Residents of south Tel Aviv protest against African migrants living in their neighbourhood.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
When social activist Shefi Paz saw the protests by Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva over the past 40 weeks, even going to some of them herself, she realized its organizers were on to something.
On Saturday night, she translated that example into action, leading a protest for the residents of south Tel Aviv in front of Supreme Court President Miriam Naor’s home in Jerusalem.
Paz is a leading activist from south Tel Aviv calling on the government to take action against thousands of migrants from Africa and Eastern Europe who moved into their neighborhoods, which were already home to a lower- income population. She has called the influx of migrants a “foreign occupation” of the area.
“It’s hard to get media attention,” Paz said. “We held dozens of demonstrations and no one came, so we thought this will bring us attention, and now I see that yes, it worked.”
“I was in Petah Tikva a few times and saw what happened and how much noise they were making for a cynical political cause, so we said we needed to do the same... The topic of Petah Tikva is very hot these days, so this was good timing for us,” she added.
The south Tel Aviv residents’ protest came after last week’s Supreme Court ruling that the Petah Tikva protesters, who are calling for Mandelblit to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with corruption, can continue to demonstrate in front of his home, but only up to 500 of them.
Around 100 people gathered outside Naor’s house, holding signs with slogans like “residents of [low-income] neighborhoods have human rights, too” and “protecting and Jewish and democratic Israel,” as well as some with puns on Naor’s last name, which means enlightened. They plan to continue rallying every Saturday night, like the Petah Tikva protesters.
They were protesting the High Court of Justice’s fully or partially overturning every law the government has passed to try to solve the situation, such as paying them to move to a third country or putting them in a low-security prison in the Negev.
Contrasting the cause she represents with the protests in Petah Tikva, Paz said that “the issue is serious,” and that the timing was a way to get media attention, but that there have been various demonstrations by south Tel Aviv residents over the past decade.
According to Paz, the southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods now have problems with “homeless people, drugs, and public drunkenness,” and that she feels especially in danger as a woman.
At this point, Paz said, the residents don’t care what solution is found, they just want to know what the situation will be, if the migrants will be deported, or spread out to other parts of the country, “even if they’re staying, we can deal with that. Maybe we’ll leave,” she said.
“If we wanted to live in an African slum, we would live in Africa,” Paz said.
“Our goal is to say the court is against the people,” she said Sunday. “Our slogan yesterday was that we want an Israeli High Court. We’re against the situation where we’re always last in line. They’re against every commitment by the government to help us; they think the rights of the infiltrators come before ours.”
The court, Paz said, “needs to know its place. Judicial activism is a problem. The nation elected the government; the High Court can’t cancel everything they do.”
The right-wing organization Im Tirtzu also participated in the demonstration.
Im Tirtzu director of policy Alon Schvartzer said: “We are demanding true justice. The Supreme Court justices cannot continue their discriminatory policy against the residents of south Tel Aviv.”