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.
The story received very little coverage in the United States. Worse, some outlets that did report on the riots advanced the rioters' narrative that African refugees were responsible for a massive wave of street violence, despite the fact that crime statistics don't bear out the claim.