Illustrative: IDF soldiers of Ethiopian origin

Ethiopian-Israeli soldier speaks out over commander's racist slur

Captain apologizes after calling subordinate the Hebrew equivalent of the N-word; IDF says it is investigating incident, views such statements 'with severity and is working to eliminate them'

A captain in the 101st Paratrooper Company directed a clearly racist slur at a soldier of Ethiopian background, calling the soldier "a dirty kushi" (the Hebrew equivalent of the N-word) in front of his fellow soldiers.



After an inquiry by the battalion commander, the captain was forced to apologize, and details of the incident were forwarded to the brigade officers in order to prevent similar cases in the future.


Illustrative: IDF soldiers of Ethiopian origin
Illustrative: IDF soldiers of Ethiopian origin


"We were finishing a weeklong training session for veterans in the field," the soldier told Ynet's sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday, preferring to remain anonymous.


"The commander thought that we veteran soldiers played a practical joke on him, and took his car keys. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he was sure that it was me. So he went to the sergeant major, and to another soldier and said 'that dirty kushi did it'."


The soldier said his fellow soldiers came to him stunned and told him about the incident.


"I was in shock," he said. "I had nothing to do with the keys, and I was offended to my core. Everyone in our company was talking about what he called me. This company commander was my platoon officer for eight months while I was in basic training, and that's what made it hurt so much."


After the insult, the soldier decided to tell the brigade commander immediately about the incident.


"The brigade commander called me in and then included the captain in the discussion. At first he denied it, but then he admitted it and apologized for the incident. I won't be quiet about this, mostly so no one does this to other Ethiopian soldiers. I haven't told my parents because I didn't want to make them sad, but I'll tell them."


The soldier said that this is the first time during his service that he experienced racism from his officers, but decided he wanted to speak to the media out of a sense of obligation and duty toward other soldiers.


The IDF Spokesperson's Unit responded: "The IDF views such incidents with severity and is working to eliminate them. In the IDF, there is no room for any kind of hurtful statements. We are familiar with the incident, and the brigadier and battalion commanders will investigate in the next few days. The officer apologized in front of the soldier."


This isn't the only case of an IDF soldier experiencing humiliation and racism from their superiors. There have been several cases in the past of commanders insulting soldiers for their skin color.


The IDF reports that the number of cases of racism is falling, and emphasizes that it does more to integrate Ethiopian soldiers than any other body in Israel.


Ethiopian Israelis protesting discrimination and police brutality during widespread demonstrations in 2015 (Photo: AFP )
Ethiopian Israelis protesting discrimination and police brutality during widespread demonstrations in 2015 (Photo: AFP )


Even though the IDF has a long way to go, there has been a decline in the number of Ethiopian soldiers leave military service early, as well as those jailed while doing their military service.


There has also been a rise in the number of officers of Ethiopian background, including colonels. Last year, an Air Force pilot made history as the first of Ethiopian ethnicity.


In 2015, a policeman was caught on camera beating Ethiopian-Israeli soldier Damas Pakada, triggering a furious response from the community.


The video of the beating led to an outcry by Israeli Ethiopians, who marched in protests around the country in an attempt to raise awareness of discrimination, racism and police brutality. Protesters blocked major roads in Tel Aviv, and scores were wounded and arrested in clashes with police.


פרסום ראשון: 06.17.19, 11:18
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