The pogrom against Tel Aviv’s community of African immigrants on May 23 was the worst outburst so far in an escalating campaign by politicians of all major Israeli political parties to incite racist hysteria as a distraction from the growing crisis of the Zionist state. With Prime Minister Netanyahu branding the immigrants a “threat to the Jewish character of the state” and mobs gathering around bonfires in the streets and chanting calls for their death, worse attacks against Israel’s small African community can be expected. Everybody who stands for freedom and justice should mobilize to defend them.
Of course, Palestinians suffer these sorts of attacks, and worse, on a daily basis. Just last week a settler shot an unarmed Palestinian protester in the West Bank; Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and villages in the Negev continue to be ethnically cleansed and “Judaized”; Gaza continues to be starved and every so often bombed. While Israeli politicians debate how to make the African immigrants refugees again, millions of Palestinians remain in refugee camps, denied their right to return to their homeland.
The pogrom against African immigrants is just the latest expression of the essentially racist nature of Zionism and the state it created: the “Jewish” state exists as a result of the colonization and on-going ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Beyond its borders it rules by war; inside it maintains an apartheid-like order: the racism that defends the “Jewish character of the state” by persecuting Palestinians inevitably targets all those deemed not to belong to the state’s chosen people.
A struggle to defend the African immigrants should mobilize everyone who is prepared to take their side. But we internationalist socialists will always emphasize that we are struggling to defend the rights of immigrants inside a country that was itself stolen from the Palestinians and who continue to fight for their right to return and democratically govern their land. To consistently defend the rights of the oppressed means to challenge the existence of the Zionist state.
THE POGROM AND ITS INCITERS
Racist mobs in Southern Tel-Aviv committed attacks against African immigrants that can only be described as pogroms. The reactionary riff-raff, encouraged and incited by right-wing politicians and neighborhood politicos who are comically referred to as “community activists”, viciously assaulted African immigrants and smashed the windows of business owned by or serving immigrants. These attacks are part of a weeks-long crime wave, which included tossing a Molotov cocktail into a kindergarten. Inevitably, the vicious brutality which has become a constant for the Palestinians was used against the African immigrants.
The attacks were preceded by two separate demonstrations, organized by the Zionist state’s top fascist and right-wing scum: one demonstration led by Kahanist Michael Ben-Ari in HaTikva neighborhood, and another led by Likud MKs Dani Danon and Miri Regev – the latter of whom called the immigrants a “cancer” – Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, as well as the regrettably ubiquitous Ben-Ari. Additional demonstrations took place in Bnei Brak, Ashdod and Eilat, the latter organized by the Kahanist Baruch Marzel, the Goering to Ben-Ari’s Hitler.
While using different levels of racist rhetoric, all speakers – whether from the right-wing Likud, the center-left Kadima, or the Kahanist Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, Ben-Ari’s faction within the extreme right National Union – advocated the expulsion of all African immigrants from Israel.
Two common excuses are given for this savage violence and incitement. One is that the immigrants are, for the most part, criminals, especially rapists. Unsurprisingly, this flies in the face of the facts. Of various publicized cases of rape that were reported by the media recently, a negligible portion had immigrant suspects. In fact, the most notorious rapist in recent memory in Israel is ex-President Moshe Katzav, who, other than being a fitting representative for the Israeli ruling class and state, is a right-wing Jew. It is worth noting that only a few days before the pogroms, Katzav’s offices received additional funding from the state, just as it declined to give additional money to a rape victims’ center to prevent its closure. The obsession with portraying the immigrants as rapists is another manifestation of the general tendency of racists to portray oppressed people as a threat to the purity of the Herrenvolk women, and thus, to racial purity.
The other, truly deranged excuse is that the influx of African immigrants is part of a Muslim conspiracy to destroy Israel, enabled and assisted by the Arab states. The people making the argument should seek an asylum of a very different kind than that which Sudanese refugees seek in Israel. The rulers of all the Arab states, without exception, collaborate with the Israeli state’s oppression of the Palestinians. The Assad regime in Syria has enforced peace on its border with Israel for decades. Egyptian border guards were given a “shoot to stop” order by Mubarak in 2007 which saw 75 women, children and men killed between July 2007 and October 2010. This policy has been continued by Egypt’s SCAF regime.
ZIONISM MEANS RACISM
It is common and convenient for left-Zionists and liberals to blame the violence entirely on the people of South Tel-Aviv and the extreme right. But they forget their own part in creating the situation that led to the attacks. The Israeli political spectrum ranges from those parties who want to expel all Palestinians immediately to those who want to build a separate state into which all Palestinians will eventually be forced. Similarly, the political spectrum with regards to the immigrants runs from advocating wholesale expulsion and prevention of entry to partial expulsion and limitation of entry. All Zionist parties agree that the immigrants are a “demographic threat”, a mortal danger to Israel’s Jewish majority. They, of course, are right; but all this shows is that the idea of a Jewish state is inherently racist. Supporters of the two-state solution, having bought into the idea that Palestinians must be separated from Jews, can offer no solution to this racism.
But that is not all. For decades, the Zionist left has insisted on representing the Israeli middle class. By lumping together part of the better-off workers with sections of the middle-class, it hoped to build itself a social basis by distancing itself from hated socialism and breaking down working class solidarity. This, coupled with increasingly violent attacks on the rights of Israeli workers, has exposed the falseness of the Zionist promise for a state in which there will be freedom and justice for all. With time, Israeli society is becoming increasingly more violent and alienating, chiefly for Palestinians, but also for the Israelis themselves. This social breakdown strengthened the reliance on Jewish racial identity, and also left a fertile ground for fascist demagogues like Kahane and his disciple Ben-Ari.
The attacks on immigrants are only the latest in a series of events that show the direction in which Zionist society is headed. Coupled with attacks on women, Ethiopian Jews, and Palestinians inside Israel, it shows that Israel’s brutality is hardly limited to the Palestinians in the 1967 occupied territories. Indeed, this brutality spares not the Jews themselves: without the economic policy of the Zionist state, the poor neighborhoods of South Tel-Aviv would not have been such fertile ground for the racists and demagogues.
The picture is clear: the settler-oppressor monster that is Zionism is slowly but surely devouring itself. As we wrote in our leaflet Zionist State Launches Attack on Women,
“The recent regional uprisings show that the only way forward to liberation from imperialism and the corrupt dictators, as well as from the brutal Zionist oppression, is to create a revolutionary movement of the masses, led by the working class. The central importance of the working class was shown by its decisive role in ousting the dictators in Egypt and Tunisia. We are convinced that the Palestinian masses will not only support this revolution, but also actively participate in it. For Israeli Jews who want to live in a democratic state, with equal rights to all, there is no other choice but to join this struggle.”
This is inseparable from defending the democratic rights of all the oppressed, and participating in their struggle. The fight against the racist filth, in solidarity with the poor Africans, must be joined with the Palestinian struggle for liberation.
 Nazi term for “master race”.