Anti-African Racism in Israel

After the Pogrom, Israel's War On Africans

Overview of Israel's persecution of non-Jewish African asylum-seekers
during the two month period between June and July 2012

State-Sponsored Persecution | Anti-African Rally | Wider Israeli Society

by David Sheen // July 29, 2012

On July 24, 2012, a group of about 50 Israelis marched to police headquarters in south Tel Aviv to demand the immediate expulsion of all non-Jewish African asylum-seekers from the country. The crowd was smaller than those previous anti-African street rallies managed to assemble by more than an order of magnitude. But if those in attendance were fewer in number, it was not because hatred towards the Africans has dissipated, but rather because the Israeli government has since answered the protestors' demands with action.

Tel Aviv has seen a series of anti-African street rallies since 2010. The July 24 march was the first such public demonstration to be held in almost two months, after a similar street rally which drew 1,000 protesters devolved into full-scale anti-African race riots.

In the aftermath of the anti-African pogrom, the Israeli government stepped up its persecution of non-Jewish African asylum-seekers, taking serious measures that it hopes will quell the seething anger of the Israeli residents of impoverished Tel Aviv neighborhoods, where about 25,000 non-Jewish African people live.

State-Sponsored Persecution

The government's first move was to move to deport all the asylum-seekers from South Sudan. Once they were expelled, the government sent its agents to round up all asylum-seekers from Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). In total, these amount to approximately 3,000 people, about 5% of the non-Jewish African asylum-seeker population in Israel.

Many of these African asylum-seekers say that when they approached the employers they had been working for to collect the outstanding money still owed to them, their employers refused, knowing that they could exploit the asylum-seekers without fear, since they have no recourse to the protection of the law.

The Interior Ministry, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, who has vowed to deport all but a handful of the 60,000 non-Jewish African asylum-seekers currently in the country, has proposed a new bill that would deny them the right to appeal their deportation until only after they have already been deported, making it effectively impossible to reverse.

Not content to enact new laws that make the live of non-Jewish African asylum-seekers insufferable, Eli Yishai's Interior Ministry has been deceitfully altering the documents of North Sudanese Africans to incorrectly state that they are originally from South Sudan, in order to provide a legal basis to deport them.

Over the years, some African asylum-seekers have established families with Israeli citizen. In the last two years, dozens of these asylum-seekers have applied to convert their religion to Judaism, a move that would cement their status in the country. The Israeli government denied every one of these requests.

The government has overruled local planning committees and fast-tracked the construction of what will become the largest containment facility for asylum-seekers in the world. It will force asylum-seekers who have committed no crimes to live in less physical space than even Israeli prisoners - who themselves live in some of the most crowded conditions in the Western world. Some of the shared facilities in the containment camp for asylum-seekers were built with cancer-causing asbestos.

The government has also authorized the automatic incarceration of any non-Jewish African asylum-seeker without any resort to due legal process for up to three years.

Other proposed legislation is designed to make the lives of non-Jewish African asylum-seekers in Israel as miserable as possible. A new ruling party bill snaking its way through the Knesset would impose a 5-year prison sentence or a fine of up to NIS 5 million (approximately $1.25 million) to any Israeli who employs a non-Jewish African asylum-seeker. An earlier version of the bill, which its sponsors say they intend to revert to, would also criminalize any Israeli who rents an apartment to a non-Jewish African asylum-seeker.

If in spite of all of these hurdles, an African asylum-seeker somehow manages to earn some kind of income, another proposed bill would criminalize him or her for sending any money out of the country.

The Israeli medical establishment has collaborated with the state's efforts to separate non-Jewish African asylum-seekers from the rest of the population. Tel Aviv's main hospital, Ichilov, instituted new regulations barring asylum-seekers from entering the hospital, unless they are about to undergo a medical procedure.

Jewish religious authorities in Israel, on the payroll of the government, have doubled down on their 2010 religious edicts forbidding Jews to rent apartments to non-Jewish African asylum-seekers. In one Tel Aviv-area town, the rabbis' council has decreed that any Jew who rent a flat to an asylum-seekers will be considered a "Rodef", deserving of the death penalty. This was the same religious injunction that the assassin of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin relied upon to justify his act of murder.

Ever since the May 23, 2012 anti-African pogrom, asylum-seeker aid organizations report that there have been daily physical attacks on non-Jewish African people across the country, with fists and feet, sticks, knives, guns and other weapons. There have been several cases of arson attacks in which African people have been badly injured.

In one town in northern Israel, the entire African asylum-seeker population was expelled from the village on a single night after a massive race riot broke out.


Anti-African Rally

After two months of forced deportation proceedings for one-twentieth of the African asylum-seeker population and continued physical attacks against those that still remain in the country, a small group of about 50 Israeli demonstrators marched through south Tel Aviv, complaining that the government had not yet done nearly enough to expel the Africans. I attended the July 24 anti-African street rally and live-tweeted during the march.

I approached two of the women who took part in the demonstration why they were wearing surgical masks. They confirmed my suspicions, that they were doing so to symbolize their belief that non-Jewish African asylum-seekers constitutes a health hazard.


Wider Israeli Society

Less than two days after this anti-African rally, the Jerusalem Chief of Police was forced to step down from his post because he is under official investigation for having committed serious sex crimes.

The list of top Israeli officials who have been charged with rape and other sex crimes in recent years is a long one, and includes former President Moshe Katsav, former Justice Minister Haim Ramon, former Minister of Defense Yitzhak Mordechai, and Kiryat Malachi Mayor Motti Malha.

There have been no reports of any Israelis threatening to mutilate or dismember any of these men. A week after the May 23 anti-African pogrom, Israeli history student Maya Koi explores (in Hebrew) the way that many Israeli racists who do not care about stopping sexual violence against women are nevertheless exploiting it as a way to attack Africans.

The following day, a seemingly nondescript business advertisement delivered to mailboxes throughout central Israel underscored the extent to which a large portion of Israeli society has wholeheartedly adopted the belief that non-Jewish African asylum-seekers are sub-human.

Israelis received envelopes in their mailboxes which said, simply "The solution to the problem of the infiltrators". In the Israeli lexicon this can mean only one thing - that the envelope contains the "solution" to dealing with the "problem" of non-Jewish African asylum-seekers. Inside the envelopes, there was no more mention of "infiltrators" or anything else to do with Africans or any other people - only flyers advertising insect extermination services.

The company thought that using a derogatory term for non-Jewish African asylum-seekers would spur people's curiosity to open up the envelope. Their hope was that once potential customers saw its contents, they would realize that it has nothing to do with Africans, but would presumably be amused at the play on words, because according to their assumed shared logic, insects are also "infiltrators", unwanted creatures who sneak into your home.

The company explicitly compared non-Jewish African people to insects, and the "solution" that the company offers to solve the "problem" of the insect "infiltrators" is extermination - genocide. Comparing people to non-human animals that are despised because they spread diseases, or comparing people to diseases themselves, is a tactic that was used extensively by Nazis to psychologically prepare German citizens to accept its "Final Solution" to genocide the Jews.

Israelis are thoroughly educated about the Nazi Holocaust from a very early age and many of them are familiar with these facts. Most Israelis know that Nazis associated Jews with diseases and with animals that spread diseases, and they know full well that this process of dehumanization led directly to a holocaust - and that it could easily do so again. But as a survey conducted less than two weeks after the anti-African pogrom reveals, if it's non-Jewish non-white non-citizens who are maligned, many Israelis not only don't care that it might lead to more pogroms - they even support such a prospect.

A minority of Israelis are revolted by the actions of their government and by the daily racism that African asylum-seekers face. Last night, a group of about 200 Israelis, including the descendants of Nazi Holocaust survivors, demonstrated in solidarity with the African asylum-seekers. The bitter irony that a people who so recently sought refuge from persecution would now deny it to others was not lost on them.

The Israelis who demand that the asylum-seekers be treated with compassion are few and far between, and they do not stand a chance of convincing the government to change its policy. Left to its own devices, the Israeli government will continue to hound the remaining 60,000 non-Jewish African asylum-seekers within its borders until the country is ethnically cleansed of them.