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African couple hospitalized after apparent arson attack

The apartment of an Eritrean couple in Jerusalem went up in flames last night, in what looks like another arson attack. Haaretz reports that at around 3 a.m., the man and the woman, who is seven months pregnant, awoke and tried to stamp out the fire with their feet. There are times when events are so horrible, it’s hard to find any words and easy to feel paralyzed with misery.

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The Hebrew Haaretz story adds that the 32-year old man suffered second-degree burns over 20 percent of his body. And because of the woman’s advanced pregnancy, both will be kept in the hospital for some time. Given recent stories about the high rate of infections in Israeli hospitals, this puts their fetus at risk. If, god forbid, anything happens, will the perpetrators be charged with that crime too? That is, if they are ever found?

A friend of the inhabitants of a house collects personal belongings hours after the house was set on fire Thursday morning in the Nahlaot quarter of Jerusalem, Israel (photo: JC / Activestills)

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Does anyone know what a second-degree burn feels like? Around this time of year nearly 30 years ago, I was standing on the grass near a spot where there had been a bonfire for the 4the of July the previous night, with my back to the pit. I took a false step, lost my balance and fell backwards, breaking the fall by thrusting my left hand straight into the coals.

My palm began to bubble within seconds. Pain on a level that is hard to describe seared through my entire hand and crawled up my arm. The heat and horror were so intense that I felt sick to my stomach. Someone plunged my hand in a pot of ice water and I was able to calm down, but hours later, just taking my hand out of the ice-bath made my whole body shake, until finally, late that night, I was taken to emergency and pumped full of painkillers. Even then the pain was still there – I just didn’t care anymore. And that was just the palm.

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A few weeks ago, following riots against the migrants in South Tel Aviv, the commentary included data battles about the crime rate among the African migrants, and how it compares to the Israeli population. Hardly anyone mentioned the rise in violent crimes by Israelis against the Africans. The numbers are rising, and the types of crimes are diversifying. They now include repeated attempts to burn people alive and mob attacks on property, in addition to what I wrote in an earlier post:

“a large portion of each [2010 and 2011 reports by the Knesset's Research and Information Division] is devoted to the crimes of Israeli society against the migrants, including stabbing, firebombing, sexual exploitation and trafficking, and widespread violations of labor rights.”

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Here are my predictions: the attackers will not be found. The government will make a show of ongoing deportations that continued just yesterday – in effect, blaming the victims. No policy will be drawn up or enacted that will ease the suffering of the refugees/asylum seekers and migrants, or to provide relief to the Israeli residents of the neighborhoods where the Africans are concentrated. The situation is just too convenient a distraction from the other problems that the Israeli government doesn’t truly want to solve.

Deportations to South Sudan, Tel Aviv 11 July 2012 (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

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  • COMMENTS

    1. AYLA

      no, there are no words. But I have to thank you so much for this moving response, Dahlia. If only everyone, everywhere, were putting themselves in other people’s shoes–really imagining other people’s experiences, as you are–we would live in a much different world. Pieces such as this one move us closer to that world. So thank you.
      *
      Five years ago, I was very involved with the Eritrean refugee here in Israel; the culture is very gentle, soft-spoken, respectful to elders, people of authority, and guests. Whenever I visited people in their homes, they cooked for me even though I knew they were working (with work permits–this was back when it was possible for a select few to get them) 16 hour days for the lowest wages. Once, when I was with someone who had become, and has remained, a true friend, I got myself a slice of pizza. He wouldn’t allow me to get one for him. From that point forward, every time I visited his apartment (after insisting that he did not have to meet me at the bus station, paying for his own tickets, to escort me), he had pizza for me. I tried to convince him that I liked whatever they cooked, but he insisted that I liked pizza. A slice of pizza cost him at least one hour of work, maybe more.
      *
      Was Israel supposed to protect the Jewish People and Judaism? Was it? Because this is what a Jewish State is doing to us. And no, Golda Meir, this has absolutely nothing to do with our being put in a reactive position by anyone else. In fact, we put ourselves in this position by not having refugee policy for anyone but Jews, unlike any other “democracy” as far as I know, as well as by allowing the government to use the refugee situation as a deterrent, as Dahlia pointed out. From living here, I’ve learned that it’s usually easier for Israelis and Israel supporters to respond to injustice here when it isn’t about Palestinians because all things Palestinian are linked in most minds to security, or even existence. Until the government spun the African refugees into a threat, even the right wing papers here could take serious offense to crimes much smaller than this one (i.e. people not renting apartments to Africans). But now the government has danced, and the people have followed. If Jews don’t rise up in response to this madness, we don’t deserve a State. Since it’s likely that those committing these sick crimes in Jerusalem might care, I’ll add that the Torah supports my assessment.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Rafael

      Naked terrorism.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mitchell Cohen

      I hope the perpetrators are caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law. No matter what one’s views are, there is no excuse for these heinous crimes against migrants, just like there is no excuse for “price tag” attacks.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Chepsky

      This Stinks to High Heaven:
      Why are Russian immigrants, many not even Jewish, not treated with such disdain? Does their white skin seem less offensive to Polish, Ukranian or Tunisian Jews?

      What do you get when Jews are devoid of Jewish Principles??? Children of the Golden Calf.
      That’s one story from the Bible you don’t hear about in a Zionist camp fire song.

      Every time the word “Nigger” or “Slant Eyed Yellow skin” or “Cancer, Infiltrators” is uttered by, of all people, a Jew then the Holocaust is cheapened. Every pogrom, murder, lie, every train load, is cheapened because the Holocaust becomes nothing more than a tedious bedtime story of self pity.

      What is left is not a Country but an ethnically “pure” Ghetto. And if Jews throughout the world think that is a good thing then maybe they should look over their shoulders and perhaps expect the same level of mercy and compassion Israelis have meted out to “Niggers” whether Palestinian or African.

      Reply to Comment
    5. franc black

      What has Isreal become? An apartheid state run by European settlers, operating mainly as military base for Western energy interests in the Middle East?

      Oy vey !

      Reply to Comment
    6. paul ostroff

      No matter whether we are just annoyed by or horrified by the bigotry shown by our own people against others not of our colour or creed-we at least know it to be seriously wrong.To wish it for ourselves we must first show it to others whether we believe strongly or slightly it to be seriously wrong.If we believe this to be so then we must do all in our power to correct this misdeed.God is there to judge us for our wrongs.

      Reply to Comment

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