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'Too many Ethiopians in the class'
Photo: Adi Greled
Avi Maspin: Time to call a spade a spade
Photo: Tal Haas
Ethiopian community hit hard by discrimination
Examples of racism in Israel in 2007: a school that prides itself on its low number of Ethiopian students; parents requesting Ethiopian children be removed from their children's kindergarten; a teacher that says 'the student is a nuisance not only to Ethiopians but also to the Israeli students in the class.' Organizations looking out for Ethiopians unveil the true state of racism in Israel

Organizations working for the advancement of rights of Ethiopians in Israel have been receiving hundreds of complaints each year concerning discriminatory and racist attitudes towards members of the minority ethnicity in Israel.

 

The facts seem to show that these attitudes are not confined to specific areas of the country but rather represent a collective phenomenon within Israeli society.

 

In one instance, a teacher who called in a troublesome student's parents for a private conversation told them that the proper punishment for their son was his removal from the class. She explained that: "This Ethiopian boy is a nuisance not only to other Ethiopians but to the Israelis in the class as well."

 

On the website of a school in the north, the administration proudly proclaims that "there is a small quantity of Ethiopian children in our educational institution." It should be noted that no other ethnic groups are mentioned.

 

In another instance, in a kindergarten in southern Israel Ethiopian children were removed from the school after other children's parents protested that there were too many of them. In coming days, a lawsuit is to be filed against the mayor of the city.

 

Even FIDEL, which dubs itself the "Association for Education and Social Integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israel," encountered difficulties when it was searching for an office in the center of the country.

 

Representatives from the organization went on a tour of potential locale but when the landlord of the building heard Ethiopians planned to occupy his property, he brusquely suggested they look elsewhere.

 

"There is an office with a lot of medicine nearby, I don't want any problems with theft and drugs," the owner told them.

 

Another group called Tebeka, which carries the slogan "Advocacy for Equality and Justice for Ethiopian Israelis," filed complaints in a number of incidences of racism across Israel. According to agency representatives, since the beginning of 2007, their office has received over 100 appeals for help.

 

Attorney Yael Segel-Maklis, manager of the judicial affairs department at Tebeka, told Ynet that "there is a fundamental problem of illegitimacy with regard to Ethiopian immigrants. Israeli society is shooting itself in the foot because it has caused a frustrated generation (of Ethiopians) to grow up here, and we're seeing all of the severe consequences of this."

 

Racism in Israel

At the headquarters for the struggle for social equality for Jewish Ethiopians there are plans to call the attention of Israeli society to the problem of racism and other negative social attitudes towards Ethiopian immigrants.

 

Gadi Yevrakan, the director of the struggle, said that he is "no longer surprised by anything, there is no difference between the neo-Nazis…and all those that discriminate against Jews from Ethiopia."

 

The Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ) intends to send letters to the Attorney General requesting that he check up on local authorities in their handling of absorption of Ethiopian Jews.

 

Avi Maspin, a spokesman for IAEJ, said that "racism is a word that I have feared using until now, because I did not believe that it could exist in Israel in 2007, but the time has come to call a spade a spade. Israeli society is profoundly infected by racism and unfortunately there is no suitable punishment for racism in Israel."

 

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