(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
An MDA blood donation stand was removed from the Knesset on Wednesday after
volunteers told MK Pnina Tamnu-Shata (Yesh Atid), the legislature’s first female
Ethiopian member, that her blood would not be used.
“Today I received
further proof that ‘equal rights’ for Ethiopians in Israel is a nice slogan that
doesn’t exist in reality,” Tamnu-Shata said. “I contributed through my army
service and as an MK, but apparently there is no equality when it comes to being
a blood donor.”
Tamnu-Shata said she takes the issue personally, since
she led the Ethiopian protest movement against MDA for not accepting their blood
donations in 1997, when she was 16 years old. The Yesh Atid lawmaker was born in
Ethiopia in 1981 and immigrated to Israel at age three.
“The time has
come to put an end to this ugly phenomenon,” she said.
Tamnu-Shata was told she cannot donate blood because she is Ethiopian, but a
manager clarified the policy soon after that she can do so, but her blood will
MDA’s policy is not to take blood from people who were born or
have lived for more than a year since 1977 in a country where HIV is prevalent,
such as in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. They also do not take blood
from people who lived in Great Britain for six consecutive months or more
between 1980 and 1996.
However, “the number of HIV infections likely
avoided from excluding Ethiopian-Israeli blood donors [is] at most 1 every 10
years,” Yale Professor of Public Health Edward H. Kaplan wrote in an email to
The Jerusalem Post.
In 1998, Kaplan published a study in British medical
journal The Lancet finding that 2.0 per 10,000 blood donations by Ethiopian
Israelis would be infected.
MDA told Channel 2 they were just following
procedures set by the Health Ministry, which they are not authorized to
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke to Tamnu-Shata and expressed
shock and displeasure at the incident.
“I thought this was behind us, but
now it turns out I was wrong. This unacceptable phenomenon that has no place in
the Knesset,” Edelstein said, and told the MDA volunteers to leave the
Several ministers and MKs called the Yesh Atid MK to express
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said that she hopes
that something good will come out of the story and change the “racist and
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