Members of the Ethiopian community were bewildered and outraged after Knesset Member Pnina Tamano-Shata was refused
a blood donation on the grounds she had " the special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood."
"What happened at the Knesset is painful, insulting and infuriating," said Spinau Retta, chairman of the Ethiopian community's immigrants committee.
Chairman Yair Lapid
issued a harsh response: "Pnina Tamano-Shata is very upset. We're trying to figure out how in 2013 Israel, a Magen David Adom volunteer can tell her she won't draw blood because she's from Ethiopia.
"She just came returned from South Africa, where she represented Israel
in the memorial for Nelson Mandela, the man who taught the world you cannot stay silent in the face of racism. We will not stay silent. Whoever needs to be fired will be fired."
Lapid further stated, "The protocol that needs to change will be changed. The Knesset has only two MKs from the Ethiopian community. Both from Yesh Atid. We're proud of them and believe in them. Whoever acts against them has a score to settle with each of us."
Gadi Yivrekan, head of the headquarters for the Ethiopian Jews' struggle for social equality said: "It's time that the State of Israel take its citizens seriously. We're on a very slippery slope when it comes to Ethiopian Jews. We have contributed and will continue to contribute to the state in many ways."
Yivrekan called on the government to establish a state commission of inquiry to examine "the failure of absorption."
He noted that MK Tamano-Shata worked alongside him in the struggle against the destruction of blood units. "We met with the health minister and agreed that the protocol will change and that citizens born in Israel will be able to donate blood and others' donations will be tested. I call upon all members of the Ethiopian community: Don't donate blood. Our blood is too valuable to be given to those who do not appreciate it."
Efrat Yardai, an activist for the Ethiopian community said, "This case should come as no surprise and it's high time that people see that it doesn't matter what they did in the army or what combat unit they served in. The status that members of the Ethiopian community achieve does not erase Israeli racism, it does not erase the color of their skin and that is why racism is here every second of every day."
The Israeli association for Ethiopian Jews said it was "appalled by the Health Ministry's racist policy."
Ziva Mekonen Dagu, the IAEJ's chairwoman said, "This case brought me back 20 years. The Health Ministry must apologize to the Knesset member and the entire Ethiopian community."
She demanded that Health Minister Yael German dismiss the MDA volunteer who refused to draw the blood. "It's a disgrace that an employee would say 'you have a special blood type'. The feeling within the community is that we're tired. A whole public is being labeled."
Health Minister Yael German said in response: "I find it absurd that in Israel of 2013, people of Ethiopian descent that came to Israel over 25 years ago, can still not donate blood."
German added that "from the moment that I assumed office, I have been having discussions with Ministry of Health professionals and the blood services in order to change and bring an end to this absurd situation. I intend to hold a discussion open to the public, in which professional opinions from global authorities will be presented, and will accordingly change the criteria that determines eligibility for blood donation, in a manner that will protect both the donors' dignity and the health of the person accepting the transfusion."
Moran Azulay, Shahar Chai and Omri Efraim contributed to this report
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