ETHIOPIAN-ISRAELIS block a road as they protest against what they say is police racism and brutality, near the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon on May 7, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A new interministerial task force to examine racism against Ethiopian-Israelis held its first meeting on Tuesday, as part of a government effort to find tools to combat discrimination, the Justice Ministry said.
The task force is headed by Justice Ministry head Ami Palmor, who said Monday it “would work to affect significant changes in dealing with racism against Israelis of Ethiopian descent.”
The task force includes a “consultation panel,” which will work on developing a database on racism, and formulate suggestions for how to deal with specific complaints of mistreatment.
There are also three smaller work-groups within the task force, including one headed by deputy head of the Education Ministry Gilad Nager that will focus on “mapping” racism in the country, a team headed by attorney Miriam Kabha, the head of workplace equality at the Economy Ministry, which will focus on developing tools to respond to specific complaints of discrimination, and a third team devoted to raising public awareness about racism and increasing the profile of Ethiopian-Israelis in the public sphere, to be headed by Ethiopian- Israeli journalist and activist Tsega Melaku.
Some of the people from the Ethiopian-Israeli community tapped to take part in the task force include Ziva Mekonen, head of the Israel Association For Ethiopian Jews, Fentahun Assefa-Dawit, the director of Tebeka, an advocacy group for Ethiopian-Israelis, Maharta Baruch, the deputy head of the Tel Aviv municipality, and Pnina Tamnu-Shata, a former MK from Yesh Atid and a longtime activist in the Ethiopian- Israeli community.
They will be joined in the workshops with officials from the Public Security Ministry, Finance Ministry, Defense Ministry, Housing Ministry and a number of government agencies.
The meeting on Tuesday was held almost a week after the Justice Ministry announced that they had closed the criminal investigation against a number of police officers accused of abusing Ethiopian- Israeli youth Yosef Salamsa, who committed suicide in July 2014 a few months after his arrest in Zichron Ya’acov, during which police tasered him and left him handcuffed and shackled for hours outside their station.
The abuse fueled a number of protests by the community last year, during which activists chanted his name and wore shirts emblazoned with his picture.
In April of last year, after video of police abusing an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier went public, police announced the formation of a task force that would examine the allegations of police misconduct against the community.
In November, the task force issued their recommendations, including the recruitment and promotion of more Ethiopian- Israeli policemen and the deployment of more Amharic speakers.
Police also vowed to take steps to increase the number of Ethiopian-Israelis in command positions from the current total of 27 to at least 70, within four years, among other measures.