Refugee homes, kindergarten torched in arson attack in Tel Aviv

South Tel Aviv’s African community was hit by five Molotov cocktails last night, as Israelis wrapped up their Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations. Four of the Molotov cocktails were thrown into apartments that are home to Africans; one was lobbed into a kindergarten.

No injuries were reported. Police are investigating the incidents that activists call a “coordinated” attack.

The African community in Israel has been the target of numerous acts of violence in the past. In January of 2011, for example, a burning tire was thrown into the apartment five Sudanese refugees shared in Ashdod. The men suffered from smoke inhalation and two were hospitalized.

Also in January of 2011, three teenage girls – the Israeli-born, Hebrew-speaking daughters of African migrant workers – were beaten by a group of Jewish teenagers. The attackers, one of whom was armed with a knife, allegedly called them “dirty niggers.” One of the girls needed medical treatment for her injuries.

Speaking in the aftermath of the 2011 attack on the girls, Poriya Gal, spokeswoman for the Hotline of Migrant Workers, told me, “It’s worth noting that the girls had already experienced such violence in the neighbourhood. But they chose not to report it to the police out of the fear that they would be attacked again.”

South Tel Aviv has become a flash point for Israeli aggression towards the foreign community. Right wing Jewish Israelis have held protests against the presence of Africans and migrant workers in the area. In the summer of 2010–months before rabbis across the country issued a letter calling on Jews not to rent or sell to Arabs–25 Tel Aviv rabbis signed a proclamation forbidding Jews from renting to “infiltrators,” a term the government and the right wing uses for African refugees. Ten real estate agents who work in neighborhoods that are home to large populations of African refugees answered the call, publicly stating that they would refuse such tenants and would not renew the leases of those who are currently residing there.

Several municipally-funded kindergartens in south Tel Aviv have also barred the children of foreign parents.

See Haggai Matar’s report on the community’s reaction to last night’s incidents.