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Anti-African Migrant Racism in Israel

Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

I rarely write anything about Israel. Nor do I get involved in I/P debates. That does not mean I have no interest in that part of the world-I simply spend most of my international focus elsewhere. But for many years I have followed the fate of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. So when I stumbled across a mention of Eritreans in Israel in a stray headline, I was curious, and followed up. One link led to another-almost all of them  either in The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, British or Canadian papers:

Racist Riots in Tel Aviv Show A New Level of Intolerance in Israel

Israelis attack African migrants during protest against refugees

Tel Aviv mobs attack black migrants

I found this photo slide show

There were some strong op-ed pieces decrying the violence.

Senseless acts of violence

Wednesday night saw the culmination of weeks of national and local incitement against the African refugee/asylum-seeker population in Israel. Hundreds of local residents and settlers from the West Bank settlements rampaged through south Tel Aviv neighborhoods attacking Africans and smashing African businesses.

A Congolese activist was thrown to the ground and beaten after leaving her house to try and talk to demonstrators. The woman, a well-known activist back home in the Congo, who had held talks before she had to flee the country with Nelson Mandela, said she “felt lucky to have escaped with her life” after being set upon by a crowd of dozens. Earlier in the evening at the start of the demonstration MK Miri Regev (Likud) said “the Sudanese were a cancer in our body.” And MK Danny Danon (Likud), head of the “Deportation Now” movement, called for the immediate removal of all Africans from Israel. This is the latest in a long line of incitement by our elected officials, including Interior Minister Eli Yishai, MK Michael Ben- Ari (Habayit Hayehudi) and extreme settler leaders including Baruch Marzel. Human Rights groups have begun working on whether there is a case for incitement against them.

Approximately 60,000 asylum seekers have entered Israel since 2005. 80 percent of the asylum seekers are from Eritrea and 5-10% come from across Sudan. Since 2005, less than 20 have received refugee status. Huge pressure has been placed on poor neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv and peripheral cities in the South of the country, where the communities are religious, conservative and very wary of a large foreign community suddenly living alongside them.

I found some video on youtube, but almost no mention in U.S. headlines.  
African immigrants drive a car whose windows were shattered by Israeli protesters taking part in a rally against the government's handling of the flow of African migrants into Israel, in Tel Aviv on May 23, 2012

I am aware that in many countries around the world there is unrest, push-back against immigrants (with or without papers) which carries with it racist or ethnocentric baggage. No one in the US can ignore our own boondoggle and increasing right-wing attacks on brown people here-documented, undocumented or simply U.S. citizens who happen to speak Spanish. But that does not mean I can ignore what is happening in Israel, nor should I. My parents spent many years contributing to planting trees there when I was a child.  

And so I read with dismay the words of frightened people there.

'Why did they smash our businesses? We’re scared.'

I was heartened to find Israeli's speaking out against this.
Incitement in Tel Aviv ‘should disturb every Jew’

senior policeman Moshe Mizrahi warns against inciting hatred at anti-Immigrant Tel Aviv rally.

During the event, Likud MK Danny Danon, chairman of the “Deportation Now” movement, called the migrants “a national plague” and said that “we must deport them immediately before it’s too late.” He added that “the State of Israel is engaged in a war against an enemy state composed of infiltrators.” Fellow Likud MK Miri Regev described the illegal migrants as a “cancer.” “This is really disturbing to any Zionist and Jew,” said Mizrahi. “It is populism of the lowest kind. They are exploiting the real distress of residents. And I say this without [trying to minimize] the urgency of finding a solution to the migrant problem, which is severe.” He added that “these same Knesset members belong to the helpless government that abandoned the residents of south Tel Aviv. Now they are fueling the flames instead of focusing on the role they were elected to carry out, finding a tangible solution to the problem.”

Attempting to portray migrants as rapists and thieves is also a dangerous distortion of the facts, Mizrahi argued, saying that Sudanese and Eritrean migrants were not mentioned once during a series of violent crimes carried out by Israelis earlier this month.

I wasn't surprised to see that some members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) were ranting and spewing hate.  Why should I be?  We have our own hate-spewers in Congress. There as here, progressives are calling for investigations.
Peace Now Calls for 'Incitement' Probe of Anti-Violence MKs
The leftist Peace Now organization is accusing three MKS of incitement for attending a protest against illegal immigrants in south Tel Aviv.
The U.S. has issued an opinion, but covered in Israel, not here. I found links to U.N. reports as well.

US criticizes Israeli approach to asylum seekers

The report, entitled 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, stated that though the government has ceased the practice of immediately returning African asylum seekers arriving via Egypt, it "continued to deny many asylum seekers individual refugee status determinations, which impacted their ability to work or receive basic social services, including health care."

Citing United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data, the report says that out of 4,603 new asylum applications submitted during 2011, the government rejected 3,692, approved one and 6,412 remained pending. The US also viewed negatively government officials' use of the term "infiltrators" to refer to asylum seekers, as well as officials who directly associated asylum seekers with the rise in crime, disease and terrorism. Interior Minister Eli Yishai was specifically flagged as an instigator.

This was not a first incident.  This footage is from last year.

Levinsky Park, December 11, 2011

Then I found this documentary.  It is not short.
Please, if you can - take the time to watch it.

Racism Report: Africans in Israel

Report for the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) - submitted January 30, 2012
And finally I found one of our own-a blogger who had both video and narrative which was extremely disturbing.

Thoughts on an attack by a Jewish mob

Two days ago, my girlfriend and I were attacked by a mob of proud Jews in south Tel Aviv. Still trying to understand why.

I went to a demonstration led by MK Michael Ben-Ari two days ago (Tuesday), and was joined by my girlfriend, Galina. Ben-Ari, a Kahanist, was inciting the crowd against the African refugees in a distinctly anti-Semitic manner, peppering his talk with incessant references to excrement and urine. At some point, Galina couldn’t take it any longer, and shouted something back. Within minutes we were surrounded by an angry mob of about 20 people, composed mostly of women, who hurled curses at her. Someone pulled out a tear gas canister and waved it at her face.

Racist and sexual slurs filled the air repeatedly. Time and time again, people expressed the wish she would be raped by Sudanese, and asked her if she was bedding them. A boy, between 10 and 11 years old, screamed at her point blank that what she needs is a “nigger’s cock.” David Sheen videotaped much of it. For my part, I was busy trying to pull her out of there, and pushing away the hands in her way – there were plenty of them. There was also spitting. At a certain stage, when Ben-Ari and his travelling circus went on their way, a cop wended his way to Galina, and whispered to her that the police were pulling away, and she should, too.

He is no outsider. His bio is interesting.

I am Yossi Gurvitz, a 40-year old journalist, blogger and photographer.

I write for several Israeli publications, including the influential financial daily Calcalist and the Nana portal. In the past, I’ve been deputy editor of Nana News, and with Itamar Shaaltiel edited its 2006 Knesset elections section.

I was raised as an Orthodox Jew, graduated from a Yeshiva (Nehalim), but saw the light and turned atheist at about the age of 17. After the mandatory three years in the military, much more strictly enforced in 1988 than now, I studied history and classics, earning a BA degree, and studying three additional years towards an MA, but abandoned the project in favor of earning my living as a journalist. [It seemed a good idea at the time.]

Will be interesting to read your comments, thoughts-especially from those of you who are more familiar with this situation than I am.

(posted to The Motley Moose as Anti-migrant mobs in Israel incited by Likud MKs)

                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
France's lack of statistics on minorities means there's no way to grade it on diversity. TheRoot: Why France Can't Say the M-Word
When new French President François Hollande's cabinet was unveiled on May 16, the headline in all the French media was gender parity: 17 of the 34 posts went to women, a first for a French government.

What the commentators or the news stories didn't mention was the ethnic composition of the cabinet -- three blacks and three Arabs. They also failed to point out that Christiane Toubira, the new minister of justice, is the first black person to hold that position, something American news organizations would have routinely covered.

The silence reflected France's ambiguity about race. The country keeps no official racial statistics, and even mentioning someone's race or ethnic origin is considered bad form. The reasons are deeply rooted in France's ideal of a "colorblind" republicanism -- and its shameful collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. But Americans suffering from racial fatigue should look carefully before embracing the French model.

Because there are no official numbers, no one knows for sure how many blacks or Arabs or other minorities there are among France's 65 million residents. (Estimates run from 10 to 15 percent.) There is no way to measure how opportunity is distributed or how minorities are faring in schools or private employment. There is no way to tell if blacks or Arabs or whites are treated differently by the judicial system or during the frequent police ID checks on the Paris Metro.

Louisiana's incarceration rate is the highest in US and it get much worse. As Charles M. Blow details. New York Times: Plantations, Prisons and Profits.
“Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.”

That paragraph opens a devastating eight-part series published this month by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans about how the state’s largely private prison system profits from high incarceration rates and tough sentencing, and how many with the power to curtail the system actually have a financial incentive to perpetuate it.

The picture that emerges is one of convicts as chattel and a legal system essentially based on human commodification.

First, some facts from the series:

• One in 86 Louisiana adults is in the prison system, which is nearly double the national average.

• More than 50 percent of Louisiana’s inmates are in local prisons, which is more than any other state. The next highest state is Kentucky at 33 percent. The national average is 5 percent.

• Louisiana leads the nation in the percentage of its prisoners serving life without parole.

• Louisiana spends less on local inmates than any other state.

• Nearly two-thirds of Louisiana’s prisoners are nonviolent offenders. The national average is less than half.

In the early 1990s, the state was under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding, but instead of releasing prisoners or loosening sentencing guidelines, the state incentivized the building of private prisons. But, in what the newspaper called “a uniquely Louisiana twist,” most of the prison entrepreneurs were actually rural sheriffs. They saw a way to make a profit and did.

It also was a chance to employ local people, especially failed farmers forced into bankruptcy court by a severe drop in the crop prices.

But in order for the local prisons to remain profitable, the beds, which one prison operator in the series distastefully refers to as “honey holes,” must remain full. That means that on almost a daily basis, local prison officials are on the phones bartering for prisoners with overcrowded jails in the big cities.

The eight part series from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans on this abomination. The Times-Picayune: LOUISIANA INCARCERATED.

For years, varied claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.
Black Voices: Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets 'A Whole Lot Of People'
Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.

And that report, which was published in April in the peer-reviewed journal, doesn't sit comfortably with some people who claim Melungeon ancestry.

"There were a whole lot of people upset by this study," lead researcher Roberta Estes said. "They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American."

Beginning in the early 1800s, or possibly before, the term Melungeon (meh-LUN'-jun) was applied as a slur to a group of about 40 families along the Tennessee-Virginia border. But it has since become a catch-all phrase for a number of groups of mysterious mixed-race ancestry.

In recent decades, interest in the origin of the Melungeons has risen dramatically with advances both in DNA research and in the advent of Internet resources that allow individuals to trace their ancestry without digging through dusty archives.

G. Reginald Daniel, a sociologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara who's spent more than 30 years examining multiracial people in the U.S. and wasn't part of this research, said the study is more evidence that race-mixing in the U.S. isn't a new phenomenon.

"All of us are multiracial," he said. "It is recapturing a more authentic U.S. history."


Voices and Soul


by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

We live in a world of fragments. The very letters of this writing are merely pixelated points making a line and some kind of sense. This world of fragments, if looked at too closely, will seem to be nothing more than incoherent snippets of time. But if looked at from just the right distance, will seem to be magnetic alphabet tiles on a refrigerator door, spelling out a found poem that paints a picture of a world we cannot escape; a world of fragmented lives and reason; a world of the angled plane and fragmented light refracted from broken bits of glass along a wind-strewn, newspaper alley.


imprisonment boom has developed-- a built-in growth dynamic-- the
number of prisoners continues to grow while crime drops-- and had
even prevented-- Crime never does stay down for long-- experts say--
though crime has been declining for six years-- In 1996, the incarcera-
tion rate for black men was-- eight times the rate for white men--
Crime never does stay down for long-- experts say-- a built-in growth
dynamic-- independent of crime-- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals--
and had even prevented-- Crime never does stay--

recent radio interview-- sheriff-- declared proudly-- “sexually explic-
it”-- he has formed the first women’s chain gang-- in the world-- More
than two-thirds of the prisoners-- pre-trial defendants-- sheriff--
defines “sexually explicit” as-- “personal photographs, drawings, mag-
azines, and pictorials that show frontal nudity”-- if that painting would
affect prison security-- the judge agreed-- allowing materials depicting
“frontal nudity” in the cells-- could lead to-- harassment of female
guards, creating a “hostile work environment”-- sheriff-- declared
proudly-- formed the first women’s chain gang-- on more than 500 talk
shows-- “sexually explicit”--

Some expressed the opinion-- American marines and officials had done
too little-- to dig out-- victims from the rubble-- in the crucial early
hours of the disaster-- and had even prevented-- Some expressed the
opinion-- materials depicting frontal nudity-- could lead to unconstitu-
tional conditions-- including excessive use of force against inmates--
deliberate indifferent to inmates’ serious medical needs-- creating a
“hostile work environment”-- those who died were-- all Tanzanians
employed by the embassy-- including excessive use of force against
inmates and deliberate indifference-- to dig out-- victims from the rub-
ble-- “environment”--

materials depicting frontal nudity-- could lead to conflict among pris-
oners-- two inmates could get into a fight if the atheist said, “Look at
the size of the genitals on Jesus Christ”-- materials depicting nudity--
are “reasonably likely” to be-- the cause of violence-- a Michelangelo
painting of a nude Christ-- an inmate-- was banned from having
Playboy delivered to his cell-- if that painting would affect a prison securi-
ty-- experts say-- “Look at the size of the”-- sheriff--

relatives of victims expressed a quiet outrage-- “personal pho-
tographs”-- too little to help-- Kenyans were paying with their lives for
American foreign policy decisions-- a built-in growth dynamic--
embassies will always be vulnerable-- searchng for survivors-- They
are not designed to be armed forts in hostile territory-- “We trained
cameras on the street”-- “suspicious vehicles were reported”-- The larg-
er the number of prisoners-- experts say-- the bigger the number of
people who will someday be released-- There were no American deaths
in the Tanzanian bombing, officials said--

to help them extricate-- including excessive use of force-- several
Kenyan rescue workers complained-- American marines and other
American officials-- and had even prevented-- them from taking dead
Kenyans out of the embassy-- from searching for survivors there-- And
embassies will always be vulnerable-- “personal photographs, draw-
ings, magazines, and pictorials that show frontal nudity”-- are reason-
ably likely-- to be-- the cause of violence-- “If it’s a war between the
Americans and other people, they should take the war elsewhere”-- to
help them extricate people-- Many of the inmates are housed in tents--
in hostile territory-- there were no American-- quiet outrage-- frontal

either because of their own criminal propensities or-- a Michelangelo
painting of a nude Christ-- in the crucial early hours of the disaster--
rescue workers-- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals-- “If it’s a war
between the Americans and other people”-- sheriff-- if that painting
would affect-- armed forts in hostile territory-- to help them extricate
people-- either because of their own criminal propensities or-- will
always be vulnerable-- Many relatives of the victims-- of racial dispari-
ty in the nation’s prisons-- materials depicting “frontal nudity” could
lead to conflicts among prisoners--

though crime has been declining-- the incarceration rate for black men
was eight times the rate for white men-- either because of their own
criminal propensities or-- more than 500 talk shows-- Several Kenyan
rescue workers complained-- Crime never does stay down-- including
excessive use of force-- there are also sharp regional differences-- 7 of
the 10 states-- being in the South-- the incarceration rate-- banned from
having Playboy-- “should take the war elsewhere”--

harrassment of female guards-- unconstitutional conditions-- excessive
use of-- Drug Enforcement Administration-- drug crimes constituted
the biggest source of growth for female inmates-- statistical branch of
the Justice Department-- housed in tents-- materials depicting “frontal
nudity”-- a Michelangelo painting of a nude Christ-- drug crimes--
deliberate indifference to medical needs-- if the atheist said-- “sexually
explicit”-- “personal photographs”-- recent radio interview-- “most
people who work in the prison business”-- “don’t look for drops in
crime”-- due process-- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals--

the larger the number of prisoners-- Several Kenyan rescue workers
complained-- dig out victims from the rubble-- “most people who
work in the prison business”-- independent of crime rate-- female
inmates-- depicting “frontal nudity”-- American foreign policy deci-
sions-- statistical branch of the Justice Department-- Playboy-- “should
take the war elsewhere”-- either because of their own criminal propen-
sities or-- American--

black men-- will always be vulnerable-- because they are not
designed-- if a painting could affect-- being in the South--
Michelangelo-- “We trained cameras”-- “personal photographs”--
“suspicious vehicles”-- the judge agreed-- Playboy-- in his cell--
female inmates-- “frontal nudity”-- female guards--

in the crucial early hours of-- Playboy-- those who died were all-- the
cause of violence-- or their experience behind bars-- Drug Enforcement
Administration-- “most people who work in the prison business”--
sheriff-- because they are not designed-- either because of-- the larger
the number of prisoners-- Crime never does-- show “frontal nudity”--
the first women’s chain gang--

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals-- of racial disparity-- while crime
drops-- and had even prevented-- Christ-- the cause of violence--
American marines and officials-- has helped reduce-- black men-- due
process-- rate for black men was-- stay down-- “Look at the size of
the”-- Drug Enforcement Administration-- number of prisoners--
incarceration rate-- “If it’s a war”-- on the street-- get into a fight-- get
into a fight if the atheist said-- American marines and officials had done
too little to help-- Michelangelo--

-- Judith Goldman


Welcome To The Front Porch


Originally posted to Black Kos on Tue May 29, 2012 at 02:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, and DKOMA.

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