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'What if refugees were to fire bomb Israeli houses?'

A guest post by Leehee Rotschild, who tries to imagine a scenario in which Molotov cocktails are thrown at Israelis, and not asylum seekers, as was the case two nights ago in south Tel Aviv.

Let’s take a moment to imagine what would happen if Eritrean refugees had thrown Molotov cocktails into Jewish houses and a kindergarten, let’s say in Jerusalem, or Haifa.

Molotov cocktail left arter arson attack in Shapira (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Molotov cocktail left after arson attack in Shapira (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The police would be there as soon as it happened, certainly before the third and fourth attacks, and so would the media, to whom they would immediately call and issue a statement. They would promise not to rest until they had their hands on those responsible.

Netanyahu would be out and about declaring, “This shall not pass,” and “We’ll make them pay,” and almost all parliament members from the extreme right to the so-called “Zionist left” would stand alongside him, competing for who screams for the bloodiest and most brutal vengeance.

The Israeli media would dub the incident a terrorist attack. They would be speaking about those shameless terrorists who target kids. They would interview the residents of the houses, the parents of the children who go to the kindergarten, random people who happened to be in the street not long after, and many more.

There would be ambulances to make sure nobody was hurt, and probably some of the residents of the house would be proclaimed as suffering from shock and panic.

The mayor would promise to give material aid to the residents and to renovate the houses and kindergarten at the municipality’s expense, and the residents would be invited to a hotel suite until renovations are completed. The kindergarten would have reopened to great fanfare in a matter of a week, with the presence of the mayor, the president and probably a few more, while the innocent faces of the children smile for the camera, as they say that yes, they’re scared, but they’re also brave, and trust our government.

We’d see people everywhere expressing shock and outrage, at this horrible, horrible thing that had just happened. The entire country would unite in collecting food and toys and clotehs and donations to these poor kids and poor people who had the misfortune of being the victims of such an atrocious crime.

African asylum seeker in Shapira with cops on the night of the attacks (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

African asylum seeker in Shapira with cops on the night of the attacks (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Let’s imagine, for just a moment, what it would have been like. And then let’s go back to the reality – in which the Molotov cocktails were most likely thrown by Jews, the victims are refugees and migrant workers, and Israeli police described it as nothing more than a “minor incident” – so we can all relax.

Leehee Rotschild is an Israeli activist who focuses mainly on the Palestinian struggle against occupation and apartheid, and was also present at the demonstration in Shapira following the attacks on asylum seekers’ homes. She writes about activism and political struggle on her blog, Radically Blonde and other publications.


[Haggai’s note: This was a guest post by Leehee Rotschild. Just to make things clear – Tel Aviv police does not yet have any suspects in the case of the attacks on asylum seekers’ houses, and these have not been seen by any of the victims. However, many residents of the neighborhood – Israeli and foreign alike – assume the attacks were carried out by Israelis]


Read also:

Community shaken after night of arson attacks on African refugees

Molotov cocktails take aim at refugee community

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    1. caden

      Ok, Haggai, let me ask you this. Should there even be a border with Egypt. Should any African that manages to get to Israel be allowed to stay. And how do you explain this to the people in the neighborhoods that are changing. Who pays, where do they live. And how many live down the block from you personally.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Haggai Matar

      Well, if you must know, I personally live in Shapira, and have been for the past seven and a half years (way before most asylum seekers got here). I don’t think they should all stay here, as this IS a burden on the local population, but the answer to that is more state involvment – allowing asylum seekers to work, and helping them find housing and support outside south Tel Aviv.

      And just to be clear – the post you’re replying on is not my own. It is a guest post by Leehee Rotschild

      Reply to Comment
    3. caden

      Good enough, my mistake, the picture on the side of the screen is pretty prominent. But the Israeli taxpayer is under a lot of pressure. What of the them.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Shlomo Krol

      I’m the Israeli tax payer. I would like my taxes to go to intregration of the migrant workers rather than to the settlements adventure. The settlements have no future, they will be dismantled (and we’ll have to pay for dismantling them and for resettlements of those who lived there in Israel). As for the migrant workers, no matter how our government tries to expel as many as possible, many of them will stay, so it’s better for our children to integrate them rather than nourishing future resentment. I am an immigrant myself, though a Jewish one. I remember the hardships of integration into the new society which was not always friendly (though, of course, we Russian immigrants were never met with such racism as the African and Asian immigrants). But in general I can say that the integration of Russian immigrants was a success and government acted well. I see no reason why would Israel be hesitant in absorbing the immigrants from Africa. The more diversity we have here in Israel, the better, these people are blessing for Israel, because they bring new customs, new cuisine, new culture with them. We are commanded by our religion to treat immigrants as we treat citizens, to love them and not to oppress them, because we know the soul of immigrants. We were immigrants and foreigners not long ago in diaspora.

      Reply to Comment
    5. caden

      I respect your sincerity although I’d speculate that your not exactly typical in how you view this. And I’m fully aware that this is not the only drain, the haredi and Israeli Arabs being a couple of sectors that aren’t economic pluses. But Shlomo, let me ask you this. How much is enough, give me a number.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Caden, during the Second World War many countries imposed quotas on the number of Jewish refugees that they were willing to accept, using identical arguments to the ones you’re advancing here. Would you have supported that decision too, or is this a policy that you only apply to certain refugees?
      Thinking of people in terms of economic pluses and minuses is a cherished practice of many less than savoury regimes. Tomorrow you could become permanently and severely disabled, and then you wouldn’t be an ‘economic plus’ any more either. You might have been born into a comfortable existence, but nobody’s life is guaranteed to remain that way. If you ever become an ‘economic minus’, would you be content for people to think of you in callous numerical terms, saying things such as, “I’m not unsympathetic, but we can only look after so many of them”? Also, have you considered that not all contributions to society are economic? As Shlomo identifies, the refugees have an important cultural contribution that they can make.
      It is breathtakingly selfish for people who lead privileged comfortable lives to put their privilege and comfort ahead of other people’s basic needs and rights (such as the right not to get tortured or killed). This is what we are doing when we start evaluating people in terms of their economic value. That’s a messed up set of priorities, which is sadly reflected on the national level as well. If a country can afford to expend billions on state of the art weaponry, you would think it could afford to look after refugee welfare.
      No one’s saying that absorbing refugees should be the end of the matter. It is important to work to resolve refugee crises, not to let the wounds keep haemorrhaging. But until the crisis is ended, people have a right to safe asylum.

      Reply to Comment
    7. caden

      Vicky, sweetheart, obviously nuance is lost on you. And just has obviously your not exactly a fan of the existence of the state of Israel judging by your earlier posts. Unlike the oil rich Arab countries Israel doesn’t have unlimited resources. And these are economic refugees. They’re going to cost a lot of money that Israel doesn’t have. The point I was just trying to make is that yes the Haredi and Arab sectors are also an economic drain. Israel doesn’t need a third. But that’s not in your interest. And yes I’m fully aware that being born in NJ instead of Africa is a stroke of luck, for me or anybody else. But don’t come to me with your anti-Israel animus dressed up has progressive bullshit and compare these people to people on the Struma and St. Louis.

      Reply to Comment
    8. SAMMAR


      You say that the Israeli Arabs are a drain on the Israeli economy. I was under the impression that they are required to pay taxes just like their Jewish fellow citizens – apparently the only time they are considered “equal” under the law.
      From everything that I have heard and read, it also seems that in exchange for their taxes, the Israeli Arab sector receives only a fraction of the services provided to Jewish citizens ( municipal services, allocation for education, etc). How does this make them a drain on the economy? Please explain.
      I think it is also a well-known fact that Israeli Arab citizens are not given the same opportunities as Jewish citizens, be it in education, infrastructure or obtaining well-paying jobs. I wonder if stopping the discrimination against Israel”s Arab citizens, would not lead to enable them to become a much more productive part of Israeli society.

      Reply to Comment
    9. sh

      I too am the Israeli taxpayer. What Shlomo Krol said.
      Caden honey, as a fan of the existence of the state of Israel, please stop the condescension. The money that you claim Israel doesn’t have will have to go to a lot of other things in addition to integrating immigrants from places of conflict to whom we pay unofficial pittances to for work that needs to be done and would cost a lot more if done officially, while kindly allowing them to find themselves space in public places to bed down for the nights unprotected from the elements. And yes, unfortunately some of those we want to send back can be compared to those on the Struma and the St Louis.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Well, the piece focuses on the response to violence against an ethnic minority, not whether that minority should be deported. All states are going to regulate immigration. The present issue is whether, while present, they deserve the same protection against violence as citizens. As Haggai reports in another post, the police already have one suspect; it cannot be said, then, that the police have ignored the event. That is, the ISRAELI police are operating effectively; it may well be that one crazed man decided to attack a race he deplores. One can argue he was propelled by ubiquitous race logic, but that is different than saying a direct conspiracy is at work.
      Caden, you seem to think in terms of racial entities. Arab Israeli citizens are a drain. This attacked immigrant minority is a drain. All Palestinians nuture terrorism in their breasts. Russian immigrants are ok, because they (well, many of them) are Jewish. You live in a world of racial warfare. If you read comments by some you deem anti Israeli, you will find that they focus on the processes of violence–their enemy is violence and what sustains, engenders it. Since a logic of race warfare does indeed generate violence, such a focus is against your core world view; but that need not imply at all that the focus is anti-Israeli as such. I direct you to the Israeli Declaration of Independence as evidence.

      Reply to Comment
    11. caden

      Sh, I didn’t know money fell from the trees in Israel. Didn’t see that on my last visit. But Ok, First thing I think you should do is either move to that neighborhood in solidarity, ( if you don’t already live there ) Or move enough into your town, at your expense. I’d say 51% should be about right.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Caden, I make the same arguments to the not-in-my-backyard brigade who object to refugees and asylum seekers ‘flooding’ Europe. My comment was about refugee rights generally, government spending priorities, and the dangers of assigning economic value to people in the way that you were doing. The questions I asked are equally applicable to people who make your arguments in London. Essentially you are saying, “I don’t have to address these questions because your interest in refugee rights isn’t real, it’s just hostility to Israel in fancy dress!” It seems that this is your standard way of ducking questions and ideas that you don’t like.
      And yes, I am no fan of the existence of ethnic nationalism…because wherever it rears its ugly head it invariably leads to people of the ‘wrong’ ethnicity getting treated in a poor way. I’m not about to make state or national identity into an idol and uphold it at the expense of some unfortunate guy who is freezing half to death on the street at night.

      Reply to Comment
    13. caden

      is it all “ethnic nationalism” that you abhor. Or just Jewish nationalism? And I’m not ducking anything. I’m pointing out that Israel can’t be a destination for half of Africa. Shlomo disagrees with me, but he at least is going to take the weight of that decision. And doesn’t want Israel gone. You on the other hand do want Israel gone. So I have to question your motives on this question.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Could you add the ‘remember personal details’ option to the comments system for +972? It would save a lot of time for frequent commentators.

      It isn’t really any of my business, but I wonder whether ‘Leehee Rotschild’ is the same person as the ‘Lihi Rothschild’ who was shaliach for Rutgers Hillel last year. It’s such an unusual-sounding name, Hillel prides itself on having shaliachs from all political tendencies in Israel, short of advocating BDS, which would be beyond the pale, and people do change their views.

      Reply to Comment