Attacks on African Refugees Shame Israel

Attacks on African Refugees Shame Israel

Haaretz photo by Daniel Bar-On

When Yael Dayan, chair of the Tel Aviv city council, spoke at an event co-sponsored by Partners in New York City on June 3rd, she was somewhat reluctant to use the term “pogrom” (coined when mobs murdered many Jews in the waning decades of the Russian Empire)  to characterize the violence against African asylum seekers who live in the Hatikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv.  But it wasn’t for lack of concern  over what was described by the Israeli collective of activist photographers, Active Stills, as “a racist mob [roaming] the streets chanting racist slogans, setting garbage on fire, attacking African shops & bars and hunting down Africans after a demonstration against African refugees and asylum seekers in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood on May 23, 2012.”  

She spoke with compassion for the approximately 60,000 refugees from Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea who live a marginal existence in poor quarters, mostly in Tel Aviv, and are generally denied work permits.  She says that Israel is obligated as a signatory to the international convention on human rights to take them in, but that they are given no real governmental assistance.  And she indicates that it’s not a surprise that extremists in the pro-settler movement and in some political parties have made statements inciting hatred and violence.

In the statement of J Street’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami, entitled “Incitement in Tel Aviv,” he also applauds mainstream Israeli and Jewish leaders for their condemnation of the violence:

… President Shimon Peres reminded us, “hatred of foreigners contradicts the foundations of Judaism.”

…. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the violence and the role of the public officials who were present, saying, “I want to make it clear that there is no place for the statements and acts that we witnessed yesterday.”

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin added, “When the masses are furious, public leaders must try to contain that anger and offer a solution, not to fan the flames. We must not use the same language anti-Semites use against us. We are a people that suffered a great deal of incitement and harassment, and we have an obligation to be extra sensitive and moral.”

American Jewish groups spoke out as well, with the Anti-Defamation League saying, “We are disturbed by inflammatory public statements made by certain Israeli officials, some of which has veered into racism. These statements are counterproductive and only serve to further inflame tensions.”
Yet the level of the Prime Minister’s compassion is not high.  As the NY Times reports on fresh violence against the refugees in the form of an arson attack on a dwelling in Jerusalem:
… Mr. Netanyahu pledged to complete a 150-mile, 16-foot-tall steel fence now being erected in the desert along the Israeli-Egyptian border; to speed up construction of a detention facility able to hold up to 10,000 illegal immigrants; and to step up efforts to deport foreigners who may be legally repatriated to their home countries according to international conventions.
Mr. Netanyahu intends to start repatriating several thousand South Sudanese people in Israel, but is awaiting approval from the Israeli Supreme Court, according to an official who was in the meeting.
Under a new Israeli law, illegal entrants can be held in detention for up to three years….
By | 2012-06-05T14:04:00-04:00 June 5th, 2012|Blog|2 Comments


  1. Kenedal June 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    South Africa does the same tots illegal migrants,has indefinite holding areas as do many countries – there was shocking xenophobic violence there a few years ago. Of course this does not excuse the Israeli violence. All it says is that Israelis are no different from other people,and should not be burdened with extra high standards of decency and fearlessness etc while the world ignores or plays down the same conditions in other countries

  2. Anonymous June 17, 2012 at 5:26 am - Reply

    What happened to learning the lesson about antisemitism. We can not as Jews perpetuate hate and ethnic cleansing based on fear. We need to do what is best for humanity. Maybe Budhism is the greatest teacher on humanism. I think Modern Jews have become selfish and self centered, and obsessed with money, power and their careers.What would G-d think? I am sad to say I am Jewish when I hear these things. It’s repugnant….

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