What is behind the Israeli mistreatment of African migrants?

Disturbing rhetoric on race from Israeli government ministers.

The recent anti-African mob violence in Tel Aviv was, sadly, no surprise. Only a few days previously, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned “illegal infiltrators” could threaten the country’s existence “as a Jewish and democratic state”, with Interior Minister Eli Yishai saying that “the migrants are giving birth to hundreds of thousands, and the Zionist dream is dying”. 
Cabinet ministers talk in terms of “expulsion by consent or without consent” to “preserve the country's Jewish identity”, and of “taking steps to kick out” the “scourge” of “infiltrators”. A prominent Likud parliamentarian and chair of the “Knesset Caucus to Solve the Infiltrator Problem” urged for this “plague” to be removed “without delay and without mercy”.
A disturbing conference held in April in Ramle gives further insight into this mainstream racism, and points to an important connection between the anti-African incitement, and the institutionalised discrimination faced by Palestinians.
At the annual get together, “Israeli politicians and right-wingers – including Knesset Members and rabbis who are paid by the government – gathered to discuss the ‘problem’ of foreigners (read: non-Jews) in Israel”. One analogy is to imagine British MPs and even cabinet members proudly attending – and speaking at – an English Defence League convention. 
Yishai gave an address, and one rabbi told the audience that Israel “is our home and an Arab who wants to express his nationalism has many countries in which to do so”. Perhaps the most extraordinary contribution came from the head of a campaign group "Fence for Life", which emerged as a prominent voice supporting the construction of Israel’s Separation Wall.
Here, Ilan Tsion explicitly makes the case for the Wall on the basis that it can keep out non-Jews, grouping together both Africans and Palestinians as threats to the Jewish character of the state. Instructively, Tsion boasted of his group’s role in lobbying for both the Wall and for a continued ban on Palestinian family reunification. 
This week, Yishai asked rhetorically: “So what, the State of Israel, as the Jewish state, in the name of democracy, in the name of honouring UN resolutions, (should accept) a recipe for suicide?” Likewise, when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the separation of Palestinian spouses, the majority opinion stated: “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide”. 
The "demographic threat" discourse is commonplace amongst both the left and right. Netanyahu, as Finance Minister in 2003, described Palestinian citizens as the real “demographic problem”. When Ehud Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem, he considered it “a matter of concern when the non-Jewish population rises a lot faster than the Jewish population”.
Worrying about the numbers of Palestinian babies is also a concern for the so-called "liberals" or "peace camp", who echo the logic found in this recent op-ed (titled “Keep our Israel Jewish”) that “[African migrants] should be deported, for the same reason I think we should finalize a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians: Because I want to keep living in a Jewish state”.  
This kind of ideology is inevitable in a country where racial discrimination is part and parcel of core laws and policies, and whose very establishment as a "Jewish majority" state was only possible, as Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe have pointed out, through ethnic cleansing and mass land expropriation. Indeed, the Ramle conference takes place in a town almost entirely emptied of its Palestinian population in 1948.
In 2012, African refugees are attacked in Tel Aviv for "threatening" the Jewish state; in 1948, Israeli forces targeted columns of Palestinian refugees “to speed them on their way”. In today’s Israel, politicians plan fences and detention camps for non-Jewish “infiltrators”; by 1956, as many as 5,000 Palestinians trying to return home had been killed as “infiltrators”.  
This thread running through Israel’s past and present – of expulsions, ethnocratic legislation, and obsessions with birth rates – is the context for the targeting of African refugees and Palestinians, and is one of the reasons why Israel’s advocates in the west are having to work so hard to maintain the myth of Israel’s democracy.
African immigrants in Tel Aviv Photograph: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/GettyImages

Ben White is an activist and writer. His latest book is "Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy"

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Donald Trump is a giant fatberg blocking the political sewer – but holding our noses will not help

Trump is one, Nigel Farage is another: introducing the fatberg politician.

I don’t blame Hillary Clinton for not wanting to shake hands with her rival for the US presidency at the beginning of their second televised debate on 9 October. After all, Donald Trump is a very weird-looking man, and his strangely synthetic, orangey hair and deep-fried complexion – combined with his bulgy, bulky, locker-room-bantering build – remind me of nothing so much as a . . . fatberg.

Yup, a fatberg. If you don’t know what a fatberg is, it’s time you were not enlightened but benighted – because the fatberg is a phenomenon that swims towards us out of a chthonic realm where our collective unconscious merges with our bodily realities. A fatberg is a gigantic lump of cooking fat and other waste effluent, bound together into a solid mucilage by discarded toilet paper, and especially wet wipes.

That’s right, wet wipes: the sort used to clean babies’ bottoms when changing a nappy. The thing about these moist and often synthetic rags is that most kinds aren’t biodegradable, and they shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet. Nor were they, much, until a few years ago, when, in a clever move to increase their market share, manufacturers began pushing the idea – in advertisements and marketing campaigns – that adults should use them as well.

Back in the early 1950s, when the terms of British political debate were defined by the so-called activators, who sought to rebuild the nation in one ideological image or another, the term “admass” was coined to describe that proportion of the population judged susceptible to the siren song of advertising. It is the members of this admass who have created the fatberg: a faecal-spatial analogue of their credulousness.

No one past babyhood need wipe themselves with a Wet One, or Ones. Even toilet paper was only commercially introduced in the late 1850s, and those of us over 50 remember the cheap varieties found in public and institutional lavatories in our youth, which were so far from being absorbent that they were shiny. But while the bergs may be reinforced by wipes, their bulk consists of solidifying cooking oil. There’s a perfect, if foul, symmetry here. The huge increase in eating out that British cities have hosted over the past thirty years has created a fabulous marketing opportunity for the purveyors of pre-moistened rags. The noshers and wipers are all part of the same admass.

But then it’s also worth reflecting how far the fatberg is an instantiation of this indubitable truth: you are what you eat and, by extension, what you excrete. All of those mid-price chain restaurants on clone high streets are, in their own way, tangible, smellable and tasteable evidence of our rising inequality. Looked at in this way, the ten-tonne fatberg that almost completely blocked the sewer in Chelsea, west London, last year was a true representation of the British underclass: out of sight is out of mind, until it bungs up the entire political process and the constitutional drains start to back up.

Nigel Farage is a fatberg politician. His physical manifestation may be a mucilage of sanitised patriotism and fatty Brit bigotry, but what has put him centre stage is a wave of shitty resentment. Jeremy Corbyn, although on the slim side for a convincing fatberg, has nonetheless benefited enormously from all of us who have simply wiped our arses when it comes to the rising brown tide of poverty.

Fatbergs are a huge problem for those tasked with maintaining public sanitation. In British cities, old main drains are often surrounded by all sorts of other ducts, pipes and tunnels – so, in order to get rid of a fatberg that threatens to burst its bounds, workers have to go down to break it up manually and cart off the crappy debris. Again, the fatberg displays its disturbingly analogical properties – in this case, by recapitulating the entire history of British municipal socialism in the manner of its own dissolution. Just as the provision of clean running water and sewage removal (and the linkage of the costs involved to a progressive local tax) was integral to the increasingly egalitarian society of the late 19th and 20th centuries, so the breaking up of huge lumps of shit, fat and rags by workers on what are probably zero-hours contracts is integral to our increasingly inegalitarian one.

The US being the bold, young nation that it is, its fatbergs are much, much bigger than ours. The American admass is also bigger, while the decline in the US manufacturing sector is still more precipitate. Then there’s the country’s long and foul-smelling history of racism: institutionalised at first as slavery, and now as the vast carceral latifundia in which more than a million African-American men labour on behalf of Wall Street investors.

Recall, too, that recent immigration to the US is far higher than what Britain has experienced, and it all adds up to a terrifying – if not critical – mass. We saw it onstage in St Louis at the second presidential debate, glistening evilly under the lights: an agglomeration of misogyny, racism and all else that is hateful. Hillary Clinton did her best to hack away at the monstrous fatberg that is Trump – and in the days since, senior Republicans have joined the clean-up crew – but for the sewer under Capitol Hill to be properly unblocked, the entire US electorate needs not only to equip itself with picks and shovels, but also to stop behaving like a febrile and easily influenced admass.

It is often said of the Titanic that it was the world’s biggest metaphor. The Titanic set sail from Southampton, its intended destination New York. The fatberg that is called Donald Trump is a very big metaphor indeed – and though by no means unsinkable, it is sailing in the opposite direction at a rate of knots and is scheduled for arrival on 9 November. Holding our noses will avail us naught. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 13 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, England’s revenge