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Prominent Rabbi Rejects African Workers

"Catholics could be utilized to help Israel fight a war against fundamentalist Islam"Yisrael Rozen



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Attacks on Africans


In Terror in Tel Aviv I reported: "On April 27, 2012, five Molotov Cocktails were thrown in Shapira Neighborhood, a poor area in Tel Aviv's south. One of them hit a kindergarten, where children were sleeping (see picture); the others hit private homes. In one case, the terrorists opened the window of a house—where people were sleeping—and threw an ignited bottle inside. God's unsleeping angels made sure nobody was hurt. The event was barely mentioned in the Hebrew media and was completely ignored by the international one. The main report on the event was made by the Israeli website Maavak ("struggle" in Hebrew; www.maavak.org.il). I almost forgot to mention that the victims were black people; the attackers were Jews." The attacks displayed two characteristics that showed they weren't sporadic events. Attacking a kindergarten at midnight showed planning in the choice of the target; the use of Molotov Cocktails also proved premeditation. These weren't attacks performed by a redneck running amok and seeking a suitable victim. The Hebrew media hardly reported the event, and the Israeli administration didn't investigate the attacks properly. Yet, I had no way of proving my fears of these being planned events.

Shapira Neighborhood Kindergarten after Attack

Shapira Neighborhood Kindergarten after Attack

Anti-African protests in Tel Aviv

Anti-African protests in Tel Aviv

Almost a month afterwards, on May 23, violent anti-African protests took place in Tel Aviv; 17 Jewish protesters were arrested by the police, which feared a new pogrom against the Africans living nearby. Tel Aviv is not La Paz (see Gas in La Paz); its denizens seldom protest. Yet, this protest was violent and racist as the picture at the right shows. Non-Israelis may be tempted to catalogue this as typical Israeli violence, not different from that seen against Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and many other places. Yet, the protest took place in the most cosmopolitan and tolerant city in Israel. This is odd; the openly racist slogans used in the protests do not fit the local culture. As in the Molotov Cocktails attack, these were signs of planning and premeditation. The racist ideology needed to be "cooked" in the area for a while in order to gather momentum for the violent events. The detained people were released after a few days and the event was forgotten; no organization was blamed. The only open action taken by the Israeli Administration with respect to the African workers was to speed up the construction of a fence separating Israel and Egypt. Later this year, Israel will finish building a fortified fence between the countries. It is mighty, much taller and more solid than the old fence separating Israel from Syria; one of its main goals is to stop the entrance of illegal African workers to Israel. In contrast, deportations of African workers seldom happen, irradiating a quiet tolerance of the Israeli Administration towards the modern builders of the Zionist dream. After all, they are hard workers, well-bahaved, and kind people.

Despite requests from readers, I didn't react to the second wave of attacks; I wanted to find out who the provoker of the violence was, and that wasn't easy. Yet, the large numbers of people exposed to the racist venom were a sign that eventually the message would appear in the mainstream media. Camouflaged among a bunch of bulky Bolivians, I waited. On Friday, June 15, 2012, Rabbi Yisrael Rozen wrote an article named "Africa is Here!" The racist piece was published by Arutz Sheva (Channel 7) Israel National Radio which has its headquarters in Beit El, the settlement in the center of the Ulpana Affair. The rabbi made astonishing statements there.


Rabbinical Racism


Before turning to the rabbi's words, it is important to understand the true dimensions of the African scene in Tel Aviv. The attack was aimed at Sudanese and Eritrean refugees. In Israel there are several thousand (estimates vary between 4,000 and 8,000) people who have arrived from Sudan and are seeking refuge from the ongoing military conflicts in their home country. Small numbers of Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees can also be found. All of them arrived by land, after a perilous trip across the Sinai and Negev deserts; reports on the horrors faced by them along the way should be enough to grant recognition of the survivors as refugees upon arrival. In order to accomplish the feat, they use the help of local Bedouins, the only masters of the desert (see Explosion in Sinai). Israel has formally recognized as refugees only a few hundred of them; the rest work as illegal workers, hiding in the vast population of foreign workers building up the Zionist dream. They replaced the Palestinians, who are not welcome anymore in Tel Aviv. In this precarious and rather violent condition, Sudanese workers face deportation back to war and death. To put things in proportions; these less than 10,000 refugees live in "Gush Dan," the metropolitan area with Tel Aviv at its center; it encompasses seven cities, and roughly 3 million people.

Anti-African protests in Tel Aviv

Anti-African protests in Tel Aviv

Yisrael Rozen is a prominent rabbi living in Alon Shvut, an illegitimate West Bank settlement. A Haredi rabbi, he founded the Judaism Conversion Office in the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, where he is a judge. He is director of the Zomet Institute for the interface of religion and technology; as such, he received in 2008 the Lev Prize by Machon Lev for outstanding achievement in torah and science. He is also the editor-in-chief of the annual journal Techumin published by that institute, and edits the weekly newsletter Shabbat B'Shabbato (roughly "Every Saturday" in Hebrew), where he writes a weekly column. I almost forgot to say that he was born in Tel Aviv, where he still has substantial contacts with the local rabbinate.

All this is not enough to accurately establish his worldview. In 2009, during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel, the rabbi's message to the visitor was that Jesus was a false messiah who deserved to die, but that Catholics could be utilized to help Israel fight a war against fundamentalist Islam. In other words, probably there isn't a better candidate for spreading racism along Tel Aviv's beaches.

The rabbi seized the opportunity handed to him by the settlers' main media outlet to publish one of the most racist articles ever published in Hebrew. Luckily for him, many of the idioms used lose much of their original strength when translated into English; yet, the material is clear. "The main problem is operational; how do we stop the infiltrators' flow, and get rid of those who are already here?" The rabbi asks this question almost at the beginning of his piece and then he adds: "We treat the issue of African infiltrators as a first rate national danger. This danger dwarves—almost zeroes—the personal and human dimensions of the problem." As a reference justifying this he cites an article he published already in 1983, where he explained the violation of human rights of foreign workers on Talmudic grounds.

Until now, this was just mildly racist; in order to make his point clearer he added a paragraph which—knowing the numbers I cited above—can be defined only as a wild exaggeration and xenophobic in nature: "There is no need to say many words regarding the national danger originating in the thousands of infiltrators every month, and in the many tens-of-thousands of Sudanese and Eritreans that fill up southern Tel Aviv overflowing from there to all the cities and villages of the country. They are foreigners who ruin the very fragile demography of Israel. They don't work, they drink, rape, rob and are violent; they frighten the neighbors, and because of their numbers, they can't be spread out one in the city and two in the village. They are an economic burden, who eats food that is not enough to feed its legal owners…" Was Rabbi Rozen paraphrasing a Nazi discourse on Jews? He sounds like Goebbels to me…

Following this ugly racist tantrum, the rabbi proposes "to throw them in a forgotten corner of Africa; the IDF will find a suitable spot," but that not before "not letting them work for a salary, but in exchange for food, bed, and basic health care." The only allowed exception is if they will work in the construction of the southern fence designated to block the entrance of their brothers. I searched the article for the relevant word, but it wasn't there. The prominent rabbi is so wise on technological issues that he forgot the moral considerations expected from a religious man. What he is proposing is called "slavery," and has become the core—the Jewish Heart—of modern Judaism.

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