- African refugees endure escalating societal hostility and discrimination, encouraged by much political discourse which labels refugees as threats, criminalizing them in the minds of many Israelis. Politicians like the Minister of Interior Affairs Rabbi Eli Yoshai are outspoken in claiming that African refugees threaten Israel’s Jewish majority.
- Israelis often mistakenly group African refugees with foreign migrant workers and illegal, hostile infiltrators.
- While some refugees have good relations with their Israeli neighbors and several Israeli NGOs work hard to provide aid for refugees and battle anti-immigrant sentiments perpetrated by the media, these efforts are exceptions to a general trend of alienation of refugees.
- In recent months tensions between refugees and their Israeli neighbors have turned increasingly violent. On May 6, two firebombs hit the South Tel Aviv home of African asylum seekers. Less than two weeks earlier, several crude firebombs hit four homes and one kindergarten in Shapira, a refugee neighborhood. Anti-racism protestors demonstrated immediately following the attacks, showing solidarity with African refugees.
- Refugees have experienced smaller-scale violence, and have reportedly been attacked on the street. Israeli residents have accused refugees of crime; refugees and activists dismiss these accusations as exaggerated and absurd.
- On May 23, there were violent protests against African refugees in Tel Aviv in response to recent crimes against Israelis linked to the refugee community (including the rape of an Israeli minor, of which two Africans were accused). Knesset member Danny Dannon called to remove asylum seekers from populated centers in Israel, saying to Ha’aretz “the infiltrators must be distanced immediately. We must expedite the construction of temporary detention facilities and remove Africans from population centers.”. Protestors were beating African passerbys, looting, and shattering the windows of refugee businesses. Car windows of Africans were shattered, and demonstrators pounded on bus windows, looking for refugees inside. Knesset members spoke, inciting crowds against refugees; Knesset member Miri Regev called the refugees “a cancer.” Recently, many minors have been arrested in South Tel Aviv for attacking refugees with clubs and pepper spray.
- In early June, attacks continued with arsonists setting fire to asylum seeker homes, injuring residents and marking the first attacks in Jerusalem.
- Anti-refugee sentiments have also been shaped by state-employed Rabbis, who urge realtors to not rent homes to refugees.
- In April, real estate agents and landlords signed a petition vowing not to rent apartments to asylum seekers, falsely labeled as infiltrators. The petition was published a month after 25 Rabbis signed a petition appealing to their followers, urging them not to rent rooms to asylum seekers. A Tel Aviv councilman and Shas representative wrote both petitions after appeals were made by Israeli residents.
- Social sentiment towards refugees harshened dramatically under Netanyahu’s administration. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, his administration, and the media spread messages of positive attitudes towards refugees; Olmert granted citizenship to hundreds of Darfuris in 2007. Israelis in the poor neighborhoods of Shapira and Hatikvah have been accused of using refugees as scapegoats for their pre-existing problems; they claim that the government has placed an unfair burden on the local community.
- Governmental figures repeatedly refer to African asylum seekers as “infiltrators,” using the name that was used to describe armed Arab terrorists crossing the border from neighboring countries to Israel. Members of Knesset will also use militant language in describing refugees living in Israel, instilling fear in the Israeli public.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu has referred to refugees as threats to Israel, and has enacted legislation against “illegal, job-seeking infiltrators” that targets asylum seekers, despite his rhetoric referring to migrant workers, not those who come to Israel with the purpose of preserving life, not wrenching jobs from Israelis. Illegal foreign workers are foreign nationals who come to Israel for the purpose of working, or have overstayed their visas or came with travel visas. Asylum seekers are those who carry government-issued visas that provide temporary legal protection. Though Netanyahu has condemned violence against asylum seekers, he also promises to deter, detain, and deport them.
- The government has allocated almost 5.4 million dollars to construct a fence along the Israeli-Egyptian border and 3 million dollars annually just to maintain a new, 10,000 person detention center in the Negev; both initiatives are aimed to deter asylum seekers from continuing their lives in Israel.
- In the first weeks of 2012 the Knesset approved an amendment to the Prevention and Infiltration Act that allows for immigrants from enemy states to be detained indefinitely and for asylum seekers to be detained for three years without charges.
(Arutz Sheva. “Minister Yishai Promises to Deport Infiltrators.” Israel National News 8 Dec. 2011. Print.)
(Bayu/The ARDC, Yohannes. “Israel’s Violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination with Regard to Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Israel.” The African Refugee Development Center (January 30, 2012). Print.)
(Cabinet Secretariat. “Cabinet Communique.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The State of Israel, 4 Dec. 2011. Web. 28 May 2012. <http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2011/Cabinet_communique_4-Dec-2011.htm>.)
(Fenwick, Gallagher. “Dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants.” France 24 International News. 30 Aug. 2010. 21 May 2012 <http://www.france24.com/en/20100824-2010-israel-immigration-africa-horn-somalia-eritrea-darfur-sudan-asylum-seekers-deportation-children-tel-aviv-little-af>.)
(Ferber, Alona. “From asylum-seeker to community leader.” Ha’aretz 4 May 2012.)
(Friedman, Ron. “South Tel Aviv realtors: We won’t rent to ‘infiltrators’.” The Jerusalem Post 4 Aug. 2010.)
(Guarnieri, Mya. “Week after attacks, another African residence firebombed.” +972 6 May 2012.)
(“In Israel, African migrants under attack.” Aljazeera. 16 May 2012 <http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/israel-african-migrants-under-attack-0022203>.)
(Katzoff, Allen. “From Africa to Tel Aviv, Part Three: Demonizing Asylum Seekers.” The Times of Israel 10 Mar. 2012. Print.)
(Kershner, Isabel. “Israeli Leader Pledges Hard Line on Migrants.” The New York Times[Jerusalem] 4 June 2012: n. pag. Print.)
(Mitnick, Joshua. “Israel, Land of Jewish Refugees, Riled by Influx of Africans.” The Christian Science Monitor [Tel Aviv] 24 May 2012. Print.)
(Sheizaf, Noam. “Africans Attacked in Tel Aviv Protest; MKs: ‘infiltrators’ Are Cancer.”+972 24 May 2012. Print.)
(Silver, Charlotte. “Tel Aviv is no haven for asylum seekers.” Aljazeera 23 Feb. 2012.)
(Weiler-Polak, Dana, and Yaniv Kubovich. “Day after Violent Anti-African Protest, Likud MK Calls to ‘distance Infiltrators’ Immediately.” Ha’aretz 24 May 2012. Print.)
(Weiler-Polak, Dana, Yaniv Kubovich, and Ilan Lior. “Firebomb Attack on Asylum Seekers’ Buildings Sparks Clashes in South Tel Aviv.” Ha’aretz 29 Apr. 2012. Print.)