Tel Aviv: Clashes, arrests at anti-African demo

Right-, left-wing activists trade barbs as protesters call for deportation of African migrants living in Israel.

Tel Aviv CBS anti-African demo_370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Tel Aviv CBS anti-African demo_370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Chanting “The Left is a cancer,” “Deport the Sudanese” and “Leftists to Sudan,” around 200 people gathered in south Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood on Wednesday night to protest the growing population of African migrants in the country.
The rally came about a week after Israelis ran amok in the Hatikva neighborhood, smashing African-run storefronts and attacking asylum-seekers following an anti-migrant protest that around 1,000 people attended.
Five protesters were arrested during Wednesday’s rally for disturbing the peace, and one on suspicion of incitement.
One protester, giving an interview to a TV crew, vowed he was ready to serve a life sentence for killing Sudanese if his friend Haim Mula is not released from jail, where he is being held on suspicion of throwing Molotov cocktails at Africans’ homes in Shapira last month.
Wednesday night’s protest began with a small gathering outside the main entrance to the central bus station in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood, the center of the country’s African migrant and foreign worker community. Police had only approved a protest of fewer than 50 people at the site, and after it began, demonstrators began marching down the side streets of Shapira, where the main rally took place.
Along the way, arguments and shoving matches broke out between the marchers and counterprotesters who trailed the march. All the while, border policemen blocked the street to prevent more counterprotesters from advancing.
Far-right activist Baruch Marzel organized the demonstration, which was not coordinated with south Tel Aviv activist and city council member Shlomo Maslawi. Maslawi, who has organized past antimigrant protests in the neighborhood, said that the organizers had not contacted him to take part in or help arrange the protest.
Leading the marchers on Wednesday night, Hatikva resident Meir Turgeman, 52, said they aimed “to tell Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] not to fear the media, the left wing and the Supreme Court, and to listen to the people and deport all of the Sudanese home now.”
Turgeman said his 16-yea-rold daughter did not feel safe at night, and that “all of our neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv are under curfew after dark.”
Echoing an oft-repeated complaint by veteran Tel Aviv residents, Neve Sha’anan native Sima Nitzani, 42, said that “at night, [African migrants] steal bikes, steal cars, rob people, and the police do nothing. We no longer feel safe at night, and the government must kick all of them out now!” No Knesset members attended Wednesday’s demonstration, unlike last week’s protest, at which Likud MK Miri Regev said from the stage that the Sudanese migrants “are a cancer in the body of the nation.”
The demonstration in Shapira appeared to be disorganized and free-flowing, and mainly consisted of local families.
There are an estimated 60,000 illegal African migrants in the country, most of them from Eritrea and Sudan. Under international law, Israel cannot deport Eritreans to their country, where they could face persecution, nor can it deport Sudanese to Sudan, where they would be persecuted for having been in Israel, an enemy country.