ISRAELI lawmaker Miri Regev apologised this week for calling African migrants in Israel “a cancer in our body”.
In a statement posted on her Facebook page, she wrote, “When I compared the migrant worker phenomenon to cancer I was referring to the way the phenomenon had spread, and not anything else,” the Likud MK said. “If anyone took it otherwise and was consequently offended, I apologise and I surely did not intend to hurt either Holocaust survivors or cancer patients.”
Regev made the original statement during a May 23 protest in south Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighbourhood involving about 1000 demonstrators. The protest later turned violent.
She pointed out to Israeli media and on her Facebook page that while she was attacked for calling the spread of infiltrators a cancer, no-one complained when former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin called settlers a cancer, or when the head of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, calls settlements a cancer.
Regev also cautioned that the issue of illegal migrants entering the country must be addressed because “as time passes it becomes more severe”.
Several dozen demonstrators picketed Regev’s house on Saturday evening at the beginning of the Shavuot festival.
Regev on Sunday filed a complaint with Knesset security and police after an altered photo showing her in a Nazi uniform was posted on Facebook. She called the photo “extreme incitement against me beyond all limits”.
During last week’s protest, locals carried signs reading “South Tel Aviv a refugee camp” and “Infiltrators, leave our home”.
Protesters attacked African migrants who passed the demonstration, and smashed the windshield of a car carrying three migrants. They also set rubbish bins on fire and threw firecrackers at police, Ynet reported. At least nine demonstrators were arrested.
Protests also were held in Bnei Brak, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Eilat.
Israel’s Justice Ministry announced last Wednesday that migrant workers from South Sudan could be returned to their country after it is established that they are not eligible for political asylum.
More than 50,000 African migrants and asylum seekers are living in Tel Aviv alone, according to government reports. Most entered through the border with Sinai.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the surge of illegal African migrants into Israel “threatens national security and identity”. Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Army Radio that most African migrants in Israel are involved in criminal activity and should be imprisoned and deported to their countries of origin.
MARCY OSTER, JTA