Black and Jewish in Israel

Netanyahu says racism 'won't be tolerated', but what does that mean?


  1. Israel airlifted thousands of Jewish Ethiopians to the country in the 1980s and 1990s to rescue them from famine and civil war. But in the decades since, Ethiopian Israelis say they have faced persistent discrimination, with many accusing Israeli police of racism and harassment.
  2. The community erupted in protest after a video surfaced showing Ethiopian Israeli soldier Damas Fekade being beaten by police after he didn't immediately leave an area they were clearing. Thousands of protesters blocked roads in the heart of Tel Aviv, as well as in Jerusalem.
  3. Police arrested dozens and fired water cannons and stun grenades to break up the protests. Clashes between police and demonstrators caused multiple injuries on both sides.
  4. Many online compared the events in Tel Aviv to ongoing protests against police brutality in the US city of Baltimore.
  5. One of the police officers involved in the soldier's beating was dismissed, and the other suspended. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Fekade and Ethiopian Israeli leaders on Monday. He said he stood united with them.
  6. "We must stand together as one against the phenomenon of racism, to denounce it and eliminate it," the prime minister announced.
  7. The video of Fekade's assault struck a chord with Ethiopian Jewish people, who have high enrollment rates in the army but face financial, linguistic, and bureaucratic difficulties once conscripted.
  8. The frustration has been building for years. In 2012, Ethiopian Israelis protested after landlords in the town of Kiryat Malachi reportedly refused to sell or rent to Ethiopian tenants. In 2013, an Ethiopian Israeli member of the Knesset accused Israel's Red Cross of refusing to let her donate blood. Earlier that year, the government ordered doctors to stop injecting women with contraceptive drugs following allegations that Ethiopian women were given Depo-Provera without their informed consent.
  9. Still, some insist that racism is not a problem in Israel. People cite Ethiopian native Yityish Aynaw, who was crowned Miss Israel in 2013.
  10. Members of The Stream community weighed in on the the discrimination Ethiopian Israelis say they face:
  11. They also debated how likely Netanyahu would be to actively combat racism: