Tel Aviv riot flags dispute on migration
JERUSALEM - Agence France-PresseViolent race riots that shook southern Tel Aviv overnight sparked shock in Israel on May 24, but also prompted top-level calls for the immediate arrest and expulsion of tens of thousands of African migrants.
The latest unrest to sweep the impoverished neighborhoods around Tel Aviv’s central bus station erupted on May 23 night when a demonstration of around 1,000 people who were protesting against the rising number of Africans moving into the area turned violent.
“Shock, violence and hatred of foreigners in Tel Aviv” was the headline in the Maariv daily, which described scenes of chaos as demonstrators went on the rampage with sticks and stones, attacking African-run shops and smashing up a car driven by two African men.
Most reports said the rally turned nasty after the crowd was whipped up by several racist speeches by right-wing MPs, several of them from the ruling Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The infiltrators are a cancer in our body,” Likud MP Miri Regev told the crowd, as fellow MP Danny Danon shouted: “The infiltrators must be expelled from Israel! Expulsion now!” Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 20 people had been arrested on suspicion of vandalizing shops and attacking cars driven by Africans, but added that there were no reports of anyone being injured.
The police have also extended the remand of seven Israeli minors accused of attacking African immigrants earlier this week, he said.
Interior ministry statistics show there are more than 60,000 African immigrants living illegally in Israel.
Some are asylum seekers fleeing persecution, while others are economic migrants. The issue of illegal immigration from Africa has thrown into relief sharp divisions within Israel, with many top officials, including Netanyahu, warning that their growing numbers pose a major threat to the security and identity of the Jewish state. Despite the violence, Interior Minister Eli Yishai demanded on May 24 that all illegal African immigrants be put “behind bars” before kicking them all out.