Right-wing figures stoke spread of racist violence in Israeli cities
MK Miri Regev, Likud (Video):
Sudanese are a cancer in our body.
MK Yulia Shamalov Berkovitch, Kadima (Ynet):
All human rights activists [who protect the Africans] should be imprisoned and transported to camps we are building.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Shas (Maariv):
Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man.
Do you know that many women in Tel Aviv were raped and are now afraid to report [it to the police] so that won’t be seen as AIDS carriers?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
The breach of our borders by infiltrators could threaten the Jewish and democratic state (…) we will begin by removing the infiltrators from South Sudan and move on to others.
Whoever can be sent away should be sent away from here as quickly as possible. (Haaretz)
Danny Danon, Likud (on his Facebook page)
Israel is at war. An enemy state of infiltrators was established in Israel, and its capital is south Tel Aviv.
The two following quotes are from members of the National Union Party which is not part of the coalition, but largely supports the government on most issues.
Michael Ben-Ari, National Union (Haaretz)
A fourth grader (Israeli) girl is studying in the same class with infiltrators’ kids, that you don’t know what diseases they are carrying. These are the worst viral diseases.
MK Aryeh Eldad, National Union (Haaretz):
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.
While police investigation indicates attack on illegal migrants’ apartment was racially-motivated, landlord denies attack has anything to do with Eritreans living there. Minister Aharonovitch: Public figures riding wave of hatred
Shahar Chai, Ynet news
The graffiti slogans that were sprayed onto an apartment building in Jerusalem, which was torched on Monday morning, called to deport the illegal migrants living in the area and sparked claims of racism. The writing called for migrants to “get out of the neighborhood.”
However, the apartment’s landlord insisted that this was just a “neighborhood feud and nothing more.” He further denied receiving any threats concerning the apartment’s Eritrean residents. “We’ll fix up the place, so they can come back and live here,” he clarified.
Despite the fact that the initial investigation of the incident, in which four people were wounded, indicated arson, the landlord continued to insist that “the fire has nothing to do with the illegal immigrants living in the apartment.”
Some have claimed that several residents of the ultra-Orthodox haredi community in the area were behind the attack.
The landlord further denied receiving a specific threat from one of the business owner’s in the area. According to the building owner, any accusations made concerning the conditions the migrants were living in, are completely baseless. “I’ve had tenants living in this building for decades without any complaints,” he said.
The Jerusalem District Police said that the initial investigation indicated a racially-motivated attack.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch addressed the incident during a ceremony honoring fallen police officers in Kiryat Ata: “These days the police is faced with additional challenges: Facing the wave of illegal infiltrators and their criminal activity, but no less serious are the statements made by public figures who can’t shut their mouths and ride the wave of hatred and popularity to cover up their feeble performance over the years.”
“I call on them to cease, otherwise they could lead us all to severe and needless violence as we witnessed last night with the torching of the apartment in Jerusalem,” he added.
Former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni also commented on the arson attack in Jerusalem. She wrote on her Facebook page that “the torching of the foreign workers’ apartment in Jerusalem is intolerable and in contrast to Israel’s values.”
Livni added: “The State’s duty is to handle the problem that emerged, especially in certain neighborhoods and cities in Israel, to block its border to labor migrants but not to be dragged to violence and racism.”
Meanwhile, local haredim have flocked to the torched building on Jaffa Street, in order to observe the damage first hand. Some even encouraged the hateful act, saying that “these people take the law into their own hands.”
Alula Debersai, 22, of Ethiopia, was injured in the fire: “I was in bed when suddenly one of the Eritrean’s sleeping in the adjacent room started screaming. I tried to call the police but they didn’t answer. I then broke the bedroom window and attempted to climb out, but the window was barricaded,” he explained.
“I then took a bucket and filled it with water in effort to extinguish the flames. It was completely dark and I fell and hurt my arm. When the ambulance came, the paramedics evacuated me to the nearest hospital,” Debersai added.
Standing in an empty, charred kitchen, Debersai said: “We don’t have anything left. It’s all gone. I don’t have any clothes or a blanket to sleep with.”
Several local residents gave the migrants blankets, food and clothes. One of the migrants who was injured in the fire said that “the other tenants are afraid to come back.”
One of the local business owner’s said, “They (migrants) were living in sub-human conditions.” He further said that the illegal migrants became a nuisance to some of the locals.
“They opened up a club and played loud music during the night. They were always drunk and eventually some of the religious neighbors began to complain. They warned the landlord not to rent them any apartments,” he said.
The Foreign Ministry published a statement in which it condemned the arson attack, saying “there is no justification for this criminal act.”
Israel’s government has announced its plans to speed up the deportation of at least 25,000 African immigrants living illegally in the country. Human rights supporters have decried the move and branded the mass expulsion of migrants as “immoral.”
A law also came into effect on Sunday allowing Israeli authorities to detain illegal immigrants for up to three years without trial or deportation.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement to his ministers urging them to accelerate plans to expel immigrants from South Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Ethiopia.
Human Rights organizations regard the new measure as a violation of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Plans are in place to deport over 700 immigrants in the coming days. Netanyahu’s government brands them as “infiltrators” and sees them as a threat to the Jewish demographic in the country.
The Israeli government cannot legally repatriate immigrants from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia because their lives would be at risk upon their return. They make up around 35,000 of the 60,000 African immigrants currently living in Israel.
“Whoever can be sent away should be sent away from here as quickly as possible,” said Netanyahu on Sunday, adding that “it’s clear that we cannot return Sudanese and Eritreans to their countries.”
However, according to the new law any immigrants caught by the Israeli authorities without documents may be subject to the three-year sentence.
Many migrants who take refuge in Israel are fleeing from war or persecution in their countries of origin, but very few are granted official refugee status by the government. Many live on temporary visas and subsist on menial jobs.
African immigrants have become the target of many protests recently in Israeli society. They are blamed for rising crime and violence in the country.
All of the migrant workers caught by the Israeli authorities so far have been transferred to Saharonim detention center which has a capacity of 2,000 spaces. The Interior Ministry predicts the center will reach maximum capacity next month and a currently working on expanding it to accommodate 5,400.
A migrant home was torched on Sunday night, trapping 10 Eritrean migrant workers inside, two of whom were injured. Graffiti was found at the scene that read “leave the neighborhood,” raising suspicions of arson.
Tel Aviv has played host to anti-immigrant demonstrations over the last couple of weeks, thousands taking to the streets demanding the expulsion of all asylum-seekers and immigrants.
Although PM Netanyahu has condemned the protests, there is growing anti-immigrant rhetoric in the Israeli government.
“The infiltrators along with the Palestinians will quickly bring us to the end of the Zionist dream,” said Interior Minister Eli Yishai to Maariv newspaper, adding the “Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man.”
Aryeh Eldad, a right-wing politician urged Israeli troops to fire upon any “infiltrators” that penetrated its borders, rather than only those suspected to be carrying arms.
Left-wing lawmaker Dov Henin rounded on the new measures the Israeli government is taking, branding them as “immoral.”
Israel is currently building a fence across its border with Egypt in an attempt to stem the flow of African migrants and Islamist militants into the country.
Israel turns on its refugees
Firebombing of house containing 10 Eritreans is latest example of growing racism stoked by politicians and media
By Harriet Sherwood, Guardian
Behind the metal door and up a narrow, blackened stairwell, fear hung in the air along with the smell of smoke. No one wanted to talk. A young woman scrubbing clothes in a plastic basin mutely shook her head. A man sweeping the floor with a toddler clinging to his legs said one word: “No.” Another, bringing bags of food from the nearby market, brushed past without making eye contact.
As for the 10 Eritreans who had been trapped in a ground-floor apartment when the blaze began at 3am, they had gone. Four were in hospital suffering from burns and smoke inhalation; the rest had fled.
The overnight firebombing of a downtown Jerusalem building which houses refugees from sub-Saharan Africa was the latest in a string of attacks set against the backdrop of rising anti-migrant sentiment in Israel, fuelled by inflammatory comments by prominent politicians. Often described as infiltrators by ministers, the media, the army and government officials, migrants have also had labels such as “cancer”, “garbage”, “plague” and “rapists” applied to them by Israeli politicians.
The arsonists who struck the Jerusalem apartment, located in a religious neighbourhood of the city, scrawled “get out of our neighbourhood” on its outside wall. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said: “This was a targeted attack which we believe was racially motivated.” The foreign ministry condemned the “heinous crime”.
But on the street outside the building, the official response had little resonance with a man who arrived in Israel from Eritrea 14 years ago but was too scared to give his name. “People look at you, they curse you. They say, ‘Go back to your country.’ We are very afraid,” he said.
Tensions were inevitable, according to Moshe Cohen, the owner of a nearby jeweller’s shop. “They drink, they fight among themselves, they play African music on shabbat [the Jewish sabbath] when people want to pray. What started in Tel Aviv happens here now.”
He was referring to a series of firebombings of apartments and a nursery over the past month in southern Tel Aviv, an area in which African migrants are concentrated. Shops run by or serving migrants were smashed up and looted in a violent demonstration last month in which Africans were attacked. Many Israelis were shocked at the display of aggressive racism in their most liberal city.
Political leaders did not allow the violence to temper their verbal onslaught against the migrants. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel’s national identity was at risk from the flood of “illegal infiltrators”. Interior minister Eli Yishai suggested that Aids-infected migrants were raping Israeli women, and all, “without exception”, should be locked up pending deportation. They do not believe “this country belongs to us, to the white man”, he said in an interview.
And, while touring the fence that Israel is building along its border with Egypt to deter migrants, MP 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.” He later conceded that such a policy may not be feasible “because bleeding hearts groups will immediately begin to shriek and turn to the courts”.
According to the immigration authority, there are 62,000 migrants in Israel, where the population is 7.8m. Over 2,000 migrants entered Israel via Egypt last month, compared with 637 last May. The construction of the 150-mile (240km) southern border fence, due to be completed later this year, is thought to be increasing in the short term the numbers attempting to cross into Israel .
Nearly all are given temporary permits to stay in Israel which must be renewed every three or four months and specifically exclude permission to work. Many end up being employed on a casual basis for a pittance, living in overcrowded, rundown apartments and confined to the fringes of society. In desperation, some turn to petty crime.
On Sunday, a law came into effect allowing the Israeli authorities to jail migrants for up to three years. People helping or sheltering migrants could face prison sentences of between five and 15 years.
Netanyahu also ordered ministers to accelerate efforts to deport 25,000 migrants from countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations, principally South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Ethiopia.
He conceded it was not possible to deport around 35,000 migrants from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. Eritreans and Sudanese make up more than 90% of those who have illegally crossed the Israel-Egypt border in recent months.
One out of 4,603 applicants was granted asylum status last year.
Although some commentators and community activists have said that Israel, a state founded by and for refugees from persecution, should be sympathetic and welcoming to those fleeing violence and oppression, the prevailing mood is one of intolerance.
“This phenomenon is getting bigger and bigger,” said Poriya Gets of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, based in Tel Aviv. It was being stoked by politicians and rightwing organisations, she added. “We now see hotspots of tension between refugees and local people in many towns.”
Her organisation had also been targeted. “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.”