News / The Diaspora / The World

Ethiopian Israelis remain bitter amid govt’s pledge to fight racism

By AMLAKIE ZELEKE,  Correspondent   MAY 22, 2015

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Ethiopian Israelis protesting racism and police brutality in Tel Aviv on May 3, 2015. (Agaza)

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round a thousand Ethiopian Israelis marched in Tel Aviv earlier this week to protest against institutional racism in Israel. The demonstration, which took place around Tel Aviv’s municipality on Monday afternoon, came after a series of protests over past weeks to which protestors now say authorities have not given proper attention.

“It broke the hearts of every Ethiopian Israeli to witness nothing has been done thus far to end racial discrimination in Israel — a country many consider to be a democracy,” said Sharona Marye, an Ethiopian-Israeli in Tel Aviv.

According to some, community members are being told that police officers are taking action only on those who break the law. Many refuse to accept this, arguing that even in such cases, alleged offenders should have been brought to justice and not be harassed.

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Pnina Tamano (Yesh Atid)

“The racial discrimination Ethiopian Jews face in the judiciary system, and the physical abuse they suffer from members of the police, is inappropriate,” said Pnina Tamano, an Ethiopian-Israeli lawyer and politician, commenting on the alleged justification by the police. “Lawbreakers should be brought to justice not be subject to physical assaults, which is unlawful in itself,” she added.

The video footage that surfaced last month showing policemen beating a uniformed Ethiopian-Israeli soldier, is now frequently used by many as clear evidence to show what they call a social injustice they had to put up with for years.

“Our uproar is not just over that single video. There are several underreported cases where Ethiopian Jews were harassed because of racism; and we are protesting because we just can’t handle it anymore,” Ethiopian-Israeli physician Haim Baruch told Gizeyat.

On Monday morning, before the protests, a state ceremony was held in Jerusalem in memory of the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who died in Sudan en route to Jerusalem. Israel’s PM Netanyahu, who was in attendance, told the congregation that he is forming a ministerial committee to look at ending racism in the country.

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laying a wreath during a ceremony held in Jerusalem to commemorate Ethiopian Israelis who perished in Sudan en route Israel. (Agaza)

Some community members however, fear the PM’s speech may simply be to mollify the community’s outrage.

The 33-year old Tamano, a former member of the Knesset, thus wants her community to advance its cause in a more organized fashion. She is looking for the support of Ethiopian Israelis to delegate her as their representative and lead the cause. “I tried to give and contribute to the fight against racism in the past, being a guiding hand in the community,” she wrote on Facebook. “We are now left with the responsibility to ensure that things get done these days. I believe no one will forget this struggle, which is only beginning to pick up.”

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