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Anti-African Migrant Protest Turns Violent

Tel Aviv riot was incited by some politicians; political failure is general

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Scene from the riot last night.(Roni Schutzer/AFP/GettyImages)

In southern Tel Aviv, 1,000 “protesters”—they began as protesters, ended as rioters, assailants, worse—demanded the detention and/or deportation of the recent influx of Africans who have come to Israel seeking asylum from various horrors, notably the wars and ethnic cleansings of Sudan (many hail from what is now the young country of South Sudan, and many from similarly war-torn Eritrea). Africans were attacked and called “infiltrators”; their cars and businesses had their windows smashed. As several have noted, the word for this is “pogrom.” 17 were arrested, and Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the incident; Israel is considering sending the Border Guard to pacify the neighborhood.

The easy thing to do would be to chalk this race riot up to bad apples. But that would elide its most significant dynamic: that these protesters were incited, if not actually to violence then at least to extremes of fear and hatred, by prominent right-wing politicians. Likud MK Danny Danon, famous for proposing the annexation of much of the West Bank, called for the migrants—“infiltrators,” to use his word, borrowed from the violent protesters—to be evacuated immediately. “The Sudanese were a cancer on our body,” said his Knesset and Likud colleague Miri Regev. Indeed, according to Peace Now, which has called for an official probe into whether these politicians incited the mob, Regev, Danon, Yariv Levin, and Michael Ben Ari attended the protest. In an eyewitness dispatch, Ilan Lior reports that Ben Ari, of National Union, called them “rapists” (there have been reports of rape in the neighborhood). Shas’ Eli Yishai has used troubling language and also referred to them as “infiltrators.”

More broadly, Noam Sheizaf convincingly argues that blame for the situation that led to last night’s melee lies with the government’s policy of malign neglect toward the 60,000 asylum-seekers, who have settled in poor neighborhoods throughout the country, including south Tel Aviv, where they bump up against Jewish populations that are themselves poor (predominantly Mizrahi, too) and therefore ripe to resent these “intruders” (think poor whites in the South or in Boston during the civil rights era). As Daniella Cheslow reported in Tablet Magazine more than a year ago, the real problem is a total vacuum in terms of government policy.

The grown-up in the room appears to be Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, also of Likud, who denounced politicians’ immoderate language and called on the government to develop policies that deal with the real problem in accordance with “Jewish values, which also seeks to protect and help the helpless.” Writing in Haaretz today, one asylum-seeker articulated the basic hypocrisy at the heart of Israel’s non-policy: “If those in the government do not want us to be here, then let them deport us. But they can’t have it both ways—not deport us and also not give us basic conditions to live here. That is exploitation.” He adds, “I just want to live in safety. I agree to be deported to any African country, other than Sudan. I just want to live with dignity, without people talking about the color of my skin, and I want to stop feeling hostility on the streets.”

“It started as a legitimate protest,” Lior reports. “South Tel Aviv residents objected to the government’s policy, or more accurately, the government’s lack of policy. Over the course of a few years, tens of thousands of Africans have made their way into the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv. Residents call them infiltrators, others call them refugees or asylum seekers.” He adds, “If it weren’t for the police presence, it would have ended in lynching. I have no doubt.”

The name of the neighborhood in which all this went down? Hatikva. Makes you feel sick.

Demonstrators Attack African Migrants in South Tel Aviv [Haaretz]
Day After Violent Anti-African Protest, Likud MK Calls to ‘Distance Infiltrators’ Immediately [Haaretz]
‘Peace Now’ Calls for ‘Incitement’ Probe of Anti-Violence MKs [Arutz Sheva]
How Mainstream Israeli Politicians Sparked the Tel Aviv Race Riot [+972]
Rivlin: ‘Lawmakers Must Guard Their Words!’ [Arutz Sheva]
An African Migrant’s Plea for a Few Basic Rights [Haaretz]
How a Tel Aviv Anti-Migrant Protest Spiraled Out of Control [Haaretz]
Related: Out of Place [Tablet Magazine]

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ginzy1 says:

including violent crime has skyrocketed in the poor south Tel Aviv
neighborhood where the Sudanese & Eritreans have gathered.  The
locals who have been living there for decades have had enough and are
demanding that their neighborhood be freed from their grip.  Most of the
so-called “refugees” are actually job seekers or economic refugees if
you will.

It’s telling that the “human rights” workers who defend the Sudanese
& Eritreans don’t live in south Tel Aviv.  And some of those that
criticize the local residents often live in the tonier parts of North
T.A.  They might well change their tune if the Sudanese & Eritreans
invaded their neighborhood.

Instead of passing judgment from your perch 6,000 miles away why
don’t come here, and spend a couple of months living in the South T.A.
neighborhood around the old bus station and see what the people go
through.  What is called “real reporting” instead of pontificating.  It’s very easy to be
self-righteous at another’s expense. One
other point, a linguistic one.   The Hebrew word used to describe those
who sneak over the border with Egypt (mostly Sudanese and Eritreans) is
“Mistaninim” (מסתננים).  The term is used universally in the Israeli
media and public discourse, right left and center , those who support
their presence in Israel and those who want to send them elsewhere, when
this very real problem is discussed.  The precise English translation
of “Mistaninim” is (oddly enough) “infiltrators”.

So although it is quite fashionable, to paint Israelis especially from the Likud as fascist Neanderthals with horns and pointed tails, “Mistaninim” is the term is used by all who discuss the problem.  And whether
or not you are capable of recognizing the problem, it is truly a
problem.Hershel Ginsburg

Jerusalem / Efrata


    Christopher Reiger says:

    Mr. Ginsburg, are you suggesting that the violence or the, um, dramatic language resorted to by the “protestors” and politicians (respectively) was warranted?  I hope not, but if you think that condemnation of this shande qualifies as unfairly “passing judgment,” you must not be looking at the situation anymore objectively than you claim Mr. Tracy is. 

    I think anyone learning about this situation (in eretz Yisrael or far across the ocean) must understand that the presence of the Sudanese and Eritrean refugees is a serious challenge, and that refugee and immigrant communities the world over are fraught with similar issues.  Still, that the neighborhood of Hatikva was the site of a — let’s call it Level One — pogrom, however, is not something we (any of us) should shrug off.  Thank goodness Reuven Rivlin (who Mr. Tracy pointed out is a member of the Likud party; he isn’t painting Likud as “fascist Neanderthals with horns and pointed tails”) “denounced politicians’ immoderate language and called on the government to develop policies that deal with the real problem in accordance with ‘Jewish values, which also seeks to protect and help the helpless.'”  That’s the voice of a Jewish state we must support.

The migration crisis is not an easy one to solve– it’s hard to blame the economic refugees (wouldn’t you try to get into Israel?)– but neither can Israel take in every refugee.  

But that is no excuse for the shameless, opportunistic and all-around disgraceful behavior of  Regev, Ben-Ari, and last but not least, Danny Danon.  

An MK who is proud to start a movement called “Deportation Now” needs to be kicked out of Likud.  

    Marty Susman says:

    I agree 100%.  It is fine to deal with this problem but not by attacking the poor helpless people…

yevka says:

Marty Susman says:

Seems to me there was a night in Germany when riots took place & although this is not anywhere as severe as that was throwing fire bombs & rioting against these poor people is just horrible…

Yes something has to be done but not riots, not violence & not hate speeches…


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Anti-African Migrant Protest Turns Violent

Tel Aviv riot was incited by some politicians; political failure is general

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