Knesset in 2010, this fact is generally lost on the residents of these working class neighborhoods.
Page 2: Read more about the refugees >>
Picture of Israeli anti-racist protest by Sasha Y. Kimel
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