Protesters Attack Israeli of Ethiopian Origin in Rally Against African Migrants

Dozens in south Tel Aviv call for the deportation of African migrant workers; ‘the black presence is intimidating,” says victim.

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An Israeli citizen of Ethiopian origin was assaulted Wednesday evening in Tel Aviv during a demonstration calling for the deportation of African immigrants, just a week following the violent protest in Hatikva neighborhood.

Dozens of protesters gathered on Wednesday near the central bus station in south Tel Aviv demanding the deportation of African migrants from Israel.

At one point of the demonstration, the protesters attacked Hananya Vanda, an Israeli citizen of Ethiopian origin who they mistakenly identified as an immigrant. After they realized Vanda is Jewish, the protesters said that they did not mean to attack him.

Vanda suggested that Ethiopians in Israel are often the subject of discrimination, saying that "Sudanese are treated just like Ethiopians, the black presence is intimidating."

Six protesters were arrested, five on suspicion of causing a disturbance and one for allegedly inciting against the migrants. Demonstrators shouted phrases including "leftists are traitors," "the left is cancer" and "the media is cancer," and they held up signs saying "south Tel Aviv, not South Sudan."

Far right activist Baruch Marzel, one of the protest's leaders, said protesters planned to hold daily demonstrations, and would not remain quiet "until the prime minister and foreign and interior ministers start to act, rather than talk."

On Mesilat Yesharim Street, an African migrant confronted the protesters. "You're welcome to plunder my store, come on, destroy my business," he said. Some protesters tried to beat him up, but others stopped them.

"I'm afraid of any clash, but I can't go back to my country," said the migrant, Ahmed Abdullah, 22, of Sudan, who arrived in Israel 18 months ago. "If I could, I'd choose some other place," he said.

Some of the protesters confronted a policeman, asking him if he's "a leftist." Then, spotting a demonstrator speaking to a journalist they shouted, "don't cooperate with the media, they're cancer." Others screamed at reporters on the scene, "you'll make us out as racists anyway."

Teenagers waving Israeli flags shouted that "leftists are worse than Arabs."

"I've lived in Shapira neighborhood for 20 years, I support this protest," said Rahel, 48, who refused to give her full name. "I have a 15-year-old daughter who is afraid to leave the house. I go with her everywhere, I wait for her and pick her up when she returns from school. I'm not a racist, but they're frightening. I can't talk to them, I can't go to the park like I used to. They're on every bench and every piece of grass. We need more demonstrations like this, we need a solution," she says.

"They are black, they have diseases, I'm afraid to go home or walk in my own neighborhood," says Rahel Cohen, 62.

Earlier on Wednesday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein told a Jerusalem court that there is no reason to prevent the deportation of South Sudanese citizens to their country of origin, as it is a safe enough place.

Basing his remarks on a foreign ministry report on the economic and security conditions in South Sudan, Weinstein said that the situation in South Sudan does not provide grounds to fear for the lives and physical safety of migrants who are returned to the country.

Last week, an anti-migrant protest turned violent, with some 1,000 protesters in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood calling for the ousting of African asylum seekers from Israel. Demonstrators attacked African passersby while others lit garbage cans on fire and smashed car windows.

Anti-migrant demonstration in south Tel Aviv, May 30, 2012.Credit: Hadar Cohen



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