African Asylum Seeker Speaks: 'We’re Not to Blame for South Tel Aviv Woes'

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Mutasim Ali at Holot detention center in the Negev, September 22, 2014.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

I was not surprised by the High Court of Justice’s ruling on Monday because I believe in the Israeli justice system. One of the reasons we are in the State of Israel is because it has a real justice system, as we saw on Monday. There is no such thing in Egypt or in any of the neighboring states. But the decision was not on our behalf; it was on behalf of Israeli law, humanity, equality, and the interests of the State of Israel.

I know that this ruling is not what the residents of south Tel Aviv wanted, and I know that the situation in south Tel Aviv is intolerable. I understand the pain of the residents there, as well as in Eilat, Arad and Ashdod. I understand that whole situation, and I support their just struggle. But we are not responsible for the situation in south Tel Aviv and other disadvantaged neighborhoods.

I oppose violence and crime, by both sides. The crime from my community that Israelis are complaining about doesn’t occur because we are criminals. This awful situation, which sometimes leaves people no other choice, is because of the government’s mistaken policies. There is also violence by the residents of south Tel Aviv, which is especially severe.

We, as asylum seekers, are in the State of Israel and are committed to Israeli law. If someone commits a crime, he must be dealt with under the law. We are absolutely not enemies of Israel, as people here sometimes say, we are just people who fled their countries because of persecution, wars, and dictatorships – and were seeking protection. We had no choice but to cross borders, sometimes illegally.

People from my community spoke to me after the court ruling on Monday. Not everyone understands the whole story. I, too, have to read the entire ruling, and only tomorrow can we start explaining to people what it means, but for now they’re happy. I’m happy, too, if also cautious.

The happiness is not complete because I know that now the government will seek some other solution, and because the government’s goal is to make our lives miserable until we leave Israel. I suspect that the government will not release us just like that, the way the court stated; that it will be like the last time – they’ll try to change the conditions somewhat, rather than obeying the court ruling as written.

It’s important to note that the High Court’s decision is not the end of the struggle. We are grateful to the court, but we still have to work with the Israeli public. Because beyond the High Court ruling, it’s the citizens we have to live with. All our struggle aims for is that at the end of the day, there will be fair policies that protect our rights as human beings, as well as the rights of Israeli residents and the State of Israel.

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