Dozens of Ethiopian Israelis protest outside Knesset

"The Germans and others didn’t let the Jewish people live freely,” Shula Mola said. “It is the same exact formula here in Israel.”

By BRADLEY LEVIN, DAVID DIMOLFETTA
July 15, 2019 22:10
3 minute read.
Ethiopian-Israelis protest outside Knesset July 15, 2019

Ethiopian-Israelis protest outside Knesset July 15, 2019. (photo credit: BRADLEY LEVIN)

While members of parliament sat inside the air-conditioned Knesset on Monday debating the “Ethiopian issue,” some 60 Ethiopian-Israeli activists gathered outside the building’s gates in the blazing sun to proclaim their message: It is not just political action that is needed. Society must change.

The 130,000-strong Ethiopian-Israeli community has come together for a series of protests – some of them violent – since the beginning of July when 19-year-old Solomon Tekah was fatally shot by a police officer. The officer was released from jail to house arrest after it was found that the bullet that he shot had ricocheted off the ground to kill Tekah.

Shula Mola, one of the protesters outside the Knesset, told The Jerusalem Post that she believes racism is in the “DNA of the state – the DNA brought from Europe, the DNA of white people. They don’t really like black people.”

But she said that until now, Israel was unwilling to name the racism as such.

She said that while she was glad the government had convened to discuss racism against her community, her ultimate hope is that a change will come from outside the Knesset.

“The only hope I have is [that]… white society here in Israel should say one thing: ‘We have to fight against racism in our country,’” she said, adding that all Israelis, including Ashkenazim who endured the Holocaust, should understand the Ethiopians’ struggle and should stand up against racism.

“The Germans and others didn’t let the Jewish people live freely,” she continued. “It is the same exact formula here in Israel,” she said. “People who have had” the experience of the Holocaust “should say, ‘No, not here.’ Not just for us as an Ethiopian community, but also for themselves.”

Protesters expressed outrage at the police handling of the officer who caused Tekah’s death. Some said they felt that even before the teenager’s blood had dried, the officer was being treated as innocent, and was put up in a hotel rather than being incarcerated in jail. Some said they were deeply troubled by the allegation that the policeman’s life was in danger.

“Instead of being shocked, instead of saying, ‘Something bad happened here, it’s a tragedy,’” Mola explained, “they say, ‘he protected himself.’ From who? From the kids?”

Locking arms and embracing, the emotionally wrought protesters chanted that they want Ethiopian-Israeli “blood to be worth more than just wars, army and every office Israel has.”

Danny Maharat, an Ethiopian community activist with experience on Jerusalem’s City Council, emphasized the need for change.

“The story is that justice has been done, and that’s incorrect,” he told the Post. “There is no clear justice.”
Maharat criticized media coverage of the shooting, saying it “takes out information and testimony; they blame the family and they blame the victim. This is something that isn’t allowed to happen in a democratic nation. The law has to be the same for everyone.”

Maharat issued a declaration for the government: “We want the Israeli government and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to appoint an investigative committee to look into the stories of Solomon Tekah, Yehuda Beadi who was murdered in Bat Yam, and Yosef Salamsa in Binyamina. They should check into all of these stories.”

Another protester, who asked that her name not be reported, said that the Ethiopian-Israeli community has been protesting racism since it started arriving in the country more than three decades ago.

“Our parents also protested, and it’s our time to do it,” she said. “The case hasn’t been solved as it should be.”


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