Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "no one should take the law into their own hands," in the wake of the lynching death of an innocent Eritrean asylum seeker Habtom Zeraai in Be'er Sheva, while waiting for a bus, on his way to work after a trip to get his temporary visa renewed.
This happened following the killing of an Israeli by a gunman, Mohannad Al-Oqbi, an Arab Bedouin citizen of Israel. Habtom was trying to flee from the scene to save his life when he was shot by an Israeli "security guard" who "mistook him" for an accomplice.
However, Habtom could not have been mistaken for a Palestinian or an Arab--not that vigilante justice against Palestinians can be justified in anyway. There are light-skinned Eritreans who resemble Arabs but Habtom was clearly not one. He was a dark-skinned Eritrean who could not possibly have been mistaken for a Palestinian Arab.
After he fell from the gun shots, the crowd began to beat him, spit on him and used chairs to hit him on his head. All along, he was bleeding from gun wounds and the medical personnel who tried to help him were reportedly prevented from reaching him. Habtom's murder was so cruel, graphic and gruesome that I discourage anyone from viewing it and will not provide a link to the video.
There should be no mistake that Netanyahu and Israeli politicians set the stage for Habtom's murder. Israeli politicians are on the record encouraging Israeli citizens to carry their weapons. Habtom's blood is in their hands. This tragedy is not an isolated incident. They created the climate for mob justice. As an example, during May of 2012, a mob of over 1,000 enraged Israelis, attending a "protest rally" organized by right-wing Israeli Knesset members attacked refugees, beat them, vandalized their shops and broke windows of their taxis.
For context, please view this revealing short documentary.
Let this senseless murder of innocent Habtom help serve to save some Africans and Palestinians who are victims of such arbitrary mob violence by helping raise awareness about what is truly going on in Israel.
Sadly, I have no confidence that any Israeli probe or investigation will bring the culprits to justice. Israeli racism towards African asylum seekers and the Bete Israel community (Ethiopian Jews) is blatant. In the hierarchy of dehumanization, African asylum seekers find themselves in the most wretched conditions in Israel.
Regarding Palestinians, Jimmy Carter is one of the few American politicians who dares to tell the truth about the reality of life for Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories. Often when I speak with people in the U.S., I get the sense that a huge and powerful segment of Americans support Israel rather blindly. This blind support enables Israel to remain protected from any consequences.
In a just world, the likes of Netanyahu will be sent to the docks of the International Criminal Court to stand trial but instead he thrives as an unbridled demagogue who even bullies a BBC journalist Lyse Doucet "to get with the programme" for merely asking him a question.
Netanyahu is an extremist who is not likely to be an agent for peace. He now claims that the Palestinian mufti who advised Hitler inspired the holocaust.
In Israel, the far right has framed the political discourse on asylum seekers. Racism and xenophobia are the new norm under the Netanyahu government. The name given to refugees is "infiltrators" with all the loaded connotations that the word implies. This term was "originally used in the 1950s to denote Palestinian refugees who entered Israel, to salvage their belongings and work their lands and then to commit sabotage and terror attacks. The use of this term is intended to portray asylum-seekers as a security threat." Government officials also describe refugees as diluting the "Jewish Character" of the nation and as a "cancer in the body of the nation."
In recent years, thousands applications for asylum were made but not one Sudanese application has been approved and only 4 Eritreans have been approved. Israel is expelling refugees to Uganda or Rwanda. Eritrean refugees imprisoned in Israel are coerced into signing "voluntary" departure forms to allow their return to Eritrea or removal to a third country. They are being told that they can either go back to Eritrea or stay in prison in Israel under a law that enables the authorities to incarcerate African migrants and refugees without charge or trial for three years or more. Some of these expelled refugees fell victim to the Islamic State beheadings while trying to cross Libya and reach Europe. Israel's asylum policies towards Africans have been well documented by two Israeli academics Galia Sabar and Elizabeth Tsurkov.
Refugees in Israel are treated as if they do not truly belong to the human race. Israel is party to the United Nations Refugees Convention but also spent $380 million fortifying its borders along the Sinai blocking refugees escaping Bedouin torture in the Sinai, and policing migration. Hungary and Bulgaria have consulted and taken lesson from Israel in their widely publicized effort to build their fences to blocking Syrians and Afghans from entering Austria and Germany.
It is especially ironic for Israel to react this way when considering its history. Israelis were victims of Kristallnacht : "Kristallnacht was the name given to a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9-10 November 1938. The German authorities looked on as the attacks and assaults took place, without intervening. The unprovoked violence, in which close to 100 people were killed and a further 30,000 arrested to be dispatched to concentration camps, left the streets covered with broken glass from the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues, which is where the name originated."
Some humane Israelis called the vigilante violence against Africans, Israel's Kristallnacht and urged Israelis not to have selective memories when it came to their traumatized history. Habtom Zeraai was a human being who simply wanted to work and live. He escaped his home in Eritrea to survive. He finally met his end in a brutal way caught in a conflict in a faraway land. He was in his late twenties, was quiet and hardworking, according to his employer, who is heartbroken.
Eritreans in Israel live in fear on a daily basis. If they are lucky, they're "employed" under the table. They're often victims of hate crime. Eritrean lives have become cheap and expendable. The death of Habtom Zeraai is the latest example.