Ten African refugees had a lucky escape on Sunday when their apartment was firebombed in another escalation of violence against Africans in Israel. They were trapped in a ground-floor apartment when the blaze began at 3 am. Four are in the hospital suffering from burns and smoke inhalation; the rest had fled.
Police described the firebombing as “racially motivated.”
It follows riots after a rally in Tel Aviv in which shops were looted and individuals attacked, including Jews of Ethiopian origin, as well as a previous Molotov cocktail attack on a center with a kindergarten. One member of the Knesset (MK), Israel’s parliament, called the riots a “pogrom.”
A number of other MKs have made incendiary speeches and comments, which many have blamed for inciting the attacks on black Africans.
MK Miri Regev, who led the protest which resulted in riots and has referred to the refugees as a “cancer,” told the Knesset:
How come after African workers went to a swimming pool in North Tel-Aviv they had to clean it for two days?
Another, Amnon Cohen, said that “most infiltrators carry infectious diseases.”
Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, from the supposedly liberal Kadima party, called for human rights workers, those who support the refugees, to be put into camps.
Another, Aryeh Eldad, said:
Anyone that penetrates Israel’s border should be shot, a Swedish tourist, Sudanese from Eritrea, Eritreans from Sudan, Asians from Sinai. Whoever touches Israel’s border — shot.
Interior minister Eli Yishai suggested that HIV-infected migrants were raping Israeli women. “This country belongs to us, to the white man,” he said in an interview.
This led to unprecedented harsh criticizm from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman against Yishai.
Lieberman said that every interview or statement against Africans “takes us back six months” in efforts to reach agreements to return refugees to their countries of origin (principally South Sudan).
“I ask all my colleagues — and I already spoke to them personally — to talk less. Especially ministers and MKs,” Lieberman said.
Poriya Gets of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, based in Tel Aviv, told the Guardian that violence against blacks was getting worse and was being stoked by politicians and right wing organizations.
We’ve had phone calls, people cursing and saying ugly things, like, ‘We hope you will be raped and we are coming to burn you.’ The politicians must take responsibility. They are trying to make the fire bigger.
Ethiopian Jewish MK Shlomo Molla told the Jerusalem Post that his community identifies with the migrants and that they have long suffered from racism in Israel. He said:
We know that if these foreigners were Scandinavians, with blue eyes and blond hair, then they would not be treated in this way.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and the government refers to the refugees as “infilitrators” and most Israelis believe that the around 60,000, mostly Eritreans and Sudanese, are migrant workers not refugees. A new law means that the refugees can be imprisoned and the government is building large camps, but these will not be able to house all the refugees. Israel is also building a fence along its border with Egypt.
Picture by Physicians for Human Rights - Israel