(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Knesset’s first female Ethiopian MK will aim to advance her community from outside the Knesset after she narrowly missed out on getting reelected in the March 17 election.
Former MK Pnina Tamnu- Shata was placed 13th on the Yesh Atid list that won 11 seats. Former ministers Shai Piron and Yaakov Perry both promised to quit the Knesset if Yesh Atid did not enter the next government, but later broke their promises.
“I have a lot of work left to do,” Tamnu-Shata said in an interview. “It doesn’t depend if I’m in or out of the Knesset.
This issue is my life. I can’t live in a country in which the color of me and my community means facing a glass ceiling and racism.”
Tamnu-Shata said she was proud that she had the opportunity to work for the rights of immigrants in the Knesset with her Yesh Atid colleague Shimon Solomon, who also is not in the new Knesset. The only Ethiopian-born MK is the Likud’s Abraham Naguise.
“We are a diverse society but the immigrants are among the weakest sectors, because it’s hard to acclimate to a new country,” she said. “It was important to them and for me to speak for them and work very hard for them in the parliament.”
As evidence of progress made in her community, Tamnu- Shata said the IDF recently told her that the percentage of Ethiopian soldiers jailed for insubordination fell from 20 percent to 10%. She said that was obviously still way too high considering that they are only 1.5% of the general population.
She also noted that Ethiopian immigrants are no longer automatically barred from giving blood. The Health Ministry set up a committee that changed a policy intended to prevent the spread of AIDS from a higher-risk community after Tamnu-Shata was prevented from participating in a Knesset blood drive.
Tamnu-Shata said there is still racism in Israel and not enough affirmative action.
She complained about American- style police violence against Ethiopian immigrants and neighborhoods dominated by Ethiopian immigrants, calling them “ghettos only for black people.”
“I intend to promote these issue from outside the Knesset,” she said. “We have a lot of challenges that still need progress.”