Violent riots in Tel Aviv between the police and Ethiopian Jews over the video above of two Israeli cops beating an Ethiopian in the IDF:
Protests in Tel Aviv over alleged police mistreatment of Ethiopian Jews turned violent Sunday, resulting in twenty-three officers being injured, according to Israeli police.
The planned demonstration by the Ethiopian Jewish community — incensed over a video gone viral that shows a uniformed Israel Defense Forces soldier of Ethiopian descent being assaulted by police — had been peaceful for hours before things took a violent turn
Authorities employed horses, water cannons and smoke to disperse the crowd in Rabin Square, which had been chanting slogans such as “a violent cop should be in jail.”
Twenty-six protesters were arrested, according to Israeli spokeswoman Luba Samri.
The soldier in the video, Damas Fekadeh, has called for calm and restraint.
The Tel Aviv protest comes on the heels of a largely peaceful demonstration in Jerusalem on Thursday that drew more than 1,000 people.
The videotaped episode from April 26 was a tipping point for Ethiopian Jews, some 125,000 strong, who say they have long felt like second-class citizens since arriving in two waves of mass immigration in the 1980s and early 1990s.
There is some important background to understand why Ethiopian Jews feel like second-class citizens. It’s because they are:
In the half darkness of an adobe hut in Gondar, Ethiopia, 20-year-old Gezahegn (“Gezi”) Derebe pulls out an acoustic guitar. As on many evenings when the power goes out, he entertains his family by singing. Though his mother, Ayelesh, sways to the tune, she doesn’t understand the lyrics, because Gezi sings not in his native Amharic, but in Hebrew.
Behind him, on a wall kept cool with a traditional mixture of cow dung and ash, hangs a laminated map of Israel. Above it are the framed photographs of his relatives who have already managed to emigrate there.
Gezi would like to join them.
For years, it seemed like only a matter of time. In 2003, when Gezi was 8 years old, his family sold its land and livestock and moved to Gondar, a hub for the Ethiopian Jewish community. Gezi enrolled in a school run by the Jewish Agency for Israel and staffed by Israeli volunteer teachers, with a curriculum designed to prepare young emigrants for their future life.
And then Israel pulled the rug out from under him and many others, after many of his relatives were airlifted. Why? From the transcript to the audio version of this story:
WARNER: But Gezi has reason to think that what’s holding him back is not centuries-old rabbinical law but rather the more mercurial dictates of politics. And to understand why he thinks that, we need to actually leave Ethiopia for a little bit and, with the help of NPR’s Jerusalem bureau, go to a living room outside of Tel Aviv.
HABTU ABATA: (Speaking Hebrew).
WARNER: This is Habtu Abata. He’s Gezi’s cousin, and he’s sitting on the couch in his apartment in Israel next to his father, his father whose twin sister is Gezi’s mother. So according to biology, if Gezi is not Jewish enough to come to Israel, neither are they. So why were they allowed in 2003?
ABATA: (Through interpreter) The first immigrations were easier because at that time whoever wanted to come just came. Now there are many procedures to go through.
WARNER: Habtu’s family thought they would come first, set things up and the rest of the family would follow. But by the time that Gezi and his brother and his mother applied, the mood toward Ethiopian immigrants in Israel had soured. Israel’s economy was slowing. Ethiopian Jews, it seemed, required more welfare and social services than immigrants from other places.
Avraham Negusie is the only Ethiopian-born member of the Knesset, just elected last month. He says there was no official change in policy, but embassy staff in Addis Ababa seemed to start making it harder to pass the interview, making people go back five, six, seven generations.
It appears there are caveats to the Law of Return.
I highly recommend listening to the entire piece.