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Israeli extremists go on anti-African pogrom
There were few black faces in HaTikva market in south Tel Aviv on Thursday, after a night of violence in which hordes of Israelis went on the rampage, smashing shops and property owned by Africans.
Wednesday night's pogroms are a sign of growing racism among sections of Israelis towards rising numbers of African immigrants.
Over the past month, tensions have spilled over into violence with a spate of arson attacks on apartments housing refugees as locals lash out at Africans.
Resentment and anger were the dominant emotions among Israelis shopping in the market on Thursday, less than a day after demonstrations on the nearby Etzel Street descended into violent rioting.
"There are 70 percent fewer blacks here after the demonstration," said one 24-year-old stallholder with a degree of satisfaction, while refusing to give his name.
The man resorted to racial stereotyping to accuse the Africans of contributing to the growing number of thefts and sexual offenses to the area.
"My grandmother left after an African broke into her apartment," he told AFP. "Even I'm afraid."
The racist crowd vented anger at the government over a perceived lack of action to what they said was a growing instance of violence and crime on the streets, while blaming black migrants for all the wrong doing.
"Out of their frustration they do terrible things," complained a woman called Eti. "I've never seen such violence. The solution is only to send them back to their countries."
The rise in racist attacks against Africans has many of the migrants living in fear, with very few of them willing to speak to the press, much less identify themselves.
"Everything is fine," insists an Eritrean shopkeeper working a short distance from the market, refusing to talk about the overnight violence.
Speaking in Hebrew, he explains that he slipped across the border from Egypt four years ago and is one of the fortunate few who has won refugee status – which gives him medical benefits and a coveted work permit.
Married with two small daughters, he has no plans to stay in the Jewish state.
"I want to stay only until my country works things out. I have family there, everything," he said.
A short distance away in Levinsky Park, where homeless African immigrants live, Sudanese Abdul Abed Abdullah paints a grim picture.
"We've been here for a long time, I'm without hope, there's no work" the 29-year-old said. "I escaped violence and a war, and now I'm here on the street with the constant fear that police will check me. I dream about America."
Back in the market, the stallholder said even he could understand the immigrants' need to eat.
"Once they're illegal, and hungry, of course they'll do anything," he said. "If your child was hungry for bread, wouldn't you steal?"
But affording the Africans work permits, while solving one problem, would create another one.
"We'd all lose our jobs," he said.
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