7 June 2012
Interior Minister Eli Yishai is lampooned on NIF's Don't Remain Silent website. “This land belongs to the white man”, he says.
Earlier this week three African refugees were hospitalized after their Jerusalem apartment was torched. Perpetrators also left graffiti saying "Get out of the neighborhood" daubed on the front door.
The NIF-supported Light Tag coalition, which combats religious terrorism, has moved into action as racist incitement and attacks against Israel's 50,000 refugees escalates.
On Tuesday, 150 Light Tag demonstrators came to Jerusalem's Davidka Square near the burned apartment. Coalition leader Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu said, "We are getting very close to a murder due to racist incitement against these refugees. We will continue to demonstrate wherever there is racism in Israel"
Yeshiva student Amit Gvaryahu, son of Dr. Gvaryahu, addresses the demonstration in Jerusalem.
Dr. Gvaryahu is also the director of NIF grantee Yud Bet B'Heshvan, an Orthodox Jewish organization that fights racism and advocates for pluralistic Judaism.
Read more about the rally in the Jerusalem Post
Last weekend a similarly size demonstration against official incitement by government ministers and politicians was held by Light Tag outside of the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem. At the demonstration speakers stressed that the Torah mentions the importance of tolerance to "strangers" some 30 times.
"You were strangers in the Land of Egypt" says a placard during the Light Tag demonstration outside the Prime Minister's residence.
Some politicians have incurred much criticism for overtly racist remarks. Likud MK Miri Regev was forced to apologize after describing the refugees as a "cancer, although her apology pointedly avoided expressing contrition to the refugees themselves." And despite crimes rates among refugees lower than those of veteran Israelis, , Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, "Many Israeli women are raped by foreigners but are scared to report it for fear people think they have AIDS.”
The situation has spurred NIF’s action-arm SHATIL to open an ‘emergency room’ to deal more effectively with the attacks and their aftermath. SHATIL has stepped up its work with African refugee organizations and is building a consulting and training package that will be offered to these organizations as well as groups of African refugee activists.
SHATIL's Center for Policy Change is also working with decision makers, rabbis, Jewish pluralism organizations, members of the Ethiopian community and others in condemning the attacks on African refugees. SHATIL is also increasing its local community outreach efforts in an effort to defuse tension between local residents and African refugees in South Tel Aviv and other communities with large refugee populations. Focusing on shared issues of concern between marginalized groups including housing, education, health services, security, and welfare will create common ground between the populations and serve as a bulwark against politicians eager to exploit existing tensions.
In addition, NIF has received a special donation from a leading US foundation to provide emergency grants bolstering our efforts. With these funds, NIF will strengthen the infrastructure of refugee organizations and Israeli human rights groups working with refugees, and work with organizations assisting Israelis in the disadvantaged neighborhoods where refugees live in order to create a dialogue about shared problems. NIF will also prepare a policy paper on what Israel's overall optimal policy should be towards African refugees.