President Shimon Peres, at a swearing-in ceremony for two new Supreme Court justices on Thursday, decried the recent wave of racist invective directed against African migrants in Israel.
“The state must provide a practical solution to this issue, but we must all reject racism. Hatred toward foreigners violates the principles of Judaism,” said Peres.
The two new Supreme Court justices, Professor Daphne Barak-Erez, former dean of Tel Aviv University Law School, and Uri Shoham, a Tel Aviv District Court judge, were sworn in Thursday morning, in the presence of the president and other senior government officials.
Justice Miriam Naor also took up her new position as the court’s vice president.
During his speech at the ceremony, the president strongly urged Israelis not to remain indifferent to racism: “We must all denounce manifestations of racism and voices of incitement. Hatred of foreigners violates the principles of Judaism. It is our duty to respect the stranger and the other found in our midst… As it is written in Deuteronomy: ‘Love the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt.'”
The issue of African migrants has been a point of contention in recent weeks, after Interior Minister Eli Yishai opened the floodgates of invective in early May in urging the state to deport the refugees.
Yishai told Maariv on Thursday, “Many women in Tel Aviv have been raped by the foreigners, but they are afraid to complain in case they are tagged with the stigma of carrying AIDS.”
He continued: “All the bleeding hearts who speak out against me, I suggest you take dozens of infiltrators and settle them in your neighborhoods. See them every day, their children will try to play the same playgrounds [as yours]… I might sound racist or xenophobic, but I am acting out of love for the country.”
Many other parliamentarians joined the cry, among them Likud MKs Miri Regev, who termed Sudanese migrants “a cancer,” and Danny Danon, who blamed “bleeding-heart leftists” for the violence perpetrated by some migrants.
The issue of African asylum seekers is likely to come up before the Supreme Court, since human rights organizations and refugee aid groups have petitioned the court on behalf of the African migrants, seeking the right for them to stay in Israel.