Tensions are rising in Israel
Sunday May 27,2012
By Matthew Kalman
ISRAELI leaders are under pressure to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Africa after tensions between migrants and poor neighbourhoods of Tel Aviv erupted in violence.
One demonstration against the wave of immigration deteriorated into attacks on Africans in cars and on the street, with police arresting 17 Israelis.
Yair Lapid, a prominent commentator, labelled it a “pogrom”.
But Right-wing politicians called on the government to seal the border with Egypt and to start deporting those without refugee status.
Likud MP Miri Regev told protesters: “The infiltrators are a cancer in our society. We will not let them thwart our attempt to protect ourselves, our children, our women and our work places.
“We’ll protest every day until the last of the Sudanese infiltrators returns to his country.”
But Yael Weisbach, who volunteers in a south Tel Aviv soup kitchen for refugees, denounced the speeches as “incitement”. She added: “People are fed misinformation about the refugees. They are lovely people. I’ve never encountered an act of violence or sexual harassment on their part.
“The violent protest could have been taken out of a Holocaust movie. Hatred based on the colour of one’s skin. We are losing our values.”
The protests followed two high-profile incidents in the past month in which illegal migrants were arrested on suspicion of the rapes of young Israeli women. Even before the attacks, a kindergarten and an apartment which was used by migrants were firebombed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has sanctioned a multi-million-pound boundary fence with Egypt to slow the illegal traffic, said: “The problem of the infiltrators must be solved and we will solve it. If we don’t, 60,000 infiltrators are liable to become 600,000 and cause the negation of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
“However, there is no place for either the expressions or the actions that we witnessed.”
President Shimon Peres said “hatred of foreigners contradicts the foundations of Judaism”.
More than 60,000 migrants have entered Israel from Egypt in recent years.
Many have settled in a run-down neighbourhood of south Tel Aviv, which locals say has transformed the area.