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Protests by Ethiopian Jews bring Israel closer to fragmentation

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Israel has been in chaos since last month, when an Israeli police officer killed a young Ethiopian Jew in Haifa, suspecting that the young man and his companions had thrown stones at him. The incident sparked anger within the Ethiopian community, which insists that the police shoot its members too readily for racist reasons; this was not the first incident of its kind. Similar events indicate racist motives, leading to protests, some of them violent.

In the days following the killing of the young man, hundreds of Ethiopian Jews started demonstrating in different parts of Israel, particularly Tel Aviv, and closed some of the major crossroads. The protests expanded until thousands of people blocked other streets. Masked protesters set fire to rubbish containers and tyres; dozens of them were arrested, and some were injured.

The Israeli police tried to talk to Ethiopian Jewish leaders but were told that the elders have a major crisis of confidence with the police — protesters were throwing stones at police stations —and little control over the young men in their community. Politicians called for calm when the protests spread to major roads in northern and southern Israel, causing traffic congestion and delays for tens of thousands of vehicles.

The Ethiopian Jews were promised that they would enter a land of prosperity and happiness when they migrated, but for them it has become a land of persecution, death and funerals. Israeli society doesn’t afford them any legitimacy as Jews; it actually perceives them as criminals and violent individuals.

“The problem is that the rest of the Jews in Israel do not consider us as human beings,” said one Ethiopian protester. “This starts with the white citizens who do not want their children to play with black children in public parks, and continues with the police, who deal with us based on colour. We cannot hide our........

© Middle East Monitor