Activist battles illegal immigrants in South Tel Aviv in fight for ‘sovereignty and identity’

by WorldTribune Staff, June 25, 2018

An activist who once fought for LGBT rights in Israel is in a new battle – to evict thousands of illegal immigrants from her south Tel Aviv neighborhood.

According to police statistics, 90 percent of African asylum seekers in Israel live in south Tel Aviv.

Sheffi Paz: ‘The moment the immigrants become the majority, you feel you’re not at home.’ / photo by Yariv Katz

“What happened with the immigrants from Eritrea and Sudan was that there were too many, and they completely changed the nature of the place,” activist Sheffi Paz said in a June 25 interview with David Isaac for the Jewish News Syndicate.

“You can take 20 percent, 30 percent of the population. The moment the immigrants become the majority, you feel you’re not at home. And you didn’t invite them. And so you say to yourself, ‘What’s going on?’ ”

“This is not a battle over 44,000 illegal immigrants. This is a battle over sovereignty and identity,” Paz told Isaac, who is also an Advisory Board member of

The 65-year-old Paz said she once held all the views one would expect from a devoted leftist: “I was against the settlements, against the occupation, against the Haredim, against the ‘fascists,’ against anyone who supported Bibi [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]. I was in a bubble where everyone thought the same, voted the same.”

Paz, who said she first was attracted to the south Tel Aviv neighborhood because of its diversity, now said crime in the neighborhood “has skyrocketed. In the first years, this was essentially crime for survival. Now it’s crime of drug addicts and drug dealers, prostitution, theft and home break-ins. And, of course, sex crimes. Much of the crime is directed against themselves, including street skirmishes and stabbings almost every weekend. Since the deportation order was canceled, the crime has been on a steep climb, as if they feel they can do whatever they want and no one will stop them.”

Polls show two-thirds of Israelis support deporting the immigrants, but Paz says “There’s a Catch-22. It’s impossible to deport the Sudanese. Sudan is an enemy state. According to the United Nations, it’s impossible to deport someone by force to an enemy state. In any case, a large portion of the Sudanese have left. The Eritreans are a simple story. It’s a dictatorship. It’s a very poor country. Around a third of Eritrea’s GNP is from those who send money home to their families. Israel is not allowed to deport a person to Eritrea if the Eritrean government doesn’t agree. I said to Bibi in a meeting last week: ‘We have diplomatic relations with Eritrea. We have defense business with Eritrea. Put pressure on them.’ ”

Asked why Netanyahu isn’t putting the pressure on, Paz responded: “I don’t know. This same person who puts pressure on America to cancel the nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t seem capable of closing some business with an African dictator.”

Paz also said “There’s an additional problem. The immigration camps in Libya and Egypt team with millions of people. They’re looking for a place to go. Europe is now closed. What stops them from coming here is that they feel there’s no future here. Let’s imagine we give them legal status. They have telephones. The news gets out. What prevents immigrants from turning around and arriving in Israel? It’s the same Mediterranean. Can you see the Israeli Navy shoot at refugees? Never. Can you see the Israeli Navy dragging leaky boats back to sea? That won’t happen either. We’ll be forced to take those immigrants, too.”

As in the U.S., Israel’s leftists were also “quick to stand on the side of the immigrants,” Paz said.

“I went to two large demonstrations against us. And I saw where these people come from. Yes, a few come from the left here in the neighborhood. The rest were bused in from all over. It’s the hypocrisy – that they clear their consciences this way, feeling heroic as if they’re fighting fascism. We call them out on it. We say with a wry smile, ‘Don’t leave empty-handed. Bring one refugee home with you.’ ”

Paz said that she “talked with the left, and the left threw me out. I was terribly disappointed. … And I said, ‘Wait a minute, if they’re lying about things I know for a fact, what else are they lying about?’ They attacked me personally, calling me a Nazi. After years of being on the left, it’s very difficult to raise your head and say you’re on the right. I’m independent right. It’s a very difficult process. You lose your friends. You lose the support of your group. You change your thinking.”

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