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How I survived a Tel Aviv mob attack

Last night I had to flee a raging mob not too far from my home in south Tel Aviv. After long speeches of incitement by right-wing parliamentarians, the masses stormed after me and a fellow journalist, and then turned on African asylum seekers, their businesses and their homes. This is how it happened.

Crowd setting fire on the main road of Hatikva (Activestills)

A crowd starting a fire on the main road of Hatikva (Activestills)

It started out as a fairly quiet demonstration – or demonstrations, to be precise. One small demonstration took place in Shapira, my neighborhood, where several weeks ago an Israeli young man threw Molotov cocktails into asylum seekers’ homes. The dominant discourse here was, as is typical of the neighborhood, more moderate, and focused on blaming the government (and not the asylum seekers) for local hardships in south Tel Aviv.

On my way to the central right-wing demonstration in Hatikva neighborhood, a five minute bike ride to the east, I ran into several dozen demonstrators walking in the opposite direction. It turns out that these were J14 activists from all over the city, who wanted to make a point of the importance of finding solutions to benefit both veteran Israeli communities, struggling to make a living and fearing a rise in crime, and the masses of African asylum seekers who have no jobs and nowhere to go but these parts of the city. They felt unwelcome at the central demonstration and decided to split and form this march.

The central demonstration was organized mostly by Likud activists, which was somewhat strange to begin with, as the protest was officially aimed at the Likud led government. It started out quite peacefully, and a group of us journalists and photographers was standing on the side, somewhat bored and discussing plans for the weekend. On the stage, local residents told stories of attacks they experienced by African asylum seekers, while MKs from the Likud and parties further to the right were placing the blame for all the neighborhoods’ hardships on the asylum seekers and “the left.” The crowd was growing uneasy, but none of us thought that this would turn into anything big.

Clashes with police in Hatikva. 17 were arrested (Activestills)

Clashes with police in Hatikva. 17 people were arrested (Activestills)

And then it happened

It all started with one woman who came at me out of nowhere, and started screaming: “You throw stones at soldiers! Shame on you! Get the hell out of here!” I tried to say that I have never thrown stones at anybody in my life, but she was not exactly in the mood for dialogue. “You lie! I see you every week on television throwing stones at soldiers and calling them Nazis!”

From this point on everything happened extremely fast. The one woman turned into two, then a group of ten people, which kept on growing. I tried to explain that this was a misunderstanding, that I never attacked any soldier, that I am a resident of Shapira and a journalist covering the protest. But I was talking to myself. Nobody was listening.

Only four seconds or so must have passed before similar charges were leveled at my colleague, Ilan Lior of Ha’aretz, who was standing next to me. “You too throw stones at soldiers! I drive a bus and every week I see you attacking checkpoints!”  someone yelled. A hand from the crowd grabbed Ilan’s notepad and threw it in the air. Ilan was trying to say that he was never in the occupied territories and that it’s all a misunderstanding, but he too was talking to himself. Nobody was listening.

At this point, about six Border Police officers showed up and tried to stand between the growing mob and the two of us. I hoped this would help, but soon enough an older woman broke through and leaped towards me, beating my chest, back and hands. I started retreating, knowing that I wouldn’t stand a fighting chance against the masses if I tried to stop her. I lost sight of Ilan. He was sucked into the crowd. I had an open road behind me, I could escape. I feared for Ilan. I feared for myself.

I knew no one would come to my aid. Faced with the angry mob and seeing more people coming from behind me and looking for action – I chose flight. A speaker on the central stage was saying how Daphni Leef and her J14 friends were actually the cause of all “our” problems. I was standing near a police car, wondering how I would get my bike back from the demonstration area, when I heard the loudspeakers announcing that “Haggai Matar is here, and he and his mother are traitors who should be kicked out of the country.” This was really time to split and go home.

Mob charging the bridge (Activestills)

The mob charging the bridge (Activestills)

And then the mob began to charge forward

I was walking back towards my part of town when I heard a massive cry, looked back, and was horrified to see the mass – about 1,000 people strong – racing forward in my direction, screaming “Sudanese to Sudan!” Later, I would find out that Ilan managed to escape the crowd around him, that 20 people started to chase him, and that the 20 soon turned into this horde I was seeing. Ilan was grabbed by policemen who possibly saved his life when they tossed him into a police car and got out of there.

I kept on running and reached the Hagana Bridge, separating the greater part of Tel Aviv from its eastern neighborhoods. It is also the bridge separating Hatikva from Shapira, Neve Sha’anan and LevinskyPark, where dozens and hundreds of asylum seekers sleep at nights. Right now this bridge was – like in old times – the last line of defense between the mob and the area most densely populated by foreigners.

Fortunately, the police realized this, and was successful in stopping the human flow on the bridge. Unfortunately, this was not the end. A car packed with Africans was caught in the crowd, its windows shattered, its riders threatened and saved by police. Seeing this from afar I decided it was time to go home, but reports kept flowing in: the mob turned back into Hatikva and attacked asylum seekers’ businesses and homes, looted at least one store, and attacked random black people on the streets. Seventeen were arrested, but the attacks went on for hours. An Activestills photographer present on the scene later told me that the pictures he took tell only a small portion of the story. He was threatened not to take pictures of looters, and saw so many stones thrown at houses and people beaten (mostly quite lightly) on the streets – that he couldn’t possibly take pictures of it all.

Morning is now up, broken windows of shops and houses need mending, and the peace is somewhat restored. At the end of the day, we must remember that most of the people in our southern neighborhoods largely live together in peace. Many try to bridge gaps and find solutions. Many on both sides know that their enemy is not the asylum seekers or the local Israeli population but the government – which is both creating this impossibly flammable situation and throwing burning matches into it. But this is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning.

African woman and her child in Hatikva after the riot (Activestills)

African woman and her child in Hatikva after the riot (Activestills)

Read also:
How mainstream Israeli politicians sparked the Tel Aviv race riot
Africans attacked in Tel Aviv protest; MKs: ‘infiltrators’ are cancer
African kids in Tel Aviv: They’ll do to us what they did to Jews in Germany
Using rape to justify racism

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Psychotic, brainwashed women. This was also characteristic of the nazi mobs.

      Reply to Comment
    2. AYLA

      And we thought you were only famous in certain circles ;).

      Reply to Comment
    3. AYLA

      p.s. that final still, and all else, is heartbreaking.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Jack

      Really disgusting, what happend with “never again”? Doesnt that apply to blacks?
      It is these repeated kind of antidemocratic actions that prove Israel is not a democracy and is not ready for it.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Nir

      Horrifying account, adding up to the several already published.

      Not to tell you how to go about your life, Haggai, but given your relatively high profile and the current state of violence and lunacy, I recommend leaving the field journalism to others for a while.

      I fear that what you experienced was just a trial run. Serious casualties and fatalities are only a matter of time.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Wen

      Take good care of yourself. I’ve never been to Israel but I recently subscribed to the posts. Thank you for bringing news that we often don’t hear in Europe.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Adam

      Mob mentality is a helluva thing. I was in Shapira / Levinsky and around haHaganah early last night and didn’t know it was going to get so active later on… all I saw was the usual wash of lots and lots of refugees… wish I’d been paying more attention to my events calendar…

      Reply to Comment
    8. Elisabeth

      This is a very frightening story. Can you find out who that was on the loudspeakers? He should be dragged into court for incitement or endangerment or something like that.
      Please be very careful.

      Reply to Comment
    9. the other joe

      Well, I never thought I’d say it, but thank goodness for police that protect people from crazed mobs.

      Reply to Comment
    10. proudzionist777

      Mob violence is the Devil.

      That said, the illegal migrants must be sent home now.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Power?

      You liberals celebrate when the your Mohammedan allies engage in their Shari’ah — you hold parties when the suicide bombers slaughter innocent Jewish children.
      .
      Or just ask your Sudanese friends – who always vote in favor of genocide of Jews in the UN – how they react when Shair’ah is committed against innocent Jewish children?
      .
      So how DARE you complain when humanity starts acting in a “Palestinian” manner toward these allies of the Ummah?
      .
      Unless you actively condemn the satanic behavior of the subhuman Mohammedan and their Sudanese allies, you have NO RIGHT to condemn Jews when they too engage in largely non-violent protest.
      .
      (and besides – since when do you consider throwing stones violence? I thought you leftists congratulate the Mohammed-worshippers when they throw stones at Jewish children and call it ‘largely non-violent’? )

      Reply to Comment
    12. the other joe

      Dear Power? – if these migrants are from Sudan, they are highly likely to be Christians. Just sayin’.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Power?

      Well the Jewish children of Toulouse were likely to be anti-Zionist. It didn’t stop your allies in the Pro-Palestinian community from hunting them down and shooting them in the head.
      .
      So too, I don’t think its reasonable to ask Israelis to start analyzing WHICH Sudanese wickedly vote for genocide at the UN. Either the Sudanese change their vile foreign policy, or it would be reasonable to expect them to be treated PRECISELY the way that Jewish children are treated by your allies in Itamar and Tolouse.

      Reply to Comment
    14. max

      Power, you’re mistaken on many accounts.
      The obvious one is “the Jewish children of Toulouse were likely to be anti-Zionist” – why likely? Because they were also Israeli?
      Then, which should also be obvious, is that these people may have a ‘suspicious’ profile but they are individuals and they are in Israel and should be treated by the law, yes – also the international law to which Israel subscribes.
      Finally, since when is doing like your enemy a moral stand?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Power?

      The Jewish children of Tolouse are chabad, who – if you know anything about Judaism – reject the pro-Quranic, pro-Muslonazi, appeasement government of Israel. That’s why they live in chutz la’aretz.
      .
      The suspicious profile is that they are Sudanese. Jews are ritually butchered by your allies for merely being Jews under the leftist justification of: “Jewish children should be slaughtered because ‘Palestinians’ disagree with Israeli policy”.
      .
      The Sudanese government has allied itself with the satanic Ummah (OIC). As a consequence it is completely legitimate for every Sudanese to be treated as the enemy. Certainly they should be treated NO DIFFERENT from the way in which your “Palestinian” allies treat Jewish children.
      .
      If “I disagree with Israeli foreign policy” a legitimate reason to slaughter Jewish children, then why isn’t “I disagree with Sudanese foreign policy” a legitimate reason to slaughter pro-”Palestinian” Sudanese colonizers?
      .
      Maybe your not getting it. You leftists are allied with the wicked “Palestinians” who engage in genocide, suicide bombs, and Shari’ah How DARE YOU talk about a “moral stand” when you keep saying how moral the subhuman “Palestinians” are when they ritually slaughter Jewish children?
      .
      If you are not actively working to eradicate Shari’ah you have no right to talk about a “moral stand”. If you are allied with the “Palestinians” you have no standing to lecture others on morality.

      Reply to Comment
    16. In the first place, Ozar ha-Torah has nothing to do with Chabad; it’s Sefardic. In the second place, Chabad does not live chutz la-aretz, but on the contrary, creates and maintains large nests of fanatical theological absolutists and not a few paramilitary butchers, within the state of Israel and within the west bank. In the third place, the Sudanese refugees are refugees from the Sudanese government, so it’s completely nonsensical to treat them as enemies allied with it. In the fourth place, as I mentioned on one of Larry Derfner’s threads apropos of absolutely nothing save that he had brought it up as some sort of red herring, Mohammed Merah only shot the Ozar ha-Torah people because he had arrived too late to shoot his intended victims, who were, for whatever abstruse psychological reason, invariably French soldiers of north African descent.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Elisabeth

      “You hold parties when the suicide bombers slaughter innocent Jewish children…
      You congratulate the Mohammed-worshippers when they throw stones at Jewish children” (oh, are these figures with helmets and guns dressed up children? I didn’t realise)

      Who is this imaginary ‘you’ on 972mag? Prove what you say: Quote people cheering as Jewish children are murdered. Making crazy things like these up just makes you look ridiculous.

      Reply to Comment
    18. WONDER

      why are you all feeding this kahanist troll?

      Reply to Comment
    19. Hhh

      Mr. Power is quite the ridiculous person here. Have you heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? I suggest you Google it, it’s super-fascinating. I’m not sure you understand the concept of ‘asylum-seeker’ either.

      Reply to Comment
    20. "POWER?"

      POWER: You’re calling people _people_, _human beings_, “subhuman.” You look ridiculous and disgusting, and it makes it impossible for me to take anything you say seriously.

      What a mess.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Power?

      Is this a joke? Who is the “you”? You leftists who have absolutely allied yourself with the “Palestinians”. (who incidentally, are far- far-right, but that’s something you have to explain, not I)
      .
      And honestly, do you realize how weird it is for pro-”Palestinian” activitsts to whine about morality? If there’s one thing the Ummah stands for, its the idea that killing innocent children is the greatest way to worship Mohammed – that’s why you guys were dancing on the streets on 9/11; that’s why you handed sweets out after Jewish children were butchered in ToIouse and Itamar.
      .
      Again, I’m just flabbergasted at the weirdness of pro-”Palestinians” who wickedly allied with Hitler during WWII (remember that Haj Amin al-Husseini spent the war years in Berlin where he designed the Shari’ah-compliant death camps at Auschwitz and Nablus) who wickedly allied with the most evil government to have ever existed – Soviet Russia; who are the only allies that Bashar al-Assad has left; who allied with Qadhdhaffi Who allied with Saddam Hussein — you leftists/”Palestinians” are going to lecture others about morality?
      .
      For ReeIz?
      .
      Simply put: The Sudanese government has a choice – either it changes its Quranic foreign policy, or so-called innocent Sudanese will start being treated by Israelis, the way that Jewish children are treated by you pro-”Palestinian” activists.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Kolumn9

      So, all this noise and ink spilled. Tachlis, no one injured, no one killed, right? Sounds like what most people here would refer to as a non-violent demonstration if it was carried out by Arabs in the territories. Double standard anyone?
      .

      Violence should be punished, the migrants should be expelled. Haggai really should consider another line of work, or perhaps a disguise?

      Reply to Comment
    23. “the Shari’ah-compliant death camps at Auschwitz and Nablus”
      .
      Really, this is frothing lunacy. It’s another contender for my proposed +972 compressed gibberish award, though I can no longer recall exactly what the first contender was — something to do with nazi-fascist-communist-leftists, I think. The rules for this proposed award are simple: you have to make as little sense as you can in as few words as possible.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Kolumn9

      RB, you are aware of course that you are in the running for such a prize?

      Reply to Comment
    25. max

      Power, assuming that you’re right with all your claims, including the hypocrisy of commentators on this site – how does it support your reaction to the very victims of the Sudanese regime?

      Reply to Comment
    26. max

      RB, I find Power’s comment much more relevant than your continuous effort to impress us with your non-Jew no-Hebrew knowledge of esoteric Jewish writings and Hebrew words :)
      Or your disappearance whenever your claims are refuted :D

      Reply to Comment
    27. I can’t decide whether that is supposed to be an animated laughing smilie that won’t animate, but assuming these are wordpress smilies, it ought to animate when I do this:
      :lol:

      Reply to Comment
    28. Injustice makes me hate. How do you activists keep the faith? I’m serious. Is it just a matter of personality, of character? You must have some seriously deep love for your fellow man if such injustice doesn’t corrupt you yourself as well….

      Reply to Comment
    29. sh

      Two oddities, both re Chabad. 1) “That’s why they live in chutz la’aretz.”
      They live in Israel too. And a very numerous, active and lively bunch they are because you see them everywhere. Not only that, even where you don’t see them, they are there.
      .
      2) “Ozar ha-Torah has nothing to do with Chabad; it’s Sefardic.”
      What makes you think that Chabad’s outreach, which extends to non-Jews who respect the Noahide laws, stops davka at Sefardim? In this case however, I have a hunch that Rabbi Sandler, the rabbi killed there, was Ashkenazi.
      .
      Oh, and I just found a number 3) and I still haven’t got through all the comments.
      “his intended victims, who were, for whatever abstruse psychological reason, invariably French soldiers of north African descent.”
      .
      Nothing abstruse about it. North Africans, in Merah’s book, were traitors to Islam by serving in the French Army. The fact that one of the soldiers was Christian probably made him a double traitor to Islam.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Piotr Berman

      “The suspicious profile is that they are Sudanese. Jews are ritually butchered by your allies… ”

      Because of POWER?, the secret is out. Self-hating Jews eat matzos made with innocent Jewish blood provided by their allies. But this is only for May 1 and anniversary of October Revolution.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Power?

      Yes, Piotr. It is to the eternal shame of the Israeli left that they stood hand-in-hand with the most evil government to have ever existed – Soviet Russia – and helped destroy the lives of hundreds of millions who had to live under Soviet persecution.
      .
      Eternal shame.
      .
      Max – how the hell do you know that these Sudanese folk are the “refugees” of the regime? Simple test – Jews are seeking a moment of silence at the Olympics in memory of the victims of Shari’ah at Munich. We know where the vile Sudanese government stands on this issue – Allahuakbar, Itback al Yahud / they support the Quranic command to ritually slaughter Jews to Mohammed – but do these “victims” agree with the vile foreign policy of their government or not? Are these Mohammedan? Animist? Christian? Do you even know?
      .
      Just saying: they are “refugees” tells you nothing about whether they support or oppose the anti-Jewish foreign policy of Sudan. Saying they are “refugees” tells you nothing about whether they are fleeing persecution or trying to escape Quranic economics for a few years of work in Israel where a day’s salary is equal to a month’s income in Sudan.
      .
      As for the “hypocrisy”. That’s not the point. Its not a gotcha game that by objecting to violence against foreigners the leftists are being hypocritical.
      .
      It’s so much more – by objecting to violence against foreigners the left are undoing the entire justification of this half-millennium of Arabian barbarism.
      .
      If its wrong to use violence against Sudanese infiltrators, then basically the entire intellectual edifice of anti-colonialism is bunk. If its wrong to object to people moving from place to place then the entire pro-”Palestinian” belief in the inviolability of the blood-and-soil purity is bullsh!t.
      .
      (oh and by the way – with this new-found love of non-violence is there going to be any comment by +972 about the Quranic wilding on the light rail this weekend?)

      Reply to Comment
    32. sbj

      Dear “Power,”

      Thank you for teaching me what an Internet “troll” is.

      Perhaps your mother never taught you that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” You would be well-advised to cloak your racism in more sophisticated geopolitical rhetoric. You might get further.

      Good luck!

      Reply to Comment
    33. Nora

      Israel is a very small country – it cannot take everybody who seeks asylum, nor masses of people who seek to take over Israel and make it a Muslim nation. Who says Israel MUST take in all these people? Why are they coming to Israel? I think that’s what people need to figure out, and stop it. Who’s financing it? Think about it.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Power?

      Dissent from the Quranic foreign policy of Sudan is not racism.
      .
      Do you consider dissent from Israeli foreign policy to be racist?
      .
      As for ‘two wrongs’, Alinsky went out of style in the 2010 congressional election. If suicide bombers deserve ‘understanding’ and unequivocal support; if throwing stones to make Chevron Judenrein is ‘justified’, then Israelis have a right to engage in similar “Palestinian”-style “non-violent” demonstrations.
      .
      You cannot possibly be a supporter of +972 and condemn violence.
      .
      Race has absolutely nothing to do with it. The sole issue is dissent from the vile foreign policy of Sudan. And Israelis have the exact same right to dissent as your allies, the “Palestinians” have.

      Reply to Comment
    35. max

      Power, you’re right, I don’t know who of the potential refugees accepts Sudan’s government view and who doesn’t. But there’s supposed to be a standard process to verify this, to grant or reject a ‘refugee’ status, and Israel doesn’t seem to follow it, and you seem not to care about it.
      As a result, the potential refugees continue to come, they get neither support nor rejection from the government – but have to survive, Israel doesn’t follow its international duties, the local population gets upset and the local ‘left’ (who wouldn’t dare invite the Africans to live in their shelter) have a party to which they invite their foreign friends, who pretend that Israel is worse than all others

      Reply to Comment
    36. Power?

      “International duties”?
      .
      How about this – Sudanese get protected by the same international law which protected Gilad Shalit, the Jewish children of Itamar and Tolouse, and the Israeli athletes in Munich.
      .
      Which shows what’s so screwed up about the Left. If, in violation of the much-vaunted “International Law”, Gilad Shalit was not allowed Red Cross visits – and the Left NEVER SAID A WORD in protest against their Khamaas allies -then why should Israel grant “International Law” protections to “Palestinians” and citizens of pro-”Palestinian” states?
      .
      Think of it as a reverse Alinsky. Treat the enemy by THE ENEMY’S own standards!

      Reply to Comment
    37. Haggai Matar

      Nora – what ARE you talking about? First of all – we’re talking about asylum seekers. Who says we have to offer them asylum? The UN, interntional conventions, just that sort of thing.
      Take over Israel? Who’s trying to take over Israel? And turn it into a Muslim nation, no less? The vast majority of asylum seekers are Christians…
      And finance? Who’s financing? The people themselves. They escape their contries and pay for the journey themselves. Sometimes they get kidnapped on the way and their family members have to take massive loans just to free them. That’s who’s financing. OK?

      Reply to Comment
    38. the other joe

      @Power? – stop talking shite. The asylum seekers from Sudan are primarily Christians running from the repressive regimes in Khartoum. Get a grip and stop blaming the victims.
      .
      There is a simple solution – namely to process in a timely fashion the asylum applications and to eject those who are shown not to be legitimately seeking asylum. And once they are given refugee status to stop hassling them.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Power? – I can only assume you are an enemy of Israel as your ridiculous rantings do Israel and the Israeli people absolutely no favours whatsoever.

      Reply to Comment
    40. “this is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning.”
      .
      I sometimes fear I am POWER? in another guise.
      .
      Excellent reporting. Don’t let fame hit you on the head.

      Reply to Comment
    41. [...] press related matter: I’m away, and haven’t tracked the American coverage of the race riots in Israel — that is Israeli Jews rioting against African immigrant asylum seekers, going on [...]

      Reply to Comment
    42. yehoshua rosin

      as an israeli, i am deeply concerned about the racist incitment by politicians leading directly to violence against asylum seekers and human right activists. the governments of israel are responsible for not allowing them to work. ,puting them without shelter in the low income neighborhoods in tel-aviv ,were they have to pay a lot of money ,hiring dwelling unfit for decent living. they are called ,,infiltrators” a term used for armed palestinians who entered in the fifties to israel as guerilla fighters. avoiding calling them what they are; refugees entering israel to get help not to harm israel.just as our families fled the nazi regime.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Eli

      I have to shout out the descontsruction I’ve seen the emotionalist mish-mish left take in the comments. In contrast to the ineffectual and ill defined J-14, this is exactly what a citizenry does when the government refuses to stop illegals flooding your borders. Kol hakavod drom Tel Aviv!

      Reply to Comment
    44. Sam

      By accident I stumbled across this article. I do appreciate the honesty within this article and I am excited to see an Israeli being critical and honest about their Government.
      I am always fascinated and speechless at the same time, I can’t help but wonder: How can people, who have been through the worst of discrimination, prosecution, and open faced hatred and rejection, be right wing and discriminate against others ?
      Just wondering … Thanks again for this writeup.

      Reply to Comment
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