Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin spoke out sharply Thursday against anti-migrant protests the night before, saying they reeked of the same epithets that were hurled against Jews in the past.

“You can protest, but don’t incite,” Rivlin said, criticizing comments made by right-wing Knesset members at a demonstration in Tel Aviv calling for the deportation of African asylum seekers, a number of whom have been accused of rape and other violent crimes. “We cannot use the language used by anti-Semites against us.”

Demanding a solution to the problem is acceptable, Rivlin said, but no one is allowed to make comments of an offensive and inciting nature.

In her speech to protesters in South Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood, MK Miri Regev (Likud) called Sudanese asylum-seekers “a cancer in our body.”

Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Rivlin, who is also from the Likud party, came out harshly against her words. ”We are a nation that has suffered from incitement and harassment,” he said. As a result, “we are obligated to show extra morality and sensitivity.”

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich joined Rivlin’s call, saying that no problem is solved by groups hating each other.

South Tel Aviv residents protest the presence of illegal immigrants on Wednesday. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

South Tel Aviv residents protest the presence of illegal immigrants on Wednesday. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Earlier Thursday, MK Danny Danon told Haaretz there was only one immediate solution to the problem. “We must construct temporary detention facilities and remove Africans from population centers.” Such a move, he said, would help calm the people and end the violence.

In a letter penned late Wednesday night, the general director of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, argued that MKs Regev, Danon (Likud) and Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) were inciting racism and violence.

Oppenheimer urged Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to launch a criminal investigation into statements made by the three. Walla News quoted him as saying the legislators’ immunity to criminal prosecution should be removed.

Ben-Ari said Thursday morning that he was sorry for the violence that occurred, but happy the issue of the migrant workers had finally made national headlines, and hoped the problem would be solved.

He also took a poke at the Peace Now director, saying it was now apparent that organization wasn’t out to destroy settlers’ homes but rather all the homes in Israel, including south Tel Aviv.