In late November of 2016, outside Petah Tikva City Hall, two Israelis attacked a 40-something African refugee, Babikir Adham-Uvdo, after reportedly seeing him speaking with a group of white Jewish girls. The attackers, both young males, kicked Adham-Uvdo in the head repeatedly for an hour and a half and mutilated his body so badly that authorities were only able to identify him because of a missing finger he lost while fighting in his home country of Darfur. After four days in a Tel Aviv-area hospital, Adham-Uvdo died.
Was Adham-Uvdo’s murder motivated purely by racism? Maybe. As an Israeli academic put it in a column published on December 4, 2016, “had a white person been caught with the teenage girls, we could safely say that the two attackers would not act the same way.” But understanding the murder of Adham-Uvdo — and other African migrants, like Habtom Zerhom, the young man killed at Be’er Sheva bus station the year prior — requires an understanding of the political and social climate in Israel, and its citizens and politicians’ stance toward asylum seekers, many of whom are dark-skinned. In other words, it’s complicated.