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Photo by: Elias Inbram
'Attacks on migrants are attacks on Ethiopians'
By RUTH EGLASH
06/06/2012
Protest shirt declares: "Caution: I am not an African infiltrator"; shirt features Holocaust-style Star of David.
 
The concept is simple: A bright yellow shirt with a Holocaust- style Star of David and a caption reading “Caution: I am not an African infiltrator.” Yet the message reveals some of the deep and complicated feelings that the country’s Ethiopian community has toward the national debate over thousands of African migrants who have arrived in Israel over the past few years.

Designed by young Ethiopian activist Elias Inbram, the shirt has already created quite a stir on social media networks, and mainstream news networks have picked up his story as well. Inbram says he has had several dozen orders for the shirts.

However, he told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday, he has no intention of printing up more; rather, his goal is to send a bold and important message to the Israeli public: Next time you attack an African migrant, you might very well be attacking a Jewish Ethiopian immigrant.

“I want to tell Israeli society to stop for a second [and consider] that the next time they protest, there is a big chance that they will hurt me and do damage to my property. I could quite easily find myself in a situation like that,” said the activist, highlighting that it was not just that Ethiopian Jews and African migrants looked similar, but that “all people are alike on the inside.”

Inbram, a student of law who works at a Tel Aviv lawyer’s office, said the idea had come to him one day after an angry mob attacked a young Ethiopian Jewish man in Tel Aviv during an anti-migrant protest. Demonstrators mistakenly believed he was an African migrant.

“I am not necessarily looking for people to join me,” explained Inbram. “I did this on my own, and my protest focuses on stopping all violence and hatred toward those who have come here from Africa.”

While he is not against sending back those migrants who have come here merely looking for work, Inbram also believes that as Jews, “we must act in a humanitarian way.” That is why he decided to feature a Star of David, similar to the ones Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, on the shirt.

“In Israel, we learn about the Holocaust, but it is not enough just to remember the events that happened,” he explained. “We need to go above and beyond just remembering, we must also try to understand the messages of the Holocaust that we must not hate those who are different from us.”

He added that “we protest anti-Semitism all over the world, so at the same time we should also protect others.”

Inbram, who was born in Ethiopia and arrived in Israel as a child during Operation Moses in the early 1980s, recalled that his journey had included two years in Sudan. During that time, he even went to school there and learned to speak Arabic.

“The culture in Sudan is Arab culture, and it was very warm, they took care of us,” he said, adding that when he first arrived here, he had communicated with his first Israeli teacher, a Moroccan Jew, by speaking Arabic.

Inbram refuted the claim that some Ethiopian Jews were trying to distance themselves from the African migrants, and said that the message on his Tshirt should not be construed that way.

“It is not that we want to distance ourselves from the Africans, because we are all human beings,” he said. “We are citizens of this country, too, and we have a responsibility to speak out about this problem.”
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