Hundreds protest in Tel Aviv, demand migrant deportations

Demonstrations led by Otzma Leyisrael leader Michael Ben Ari follow rape of 83-year-old woman

South Tel Aviv residents protest the influx of migrants in their neighborhoods in May 2012. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
South Tel Aviv residents protest the influx of migrants in their neighborhoods in May 2012. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Calling for the deportation of Sudanese and Eritrean migrants from Israel after an Eritrean man allegedly raped an 83-year-old Tel Aviv woman last weekend, hundreds of demonstrators marched from the city’s Hatikvah neighborhood to its central bus station Monday night.

The event, called “Blowing up the Silence,” was organized by MK Michael Ben Ari, of the newly formed Otzma Leyisrael party.

A heavy police presence watched over the demonstrators, who operated under the slogan “Getting Sodom (and Gomorrah) out of Tel Aviv and returning it to Africa,” called on the prime minister to “go home,” chanted “Sudanese to Sudan and leftists with them,” and said “Eli Yishai has failed,” according to Walla News.

Ben Ari told the crowd that southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods had been taken over by “infiltrators” saying, “When there are no police and there is no government, only we can stop the next rape.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai earlier called on the justice and foreign ministries to give him the authority to deport all remaining African migrants, whom he and other right-wing politicians consistently refer to as “infiltrators.”

“This shocking rape illustrates the lost sense of security Israeli citizens feel in areas with a high concentration of infiltrators,” Yishai said. On Monday it was reported that Yishai’s Shas party had created a campaign video that focused on the ostensible danger posed to Israeli society by migrants.

The rape apparently took place over several hours in the 83-year-old woman’s apartment. The suspect allegedly bolted after a member of the woman’s family came for a visit and caught him in the act.

Using DNA samples, police were able to track the suspect down. The samples matched genetic material in the police data bank, because the man had previously been arrested in connection with other sexual assaults.

A Tel Aviv court remanded the man into custody for four days, and the judge ordered a battery of medical tests to rule out the presence of sexually transmitted diseases.

The victim was admitted to the hospital, and has not yet been released.

Israel has been constructing a barrier along its southern border with Egypt to better protect against Sinai-based terror attacks and to stop illegal immigrants from entering the country. The number of migrants from Africa illegally entering Israel dropped from over 2,000 in January to 36 in December, according to TV’s Channel 2. All 36 of the migrants were arrested and taken to a recently constructed detention facility in the Negev desert.

Thousands of African migrants, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea who entered the country in recent years, tended to migrate towards the city centers and particularly the poorer southern neighborhoods of Tel Aviv.

Veteran residents have held numerous protests in the past two years, expressing frustration at the government’s inability to alleviate what they consider a threat to their livelihoods and their sense of personal security.

Earlier this year, several incidents of violence against migrants were reported, including two cases in which anti-migrant activists hurled Molotov cocktails at apartments occupied by migrants.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Israel’s ability to curb the influx of migrants and said Israel was conducting negotiations with several African countries aimed at repatriating the migrants.

During the summer, Israel repatriated several hundred migrants to the newly formed South Sudan.

In the case of migrants from Sudan and Eritrea, who make up 90 percent of the total migrant population, Israel cannot legally deport them, due to a risk to their lives in their home countries.

Asher Zeiger contributed to this report.

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