Around 25,000 have rallied in Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli regime’s forcible expulsion of African asylum seekers.
The protest took place in the city’s Rabin Square on Saturday, with participants carrying signs and chanting slogans such as “There is no difference between our blood and their blood because we are all human beings.”
The deportations to Rwanda and Uganda were scheduled to begin in a week’s time on April 1 but Israel's high court has suspended them until it rules on a petition it is hearing against expelling the asylum seekers.
Nearly 38,000 people, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese, have received notices to leave or get arrested.
Israeli daily Haaretz on Thursday said contrary to earlier announcement that asylum seekers above 67 would be exempted from deportation, people above that age have received notices of impending expulsion.
The rally was organized by Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers along with Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv, where many of the refugees and migrants live, and various aid organizations.
Migrants say the Israeli regime has forced them in their thousands into southern Tel Aviv, thus making living conditions unbearable for them to force them to leave.
"Routing tens of thousands of migrant workers and asylum seekers to one place and creating inhuman population density is racist, and so is to deport them, whether it be 'voluntarily' or forcefully,” said the leader of the South Tel Aviv Against the Expulsion group, Shula Keshet.
Sheffi Paz, the leader of the pro-expulsion South Tel Aviv Liberation Front, and several others from her organization tried to break into the stage.
Siding with Paz, Israeli interior minister Aryeh Deri dismissed the mass protest “as a deceitful attempt to pressure the government against its decision.”
The protest came after Yitzhak Yosef, one of the regime’s chief rabbis, called black people “monkeys” last week, drawing sharp criticism from rights activists.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said migrants entering the occupied territories were a bigger threat to the regime than terrorism.
The deportations of the immigrants - almost all African Jews - are also creating a religious controversy in Israel, in addition to an outcry from international rights groups.
For years, the regime has tried to attract Jews living around the world under a policy which Palestinians say is aimed at changing the demographic set-up of the occupied territories.
The expulsions have raised serious questions about the meaning and purpose of the Israel regime, with many African Jews believing that they are being discriminated against based on their skin color.