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        dir="ltr"> <font size="-2"><a class="domain reader-domain"
href="https://electronicintifada.net/content/african-refugees-get-no-reprieve-israels-racist-rage/23866">https://electronicintifada.net/content/african-refugees-get-no-reprieve-israels-racist-rage/23866</a></font>
        <h1 class="reader-title">African refugees get no reprieve from
          Israel's racist rage</h1>
        <p class="node__submitted">
          <span class="field field-author"><a
              href="https://electronicintifada.net/people/david-sheen">David
              Sheen</a></span> <span class="field field-publisher">-</span>
          <span class="field field-publication-date"><span
              class="date-display-single"
              content="2018-04-10T01:16:00+00:00">10 April 2018</span></span>
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                <figure id="file-59301"><source media="(min-width:
                    72rem)"><figcaption><small><span></span></small></figcaption></figure>
                <p>The fortunes of the African refugee community
                  targeted by the Israeli government for deportation
                  have swung wildly in recent days.</p>
                <p>Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first announced a
                  United Nations-backed deal to resettle some of them in
                  the West, but then quickly retracted the plan after
                  right-wing Israelis complained that the deal was too
                  generous to asylum seekers.</p>
                <p>“I listened closely to many comments about the
                  agreement. As a result, after reevaluating the
                  advantages and disadvantages, I decided to cancel the
                  deal,” <a
                    href="https://www.facebook.com/Netanyahu/posts/10155500606907076">Netanyahu
                    wrote</a> on his Facebook page.</p>
                <p>“Despite the growing legal and international
                  limitations, we will continue to act with
                  determination to exhaust all possibilities at our
                  disposal to remove the infiltrators,” he added.</p>
                <p>In November, it was reported that the Netanyahu
                  government secured agreements with unnamed African
                  nations for the latter to take in many of the
                  approximately 40,000 refugees remaining in Israel,
                  ostensibly in exchange for a fee of <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israel-to-pay-rwanda-5-000-for-every-asylum-seeker-deported-there-1.5466805">$5,000
                    per head</a>.</p>
                <p>But Netanyahu’s plans for expedited deportation were
                  quashed after protests by refugee rights activists in
                  Israel and abroad shamed those countries, now known to
                  be <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/uganda-no-deal-with-israel-for-them-to-dump-their-refugees-here-1.5976136">Rwanda
                    and Uganda</a>, into <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-pm-accuses-new-israel-fund-of-foiling-asylum-seeker-deal-with-rwanda-1.5975316">disclaiming</a>
                  the scheme.</p>
                <p>Unable to deliver on his promise to quickly expel all
                  the Africans, Netanyahu grudgingly <a
href="https://972mag.com/israel-halts-refugee-deportation-plan-un-to-help-with-resettlement/134299/">agreed
                    to a plan</a> brokered by the UN refugee agency
                  UNHCR which, if carried out, would have seen thousands
                  of the refugees resettled in Western nations in the
                  coming years.</p>
                <p>But Germany and Italy, two of the countries cited by
                  Netanyahu as committed to take in asylum seekers from
                  Israel, <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-german-officials-we-weren-t-asked-to-receive-refugees-from-israel-1.5973974">quickly
                    denied</a> having ever agreed to accept refugees
                  under the scheme.</p>
                <h2>Opposition to expulsion</h2>
                <p>Abandoned on all sides within hours of announcing the
                  agreement, Netanyahu walked back the deal, <a
                    href="https://twitter.com/MaarivOnline/status/980856587463090176">first
                    in part</a>, then in whole, <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-suspends-new-asylum-seeker-deal-with-un-1.5974186">suspending
                    it</a>, and then <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-nixes-deal-with-un-on-african-asylum-seekers-following-right-wing-pushback-1.5974570">canceling
                    it altogether</a>.</p>
                <p>Although the deal would have provided political cover
                  for Netanyahu’s planned expulsion of the refugees, his
                  political camp vigorously opposed it because it also
                  committed Israel to allowing around 20,000 Africans –
                  mainly women and children – to remain in Israel <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/quick-fix-to-asylum-seeker-crisis-can-t-mask-israel-s-racism-problem-1.5974101">for
                    another five years</a> and to help them move to
                  parts of the country other than South Tel Aviv, where
                  most of the community is concentrated.</p>
                <p>Although a <a
                    href="https://en.idi.org.il/articles/20735">January
                    poll</a> showed that 66 percent of Israeli Jews
                  support Netanyahu’s efforts to expel the refugees to
                  Africa, a recent survey found that positions are
                  reversed in those very areas where residents were more
                  likely to actually encounter any of them.</p>
                <p>A <a
                    href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLMGqJkIT6k">March
                    poll</a> revealed that in the greater Tel Aviv area,
                  opposition to the expulsion reached 68 percent, and in
                  the long-neglected neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv
                  with the largest African populations, it hit 71
                  percent.</p>
                <p>On <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/over-10-000-israelis-protests-deportation-of-african-asylum-seekers-1.5846472">24
                    February</a> and again on <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/25-000-protest-in-tel-aviv-against-deportation-of-asylum-seekers-1.5938048">24
                    March</a>, some 20,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv
                  to demonstrate in solidarity with the refugee
                  community and demand that the Israeli government
                  cancel plans to deport them, and instead work to
                  improve the lives of all residents of the city’s
                  delapidated southern district.</p>
                <p>Protesters have criticized the Israeli government for
                  having one of the lowest refugee acceptance rates in
                  the world – <a
href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/israel-deportation-of-african-asylum-seekers-is-a-cruel-and-misguided-abandonment-of-responsibility/">less
                    than 0.5 percent</a>.</p>
                <p>But Netanyahu has claimed that the non-Jewish
                  refugees – about half Christian and half Muslim – pose
                  a threat to Israel’s “<a
href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/may/20/israel-netanyahu-african-immigrants-jewish">national
                    identity</a>.”</p>
                <p>In that sense Israel regards them similarly to how it
                  has viewed indigenous Palestinians since its founding,
                  when it expelled 750,000 Palestinians from their homes
                  and barred them from returning because they are not
                  Jews.</p>
                <p>And local racists have long labored to shore up
                  support for Netanyahu’s anti-African policies, and to
                  demand that even crueler measures be taken against
                  them.</p>
                <h2>“Mortal threat”</h2>
                <p>Shlomo Maslawi, representing Netanyahu’s ruling Likud
                  Party on the Tel Aviv city council, <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-this-is-zionism-as-racism-this-is-israel-at-70-1.5975641">told
                    Israeli TV</a> that he would oppose Netanyahu’s now
                  retracted plan, even though it included promises to
                  invest in the overburdened neighborhoods of South Tel
                  Aviv, until “the Eritreans are gone, down to the last
                  Eritrean – only then will there be rehabilitation.”</p>
                <p>In recent weeks, as refugee rights advocates across
                  the country and around the world stepped up their
                  protests, forcing the African governments conspiring
                  with Israel to deny their involvement, Netanyahu
                  lashed out at the refugees, smearing them as a mortal
                  threat.</p>
                <p>If he had not built a high-tech fence on Israel’s
                  southern border five years ago, Netanyahu <a
href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-says-flood-of-african-migrants-worse-than-sinai-terrorists/">told
                    an audience</a> in March, the number of Africans in
                  the country would be significantly higher, a condition
                  he deemed “much worse” than “severe attacks by Sinai
                  terrorists.”</p>
                <p>Coming under <a
href="https://forward.com/opinion/396765/israel-is-racist-its-deportations-of-africans-should-surprise-no-one/">rare
                    criticism</a> from some of Israel’s staunchest
                  American defenders, other government officials also
                  doubled down to defend the mass deportations to
                  African states.</p>
                <p>Interior minister <a
                    href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/aryeh-deri">Aryeh
                    Deri</a> <a
                    href="https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/955746656225562624">told
                    Israeli army radio</a> that to take these asylum
                  seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, and expel them
                  to Rwanda and Uganda, would merely mean returning them
                  “to their natural place.”</p>
                <p>Avraham Neguise, currently Israel’s only Black
                  legislator, a Jew of Ethiopian origin, also spoke out
                  in support of the deportation to Rwanda and Uganda, <a
                    href="https://pic.twitter.com/3i5DR91qG2">telling
                    Israel’s i24 TV</a>, “Well, they came from Africa,
                  and they’re going back to Africa.”</p>
                <p>Yitzhak Yosef, one of Israel’s two national chief
                  rabbis, also heaped scorn on the Africans in a sermon
                  last month, in which he <a
href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/chief-rabbi-compares-african-americans-to-monkeys/">called</a>
                  Black people “monkeys” and the Hebrew equivalent of
                  the N-word.</p>
                <p>His fellow chief rabbi, <a
                    href="http://mondoweiss.net/2013/07/when-racism-isnt-a-cause-for-shame/">Yisrael
                    Lau</a>, had already used that Hebrew version of the
                  N-world to describe Black people, on his very first
                  day in office.</p>
                <h2>Vigilante violence</h2>
                <p>These and many other incidents of anti-African
                  incitement have ramped up racism against the refugees.
                  The rage against asylum seekers has grown into a
                  political force capable even of pressuring Netanyahu
                  to cancel Israel’s international agreements.</p>
                <p>But the most frightening effects of increased
                  anti-Black sentiment are reserved for the refugees
                  themselves.</p>
                <p>Vigilante violence against African refugees has
                  become increasingly common in recent years.</p>
                <p>In 2012, an Israeli <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/suspect-arrested-in-south-tel-aviv-arson-attacks-1.5217877">firebombed
                    a daycare</a> for the young children of African
                  refugees, and in 2014, an Israeli man was indicted for
                  stabbing an Eritrean baby in the head.</p>
                <p>According to prosecutors, the man <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-charge-man-tried-to-kill-black-baby-1.5312347">later
                    stated</a>: “I attacked Black terrorists, there was
                  a Black baby, they said that a Black baby, Blacks in
                  general, are terrorists.”</p>
                <p>The firebomber received <a
href="https://972mag.com/suspect-in-arson-of-asylum-seeker-homes-reaches-plea-deal-with-no-jail-time/62561/">only
                    community service</a>, while the stabber was <a
href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/man-indicted-for-attempt-to-murder-eritrean-toddler/">sent
                    for psychiatric treatment</a>.</p>
                <p>Since that time, in separate incidents, two refugees
                  – <a
                    href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/haftom-zarhum">Haftom
                    Zarhum</a> from Eritrea and <a
                    href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/babikir-adham-uvdo">Babikir
                    Ali Adham-Uvdo</a> from Sudan – were beaten to death
                  in public places by Israeli mobs.</p>
                <p>The charges against Adham-Uvdo’s killers were <a
href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2018/3/2/a-reminder-of-how-little-blacklivesmatter-in-israel">reduced
                    from murder</a>.</p>
                <p>One of the killers is a minor whose sentence for
                  “intentional injury” to Adham-Uvdo is yet to be
                  determined. The adult assailant received a maximum
                  jail sentence of <a
                    href="https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5126007,00.html">10
                    years for manslaughter in a plea bargain</a>,
                  although he will probably be released in just a few
                  years.</p>
                <p>An Israeli court is currently offering Zarhum’s
                  killers <a
href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/black-lives-matter-israel-180329061234932.html">community
                    service</a>.</p>
                <h2>Coerced to self-deport</h2>
                <p>This anti-African incitement, coupled with the news
                  that African refugees, <a
href="http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/1/5a548e064/unhcr-appeals-israel-forced-relocations-policy.html">including
                    some recently expelled from Israel</a>, have
                  experienced torture, extortion and detention in Libya,
                  where <a
                    href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42038451">open-air
                    slave markets</a> have been documented, is taking a
                  toll not only <a
                    href="https://www.facebook.com/refugees4sale/videos/1566556886727283/">on
                    adults</a>, but on Israeli youth, as well.</p>
                <p>In February, one <a
                    href="https://twitter.com/No2Deportation/status/961847599987810305">refugee
                    confessed</a> that a group of Israeli schoolchildren
                  had approached him on a public bus and asked him, “How
                  much can we sell you for?”</p>
                <p>With the Rwanda-Uganda deal shelved in shame, and the
                  UN deal for resettlement in the West now derailed by
                  Netanyahu himself, the fate of the 40,000 African
                  refugees left in Israel is once again unclear.</p>
                <p>In lieu of the UN deal, Netanyahu is now reportedly <a
href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/pm-seeks-to-reopen-holot-plans-new-deportation-bill-bypassing-high-court/">pressuring
                    coalition partners </a> to reopen the <a
                    href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/holot-internment-camp">Holot
                    internment camp</a> that it <a
href="https://972mag.com/israel-closes-holot-the-desert-detention-facility-for-african-asylum-seekers/133831/">closed
                    down only last month</a> in anticipation of the
                  planned expulsions.</p>
                <p>Starting in <a
href="https://electronicintifada.net/content/african-refugees-defy-desert-cold-israeli-internment-march-freedom/13038">December
                    2013</a>, Israel rounded up thousands of African men
                  into this detention center, in order to pressure them
                  to self-deport.</p>
                <p>By Netanyahu’s count, the government was able to
                  coerce <a
                    href="https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/1.4426118">more
                    than 20,000</a> to leave Israel in this way – a
                  third of the African refugee community.</p>
                <p>When the Israeli high court forbade the government
                  from keeping those men incarcerated there for more
                  than a year, the latter <a
                    href="http://mondoweiss.net/2015/09/declares-southern-africans/">banned
                    the refugees</a> who it was compelled to release
                  from moving back to Tel Aviv or Eilat, the two Israeli
                  cities with the <a
href="https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-freed-migrants-barred-from-tel-aviv-eilat-1.5390429">largest
                    asylum-seeker communities at the time</a>.</p>
                <p>As Israel released Holot’s remaining inmates in
                  March, it informed them that the list of cities they
                  were now forbidden from living or working in had
                  mushroomed <a
                    href="https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/1.5870421">from
                    two to seven</a>, adding to the list Petah Tikva,
                  Bnei Brak, Ashdod, Netanya and Jerusalem.</p>
                <p>Now Netanyahu’s coalition partners say they may now
                  pass an <a
href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/pm-seeks-to-reopen-holot-plans-new-deportation-bill-bypassing-high-court/">even
                    harsher version</a> of the so-called
                  Anti-Infiltration Law which they have used to
                  criminalize refugees.</p>
                <p>The new bill would build in measures to insulate it
                  from being overturned by the high court.</p>
                <p>If they follow through on their threat to neuter the
                  court’s powers, there would no longer be any legal
                  impediment to jailing the African refugees
                  indefinitely in Holot until they agree to self-deport
                  to whatever destination Israel coerces them to go to.</p>
                <p><em>David Sheen is an independent writer and
                    filmmaker. Born in Toronto, Canada, Sheen now lives
                    in Dimona. His website is <a
                      href="http://www.davidsheen.com">www.davidsheen.com</a>
                    and he can be followed on Twitter: <a
                      href="https://twitter.com/davidsheen">@davidsheen</a>.</em></p>
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