Edition 2: No. 27
Very recently, Tel Aviv was the scene of a hideous racial outrage. In a comment from Americans for Peace Now (APN) and Peace Now, they said: “A xenophobic demonstration turned into a race riot targeting African migrants. Some Israeli elected officials, including from the ruling Likud party of Benjamin Netanyahu, fanned the flames of hatred at the demonstration. Likud Knesset Member Miri Regev, for example, called African migrants “a cancer in our body.”
APN and Peace Now warned that the offence should, in fact, serve as a wake-up call to Israelis and to all American Jews who care about Israel. They characterized the episode as “just the latest symptom of the erosion of democratic values inside Israel” They viewed the attack as “part and parcel of the growing intolerance and dehumanization aimed at the Israeli left, at organizations working for human and civil rights, and at the longstanding dehumanization of Palestinians, both Israeli citizens and those living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza”.
It comes as no surprise that some Knesset members known for their rabidly racist views sparked off the violence. What else can one expect of leaders whose credentials, if they can be called that, are pro-settler, anti-democratic, racist, and anti-peace efforts in the Knesset?
There is a pattern of discrimination and dehumanization of African migrants, some of who are illegal. The point, however, is that in a supposedly democratic state, there are avenues to resolve any issues within the rule of law.
The issue really is this: Racism is real in Apartheid Israel! The tolerance for ‘the other’ is diminishing and this is a mindset brought on by the occupation and the intolerance it breeds. The media feeds this kind of negative profiling of anyone non-Jewish and the considerable shift to the right in the body politic must ring alarm bells for all- not just the sufferers. Racism is a cancer that can eat into society in away where ethnic, religious and class categories can create division and hatred.
The head of the Israeli Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav) – Yariv Oppenheimer have demanded that Israel’s attorney general investigate Knesset members involved in the event for incitement to violence.
The test of Israel’s democratic credentials rest upon how they handle this and a multitude of other unreported racist attacks.
Even if the Peace Movement is dismissed as being small, it must be seen as worthy of support and as an important moral voice against an immoral occupation and one that breeds exclusion and hate. In that sense, APN and Peace Now have been consistent in building up the cadres of Israelis and Americans who seek a just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
We encourage readers to first read the article entitled “Jewish groups called on Israel to protect African migrants in Israel after riots in Tel Aviv” (See below) as well as to refer to the other links we have provided below the article. We strongly support the partnerships that are growing between the Peace Movement in Israel and those who struggle for justice in Palestine.
Jewish groups called on Israel to protect African migrants in Israel after riots in Tel Aviv
Jewish groups called on Israel to protect African migrants in Israel after riots in Tel Aviv. In a statement they said: “We hope and expect that the authorities will take effective measures to protect this population from further violence and that legitimate requests by refugees to remain in Israel based on fear of persecution in their home countries will be considered humanely and with due process taking into account internationally accepted norms,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, the president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the community’s public policy umbrella, said in a statement on Thursday.
Wednesday night’s violent riots in south Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood ended with 17 arrests. The violence followed a rally against the presence of the migrants.
Africans who passed by the rally were attacked. Rioters smashed the windshield of a car carrying three migrants as well as other car windows. The rioters also set trash bins on fire and threw firecrackers at police, Ynet reported.
The rioters also broke into and looted shops associated with the African migrant community.
The Anti-Defamation League said it was “seriously concerned about the growing tensions in Israel over the issue of African migrants, and reports of lawlessness and violence committed by and directed against the migrants.”
“While we recognize the complexity involved in properly addressing this issue, and sympathize with Israeli citizens whose personal security has been compromised by the lawlessness and violence of some migrants, we are disturbed by inflammatory public statements made by certain Israeli officials, some of which has veered into racism,” the ADL statement said. “It is imperative that reasonable solutions be found to confront these challenges, one that humanly treats the migrants while ensuring the security concerns of Israeli citizens are properly addressed.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism condemned the violence.
“Such violence has no place in any civilized society, much less Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people who have throughout history known similar horrors rooted in ethnic and religious differences,” the RAC’s director, Rabbi David Saperstein, said in a statement. “It is shameful that yesterday’s rally instead devolved into chaos and brutality. It is also shameful that members of the Knesset made inflammatory statements that likely contributed to an atmosphere conducive to such violence.”
The Jewish Federations of North America said it was “saddened” by the violence.
“Jewish Federations are saddened and concerned over growing tensions and violence directed at foreign workers in Israel,” said Kathy Manning, the chairwoman of the JFNA board of trustees. “While voicing concerns over the appropriate enforcement of immigration policy and rising violence may be legitimate, we deplore expressions of racism, the stereotyping of population groups and, of course, all violence.”
All four groups welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s condemnation of the violence.
Americans for Peace Now cast the events in the context of what it said was the devaluation of democratic values in Israel.
“The ongoing dehumanization of African migrants, legal or illegal, is just the latest symptom of the erosion of democratic values inside Israel,” it said in an unsigned blog post. “It is part and parcel of the growing intolerance and dehumanization aimed at the Israeli left, at organizations working for human and civil rights, and at the longstanding dehumanization of Palestinians, both Israeli citizens and those living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.”
For more accounts and analysis of this incident see also: