Several weeks back, Israel was rocked by a night of right-wing race-riots targeting African refugees in Tel Aviv. The thuggery was frightening – refugees were attacked, African-owned businesses and stores were vandalized and a community was forced to hunker down behind closed doors in fear for their lives.
Perhaps more disturbing still was that the riots, which began with an anti-immigrant demonstration, were incited by Israeli politicians representing the increasingly influential hard-right. They fired up the crowd, calling the refugees “infiltrators,” and a “cancer,” and accusing them of violence and rape. It was a classic example of “othering” – eliminationist rhetoric that led directly to action by the xenophobic crowd.
While a small number of people carried out the violence, they represented the views of many Israelis. A poll released this week found that 52 percent of respondents agreed with the characterization of African refugees as “a cancer,” and a third condoned violence against them.
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