In late May, animosity toward African migrants in Israel reached a boiling point. After months of anti-African speeches in the Knesset and the cabinet, mobs of racist gangs began to attack Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans in south Tel Aviv.
People were beaten on the streets, and businesses were looted amid calls for the banning and deportation of Africans.
The attacks against African migrants are by no means spontaneous. Knesset members from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and other Israeli politicians at a Tel Aviv rally on May 23 likened migrant workers and small business people from Africa to a “cancer” within society. (thejewishweek.com, May 29) They agitated the crowd, accusing Africans of criminal activity and taking jobs away from Israelis.
Mobs carrying sticks and stones later rampaged through areas populated by African migrants shouting “Blacks out!” and “Infiltrators get out of our homes.”
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, a member of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, told Maariv in a June 1 interview, “We must put all these infiltrators behind bars in detention and holding centers, then send them home because they come and take work from Israelis.”
On June 4, four people were hospitalized with burns and smoke inhalation after their home in a poor neighborhood of Jerusalem was firebombed at 3 a.m. (Alarabiya.net, June 4) Some 18 people reportedly lived in the building. Outside the building racists had painted “Get out of the neighborhood.”
Violence given official support
It is estimated that up to 60,000 African migrants have entered Israel from Egypt since the collapse of the Hosni Mubarak regime. The migrants say they are fleeing the unstable political situations in Sudan and the Horn of Africa, where drought, food deficits and Western-backed internal conflicts have created massive dislocation.
The Israeli government on June 3 put into effect a law allowing African migrants to be detained for up to three years. Detention facilities where migrants are held prior to deportation already exist on the border with Egypt. They can house up to 5,000 people and are overflowing.
In the same interview Interior Minister Yishai said that Africans are a threat to the character of Israeli society: “The infiltrators along with the Palestinians will quickly bring us to the end of the Zionist dream. We don’t need to import more problems from Africa.” He was referring to burgeoning economic problems in Israel that have sparked demonstrations over the last year by the settler population.
Yishai also said of the Africans, “Most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.” Another right-wing politician, Aryeh Eldad, encouraged the Israeli military to shoot on sight Africans attempting to cross the border into the Zionist state. (Reuters, June 3)
Israel has been building Zionist settlements on Palestinian land, encouraging Jewish immigration by providing many with subsidized housing and social welfare. But the world capitalist economic crisis has led to a decline in the manufacturing and service sectors. Unemployment and the lack of housing have created tensions between the Jewish settlers and the Israeli government.
Legacy of racism & forced removals
The attacks on Africans are supposedly based on the lack of “legal immigration documents” by people from Sudan and Eritrea. However, similar acts of discrimination have been carried out against Ethiopian Jews, who automatically became Israeli citizens because they were Jewish and who were airlifted into the settler state during the 1980s.
During the mob violence in Tel Aviv on May 23, Hananya Vanda, a Jewish Israeli of Ethiopian origin, was attacked by racists, who later said they “did not know he was Jewish.” (Gulf Today, June 4)
The state of Israel, founded on racist and imperialist notions of Zionist entitlement to the land of Palestine, has for decades engaged in massacres, imprisonment and forced removal of Palestinians and other Arabs.
Millions of Palestinians are kept outside their national homeland, some in refugee camps, nearly 65 years after the establishment of the Zionist state. The U.S. government and ruling class subsidize the Israeli rulers by giving them billions of dollars every year and by transferring sophisticated military and intelligence equipment and technologies to them.
Israel serves as the most important outpost for U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.
The Palestinian enclave of Gaza is the largest open-air prison in the world. Israeli planes periodically engage in aerial strikes on the people of Gaza, killing civilians almost on a daily basis.
The elimination of racism and discrimination in the land claimed by Israel depends on the liberation of the territory from U.S.-backed Zionist rule. The entire political and economic fabric of the state is based on oppression and exploitation. But the recent racist violence directed against African migrants there provides an opportunity for developing greater unity between the Arab and African populations throughout the region.