Friction Toward African Migrants in Israel Is Focus of Short Film

Two journalists have produced a short film that tells of persecution toward African migrants in Israel, a film that has gone viral.

Posted: 10/15/2013 04:03 PM EDT

There is a new short-documentary film that is developing a significant following which focuses on the persecution faced by tens of thousands of African migrants in Israel.

The film, Israel's New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land, tells the story of some 60,000 Africans, many from Sudan and other East African countries, who have moved to Israel and have received a welcome that has been far from warm.

The film, which is shown on YouTube, was made by two journalists and it offers a vivid portrayal of the hostility these African migrants face by Israel’s right-wing politicians and political activists.

In the film, a number of politicians argue about the importance of maintaining the Jewish character of the country. The more non-Jews who settle in Israel, these politicians and activists insist, the greater the chance that the country will lose its distinction of being a Jewish state.

However, the film presents a vivid portrait of how forcefully Israel’s right-wing activists feel about the need to evict African migrants from the country. For example, it reveals how right-wing groups have pressed landlords not to rent apartments to African migrants and how many have been incarcerated without having committed crimes.

“There is daily violence against African migrants,” said Max Blumenthal, one of the journalists who produced the film, speaking with BET.com.

He added that there were more than 60,000 African migrants in Israel, many from Sudan and some from Eritrea.

“You have this enormous friction,” said Blumenthal, who produced the film along with journalist David Sheen. “You have many African migrants who are sleeping in a park in the middle of south Tel Aviv.”

On the other hand, some Israeli officials make clear that the issue of migration – as in the United States – is a complex one with a number of factors and that the documentary offered a simplistic focus. They add that looking at the issue from the perspective of a few extremists would be like evaluating conditions in the United States by the actions of American right-wing zealots. 

“Taking the acts and words of a few extremists and presenting those as Israeli mainstream opinion is wrong and inappropriate,” said Shahar Azani, the consul for media affairs with the Consulate General of Israel in New York. 

“It's sad that the voices of ignorance in the world are often also the loudest and this documentary ironically does more to spread their racism and hate speech by giving them a bigger megaphone,” Azani said.

“It also intentionally overlooks and ignores some of the positive steps taken in this regard, namely the implementation of free education for children of immigrants up to the age of 18 — such as the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv — and free medical care regardless of their immigration status.”

He added that, in Israel, asylum seekers can petition for permanent residence and that all claims are reviewed by a committee which includes representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Blumenthal, a New York Times bestselling author, said he produced the movie after having written extensively on the subject. He is also the author of the book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, which looks closely at the extremist forces that have become more commonplace in Israel.

The film has gone viral on the Internet with hundreds of thousands of viewers so far.

“I wanted to educate the American public and help people understand how deep the crisis is,” Blumenthal said. “I have reported on the rise of the extreme right and government-level racist incitement in Israel. And one of the key areas has been against non-Jewish African migrants.”

Blumenthal added: “The trouble is that there is very little pressure on these politicians and activists to make changes in how they deal with African migrants.”

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  (Photo: Eliad Levi/AFP/GettyImages)

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