Asylum seekers south Tel Aviv 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The controversy over the African migrant community in Tel Aviv has escalated
into a war of words between the relatively neglected south side and the upscale
northern parts of the city.
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In an effort to “unmask the hypocrisy of the
leftist elites,” National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari announced on Wednesday that
he would pay to rent apartments in the upscale neighborhoods of northern Tel
Aviv and inhabit them with African migrants. The right-wing MK told The
Jerusalem Post that “when the bleeding hearts are confronted with the reality of
living next door to the migrants, they will change their tune and we will see
how humane they really are.”
In the last few months, Ben-Ari has emerged
as a leader of the movement calling for zero-tolerance regarding the African
migrants, a movement that has grown in size with the increase of migrants
crossing into Israel across the Egyptian border. Ben-Ari recently launched the
Knesset caucus dedicated to assisting those harmed by the phenomenon of economic
infiltrators, and claims to represent and have the support of residents of Tel
Aviv’s southern neighborhoods, which are currently home to many of the
Ben-Ari said that the idea for the new initiative came from an
interview he conducted with a Channel 2 reporter several weeks ago, during an
anti-migrant protest, held in south Tel Aviv.
“I asked the reporter what
she thought would happen if all the migrants moved to the northern
neighborhoods,” Ben-Ari said. “She said that it would never happen because they
were protected by an ‘economic barrier.’ The migrants couldn’t afford to live
there. So I decided to test the theory. We’ll provide the apartments and bring
in the migrants and observe to see how the ‘bleeding hearts’ in the north react.
We’ll take our cue from them.
They’ll teach us how to be
Ben-Ari said that he had already raised roughly NIS 60,000 for
the initiative, enough to rent around a dozen apartments for a month or two, but
that he was already being swamped with offers by people who wanted to donate to
the effort. He said that a majority of the offers had come from residents of Tel
Aviv’s southern neighborhoods, who claim to suffer the most from the migrants’
“It won’t take place overnight, but what we’re really
interested in is observing the process, to see how the bleeding hearts respond
to our plan,” Ben-Ari said.
When asked what sort of reaction he was
expecting, Ben-Ari said he expected the mask of hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness
to disappear and reveal the “true face of the so-called humanitarians, whose
real intention is the destruction of the State of Israel.”
When asked if
he was not concerned about the plan backfiring, in case the migrants were
actually welcomed when they moved in to their upscale surroundings, Ben-Ari said
he didn’t have a shred of doubt about the outcome.
“These are material
people who live in constant fear for their property and standard of living,”
said Ben-Ari. “I grew up in the south. There, if someone falls or is in need of
assistance, the residents will help them out. In the north, they live behind
locked doors and in constant fear that someone will scratch their car or step on
their lawn. Give them a few days with people sleeping on the grass and throwing
garbage in the street, and they will cry with all their might to have them
Ben-Ari said he was so confident of the results that he was
willing to adopt the precise attitude expressed by prospective neighbors. “We’ll
see what the fancy ladies of the north say when their daughters are harassed on
their way to their ballet lessons.”
In an interview with Army Radio, Ami
Greenberg, chairman of the Ramat Aviv residents’ council, said that the
initiative was unfeasible and not serious. “I am convinced that no migrant will
take up the call. Besides, even if they do, it’s contractually impossible, so
it’s not worth talking about.”
Yohannes Bayu, director-general of the
African Refugee Development Center, said the migrant population in Israel
struggles with daily survival and would not likely reject an offer for free
lodging, no matter who offered it or where it was.
“It’s all a matter of
economics. The migrants don’t choose to go to the south [simply] because they
prefer it over anywhere else. They go there because that’s the only place they
can afford to rent,” said Bayu.
Bayu also said that if the government’s
plans to prohibit the migrants from working are implemented, they won’t be able
to afford lodgings anywhere and will end up sleeping and starving in the