Sunday, 21 September 2014
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The misery of Palestinian unity

Contrary to some optimistic expectations about positive internal political changes stemming from the recent Israeli war on Gaza, intra-Palestinian division continues to define and fragment the Palestinian political spectrum.

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AIC video: Israeli rightists march against African refugees

Created on 13 December 2011

On Sunday night, approximately 100 right-wing Israelis gathered in South Tel Aviv to march against African refugees--a group they and the Israeli government refer to as "infiltrators."



racist-marchracist-march

Baruch Marzel (left) and Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari (right) march through South Tel Aviv on Sunday. The signs read "Honorable City Mayor of Khartoum Ron Huldai" and "Human rights not on our bill"


The protest was led by extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel, who was part of Meir Kahane's Kach party, which was outlawed by Israel and is listed as a terrorist organization in both Israel and the United States. Marzel, a settler, was joined by Michael Ben Ari, another former member of the Kach party. Ben Ari--who is now part of the extreme right National Union, a movement that rejects Palestinian soveriegnty--is a member of the Israeli Knesset. 


Many of those who took part in the demonstration were Israeli settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah. 


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The t-shirt reads, "Neighborhood Guard: He who believes is not afraid! Because the land of Israel is ours!"


The group chanted "Return to Sudan," "Sudanese to Sudan," "Tel Aviv for Jews," and "The people demand to deport infiltrators," among other slogans, as they approached Levinsky Park, a popular meeting spot for refugees and migrant workers. They also called on Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Israeli Prime Minister to quit--echoing, unintentionally, the criticism that human rights organizations level against the government: that it is ignoring the growing African community. 


Israeli police walked ahead of the march, urging Africans to steer clear of the demonstration. 


When the protesters arrived in Levinsky Park, they were met with an equal number of Jewish-Israeli and African counter protesters, who chanted, "We're all together, without fear or hatred." The counter-protesters held signs that read, "Yesterday, you were refugees; today you're racists." Some believe that Israel has a special obligation to refugees in light of the persecution the Jewish people faced throughout history. 


One counter-protester yelled at a right-wing demonstrator, "When did you immigrant to Israel?" mirroring the same nativist sentiments as the protesters. 

 

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South Tel Aviv is the heart of the foreign community and is home to thousands of migrant workers, African refugees, and their children. It is also the poorest area of the city and the Jewish Israeli residents who live there struggle with a number of social and economic troubles. Many are Mizrachim, Jews whose origins lie in Arab countries, who tend to vote for hardline, right-wing parties like Likud and Shas. 


Tensions have risen in South Tel Aviv as the number of African refugees and migrant workers in the neighborhood has grown. In the summer of 2010, a group of local rabbis signed a religious edict forbidding the rental of apartments to asylum seekers or, as they call them, "infiltrators." Several South Tel Aviv schools have banned foreigners from enrolling.


Numerous acts of violence have been perpetrated against African residents of South Tel Aviv. In one incident, three teenage girls were attacked by a group of Jewish youth. One of the attackers was armed with a knife and the group used racial slurs against the children. 


Some 30,000 African asylum seekers reside in Israel. The state of Israel admits to the United Nations that nearly 90 percent of them are from Eritrea and Sudan. According to international treaties, these migrants cannot be repatriated to their home countries as they face persecution or, in some instances, death. But the Israeli government does not process the refugees' applications for asylum, nor does it grant them work visas. Amnesty International has referred to this neglect of the African community as a "policy of non-policy." 


Last year, Israel announced that it would build a detention facility to house asylum seekers. 


Text and photos by Mya Guarnieri; video by Jillian Kestler-D'Amours