Jul 22, 2019
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.
Violent riots and mass demonstrations took place in early July in half a dozen cities in Israel including Tel Aviv and Haifa. The explosions were sparked by a policeman fatally shooting a 19-year-old Ethiopian Israeli. Barricades of burning tires went up. Nearly 1,000 young people in Tel Aviv attacked a police station, injuring over 100 cops. The violence of these youths reflects their anger against the racism black Jews from Ethiopia face in Israel.
Eleven Israeli black people have died in confrontations with cops since 1997. An association reports that criminal indictments of Ethiopian Israelis almost doubled since 2015. Nearly all black youths taken to court are convicted. Only one-third of other Israelis are.
Israel has at least 140,000 Jews from Ethiopia. More than a third were born in Israel. The government has campaigned to bring in more, as it wants to have more people in the country, to serve as soldiers and to work for low wages.
Israel recognized Ethiopian Jews as Jewish in 1975 despite the hostility of religious authorities. A policy called “the right of return” lets any Jew move to Israel. In the 1980s, the government organized two secret airlifts to fly in thousands from Ethiopia and refugee camps in Sudan. But once in Israel, the Ethiopian Jews were treated as poor people. In Israel as elsewhere, sharing a historical, cultural, and religious community doesn’t count. What matters is class.