Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Mob attacks African asylum seekers in Tel Aviv

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 24, 2012

***UPDATE*** May 31, 2012 – 11 Israeli minors charged with robbing, beating African migrants in Tel Aviv, Haaretz

After weeks of intensified incitement of the public against African asylum seekers by top Israeli right-wing and central right-wing government officials, mobs have now begun attacking the asylum seekers in the streets of Tel Aviv. Yesterday a mob attacked asylum seekers’ businesses and homes, threw stones at houses, broke windows of shops and houses, attacked random black people on the streets, looted two stores, and attacked a car packed with Africans, threatening the passengers and shattering the car’s windows. Police arrested seventeen people, but the attacks went on for hours. In an article in +972mag a journalist and political activist explains how the mob also besieged him, another journalist and a photographer:

It started out as a fairly quiet demonstration – or demonstrations, to be precise. One small demonstration took place in Shapira, my neighborhood, where several weeks ago an Israeli young man threw Molotov cocktails into asylum seekers’ homes. The dominant discourse here was, as is typical of the neighborhood, more moderate, and focused on blaming the government (and not the asylum seekers) for local hardships in south Tel Aviv.

…It all started with one woman who came at me out of nowhere, and started screaming: “You throw stones at soldiers! Shame on you! Get the hell out of here!” I tried to say that I have never thrown stones at anybody in my life, but she was not exactly in the mood for dialogue. “You lie! I see you every week on television throwing stones at soldiers and calling them Nazis!”

From this point on everything happened extremely fast. The one woman turned into two, then a group of ten people, which kept on growing. I tried to explain that this was a misunderstanding, that I never attacked any soldier, that I am a resident of Shapira and a journalist covering the protest. But I was talking to myself. Nobody was listening…

…I knew no one would come to my aid. Faced with the angry mob and seeing more people coming from behind me and looking for action – I chose flight…

…I was walking back towards my part of town when I heard a massive cry, looked back, and was horrified to see the mass – about 1,000 people strong – racing forward in my direction, screaming “Sudanese to Sudan!”…

…A car packed with Africans was caught in the crowd, its windows shattered, its riders threatened and saved by police. Seeing this from afar I decided it was time to go home, but reports kept flowing in: the mob turned back into Hatikva and attacked asylum seekers’ businesses and homes, looted at least one store, and attacked random black people on the streets. Seventeen were arrested, but the attacks went on for hours. An Activestills photographer present on the scene later told me that the pictures he took tell only a small portion of the story. He was threatened not to take pictures of looters, and saw so many stones thrown at houses and people beaten (mostly quite lightly) on the streets – that he couldn’t possibly take pictures of it all.

Morning is now up, broken windows of shops and houses need mending, and the peace is somewhat restored. At the end of the day, we must remember that most of the people in our southern neighborhoods largely live together in peace. Many try to bridge gaps and find solutions. Many on both sides know that their enemy is not the asylum seekers or the local Israeli population but the government – which is both creating this impossibly flammable situation and throwing burning matches into it. But this is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. Read more here

More media articles: Independent journalist and editor Noam Sheizaf explains the poverty underlying the Tel Aviv neighborhoods where politicians are trying to whip up and inflame populist hysteria before elections within year or so.

Jerusalem-based journalist and writer Mya Guarnieri explains the connection between profits and anti-African incitement. The Interior Ministry, whose head has been a ringleader in the incitement, has been busy taking fees from tens of thousands of migrant workers for work permits, while denying African asylum seekers the ability to work. This, while in 2010 the government embarked on a campaign against asylum seekers, including advertisements in which actors claimed that foreigners had taken their jobs.

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