Ben-Ari, Eldad hold Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony in south Tel Aviv, issue call to expel all African migrants from Israel.
Calling it a move to "banish the darkness," right-wing MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Arieh Eldad held a Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony in south Tel Aviv on Monday to issue a call to expel all African migrants from Israel.
Ben-Ari and Eldad, the top two MKs on the Strong Israel party list for the upcoming elections, held the ceremony in Lewinsky Park, the epicenter of the African migrant community in south Tel Aviv. A few dozen supporters joined them, far outnumbered by the combined mass of journalists, African migrants, police and counter-protesters.
"We are heading to elections and we need this strength here in order to return the infiltrators home!" Ben-Ari said, adding, "The people of Israel returned to their country [Israel], and the infiltrators will return to their countries as well."
Ben-Ari, who has been among the most outspoken opponents of the 60,000-plus African migrant community in Israel, added, "This land belongs to the Jewish people, our forefathers, and our families. To our dismay, Netanyahu fell asleep at the wheel on this and there are now parts of Israel undergoing occupation."
Ben-Ari's parliamentary aide and right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir said, "We came to expel the darkness!" but added that the message of the rally was not racist, as they accept Ethiopian Jews.
He clarified that the "darkness" refers to the poverty and suffering among residents of south Tel Aviv and other neighborhoods with high populations of African migrants, and not to people of color.
North Tel Aviv resident Gali Avni said she came to the event not as a counter-protester, but rather to try to moderate in case things got out of hand.
Avni, who has volunteered handing out meals to homeless migrants sleeping in the park, said the refugees are not to blame for the problems in the neighborhood.
"The social problems that result from this are caused by the government that leaves the\se people [African migrants] here, sleeping in the streets without the ability to legally work or support themselves," she said.
As the ceremony petered out, a few shoving matches and heated arguments broke out between supporters of Strong Israel and those who came to oppose the candlelighting.
Nonetheless, the situation remained rather lowkey and under control.
A strikingly different event occurred just a few minutes away at the same time in Tel Aviv, at a conference held to mark the 64th anniversary of the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
The EU delegation in Israel organized a reception to highlight the network of human rights organizations they sponsor in Israel. Sponsored by the Netherlands Embassy in Israel in cooperation with Merchavim: The Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel, the seminar was titled "Perspectives on the Context and Attitudes Shaping Israel's Current Policies toward Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrant Workers."
According to organizers, the aim of the seminar was "to provide a podium for knowledge-sharing about the topic and to stimulate public debate about the challenges facing the already fragmented Israeli society."
Speakers included Yohannes Bayu, a refugee from Ethiopia and director and founder of the African Refugee Development Center, and Marcelle Reneman, an expert in immigration law at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
In a statement released ahead of the meeting, the Netherlands Ambassador to Israel, Caspar Veldkamp, said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the greatest political statements in world history, and its importance is no less valid today.
"What has often been forgotten is that it was largely drafted over one long weekend by one single man, René Cassin, who through his Jewish father was very much aware of the tragedy of the Shoah," he said.
"He later received the Nobel Peace Prize. In celebrating the existence of the Universal Declaration, we also celebrate his achievements."
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