Israeli Ethiopians protested in the northern city of Haifa on Tuesday against police brutality and discrimination against them.
The protesters carried signs that read “Don’t distinguish blood from blood, we are all humans,” “Yes to equality, no to racism,” “We are all Yosef Salamsa” (a young Ethiopian Israeli who took his own life last July after alleged police harassment).
One of the organizers of the demonstration, Salam, told Israeli news site Ynet that “after 30 years, the country should provide answers to the question of how it’s possible that members of the community continue to suffer from discrimination and crime in the neighborhoods they live in.”
In a rally held in Tel Aviv two weeks ago thousands of Israeli Ethiopian and their supporters protested against police brutality and institutionalized discrimination.
The demonstration turned out to be one of the most violent demonstrations in the history of the city and the flames have not subsided ever since.
The leaders of the protest participated on Tuesday in a discussion of their struggle in the Knesset. Testimony was heard about racism and incidents of police violence, Ynetreported.
Former Member of Knesset Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopian-born woman to serve in the Israeli parliament, said the issue has been neglected for the past thirty years and apparently would not have come to people’s attention without the recent outcry.
Opposition chief MK Isaac Herzog of the leftist Zionist Union said that “the authorities’ treatment of anyone whose skin color is dark – we need to put this on the table and talk about it. The entire racist and patronizing conversation needs to be taken off the agenda. The recent events are a dramatic wake-up call to the country’s citizens.”
Right wing Likud MK Anat Berko however criticized the Ethiopian community. “Your youth needs to take responsibility – don’t allow the violence and confrontations to take over the protest.”
“Behind all these phenomena stands one difficult word: Racism,” said MK Dov Khenin of the Joint Arab List. “Racism is a disease that many communities in Israeli society and threatens us all.”
Meanwhile the Israel Defense Forces has arranged for the parents of soldiers and soldiers-to-be from Israel’s Ethiopian community to experience a taste of army life in order to understand better what their sons and daughters are going through during their service in the military.
160 mothers and fathers participated in the Gadna – a military program that prepares youth for military service.
For a day, the mothers and fathers donned uniforms, performed drills, stood in formation and underwent lessons in discipline and field training , Ynet reported.