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[Dehai-WN] Chicagotribune.com: Anti-African street violence surges in Israel

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2012 16:21:11 +0200

Anti-African street violence surges in Israel

Dan Williams Reuters

2:47 a.m. CDT, May 24, 2012

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Surging street violence against African migrants,
including a rampage that an Israeli broadcaster dubbed a "pogrom", drew
empathy for the rioters from the interior minister on Thursday.

Waving Israeli flags and chanting "Deport the Sudanese", residents of a
100100602011344.topic> Tel Aviv neighborhood where many of the
border-jumpers from Eritrea,
<http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/intl/sudan-PLGEO00000100.topic> Sudan
and South Sudan live held a march late Wednesday that turned violent.

Police said 20 people were arrested for assault and vandalism. Trash cans
were set alight, storefront windows were broken and a crowd attacked an
African driving through the area, breaking his car's windows. No serious
injuries were reported.

Interviewing Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Army Radio likened the incident
to pogrom attacks on Jews in 19th century Europe. Yishai bristled at such
language, citing police findings that Sudanese and Eritrean migrants were a
crime risk.

"I cannot judge a man whose daughter gets raped. I cannot judge a young
woman who cannot walk home," said Yishai, who heads a party run by rabbis in
the coalition government.

"I cannot under any circumstances judge people who get abused and harmed,
and who are then confronted by the state, which says, 'Why do you behave
this way to the foreigners?'"

Fleeing poverty, fighting and authoritarian rule, some 60,000 Africans have
crossed illegally into
<http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/intl/israel-PLGEO0000010.topic> Israel
through the relatively porous desert border with Egypt in recent years.

That has jarred the Jewish state, with its already ethnically fraught
citizen population of 7.8 million. Some Israelis warn of a gathering
demographic and economic crisis while others say a country born after
/the-holocaust-%281934-1945%29-EVHST000013.topic> the Holocaust has a
special responsibility to offer foreigners sanctuary.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said some 15 percent of city residents were
"illegal foreign workers" and the number was growing. Interior Ministry data
show 82 percent of the African migrants are men, 15 percent women and the
rest children.


Israel says most of the migrants come seeking work rather than refuge, but
this has been challenged by U.N. humanitarian agencies and civil rights
groups. As a result, the Africans are kept in a legal limbo, many of them
granted temporary permits but no clear permanent status.

The government is erecting a fortified fence on the Egyptian border and
wants to deport the migrants. But it has no ties with Sudan that would allow
direct repatriation, and some humanitarian experts say it cannot force
subjects of South Sudan and Eritrea back to those impoverished and ravaged

Eritrea's ambassador to Israel, Tesfamariam Tekeste, said in a television
interview on Tuesday that Asmara would admit its citizens who return
voluntarily - but not deportees.

An April 1 expulsion order issued by Yishai against illegal South Sudanese
was blocked by a Jerusalem court as it considers an appeal by Israeli human
rights activists.

Unchecked, the number of Africans illegally in Israel could reach millions
and overwhelm the citizenry, Yishai predicted.

"So what, the State of Israel, as the Jewish state, in the name of
democracy, in the name of honoring U.N. resolutions, (should accept) a
recipe for suicide?" he said.

"The truth has to be told, and believe me it is hard and it hurts, as we are
the Jewish people, a merciful people."

David Gez, a senior Israeli police officer, said Wednesday's violence was
one of several such anti-African incidents this month in Tel Aviv.

Oscar Olivier, a Congolese migrant, said on Army Radio that he has been in
Israel for 18 years seeking refugee status and that the public mood reminded
him of the assassination in 1995 of Prime Minister
topic> Yitzhak Rabin by an ultranationalist Jew.

"I feel like we're facing a former alcoholic who has started drinking
again," he said in fluent Hebrew. "The question is not if they will kill an
African because he is black, but when."

Olivier acknowledged the migrants posed problems for Israel but said: "There
are professional, reliable, serious, and independent laws and judges. Let
them decide what to do and how to do it - just without violence."

(Writing by Dan Williams
, Editing by Jeffrey Heller)


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