JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Surging street violence against African migrants in Israel, including a rampage that an Israeli broadcaster dubbed a “pogrom”, drew statements of empathy for the rioters as well as censure from the government on Thursday.
Waving Israeli flags and chanting “Deport the Sudanese”, residents of a low-income Tel Aviv neighbourhood where many of the border-jumpers from Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan live held a march late Wednesday that turned violent.
Police said 20 people were arrested for assault and vandalism. Trash cans were set alight, storefront windows were broken and a crowd attacked an African driving through the area, breaking his car’s windows. No serious injuries were reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Wednesday’s violence, saying there was no room for such action and that the issue must be resolved “responsibly”. But his interior minister, Eli Yishai, was more forgiving.
Interviewing Yishai, Army Radio likened the incident to pogrom attacks on Jews in 19th-century Europe. Yishai bristled at such language, citing police findings that Sudanese and Eritrean migrants were a crime risk.
“I cannot judge a man whose daughter gets raped. I cannot judge a young woman who cannot walk home,” said Yishai, in a reference to the rape of a 15-year-old girl last month and the three Sudanese migrants who were arrested for the crime.
“I cannot under any circumstances judge people who get abused and harmed, and who are then confronted by the state, which says, ‘Why do you behave this way to the foreigners?’”
Fleeing poverty, fighting and authoritarian rule, some 60,000 Africans have crossed illegally into Israel through the relatively porous desert border with Egypt in recent years. Continued…