Silver Lining

Food for thought

Racism pervades Israeli electoral campaign

(Fence with Egypt to prevent immigration- file photo)

by Yusuf Fernandez, source

The last electoral campaign in Israel has been dominated by racism. It is not just racism against Arabs, which is as old as the existence of the Zionist entity, but also racism against Black people, whose life is becoming more and more miserable in Israel.

According to the statistics, there are currently about 60,000 African immigrants in the Zionist entity. Most of them come from South Sudan, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Congo and other countries.

The situation of Africans in Israel, both Jews and non-Jews, is actually desperate. Some thousands have low-quality jobs where they are unscrupulously exploited by Israeli employers. Others are homeless and are begging on the streets of Israeli cities to survive. In spite of claims of rampant crime in the suburbs of South Tel Aviv where most Africans live, a senior police commander, David Gez, was quoted as saying the level of crime among this population was actually relatively low.

The last episode of anti-Black racism was a recent video made by the religious Shas party – which represents Sephardi Jews, who ironically have also been historically subjected to discrimination by Jews of European-origin (Ashkenazis). The five-minute video sought to fuel fear of Africans and increase support for the Shas’s anti-immigration platform ahead of the January 22 parliamentary elections.

The message of the video was that only the leader of the Shas party, Eli Yishai, who is also currently interior minister, can successfully fight against the “threat” allegedly posed by African immigrants, whom Yishai and other Israeli politicians repeatedly refer to as “infiltrators.” In an interview with Ynet, Yishai said “the threat from infiltrators is no less severe than the Iranian nuclear threat.”

In May, Yishai told Maariv that in the previous months dozens of Israeli women had been raped by “infiltrators” in South Tel Aviv but they had decided not to report the attacks so that people would not think they had “contracted AIDS.”

The content of the video was not different to other similar ones made by far-right European parties. There were in it remarks by local residents who express their fear for their safety and anger over a housing shortage – all allegedly due to the African immigrants. According to Times of Israel, one woman says that “it is their fault that there are no apartments. It is their fault that housing is very expensive.” A man complains that “tomorrow the Sudanese will keep on walking around here, continue to beat (people) up, continue to stab and continue to rape our women.”

The narrator says that the Black “infiltrators” “control neighborhoods in South Tel Aviv, Eilat, Ashdod, and other cities,” and pose a “social, religious and security threat.” He goes on to assert that the “greatest threat of all is the demographic threat.” The video also claims that the majority of African migrants are Muslim, and that they therefore “do not believe in the State of Israel’s right to exist.”

Ironically, the Shas has also denounced the racial bias of the other Israeli parties. Recently, Aryeh Deri, the number three of the party, accused the Likud-Yisraeli Beitenu party of “being a party of Russians and whites” and having ostensible bias against Sephardi Jews, who have been considered second-class citizens in the Zionist entity, where the power has been traditionally in the hands of Ashkenazi Jews, who mostly came from Eastern Europe.

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he wants to expel tens of thousands of African undocumented immigrants and that the inflow into Israel from Egypt has been brought to a halt due to the new barrier. “Our aim is to repatriate tens of thousands of infiltrators now in Israel to their countries of origin,” he said, adding Israel was in contact with some governments from Africa “to solve this problem.”

On May 23, 2012, Likud leading members took part in a demonstration in Tel Aviv’s impoverished suburb of Hatikva to protest against the presence of Africans in Israel. Miri Regev of Likud addressed the rally to which more than 1,000 people attended. There, she described the Africans as a “cancer in our body” and pledged to do everything she could “in order to bring them back to where they belong.” She attacked human rights and “left-wing” groups aiding the immigrants.

Danny Danon, another leader of Likud, said that the only solution to the issue of the “infiltrators” would be to “start to talk about their expulsion.” “We must expel the infiltrators from Israel. We should not be afraid to say the words ‘expulsion now,’” he said.

Violent attacks

Shortly after the speeches, violent incidents broke out. Demonstrators smashed shops, properties and cars belonging to the African immigrants and beat up men and women while chanting “Blacks out.”

In April 2012, apartments where Africans lived as well as a kindergarten were attacked with Molotov cocktails in Shapira in south Tel Aviv.

On July 12, 2012, an Eritrean man was badly burned and his pregnant wife suffered smoke inhalation after attackers tried to burn down their apartment in central al-Quds (Jerusalem). The incident, the second arson attack on African immigrants in the city within six weeks, took place near the city’s Mahane Yehuda market, AFP quoted a police source as saying.

The Israeli government has refused to condemn these attacks on African immigrants and instead used them as an excuse to promote its anti-migrant agenda, which included a new law allowing the authorities to keep undocumented Africans imprisoned for three years and jail those who help them for up to 15 years. According to recent polls, one in three Israelis supports those attacks.

Even “left-leaning” parties, such as the Labor, support racist policies. The Labor leader, Shelly Yachimovich, accused recently the government of “having failed… and let the slums be flooded by migrant workers and refugees, thereby helping to kindle wild passions” and claimed the need to “protect the country from facing a huge mass of migrant workers.”

In March 2012, Israel started to build a huge prison camp, the world’s largest, in the Negev desert. Such a facility is situated near the Ketziot prison, where thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been jailed. The camp will be run by the prison service and thousands of Africans will be locked there. A spokesperson for the Israeli ministry of interior confirmed that Yishai wanted to eventually jail all of the thousands of undocumented African immigrants currently in the Zionist entity.

Other immigrants have already started to be expelled. On June 10, the immigration police began a mass roundup operation, which was initially focused on South Sudanese nationals but was then expanded to include those from the Ivory Coast. Hundreds of these Africans were detained and around 240 were sent to Juba, capital of South Sudan.

There is no doubt that racism and xenophobia are being fueled by the current Israeli government and nearly all the Zionist parties. Their main goal is to divert growing outrage over the decline of living standards and rising social problems by promoting racist claims and demands to preserve the “Jewish identity” of the Zionist entity at a time when the latter is getting weaker and more internationally isolated due to its settlement policies.

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