Netanyahu Warns Israelis: Violence Against Minorities Won't Be Tolerated

Premier releases video clip on YouTube channel urging Israeli citizens 'not to take law into their own hands' and to refrain from any activity that might provoke violence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Israeli citizens to refrain from taking the law into their own hands against minorities and migrant workers, in a clip released Wednesday on his bureau's YouTube channel.

Netanyahu warned against incitement that could lead to violence, regardless of citizens' feelings toward "infiltrators".

Tel Aviv protest against foreign migrants Dec. 21, 2010 (Ofer Vaknin)
Ofer Vaknin

"The government of Israel is working determinedly to stop the flow of illegal infiltrators from Africa by constructing a fence on the border and by returning infiltrators to their native land," Netanyahu said, referring to work on the barrier along the Egypt border that began last month after years of delay, and the group of some 100 Sudanese migrants who were flown back to their country earlier this month.

With regard to the recent wave of protests in Bat Yam and south Tel Aviv calling to expel Arab residents and migrant workers and to the recent arrest of a suspected youth gang in Jerusalem that has been targeting Arabs, Netanyahu said: "I ask one thing and I will be adamant about it. The citizens of Israel cannot take the law into their own hands - they cannot take part in violence or degradation."

"The government is taking action," he added. "It is our job to solve this problem and we will solve it, but I ask of you to obey the law. We are a state that abides by the law and respects it, and we respect every person in it. We will act to find a solution to this problem within the framework of the law. This is what I am doing and this is what I demand of every single citizen."

Several hundred people, mostly residents of south Tel Aviv, held a demonstration outside the entrance to the market in the working class Hatikva neighborhood, under the banner "No more fear in the neighborhoods; send the infiltrators back home."

The demonstration occurred against the background of complaints by Hatikva neighborhood residents of violence by foreign workers and refugees. Protesters said that Jewish women fear going out in the neighborhood after dark because of their treatment by foreign residents.
Demonstrators also said that the foreigners increase demand for apartments, driving up rental prices.

The demonstrators called on the government to deport foreign workers and refugees and for apartment owners not to rent to foreigners. Signs included: "No to racism, Yes to neighborhoods" and "Send the infiltrators home".

On Monday in Bat Yam, a city just south of Tel Aviv, a demonstration was held against the renting of apartments to Arabs, with some 200 local residents and right-wing activists protesting under the banner "Keeping Bat Yam Jewish."

Haaretz learned Tuesday that the Shin Bet had contacted Rabbi Dov Hai Hacohen, an organizer of the events in Bat Yam, and warned him to keep his students and followers from taking any action that could provoke violence.