Blacks Protesting Police Brutality – in Israel

Israel

Thousands of blacks took to the streets to protest heavy-handed treatment by the police. The scene was not in Maryland, Missouri or other recent American racial flashpoints. The blacks protesting were in Israel, where Ethiopian-Israelis have taken to the streets to demonstrate against police brutality and racism after a video surfaced of police beating a black man of Ethiopian descent.

An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 demonstrators, largely of Ethiopian background, blocked major roads around Tel Aviv on Sunday. Today’s protest against the police was the second in the past week. While brewing for decades, the trouble accelerated when two police on the city outskirts beat Damas Pakada, an Ethiopia-born soldier. Anger over the videotaped incident, one of many, ignited the protest, in which police used tear gas against demonstrators.

Israelis of Ethiopian descent make up a mere 1.25 percent of the general population and 2 percent of the country’s Jews. However, they comprise more than 30 percent of the population in the country’s jails.

Israel has always been proud of its role as a homeland to the world’s Jews. But, the recent clashes illustrate the fact that some populations of Jews have found the country less than welcoming. As one Ethiopian-Israeli noted, “They don’t consider us people, or Jews.” Another added, “It seems that they don’t want us here, but the country is also ours.”

The animosity between police and those of African descent is part of a bigger socio-economic problem. More than half of the Ethiopian immigrants’ families live below the country’s poverty line. Over 50 percent drop out of school before graduating and less than one-quarter of the second generation even attempts getting a college degree.

More than 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, which has a population of 8 million. Most arrived from Africa in two massive waves in 1984 and 1991, when Ethiopia was being destroyed by famine and war. However, the protesters in Tel Aviv were not African born; they are Israeli-born second generation who have grown up amidst widespread racism there.

The Ethiopian community has encountered numerous racist issues through the years and struggled to integrate into society. Fifteen years ago, it was revealed that blood bank donations from Ethiopians were unceremoniously discarded on an untested assumption they were likely to carry HIV.

In 2013, it was revealed that state clinics in Israel prescribed Ethiopian women Depo Provera, without telling them it was a contraceptive drug. The result — which alerted social workers to the practice — was that the community’s birthrate was cut in half.

The animosity between police and those of African descent is part of a bigger socio-economic problem. More than half of the Ethiopian immigrants’ families live below the country’s poverty line. Over 50 percent drop out of school before graduating and less than one-quarter of the second generation even attempts getting a college degree.

On Monday, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, plans to meet with Pakada, the Ethiopian-Israeli soldier who was beaten, along with other Ethiopian community representatives. In order to address solutions to the protesting and issues blacks have faced, such as policy brutality, Netanyahu plans to bring along the police commissioner as well as other representatives from Israel’s security, immigration and social services.

By Dyanne Weiss

Sources:
Financial Times
Ynet News
Daily Mail
Al Jazeera

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