Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Israeli citizens yesterday not to take the law into their hands when confronting illegal immigrants, saying the government will take care of them instead.
"The government of Israel is working with determination to stop the flow of illegal infiltrators from Africa, by setting up a fence along the borders and sending the infiltrators back to their own countries," the prime minister said in a video message posted on his official YouTube channel. "I only ask for one thing, and I insist on it: The citizens of Israel cannot take the law into their own hands, they cannot act with violence."
Netanyahu's comments come in the wake of several anti-foreigner demonstrations held recently in a number of cities across Israel.
Yesterday, hundreds of south Tel Aviv residents protested against foreigners in their neighborhoods. The demonstrators used the same signs from a protest held in Bat Yam on Monday against the migration of Arab Israelis into the city.
Protesters in the south Tel Aviv Hatikva neighborhood demanded that foreign residents, whom they called "infiltrators," be expelled. They said they were also protesting the violence African immigrants have brought into the neighborhood.
Organizations working with immigrants and asylum seekers were left unmoved by the prime minister's address. Ran Cohen, director of Physicians for Human Rights, said Netanyahu's comments were too little, too late.
"Instead of moralizing and preaching to the Israelis, the prime minister had better examine his own conduct and the racist behavior of several of his ministers," Cohen said. "The man who was silent when the interior minister cursed at immigrants, and the man who turned away when rabbis spread defamation everywhere, should not be surprised when waves of racism hit the streets."
"We have to remember that elements within the government are authorizing and sanctioning such behavior," said Shira Penn, director of Anu Plitim (We Are Refugees ). "They are doing so through the persecution of asylum seekers, through dark campaigns aimed at preventing refugees from working even in the lowliest of jobs, and using the derogatory term 'infiltrators' to describe flesh and blood individuals running for their life from torture and genocide."
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi (Meretz ) asked the legal advisor to the municipality, Uzi Salman, to prohibit the use of public facilities for racist events. Lehavi noted that several community centers have been used for such gatherings, and stressed that incitement to racism was a criminal offense.
Shas city council member Benjamin Babayof also wrote to Salman, saying Lehavi had misrepresented the events in question.
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