During a stormy session of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee on Tuesday, Likud MK Danny Danon blamed human rights and refugee aid groups for Israel’s growing migrant problem.
Danon said during the special session, convened to consider the recent wave of violence by African migrants and the police response to the issue: “Because of you, bleeding-heart leftists, migrants raped a 15-year-old girl in south Tel Aviv, beat a 60-year-old man on Sunday because he sat on a bench, and robbed an old woman walking down the street,” according to Channel 10.
Danon called for the immediate deportation of the African migrants, and blamed the human rights and refugee aid organizations for abetting the violence by petitioning the courts to allow the the asylum seekers to remain in Israel thus impeding their deportation.
MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), the committee chair, defended the rights groups, arguing: “If there are organizations that want to help [the migrants], we need to embrace them and allow them to provide the infiltrators with food. If we do not allow them to work, they need assistance to eat. Anyone who helps with this is doing God’s work.”
Miri Regev (Likud), who has spoken out harshly against the migrants, calling them a “cancer” in Israeli society, said: “South Tel Aviv is boiling, and the reality does not allow citizens of the country to live as citizens of the country. The time has come to deal with this as a national emergency.”
Regev also claimed that the African migrants in Tel Aviv were seeking work, not fleeing human rights abuses or war. Were they asylum seekers, she said, Israel would provide them with shelter.
Danon argued: ”Morals and humanity are part of the Israeli society, but after we let them in our homes and cases of rape and robbery flood our neighborhoods, the time has come to deport them, and immediately. The damage to Israeli society is too great.”
In response, MK Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz accused his colleagues of chasing headlines and sinking lower than the low, asking: “What are you really doing to help the residents of the southern [Tel Aviv] neighborhoods?”
Yad Vashem chairman Rabbi Yisrael Lau, the former chief rabbi of Israel and current Tel Aviv chief rabbi, and its director Avner Shalev spoke out on Tuesday against the rhetoric used to describe the migrants. “There is no place in this country for racist, inciting and violent discourse, the likes of which we heard in the last week,” they said in a statement.
“Clearly Israel has to deal with the migrants without infringing on the rights of the hard-hit neighborhood. But, at the same time, we must maintain our humanity and our character as a moral society — therein lies our strength.”
Residents of the working-class Tel Aviv neighborhoods where many migrants have clustered describe a growing threat of street crime as a result of the ballooning migrant influx, which has now seen close to 70,000 people enter the country from the Egyptian border, according to Interior Ministry statistics.
Army Radio reported on Tuesday that 170 African migrants had crossed into Israel in the past 24 hours.