Former anti-racism czar Aweke Kobe Zena is being appointed to a senior position in the Public Defender’s Office, overseeing the Israel Police Internal Investigations Unit, the Justice Ministry said Thursday. On Wednesday, Zena settled his months-long dispute with Minister in the Justice Ministry David Amsalem (Likud) over his firing for what he said was political discrimination, it said.
Zena and his supporters said his contract had been discontinued in mid-June due to a Noam Party blacklist. His compromise settlement with Amsalem was validated by the Tel Aviv Labor Court.
The dispute moved to the labor court after Zena petitioned the High Court of Justice at the beginning of August, demanding an injunction against the Justice Ministry and the Civil Service over his termination. He said his firing was arbitrary and potentially motivated by extraneous considerations. The High Court rejected the petition, saying it was a work dispute and that other legal avenues should have been pursued.
Zena was appointed to head the Justice Ministry’s anti-racism unit in 2016, with a six-year contract and two additional optional years. The unit was created to combat racism and discrimination in Israel following protests by the Ethiopian community in 2015 against alleged systemic racism, especially in law enforcement.
In June, Amsalem decided not to extend Zena’s contract. At the time, Amsalem’s spokesman said the contract had expired and that the move was in line with other fixed-tenure officeholders.
Noam party blacklist
Zena was put on a 2019 Noam Party blacklist that listed LGBTQ+ figures in media, academics who were feminist, and other government officials who were perceived as problematic. Supporters of Zena said his work exposing anti-Arab racism in addition to other forms of hate had led to his firing.
Zena’s and Amsalem’s representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.