Knesset panel rejects racism charges in handling return of Ethiopian's body

The Daweet family, whose son's body was returned to Israel as part of a prisoner exchange with Hizbullah on October 15, was treated in an appropriate manner by the Israel Police, the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee said Sunday. The committee investigated claims that the Daweets, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia in the 1990s, had not been informed about their son's fate because of their race and socioeconomic status. "After a long and thorough investigation we have been convinced that the police acted appropriately," the committee said in a statement. From the time they knew of the negotiations in July to the day the body of Gavriel Daweet was returned, the police could not have divulged the sensitive security information to the family, the committee said. MK Colette Avital (Labor) said Ofer Dekel, the Prime Minister's Office representative who handled the negotiations, briefed the committee on the circumstances surrounding the negotiations for the body. While Avital said she was satisfied with the Prime Minister's Office's explanation, she was requesting that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee launch an additional investigation to examine when the security establishment learned of the location of Daweet's body. "They convinced me that their behavior during the negotiation period - from July to October - was appropriate," Avital said. "When the defense establishment knew about the location of his body, that it was Hizbullah, and numerous other questions that touch on the period of time before negotiations began… these were not answered." Last week, the Daweets appeared before the Aliya Committee and said they would sue the government to obtain more information on the negotiations surrounding their son. While initial reports said Daweet, a resident of Beersheba, drowned near Nahariya and that his body washed up in Lebanon, the family has expressed doubts, mainly because his recently recovered identity card shows no sign of having been in water for an extended period. The family also believes the government found out that Daweet's body was in Lebanon not long after he went missing on January 20, 2005.