The state of Israel today receives contempt from some and is condoned by others for its apartheid structure and its brutal oppression of indigenous Palestinians. However, beyond this notorious conflict, there exists an underlying epidemic of racism within the State of Israel.
Israel, with a population little over 8 million, has a minority of Ethiopians Jews which account for approximately 135,000 of its citizens. It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Ethiopian Black Jews in Israeli society are marginalized and treated much differently than the majority Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.
There have been numerous instances of nationalist rioters that have vandalized and harassed Ethiopian majority neighborhoods. This discrimination isn’t just loosely based on a few extremists as even members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) have demonized African Immigrants. A prominent member of Israel’s right wing Likud party, Miri Regev, called black immigrants a “cancer in our body.” Beyond the racist rhetoric, the facts exemplify the discrimination. 30% of those incarcerated under the age of 18 happen to be Ethiopians. 40% of all Ethiopians in the Israeli military (All men of age in Israel are conscripted by law) have served time in prison.
In 1996, thousands of Ethiopian Jews protested and clashed with Police when they found out the blood they had donated was thrown out because of fear it was contaminated with AIDS. Even more heinous to note is the fact that it has been found that Ethiopian Jewish women have been administered Depo-Provera, a hormonal contraceptive WITHOUT their consent or knowledge, to prevent them from having children. Ethiopians immigrants, when interviewed by an investigative journalist, said they were intimidated and told the injections were just protocol vaccinations. Curiously, this sort of eugenic practice was mastered by none other than Nazi Germany.
On April 27th, a video emerged of an Ethiopian citizen being brutally beaten by two police officers. This led to thousands of Ethiopians marching on the streets of Israel’s capital city demanding justice for not only the police brutality incident, but the general oppression Ethiopian and other African Jewish immigrants face daily as well. Some chanted “Police state, police state” while one Ethiopian man stated last Sunday that “My brother is in Golani [an army unit] and so was I, but I can’t get a job; I face racism when I want to move into an apartment.”
Interestingly, not only have Israeli politicians remained quiet about these incidents, but even the left wing Israeli parties that claim to support civil rights for minorities have refused to utter a word.
It is even more shocking to realize that the State of Israel bases its justification for existence on the historical discrimination the Jews faced as a minority in Europe, yet they don’t seem to have a problem with discrimination as long as they are the perpetrators. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The recent events and protests happening in Israel are a microcosm of what is happening internationally. The turmoil — whether in Ferguson, Baltimore, Kurdistan, Myanmar or Tel Aviv, all exemplifies the violence the state exudes against its poorest and most disadvantaged citizens.