A week after a demonstration in south Tel Aviv calling for the deportation of African migrants ended in violence and arrests, a small group of protesters gathered in the south of the city Wednesday evening with the same demand – that the government deport the thousands of infiltrators who have entered Israel illegally through Egypt.
The protesters were gathering on Levinsky St. next to the central bus station and expected to march to the Shapira neighborhood.
- Clashes erupt during south TA protest
As the protest got underway, 100 or so counter-protesters present outnumbered those calling for deportation and were holding up signs reading "Extreme Right – not in my neighborhood!"
The anti-migrant protesters included well-known right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir. Participants held up signs urging a fair share in responsibility for the migrant population – specifically, that they be housed in economically advantaged north Tel Aviv, as well. "This is South Tel Aviv, not South Sudan," one poster read.
Five protesters were arrested for rioting, and another was detained on suspicion of incitement.
The green sign reads: 'Send the Sudanese back to Sudan' (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
"There won't be quiet until the prime minister and the ministers wake up – we've had enough," Marzel declared.
The protesters were thrown a curve ball when an Israeli of Ethiopian descent named Hananiya passed by. The demonstrators, mistaking him for a migrant, began to swear at him and one youth even hit him.
"These people are crazy," Hananiya told Ynet. "This could happen anywhere," he said. "I came by because I was interested in the protest and I got hit. At work, they joke that I can't walk around here, and it's true. This is what racism is," he said.
A 23-year-old woman explained why she was taking part in the demonstration: "A year ago, three men attacked me – molested me on the bus, and since then it's gotten worse," she said. "I came here from Ashdod. Look at what's happening here, in our neighborhoods – it has to stop."
Another protester said, "You walk around, don't see Jews, just Sudanese. People are afraid to walk around. We need to do something for our children's sake."
Yonatan, who lives in the area, said "This situation can't go on. The solution is to leave 1% (of the migrants) – there are some who work and contribute. Ninety percent should be deported, the ones that don't have visas. Send them back to South Sudan, they can go back there."
Shula Keshet, a resident of Neveh Sha'anan, added that it was important to her to take part in the protest to ensure that it didn't devolve into violence against Africans, no matter what country they were from.
"I understand the pain of the locals, but violence against the refugees isn't acceptable – not as far as I'm concerned and not for many other residents. Our protest is against the policies of the government and the city and against the apartheid in Tel Aviv and the ghettos of poverty it creates. It's also racism that not a single refugee or infiltrator is sent to north Tel Aviv, just here," Keshet explained.
Earlier Wednesday, dozens of volunteers from refugee aid organization accompanied hundreds of migrant children home from kindergartens and daycare centers in south Tel Aviv.
"We walked them home after many parents called us, afraid. Together with the families we decided to end school early. It's sad that we need to walk children home just because of their ethnicity," said Noa Galili.
Rotem Ilan, founder of the Israeli Children organization, said that it was important that the government verify who were refugees and who weren't, so as to ease the burden on south Tel Aviv neighborhoods.
"It's time that the MKs and the ministers, rather than wasting time fanning the flames, spend it caring for the (city's) southern neighborhoods to make up for the neglect they're a party to," Ilan stated. "The most important thing is that the children, Israelis and foreigners, can live here in peace and quiet. A child is a child."
Dr. Rami Gudovitch from the Gan Levinsky library added that volunteers had been walking children home for weeks. "Today more people got organized because of the protest and the fear of violence and attacks during the march."
In recent week, the issue of Israel's migrant population has become a priority following a wave of sexual assaults and robberies by foreigners. A large protest last week in south Tel Aviv, attended by a number of right-wing MKs, culminated in vandalism and violence attacks on several migrants.
Boaz Fyler contributed to this report