Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem should reverse his June 8 decision not to continue the contract of anti-racism czar Aweke Kobe Zena, right-wing NGO Btsalmo said on Sunday.
In a letter to Amsalem, Btsalmo director Shai Glick said that Zena was a "tremendous asset" to the State of Israel, government service and the fight against racism.
Zena "worked as hard as he could to prevent any racism against the ultra-Orthodox community, also the Mizrahi community," said Glick, in addition to fighting racism against the Ethiopian and Arab communities.
Why was Israel's anti-racism czar fired?
Activists told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that they suspected that Zena's dismissal had been connected to his work against anti-Arab racism. Some allege that the decision not to extend Zena's contract was influenced by a 2019 blacklist created by the Noam Party, and published by Yediot Ahronot in 2022, which detailed the names of LGBTQ+ persons in media, feminist academics, and officials in the Education and Justice ministries.
Glick described Zena as a "first-class professional" who had established and led the Justice Ministry's anti-racism unit to be able to handle thousands of cases a year without a significant budget or personnel. The office was created in 2016 out of the Palmer report, which sought to address grievances raised by the Ethiopian community in 2015. The anti-racism unit was developed under the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Aweke Zena is not left-wing or right-wing," Glick wrote to Amsalem. "Aweke is a professional who works day and night to stop racism in Israel."
On Wednesday, Amsalem's office said that Zena's six-year contract had expired, but had been extended for half a year. It added that a replacement would be found immediately.
Activists expressed concern on Wednesday that Zena would be replaced with a "yes man" not concerned with fighting racism in all sectors of society. Others argued that Zena was dismissed before meeting with Amsalem about continuing his service.
Btsalmo is a human rights organization that according to its website works against terrorism and anti-Israel actors seeking to dismantle Israel, the impact of illegal immigrants in South Tel Aviv and lawlessness in the Negev. It also advocates on behalf of Jews seeking worshiping rights on the Temple Mount, haredim, settlers, mizrahim, and periphery residents.
"We, as a human rights organization associated with the national right-wing camp, call on Minister Dudi Amsalem to turn around," Glick said of the minister's decision.