Thousands of people protested against Israel’s plans to deport African migrants at a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
At the same time there was a smaller protest, numbering in the dozens, who rallied for the deportation of the migrants.
Israel began in early February to hand out notices to 20,000 male African migrants giving them two months to leave the country or risk being thrown in jail.
“Today we are going to demonstrate about new law of the government of Israel to send Eritreans or Sudanese or every refugee to another country, that system is not a true system that send people to get killed in another country, for example, our friends, our family who go from here to Rwanda, from Rwanda they go to Libya, they get killed in Libya”, Nagasi said.
Another anti deportation protester, Rabai Nava Kheferz, said “we came to demonstrate against deportation, we disagree with the decision of our government especially as Jews. We are people of refugees, of asylum seekers for two thousand years and we are here to say now that we are in a sovereign state we have to deal with other asylum seekers worldwide.”
But other pro-deportation protesters are not moved by the protests.
“They are talking there in our name, they are saying that we don’t want them to be expelled which is a complete lie, and we came here to say, which is the truth, that we want them out, we are living with them for 10 years, we didn’t get used to it, we don’t want them here and they can go to Rwanda,” Shefi Paz said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is offering the migrants, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea, $3,500 and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination in another country in sub-Saharan Africa.
The fate of some 37,000 Africans in Israel is posing a moral dilemma for a state founded as haven for Jews from persecution and a national home. The right-wing government is under pressure from its nationalist voter base to expel the migrants, while others are calling for them to be taken in.
The government says the migrants are “infiltrators” looking for work rather than asylum, but there is a growing liberal backlash against the plan, including from rabbis, a small group of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and ordinary people who say Israel should show greater compassion to the migrants.