Discrimination in police investigation, from religious institutions, in the healthcare system, in education, in welfare, in unemployment; the State of Israel is taking responsibility for the hard allegations against it from Israelis of Ethiopian origin, and is even offering solutions. On Monday, the Inter-ministerial Committee to Eradicate Racism against Those of Ethiopian Descent will present its findings and recommendations to the prime minister.
The report, which was assembled by a large team headed by the Ministry of Justice's director general, Emi Palmor, is 170 pages long and includes 52 practical recommendations intended to help correct institutionalized and societal racism.
The report states, "For years, those of Ethiopian descent have experienced discriminatory treatment from Israeli institutions and citizens, exclusion from the public sphere, discrimination in education and employment, stigmatization and negative stereotypes, and have even been exposed to physical and verbal abuse.
"Claims by those of Ethiopian descent of institutional and police racism, and alternatively, of the forgiveness of the heads of institutions for such displays, have been heard the whole time of the team's work. At this point, we have the obligation not to miss the opportunity to heal the rifts. Wide implementation of the recommended steps in this report is intended to provide the conditions required for zero tolerance for expressions of discrimination and racism."
The report describes in detail the major scandals of recent years that have affected the Ethiopian-descent community, including the practice of destroying blood donated by the community, injecting women of the community with contraceptives without their informed consent, segregated maternity wards, segregating students in educational institutions, the lack of recognition from the religious establishment, the cruel use of Tasers against Yosef Salamsa who later killed himself, the unwarranted police assault on the soldier Damas Pakada, and allegations of having abandoned Avra Mengistu, who crossed the border into Gaza.
The report states, "These incidents and additional events have led to disillusionment and distrust of the establishment by those of Ethiopian origin and ignited waves of protests."
The committee consulted experts and examined implementable models from various countries. A substantial portion of the report deals with police interactions with those of Ethiopian descent and the community's distrust of the Police Investigation Unit.
"Social activists brought serious allegations according to which the police is operating in a racist and discriminatory fashion that is not respectful and not fair," the report states. Its authors reached the conclusion that many of the allegations are justified and that police make widespread use of Tasers against those of Ethiopian origin and treat detainees inappropriately.
It also found that the authorities are more severe with members of the community: The rate of criminal cases involving suspects and defendants from the Ethiopian community are twice as high as those involving others, relative to their demographic. The rates of indictments against minors of Ethiopian origin is four times higher their share of the population, and the rate of those minors being sentenced to prison is ten times higher than their proportion of the population.
The committee's conclusions cover three areas: handling complaints, legal tools, and "positive presentation" of those of Ethiopian descent. The main recommendations include establishing a coordination unit that will coordinate government activity to prevent racism and discrimination and will function as an address to concentrate and treat complaints; appointing someone responsible for racist harassment at government ministries, just as someone is appointed as responsible for sexual harassment; rendering filing lawsuits dealing with racism and discrimination easier; producing public-service announcements calling to eradicate racism; and establishing an academic track for outstanding teachers of Ethiopian origin to train them to be principals.
The recommendations related to treatment by the police and their investigation unit includes running a pilot that would require police officers in cities with large concentrations of persons of Ethiopian origin to wear cameras that would record every interaction with a suspect; limiting the use and supervision of Taser use; increasing the severity of measures taken against violent officers; translating all law-enforcement documentation into Amharic and providing interpreters in investigations if required; and rendering more accessible filing complaints in the Police Investigation Unit by using a dedicated form that will be offered to anyone investigated who complains about violence during the investigation.
"The recommendations are intended to address the severity of the situation and the urgency to correct it as part of a short-term emergency plan," explain the authors. "We cannot ignore the need for developing and implementing long-term simultaneously, and some of the recommendations deal with that, too."