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Police distort crime data, inciting violence against refugees

By Sigal Rozen

Several Sudanese and Eritrean nationals were recently arrested in two separate cases involving the rape of Israeli women and the murder of an Eritrean woman. The media extensively covered these horrible crimes, followed by a long line of politicians quoting frightening police claims that Africans account for 40 percent of Tel Aviv’s crimes. Those politicians are led by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who dared to say in an interview this week that most “African infiltrators are criminals.”

The press similarly reported in early May that “asylum seekers are involved in 40 percent of crimes,” relying on police figures recently presented to the government. This statistic is shocking, but not as shocking as the fact that senior Israel Police officers are willing to tell lies in an effort to gain a chunk of the huge budget that the government has allotted to the war against African refugees.

Real police data, presented in a meeting held by the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers on March 19, indicate that the crime rate among foreigners in Israel stood at 2.24 percent in 2011 (1,223 criminal cases out of a total of 54,497 foreigners). This figure is slightly higher than the figure that the police reported to the Knesset in 2010 (2.04 percent), but lower that the crime rate reported in 2009 (2.4 percent).

The 2011 data on Israeli crime has not yet been published, but according to police data reported to the Knesset, the crime rate among the general population in Israel stood at 4.99 percent in 2010. This figure demonstrates that the general crime rate in Israel is more than double that of Africans in Israel. A senior police figure claimed in a hearing held by the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers in March 2012 that the African communities in Tel Aviv are a source of a sharp increase in crime. However, the Knesset Research Center notes that based on 2010 crime rate data, a criminal case was opened for one of every 16 residents of Tel Aviv, but only for one of every 96 “infiltrators” – the term government officials use to refer to asylum seekers who enter Israel from the border with Egypt.

There is no doubt that Israel’s police faces major challenges in dealing with criminals. There is no doubt that some refugees commit crimes, and that their crime rates may increase alongside poverty rates, if the state maintains its current policies that violate the rights of asylum seekers. The police should thus invest some of its limited resources to work on reducing existing crime rates, rather than presenting misleading data on crime rate among immigrants.

Not only are data manipulated, but police have also been known to lure the refugees to steal. Officers leave open purses on streets near the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, as well as bags on the beach, in an attempt to entice the refugees. Instead of fighting crime, it is creating it, by entrapping refugees to commit crimes and turning its creations into shady statistics and media reports.

For the residents of southern Tel Aviv, where most of the refugees are concentrated, official crime rates undoubtedly do not matter. Their subjective feelings of fear are understandable. The irresponsible statements of senior police chiefs, together with the media coverage of actual incidents and the speeches of ministers and MKs, lead the residents to believe that almost all Africans walking the streets are criminals. This belief, and the fact that the streets of their neighborhoods are indeed filled with African newcomers, leads residents of the neighborhoods to the painful conclusion that the authorities are abandoning them.

An Eritrean refugee who was attacked by two men in Netanya on Independence Day. The men said nothing to him before attacking him. (photo: Sigal Rozen)

But this discourse has dangerous implications. In the last month, the number of hate crimes carried out by Israelis against Africans has risen tremendously. Multiple Molotov cocktails were thrown into houses of Africans in southern Tel Aviv on two separate occasions, a week apart. One Israeli resident of Shapira neighborhood has been arrested and charged. Countless Africans reported to the Hotline for Migrant Workers the violence and abuse they suffer at the hands of Israelis, several requiring hospitalization as a result of the brutal attacks. The government incitement has also targeted human rights organizations assisting the refugee community. As a result, both Messila, a Tel Aviv municipality organization providing welfare services to migrant children, and the Hotline for Migrant Workers have been threatened. This week, the Hotline for Migrant Workers received phone calls from a man who stated to a volunteer who answered the phone: “I want your address so I can burn you, to do to your daughters what they’re doing to ours, you bitch.”

Africans who are involved in crime should be tried and sentenced like all other criminals. Yet these other examples of violence and hate crimes are to be blamed on the police and politicians who are so eager to get rid of the African refugees that they ignore the horrible damage they cause with their lies. If this trend continues, more and more Israeli residents will be pushed to take the law into their own hands, believing that in doing so they are defending their society from an imaginary threat.

Sigal Rozen is the Public Policy Coordinator of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, which she helped found. She has been active on behalf of asylum seekers for the last 13 years. Orna Dickman translated this post. 

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    1. caden

      Sigal, how many African refugees are enough. Do you have a number, or is it unlimited. And who pays.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Nic

      Excellent article Sigal. Spot on

      Reply to Comment
    3. Elisabeth

      No Caden, there is no limit, and YOU pay.

      The Africans will declare their own state,and grant all Africans unlimited right to immigrate. And if you protest you will be kicked out, and spend the next 64 years in a refugee camp accros the border.

      Reply to Comment
    4. caden

      Good to know Liz.

      Reply to Comment
    5. caden

      Liz I do have to give you credit for honesty. To you this isn’t a question of African refugees but weakening Israel. Same has the palestinian issue. Congratulations for candor

      Reply to Comment
    6. Jack

      Caden, dont you agree with Liz? After all thats the practice of Israel gov. the one you defend on the same argument!

      Reply to Comment
    7. Elisabeth

      Jack got it, you didn’t: No its not about “weakening Israel”. (That was hilarious, did you really mean that seriously?) Irony is apparently lost on your one-track mind. So I will explain:
      It was a little joke, an attempt to make you see events of the past from a Palestinian perspective. (Hopeless in your case, as I knew in advance. But hey, it was an open goal with you moaning about unlimited immigration…)

      Yours is the same mindset that closed the Swiss borders to Jewish refugees from occupied Europe. You moan about the treatment of Jews throughout history, but are not ashamed to treat others in a similar way.

      Reply to Comment
    8. caden

      Liz, sweetheart, economic refugees has opposed to people facing certain death. There is a difference

      Reply to Comment
    9. Kolumn9

      I am assuming that the ‘racism’ argument is just around the corner, followed by the ‘discrimination’, ‘poverty’, ‘societal exclusion’, ‘terrible childhood’, ‘conspiracy’ and other wonderful obfuscations thrown in. These are all obfuscations of the simple fact that most of those that you call ‘refugees’ are nothing of the kind, and that no, there is no reason to treat this as a simple crime and punishment matter because these ‘refugees’ as a group have no basis for residence within the country. Even a single case of brutal rape or any crime is too much given that these illegal infiltrators should have been nowhere near the victim in the first place.

      Then there is the argument that the police ‘entice’ the ‘refugees’ to commit crime. This is of course a brilliant argument that suggests that were the police not ‘enticing’ the ‘refugees’ then there would be no crime committed by these people. The fear of the actual citizens of South Tel Aviv is dismissed because it is ‘understandable’, but according to the article either illegitimate because they are racists for seeing their neighborhood overrun by African illegal migrants or because these poor innocent souls are misinformed and incited by the [once again] evil police.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Elisabeth

      Caddy-boy’s previous incarnation as a Swiss citizen (1942):

      “Those Jews trying to get into our country are just going to be sent to work camps by the Germans. It will not be pleasant for them, but there is no need to exaggerate! We cannot let Switzerland be inundated with unnumerable economic parasytes!”

      Reply to Comment
    11. max

      @Elisabeth, do you have data we don’t and know that the majority of the Africans in Israel are indeed refugees and not job-seekers, or do you think that Israel should provide jobs to all Africans that reach it?

      Reply to Comment
    12. Jack

      Your ignorance of the comparsion cleary show you are very well aware of the hypocrisy you preach.
      “Weakening Israel”. That argument is appaling because it puts the blame on foreigners just because they are foreigners, and its also interesting because it tells us that Israel cannot be a democracy with such stances, after all, those foreigner weaken Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    13. max

      “police have also been known to lure the refugees to steal”
      No less? So police all over the world employing this tactic are criminals and doing it for the statistics? Pathetic.

      Reply to Comment
    14. caden

      Lizmeister, I know that Jews in Israel are the new nazis to your side but I always thought that made the palerstinians the new jews. Now your telling me that the new jews are africans. When did this happen

      Reply to Comment
    15. max

      @Elisabeth, Switzerland – the country with apparently the ugliest people in the world after Israel – sheltered more Jews during the holocaust than the US. In fact, it accepted more refugees than most other countries that held a conference in 1938 on this subject.
      I’m not defending the Swiss government but showing that your narrow, moralistic view is not based on comparative facts.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Jack

      Try to polish your argument, its like 8th I see you use the false, diverting argument of “others do this too, therefore its ok”.
      You are so desperate.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Elisabeth


      So on top of everything else that makes you so charming you are into Stalag novel fantasies…
      Geez, grow up.

      Btw have I ever compared Israeli’s to Nazis? You are not able to listen to what others say, without distorting their views with your own obsessions.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Elisabeth

      Max, I am sad to hear that you find the Swiss (and apparently the Israeli’s too) so ugly. Why?

      Reply to Comment
    19. max

      Elisabeth, cynicism to hide the embarrassment?

      Reply to Comment
    20. kidane

      sigal should replace Netanyahu!! cheers to sigal!!

      Reply to Comment
    21. Elisabeth

      Embarrassment about what Max? I think refusing Jews entry to the only country in Europe where they were safe was wrong. I am not ashamed of that opinion and I am sure that many Swiss agree (especially in retrospect when it became known how severe the fate of the Jews was).

      I did not call the Swiss and/or Israeli’s “the ugliest people in the world”. YOU did that. So YOU should be ashamed of yourself.

      Reply to Comment
    22. max

      Here’s the spoon: my “with apparently” was clarifying your message.
      You quoted (?) a Swiss statement – and not worse incidents in the US for example – to get your message about where Israel goes towards (at least as explained by some commentators here).
      I’m pretty safe to claim that you imply that both are ugly.
      “I am sure that many Swiss agree… ” – yes, you’re right, though maybe less bankers
      Back to the original topic: Caden’s point, which he may not have articulated to your liking, is that a major issue for many Israeli Jews is the lack of application of the law in a way that risks the Jewish aspect of Israel, an echo of which you’ll find in every single European country facing the situation.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Elisabeth

      “my “with apparently” was clarifying your message.”


      If I thought Israeli’s or Swiss were ugly people I would have said so.

      You were trying to put words in my mouth by ugly tactics and I am done with you.

      Yes there are Europeans with similar ideas as Caden, but I am not one of them. I am fighting those ideas in my own country as well. So?

      Reply to Comment
    24. caden

      Lizmeister, I think Europe and specifically where you you live needs an Africian influx. 20-40 million should do it. Why not?

      Reply to Comment
    25. Esteban

      nice piece but…This article is available in hebrew? The israeli people have to read this articles, no jews from Galut, no antisemitic or antizionist people from abroad

      Reply to Comment
    26. simon

      Israel police hits eritrean refugees like animals

      Reply to Comment
    27. I know most of Jush they leave Europe and usa. They ask politicalc asylum so why this Juksh they don’t like African refuge?

      Reply to Comment
    28. Shawn

      I think that its sad that racism is alive, and well in the Holy land. I love Israel, and one day want to go there. It just saddens me to think some people choose to be ignorant. -SHALOM

      Reply to Comment
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