Anti-deportation activists report increasingly violent, threatening messages
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Anti-deportation activists report increasingly violent, threatening messages

Organizers of Saturday night rally in Tel Aviv against deportation of African asylum seekers see sharp uptick in verbal attacks and death threats on social media

Protesters march in a demonstration in south Tel Aviv against Israel's planned deportation of African migrants and refugees, February 24, 2018. (Miriam Herschlag/ Times of Israel)
Protesters march in a demonstration in south Tel Aviv against Israel's planned deportation of African migrants and refugees, February 24, 2018. (Miriam Herschlag/ Times of Israel)

Hours ahead of a Saturday rally against the deportation of African asylum seekers in Tel Aviv, its organizers said they have been the targets of an increasingly vicious hate campaign online.

Activists told the Ynet news site that though many of them consistently receive hate mail for their work, the messages in recent days have become markedly more disturbing.

Users have threatened activist Adi Berkowitz to “cut your head and drink your blood,” and vowed to “carry out a holocaust against all you leftists.”

Some organizers were sent Facebook messages expressing hope they “would get violently raped by a group of Sudanese,” and wishes for “a multitude of incurable diseases.”

“If I could, I would load you all onto rubber dinghies and send you out to sea with no food or water, so you’ll have to eat each other until you die,” another threat read.

Some threats warned the activists not to attend the Saturday rally.

African asylum seekers and human rights activists protest against deportation in Tel Aviv, February 21, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

But Berkowitz said the messages were not deterring her team from their campaign demanding the government reconsider its plan to deport African migrants and indefinitely incarcerate those who refuse to leave.

“I know that whoever sent those messages did it in order to frighten us so we would give up on the struggle,” she said.

“So this is a good opportunity to tell those who have threatened us that we are not afraid… we will continue on until we stop the deportations,” Berkowitz said.

In December, the Interior Ministry announced that starting in March, it would deport asylum seekers to unnamed African countries with which Israel has emigration agreements. Those countries are believed to be Rwanda and Uganda, although both have denied involvement in the plan.

The Africans, nearly all from dictatorial Eritrea and war-torn Sudan between 2006 and 2012, say they fled for their lives and face renewed danger if they return home.

Israel considers the vast majority of them to be job seekers and says it has no legal obligation to keep them. Israeli officials commonly refer to them as “infiltrators.”

The expulsion policy, which offers each migrant $3,500 and a plane ticket, has been condemned by Israeli activists and the United Nations as chaotic, poorly executed, and unsafe. Asylum seekers previously deported to Uganda and Rwanda have told the Times of Israel they faced serious danger and even imprisonment after arriving in Africa without proper documents.

Earlier this month, the High Court of Justice temporarily froze the plan, and gave the government until Sunday to address some of the legal issues surrounding it.

An anti-deportation rally held in Tel Aviv last month drew a crowd of between 15,000-20,000 people. Two men were arrested ahead of the demonstration for calling for a violent attacks on rally-goers.

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