Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:25 PM EDT, 1 March 2012
JERUSALEM, Israel - This post was originally written in 2010, however, in the two years since, Ethiopians continue to face systematic racism in Israel. On 18 January 2012, thousands of Israelis, many of whom are of Ethiopian descent, took part in a demonstration against the discrimination of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. The protesters marched from the Israeli Parliament to the city center in Jerusalem.
The demonstration was documented by Activestills.org, which is a “collective established in 2005 by a group of Israeli and international documentary photographers, who work with a strong conviction that photography is a vehicle for social change."
In their mission statement they write:
“We believe in the power of images to shape public attitudes and to raise awareness on issues that are generally absent from public discourse. We view ourselves as part of the struggle against all forms of oppression, racism, and violations of the basic right to freedom. We do work on various topics, including the grassroots movement and the popular struggle against the Israeli occupation, women’s rights, immigration, asylum-seekers, social justice, the siege on Gaza, and housing rights inside Israel.”
In a post written in 2010, I presented a news report which featured a story about Israeli Ethiopian Jews being sterilized at reproductive clinics without their knowledge. The post was written in part as a response to a very personal experience of racism to which my mother was subjected when she attended an event on my behalf. With time and distance I am no longer as emotional about it, but the reception she received by the hostess was obviously racist.
When people eye others with suspicion because of skin color, or perceived religious or cultural background, it is painful. Even those interactions that are not overtly racist are none-the-less painful, because as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Lukewarm acceptance is more bewildering than outright rejection.”
The video below was included in the original post and though it has been hotly debated and its producers accused of promoting a slanted view of the issue, there is a saying in America that where there is smoke there is often fire.
Those familiar with American history will recall a dark time in this country’s past when Blacks in the deep South were sterilized to control their ‘numbers,’ and if anyone spoke out against this abhorrent practice they were accused of being Anti-American.
From a western American perspective it seems incredulous that the Ethiopian women neither questioned their medical treatment nor read the "fine print" on the medication they were prescribed.
However, it was not so long ago in this country that doctors with malice aforethought deceived an illiterate black population into participating in "The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment," during which the patients thought they were receiving medical intervention, but in fact, were part of a 40-year study to determine the progression of this disease.
I encourage readers to watch the news story above, then read the articles below of the protests and why Israeli Ethiopians are forced to take to the streets in order to achieve equal rights.
Combating Racism against Africans and people of color remains a global problem. Even though President Barak Obama was elected to the White House, many people refuse to retire antiquated notions of race. With regard to race, xenophobia is a terminal condition from which a person who suffers its effects, can and will do any heinous thing to another human being and feel that it is their right.
It is our duty to seek every opportunity to root out this injustice. We must examine ourselves for the traits of this pernicious disease and take the appropriate action. We must stand with those who are most impacted by it and never turn a blind eye to a racial or religious slur.
Abraham J. Heschel said it best, “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” We cannot grow as human beings if we refuse to address the carnage caused by this condition and take the bold steps necessary eradicate it.
- Ethiopian-Israelis demonstrate against discrimination (jta.org)
- Israel taps first Ethiopia-born envoy (jta.org)
- Black, Proud and Racially Oppressed in Israel (desertpeace.wordpress.com)
- #anti-racism: 27 years ago, 8,000 Ethiopian Jews were welcomed as new Israeli citizens. (cifwatch.com)
- Israel Seeks to End Ancient African Jewish Custom (abcnews.go.com)