Ethiopian-born minister hints at racism in Israel's Omicron Africa ban

Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) asks why travel was permitted to "white countries."

PNINA TAMANO-SHATA: We are the generation that merited to be the one that returned to Zion, and we need to encourage aliyah because this is the home of all Jews. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
PNINA TAMANO-SHATA: We are the generation that merited to be the one that returned to Zion, and we need to encourage aliyah because this is the home of all Jews.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata hinted at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that her own government had made a racist decision to ban flights from Africa due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

The Ethiopian-born minister questioned why Israel closed itself to Africa due to the variant and permitted going to what she called “white countries.” She noted that Israel did not end all flights to Europe, North America or other continents when there were variants that were more lethal.

Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) said it bothered her that a new precedent had been set in closing down an entire continent. She hinted that such a decision would not have been made had that continent not been Africa.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid Party Tamano-Shata left last year, responded that no countries had complained about Israel’s decision.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the data had proven the decision correct.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the cabinet meeting, November 28, 2021.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the cabinet meeting, November 28, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“The reality is that two weeks ago, there were hundreds of people in Africa who were infected [by the variant] and now there are thousands,” Bennett told Tamano-Shata.

Tamano-Shata will be visiting the United States this week, and will speak at the Israeli American Council national summit in Florida.

At Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, all controversial bills were postponed. Voting on Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s controversial citizenship bill and Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha Rothman’s rival immigration bill were delayed by two weeks.

Rothman responded by calling Yamina and New Hope ministers the “whipping boys” of the government who are bullied by ministers from the Left, who have veto power over major legislation.

The vote on Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg’s equality bill was postponed by a month. Likud MK Eli Cohen’s bill that would expel family members of terrorists was postponed by six months. A bill sponsored by Likud MK David Amsalem for Judea and Samaria annexation was defeated.

A bill by Likud MK Keti Shitrit creating an annual day to commemorate the 1920 San Remo Conference, in which the victors of World War I endorsed the creation of a Jewish state, was postponed by four months.

The Knesset House Committee voted on Sunday to create a public committee to reevaluate the salaries of MKs. The committee, headed by Prof. Yuval Elbashan, is expected to recommend lowering MKs’ salaries.