'Absorption minister can’t faithfully represent Ethiopian Israeli olim'
Photo: Noam Moskovich

Stop patronizing Ethiopians

Op-ed: Minister who said Ethiopians should be thanking State is patronizing, unfit for job

The Knesset Committee on Aliyah and Absorption recently held an urgent meeting where the absorption minister declared that Ethiopian Israelis should be thanking the State of Israel. This outburst is a telling indication of the minister’s perception about the government’s and citizens’ obligations and duties to their country.


The notion that Ethiopian olim should thank the government is a patronizing attitude coming from someone who herself is a new immigrant. It also took the minister of absorption about a week to officially condemn the racism exposed in Kiryat Malachi; moreover, she did it only when the situation got out of control.


The minister’s patronizing attitude towards Ethiopian Israelis apparently trickles down to her Ministry. Just look at the official guidelines adapted solely for Ethiopian immigrants, whereby government housing grants are permitted to Ethiopian Israelis only on condition that their apartments are purchased on designated, predetermined streets and addresses (in impoverished and weak neighborhoods, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.)


As spokeswoman for the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ), I often encounter obstacles in our work with the Ministry of Absorption. For example, our ongoing challenge in grasping the Ministry of Absorption’s procedures that would allow immigrants to receive housing grants have been met with a closed door at the Ministry’s offices.


In another instance, it took the minister of absorption three months to respond to a letter from us requesting a meeting. We also find it difficult to obtain information about the official Five-Year Comprehensive Integration Plan for Ethiopian Israelis adopted by the government back in 2008.So far there has been no accountability for this plan, except for one report (when over eight should have been published by now.)


The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption was tasked with managing this urgent national initiative for the speedy and successful integration of Ethiopian immigrants into Israeli society. This venture has failed so far, mainly because the Ministry of Absorption shirked its responsibility to oversee and coordinate the resources of five other designated key Ministries: Industry, Trade & Labor; Welfare & Social Affairs; Education; and Housing.


The absorption minister loves to emphasize at every opportunity that we are supposed to be thrilled by her visit to Ethiopia - as if it was a personal visit paid from her own pocket. At the same time, she emphasizes that the distance between Ethiopia and Israel is 300 years - implying that Ethiopia, and thus Ethiopian immigrants - are backward and caught in the past.


In light of the above, the minister of absorption can’t possibly faithfully represent Ethiopian Israeli immigrants whom she is supposed to serve.



פרסום ראשון: 01.18.12, 17:56
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