HIAS Strongly Condemns Violence Against Migrants in Israel

Posted on Fri, May 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the global migration agency of the American Jewish community, strongly condemns the violent riots against migrants in South Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, in which Africans were attacked and their property destroyed.

According to Mark Hetfield, Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs (Interim President & CEO, as of June 1): “The spirit of Shavuot is marred by this week's mob violence against asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in South Tel Aviv. During this holiday when we celebrate the giving of the Torah [law] to Moses, we read the story of Ruth, a ‘stranger’ or alien who chose to live among the Jews and was accepted by them unconditionally. Furthermore, for Jews, so many of whose ancestors were the victims of mob violence in pogromist Russia, such violence is anathema.

“As the population of migrants in Israel has grown, with many of them seeking haven from persecution in their native lands in the region’s only democracy, Israeli volunteers have stepped forward to assist and protect them. The Israeli Ministry of the Interior also has called upon entities such as HIAS, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help set up a system to determine refugee status.

“An asylum system is essential so Israel can distinguish between refugees, who have a right to be protected from deportation to their home country, and economic migrants, who are not so entitled. Yet, some Israeli politicians and leaders have characterized the migrants in negative terms, referring to them as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘occupiers,’ and the Israeli government itself has at times threatened to start mass deportations. Such harmful characterizations have continued even in the context of the government's condemnation of the xenophobic riots.

“Lawful methods to handle Israel’s migrants are already in place. We encourage patience as asylum hearings take their course and urge an end to xenophobic rhetoric that could prejudice asylum outcomes and cause long-lasting damage to inter-group relations in Israel and throughout the world. As we enter the Shavuot holiday, we urge all to respect its spirit and to accept the stranger, as we once accepted Ruth.”