While there is absolutely no excuse for the despicable attacks, we must acknowledge that there is a migrant crisis.
Daycare owner shows firebomb damage. Photo: Ben Hartman
Hours after Independence Day came to a close, a despicable string of potentially
fatal attacks was carried out against the migrant community in south Tel Aviv.
Starting around 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning, four apartments housing African
migrants and asylum-seekers were fire-bombed.
In one case, assailants
threw a Molotov cocktail into the home of Maskala Masgene, an Eritrean
Luckily, the bottle did not break and Masgene threw the
bottle back out.
In another case, the Molotov cocktail exploded on the
frame of the window of an apartment where an Eritrean woman and her four
children were sleeping, directly under the window. Once again, thankfully, no
one was hurt.
Blessing Akachukneu, a Nigerian migrant, and four children
aged six months to three years were also spared injury when the apartment where
they were sleeping – which also serves as the “Divine Day Care” center – was
Inexplicably, Tel Aviv police did not bother to notify
reporters of the attacks. Instead, news of the bombings was made public thanks
to local photographer Oren Ziv whose photos were posted on the left-wing blog
In response to a query from The Jerusalem Post’s Ben Hartman
regarding the absence of an official announcement, a police spokesman responded
that reporters were not notified of “every little incident.” But this was hardly
a “little incident.” Serious injuries or even deaths could easily have been
caused to the migrants and their children. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was right
to condemn the bombings on his Facebook page and to recognize their racial
Unfortunately, no high-ranking government official has
Despite their initial seemingly cavalier attitude to the
attacks, the police were quick to track down a suspect – Haim Mula, 21, a
neighbor of the migrants.
Mula was described by locals as a quiet and
serious religious young man.
Tensions have been rising between Israelis
and rapidly growing migrant communities in places like south Tel Aviv’s Shapira
neighborhood, where the fire-bombings took place. This was evident in the
aftermath of the attacks. A group of human rights activists who arrived at the
scene to protest were confronted by locals calling for the migrants to be
Several residents interviewed in the media actually justified
the fire-bombings. One, who called herself “Mina,” told Ynet that “the apartment
in which I invested all of my money is worthless... I’ve been robbed three times
by refugees who chased after me with knives.” Obviously, Mina’s complaints can
never justify the fire-bombing of innocent migrants and their
And it is absolutely essential that our political leaders make
this clear. But at the same time the situation in neighborhoods such as Shapira,
Kiryat Shalom and Abu Kabir is untenable. These places are cultural time
There are no easy solutions to the problem. One important step
being taken is the building of a barrier on the Sinai border.
fence, which is expected to be completed by March 2013, will not solve the
problem of those migrants already living in Israel. A major effort must be made
to repatriate those migrants who do not face persecution in their home country.
Since the creation of South Sudan last July, migrants from that part of the
world can no longer claim to be asylum-seekers.
initiative according to which South Sudanese were offered $1,300 and a free
plane ticket if they agreed to return failed miserably. Only a few had
cooperated by the March 31 deadline.
In addition to renewed efforts to
repatriate South Sudanese and others, steps should also be taken to better
integrate into Israeli society those who are truly asylum-seekers. Forbidding
them to work and depriving them of basic social services only exacerbates the
While there is absolutely no excuse for the despicable attacks,
we must acknowledge that there is a migrant crisis, and not just in south Tel
Aviv. Ignoring it is not an option.