In Israel’s war on African refugees, high-ranking government officials play the role of generals, but local leaders fulfill the function of lieutenants.
On August 11, 2015, Israel’s High Court ruled that 1,200 non-Jewish African asylum-seekers must be released from the Holot desert detention center which the Netanyahu government had rounded them into. The reason for the decision: the asylum-seekers had already been held there for over a year, and to remain behind barbed wire for any longer would unduly diminish their dignity – even by Israel’s decreased standards for non-Jewish, non-white non-citizens.
Two weeks later, a day before the deadline imposed by the High Court, Israel began to release the 1,200 asylum-seekers, giving each of them only bus fare of 64 shekels ($16 USD) and conditional release visas forbidding them from working or living in the Israeli cities with the largest African communities: Tel Aviv and Eilat.
On August 25, 2015, as the asylum-seekers began to make their way across the country hoping to find gainful means of employment and living accommodations, Arad mayor Nissan Ben-Hamo announced on his Facebook page that he had ordered local law enforcement to post officers at the entrance to town and to prevent any Africans from entering Arad.
Ben-Hamo’s efforts were largely successful; only a handful of asylum-seekers managed to make it into Arad over the course of the day.
As the sun began to set, Mondoweiss travelled to Arad to interview local residents and ask them what they thought of their mayor’s announcement. Of all the people willing to speak their mind on camera, only one person expressed support for the asylum-seekers – and that person was a Palestinian citizen of Israel.