'Affair of missing Ethiopian-Israeli in Gaza smells of racism'

Meretz MK Gilon calls for Netanyahu to fire his representative who threatened family of missing man; "No one should dare to tell us that this is not connected to skin color," Gal-On says.

July 10, 2015 09:37
2 minute read.
Avera Mengistu

Avera Mengistu. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On wrote a scathing rebuke Friday of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's representative who threatened the Mengistu family whose 26-year-old son Avera has been missing in Gaza since September. 

A gag order was lifted on Thursday that prevented publication of the details of the Mengistu case as well as the details of missing Israeli-Beduin who is also missing in Gaza.

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"I watched with shame and with an aching heart to the conversation between the Prime Minister's representative and the Mengistu family," she said. 

Gal-On said Lotan, in Netanyahu's name, threatened the Ethiopian-Israeli family of the missing man,  and added cruelly to their pain and enormous fear that they have been experiencing for the past ten months, "all for the purpose that they don't criticize the prime minister and heaven forbid blacken his holy name."

The Meretz leader said she believed Lotan's threats were connected to the family's skin color.
Brother of missing Israeli to Hamas: 'Release him immediately, he is not healthy'

"No one should dare to tell us that this is not connected to skin color," Gal-On said.

Gal-On said the shameful behavior around Avera Mengistu's disappearance would not be the same if he was not Ethiopian and  if this were the case, no one would even consider speaking to the family in the way that Lotan did. 

Colonel (res.) Lior Lotan, Netanyahu's representative dealing with hostage issues, was heard in a recording released by Channel 10 on Thursday saying to the Mengistu family that "whoever turns this into a story involving the Ethiopian community versus the State of Israel, will keep Avera in Gaza for another year."

"You have two options: The first is to point the finger at Hamas and tell them 'You are holding him [hostage], you are responsible for his fate, return him to us and we want to know that he's alive,'" Lotan told the family. "Then you have the second option, which is to point the finger at Jerusalem and say 'You aren't right, you let him cross and did not respond to letters.'"

"You guys choose. I have my opinion on this -- what is best for Israel, what will help him and what will help Hamas, but you have to choose and you will be responsible for the outcome."

On Thursday evening, both Lotan and Netanyahu apologized for the remarks made to the family in the private meeting.  

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog in an interview with Israel Radio on Friday morning also criticized what he said was the pretentious and unacceptable way that Lotan spoke to the Mengistu family.

Herzog added that he has no doubt that the political leadership and the security forces would do all that they could do bring the man back to his family. 

Meretz MK Ilan Gilon who met with the Mengistu family one week ago called on Netanyahu to dismiss Lotan. 

Gilon said that firing Netanyahu was the least he could do for a family for whom he should have already done much more. 

Gilon said the whole affair "smells of racism." 

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