Ethiopian - Israeli protest against racism, police brutality in Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel should open a parliamentary inquiry into police treatment of Ethiopian Israelis and immigrants in general, Immigration Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee head Abraham Naguise (Likud) said Tuesday.
The Likud MK was speaking during a committee meeting held to discuss relations between police and Ethiopian Israelis, which was called after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein announced Sunday that he had decided to close the case against a police officer caught on tape beating a soldier of Ethiopian descent.
That incident, filmed in April, sparked protests in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, including one that descended into rioting at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, during which dozens were arrested and wounded, including a number of police officers hurt by rioters who threw bottles and rocks.
The officer filmed in the video attacking soldier Damas Pakedeh was fired by the Israel Police not long after the protests began. Following the riots in Tel Aviv, a group of Ethiopian Israeli activists held a press conference in Tel Aviv where they issued a series of demands, including that the officer face criminal charges.
“The [Ethiopian-Israeli] community has lost its faith in the establishment, and it could be that there is no reason not to hold a parliamentary inquiry into police violence against Ethiopian Israelis and immigrants in general,” Naguise said.
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said during the meeting Tuesday that he’s been following the protests and the investigation of the officer, and that “it feels as though police have labeled groups of immigrants. We must examine if enforcement bodies have in their subconscious a different view toward new immigrants.”
Also present at the meeting was Tamesgen Bayach, the brother of an Ethiopian Israeli who was beaten by police who had detained him due to faulty police intelligence. He related how his brother was beaten for two hours while handcuffed, and that police thought he was a Sudanese migrant and would not check his identification card to see that he was Israeli.
“When we complain no one listens, we are asking for a solution,” he said.
Attorney Yitzhak Ronen of the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department told the meeting that the decision made by Weinstein took into account the recommendation of the State Prosecutor’s Office, which said that the officer’s conduct was not up to police norms, but that no criminal behavior was shown in the video.
According to Weinstein’s assessment, Pakedeh can be seen in the video throwing a punch at the officer after he had already denied a request by the cop to leave the scene, where a bomb disposal unit was dealing with a suspicious package Ethiopian Israeli activist Yitzhak Tyme made an ominous statement once he had the floor at the committee meeting, saying that after a protest scheduled for Monday by members of the community, “the attorney-general will reverse his decision. No Ethiopian Israelis born in this country have any faith in the establishment.”
Ethiopian Israelis, including protest leaders, reacted with outrage to Weinstein’s announcement Sunday and took to social media to issue calls to restart the protests, which had gripped the Israeli media briefly in May. One activist interviewed frequently during the protests said on Facebook that Weinstein’s decision was nothing short of “a declaration of war.”