Netanyahu condemns violence against African migrants

By IndepthAfrica
In East Africa
May 24th, 2012
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PM: We will soon begin sending infiltrators back to their countries of origin; Peres: Hatred of foreigners contradicts foundations of Judaism; dozens demonstrate in south Tel Aviv, Jerusalem against anti-foreigner violence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on Thursday that his government would address the issue of African migrants in Israel, one day after a protest against them by residents of south Tel Aviv turned violent.

“The infiltrator problem must be solved, and we will solve it,” Netanyahu said on Thursday afternoon, speaking at an event in Tel Aviv.

He also refered to the construction of a fence on the Egypt-Israel border, saying, “We will complete construction of the fence within two months, and soon we will begin sending infiltrators back to their countries of origin.”

The prime minister also condemned the actions of demonstrators and Knesset members on Wednesday, when demonstrators attacked African migrants in South Tel Aviv.

“I want to make it clear that there is no place for the statements and actions that we witnessed yesterday. I say these things to the public figures and to the residents of south Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand,” he said.

President Shimon Peres said Thursday that “hatred of foreigners contradicts the foundations of Judaism.”

“I am very much aware of the difficulties encountered by residents of the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv,” he said. “The state must deal urgently with the issue of the infiltrators, while meticulously protecting their honor and rights as human beings… Violence is not the solution to the problem.”

Meanwhile, dozens of Israelis and Africans demonstrated in south Tel Aviv against Wednesday’s anti-migrant violence on Thursday evening.

In Jerusalem, some 150 people demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s Residence. An additional protest against incitement to violence against migrants is planned to take place on Friday.

A number of Likud MKs addressed Wednesday’s rally in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood, including Miri Regev, Danny Danon and Yariv Levin.

Following the rally, angry demonstrators went on a rampage, attacking African passers-by and journalists, breaking into and looting shops associated with the African migrant community and shattering car windshields.

Seventeen Israelis were arrested during the protest. Twelve of them were later released to house arrest.

Regev, who said during the rally that “the Sudanese are a cancer in our body,” told Haaretz, “I condemn any violence from any side, but I understand the rage and hurt of the residents, of the families that live there. They tell us: ‘Help us. We are being humiliated, look how we live, we are afraid to leave the house.’”

Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid also weighed in on the issue on Thursday, writing on his Facebook page, “I support arresting and expelling infiltrators, completing the fence and preventing their entry into Israel, and I think the human rights organizations need to think first of all about the residents of the neighborhoods, because charity starts at home. But when I see a pogrom in the State of Israel… I wonder how these people have the gall to call themselves Jews.”

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