Failure of North Carolina courts to remedy suppression of academic freedom part of troubling nationwide trend
The North Carolina Supreme Court decided in conference on June 13 to deny a Petition for Discretionary Review filed last December by film scholar Terri Ginsberg. The Petition asked the Court to reconsider a North Carolina Court of Appeals decision affirming a November 2010 lower court dismissal of Dr. Ginsberg’s lawsuit against North Carolina State University (NCSU). In October 2009, Dr. Ginsberg filed a complaint alleging violation of her right to academic freedom under the North Carolina constitution. Dr. Ginsberg had been denied a tenure-track position because of the University’s discomfort with her scholarly speech and writing critical of Israeli policy and Zionism and favoring Palestinian rights and self-determination. The Court’s Order to deny Dr. Ginsberg’s Petition offers neither an opinion nor a reason for the decision.
Dr. Ginsberg’s Petition was supported by an Open Letter sponsored by several national and international human rights organizations and delivered on February 7, 2012 to both the North Carolina Supreme Court and NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson. As of its closure on June 22, the Open Letter had accrued 1274 signatures. Dr. Ginsberg states in both of these documents that by ignoring her voluminous evidence of an academic freedom violation, the Court of Appeals set a dangerous precedent by which academic employers have been given carte blanche to suppress the politically unpopular speech of their faculty, to the detriment of North Carolina students and to public discourse generally.
Dr. Ginsberg’s appeal was rejected despite direct and circumstantial evidence that NCSU took employment actions against her for unconstitutional reasons. During depositions held in June 2010, NCSU’s witnesses, including Prof. Marsha Orgeron, director of the Film Studies Program, and Prof. Akram Khater, director of the Middle East Studies Program, admitted to having reacted negatively to Ginsberg’s supportive statements at a screening of a Palestinian film, Ticket to Jerusalem, during which she thanked the audience for attending and thereby supporting the airing of Palestinian liberation perspectives such as the views displayed in the film. Profs. Orgeron and Khater stated that Dr. Ginsberg’s comments caused them to worry that members of the audience would perceive the Film Studies and Middle East Studies programs as “biased.” Shortly thereafter, Dr. Ginsberg was forced to resign from the Middle East screening series that she had helped curate; NCSU then chose not to interview or hire her for a tenure-track position for which she had previously been ranked as the top candidate. She was rejected despite NCSU’s admission that she was more qualified than the candidate NCSU eventually hired, because her scholarship had “too much focus on Jewish/Israel,” in the words of one search committee member. The Film Studies Program did not purchase Palestinian films for her Spring 2008 course on Israeli–Palestinian conflict cinema, and she was shunned from further extra-curricular and departmental activities until her termination that May.
The Court’s dismissal is particularly troubling in the wake of Arizona’s recent outlawing of Chicano/a studies curricula in that state’s educational system, and as pro-Zionist groups in California are attempting to force California State University–Northridge to forbid mathematics professor David Klein from posting to his faculty website information about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in support of human rights for Palestinians.
Dr. Ginsberg says she has not given up on her quest for justice from North Carolina State University and encourages supporters to e-mail letters of protest to Chancellor Woodson (see sample letter) requesting that she be permitted a long-overdue campus grievance hearing (mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org). Dr. Ginsberg also plans to approach BDS about issuing a boycott of NCSU. For more information about Dr. Ginsberg’s case, please visit the website Ginsberg vs. NCSU.
For more information, contact:
Rima Najjar Kapitan, Esq.
Kapitan Law Office, Ltd.
+1 (312) 566-9590
Press TV has interviewed Hisham Tillawi, journalist and political commentator from Lafayette, Louisiana about the movements of US and Western influence through SCAF that has transformed a popular Egyptian uprising to a contentious civil election while the US keeps control of Egypt’s foreign policy. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: Why don’t you tell us what you think about this. This situation where the votes were supposed to be announced on Monday (6 days past), what is going on with all the different announcements by SCAF in terms of consolidating their grip on power with that Declaration stripping powers from the presidency along with the dissolution of parliament – dissolving the parliament, obviously it shows on the surface that they don’t want to give up that power do they?
Tillawi: You reap what you sow and so whomever planted this revolution will reap the fruit. Now, if this revolution was planted by the people and designed by the people then the people will reap the fruit, but if it was designed by the West then the West is going to reap the fruit.
From the beginning in the first interview that I had with you on this Arab Spring thing, I made a statement that what is required now is total chaos in the Middle East in the Arab countries. It does not want to give stability and democracy etc, etc and this is not a friend that we are witnessing, it is a foe.
Now, having said that this is not how democracy works. Let’s assume that actually Ahmed Shafiq had won – let’s just assume that… and if Ahmed Shafiq won I guarantee you that the country will go down into a dark alley of chaos, total chaos, violent chaos.
And if Ahmed Shafiq won and the Military Council is afraid that they are going to have chaos in the country now that Ahmed Shafiq won and actually decides to keep stability and gives it to Mohamed Morsi, then that’s not democracy.
And it’s not democracy to send your people into the Square to demand that Morsi becomes the next president. That’s not how democracy works.
I remember the first time George Bush stole the election in the US, even though he did not win the election and it was clear that he did not win the election, but he was appointed by the Supreme Court in a vote of 5 to 4 and everybody in the country accepted that Supreme Court vote of 5 to 4. We did not see people in the street demanding this and going into breakdown… that is what we’re going to see in Egypt if Morsi is not the next president of Egypt.
And if Ahmed Shafiq is the president then we know that the West won because we know that the West won when they installed the Military Supreme Council. This is a group of people the US have put in power and they give them so much authority that they can even dissolve a parliament.
So now it is in the hands of the Western powers. Everything that is going on in Egypt is in the hands of the Western powers and whoever gives the Western powers a deal will be the next government and the next power in Egypt.
Press TV: When we look at what has happened in the past year or so, since the revolution took place there was plenty of time for SCAF especially after the parliamentary elections to try to get a deal together with the Muslim Brotherhood given that they had the majority.
Of course we heard then when there were some new appointments to the Upper and Lower House of parliament that there was an even divide in terms of representation. Was that all? Did that not yield any results for them to come out with these statements and motions recently such as dissolving the parliament and the Declaration stripping the president of its powers?
Tillawi: We have to look at Egypt not just as in Egypt only, but the forces that are assisting what is going on in Egypt from the outside. Now, there was a deal made between the Supreme Council and the US and this deal was… the US pressured the Supreme Council that actually the form of government that they would like to see in Egypt is not the democracy that is in the US, but they wanted something similar to the Pakistani model.
They wanted a strong Military Council that can sit in anytime and decide actually when to go to war, when to do this and when to do that; and they wanted a president who’s going to handle basically domestic issues and run the government.
That’s the deal that was made with the US so the Military Council… now let’s not forget that the US still pays 3 billion dollars to Egypt; still pays a billion and a half to the military – so it’s a money issue here.
They are putting pressure on the Military Council and the Military Council cannot really change the formula that they have agreed on with the Americans. The formula is for a strong military council to rule, that could be in the background, while you have a president and a government.
That’s the model that the US wants to see in Egypt. Now, is this going to work in Egypt? Well, you have powers from the outside wanting this; you have powers on the inside wanting true democracy.
Now we are going to wait and see who is going to win. Is it going to be the Western powers with the Military Council’s model; or is it going to be the people where the president would have the total power where all power has been transferred and transformed from the Military Council to civilian power.
That, the US would actually have to decide that and I know why the US is going to go with it, they want to keep the Military Council power.
Press TV: Well, who are they going to go with – what do you mean – do you have an answer to that?
Tillawi: If you’re talking about Shafiq or Morsi… well, it doesn’t really matter. As long as the Military Council is in power they have total power. They can change… they can come up with laws; they can change the formula anytime they want, so it doesn’t really matter. But it matters to the Egyptian street about who the president is.
To America, the US, it doesn’t matter because you have the Military Council in power, but to the Egyptian street, if Shafiq is the president then you’re going to see total chaos and violence and maybe civil war in Egypt; if it’s Morsi then that’s OK as long as – and that’s OK with the US, they don’t care – as long as the Military Council is in power because the Military Council is the one that is going to decide the foreign policy for Israel for the West…
So for the US it doesn’t really matter if it is Morsi or Shafiq, but to the Egyptian street it does matter and to the future of Egypt it does matter… if it’s Shafiq, we’re going to have total chaos in Egypt.
Press TV: But there are a couple of problems there don’t you think, if we want to look at the loopholes here: a) you have all these Egyptians who are against the Military Council having a grip on power and of course that’s something you’re saying it doesn’t matter who the faces are, it’s based on America’s influence – but that’s not something the Egyptians are going to go for.
And second of all – who’s to say the Muslim Brotherhood is going to settle for a position that does not give them any type of authority really. In essence they have to bow to the SCAF for in general exercising any type of power in whatever jurisdiction or whatever area that has to do with Egypt and I would think that is to include foreign policy.
Tillawi: Well, let’s not forget that the Muslim Brotherhood did make some deals with the US, too. I mean, we know about those deals even when Mubarak was still in power – there were deals made with the Muslim Brotherhood before the revolution.
So the Muslim Brotherhood and the US, they’re not enemies, they can make deals and in the end, like we have seen in Yemen, like we have seen in many other places, the US will be the major player and they will play all these forces according to their best interests.
Now, … the people have power, but the people also are receiving 3 billion dollars that they cannot do without from the US. So let’s not just concentrate on what the people power and what the people want because if the people got what they want then we would not see all these regimes in the Arab world that we’ve seen for the last forty years.
What the people want and what they can do, it all depends on the Western powers if they are going to be on the street to stir the street up, then you’re going to see the people actually moving up.
Let’s just not say, well, the Egyptian don’t want this. Well, it’s not up to the Egyptians. Like I said, my first statement was – he who starts will reap what he sews so whoever planted this will reap the fruits of this – let’s not forget that. If it was the US or the West actually that stirred this all up in the Middle East then they’re going to reap that.
People don’t like to hear that, people like to hear revolutions and Arab Springs; well unfortunately it’s not what it looks like.
Press TV: You spoke at length the direction that the foreign policy is going to be heading, which behind the scenes obviously the US is the contributor to that 1.3 billion dollars in aid – Tell us then what the US has in mind? From what I understood from you, they don’t particularly care about what is going on inside Egypt as long as they’re in control of the institution that is running Egypt and that would be SCAF.
So are we looking at for example, the peace treaty still being in place; are we still looking at the situation with Gaza for example and Palestinians to still be the same as it was when Mubarak was in power?
Tillawi: To firstly answer the question you asked your correspondent – yes it is true that it’s split in the middle – half the voters voted for Shafiq and half voted for Morsi. That is true so the Egyptian street is split right in the middle on those two presidential candidates.
Press TV: Do you really believe that after seeing what goes on every week in Tahrir Square or is Tahrir Square not the representation?
Tillawi: Well, Tahrir Square is the representation for one party for one side… you have many millions of Egyptians out there and yes from the numbers that we have seen i.e. the numbers that came out of all these polling stations it is almost split in half between both of them.
Press TV: Yes but you have 50 percent of the population that lives below two dollars a day; you have people who have not seen Ahmed Shafiq campaigning in their neighborhoods aside from the Muslim Brotherhood to have gone there. There are those that the Muslim Brotherhood took care of for all these years, not Ahmed Shafiq who is a former remnant. I mean, is that not the way it is?
Tillawi: Sure definitely. You have to keep in mind that not everyone that can vote went and voted. And many of these people you’re talking about living on less than 2 dollars a day, many of them probably did not go to vote unless they are connected with the Muslim Brotherhood or any other organization.
But you have to understand that what is going on in Egypt… you asked me about the US and the peace treaty, the Muslim Brotherhood already said they will keep the peace treaty. They cannot afford not to keep the peace treaty with Israel…
Press TV: Why can’t they afford that? Why is that?
Tillawi: Because they’re getting 4 billion dollars into their economy from the West. Had the Egyptians replaced their foreign aid with money from their country then they can tell the US to go to hell. But as long as there are controls over money, there are controls of many things from the West, you know, he who feeds you gets to control you.
What are the Egyptians going to do? If they tell the US look we’re not going to do anything with you… what’s going to happen?
Press TV: That’s not what I’m saying… Egypt itself has resources, they have gas, they have a textile industry, they have tourism, and they have enough resources to run their country. Why do they have to get that aid in terms of their army? That should be coming out from within their country if they hadn’t controlled the wealth through Mubarak and the upper class. That’s the part that I don’t understand?
Tillawi: I don’t think you can look at it that way because the control from Mubarak through Sadat… these are successional ideas. You’ve got to look at the real thing that is going on.
You have unemployment in Egypt is extremely high, the economy in Egypt is in a disastrous situation. Now, if you can come up with a revolution that was not started by the West; if this revolution was started by the people on the street, by the people who make less than 2 dollars a day, then I can tell you yes they can tell the US to go to hell…
Last year, 2011, marked the twentieth anniversary of the largest mass transfer of Ethiopian Jews from Africa to Israel. In a series of covert operations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, thousands of Ethiopian Jews – also known as Beta Israel (House of Israel) or Falasha (literally ‘immigrant’ in Hebrew) – were airlifted secretly out of famine-stricken and war-torn Ethiopia and neighbouring Sudan and taken to the Holy Land. At the time, these ‘rescue’ missions were mired in controversy. Hailed by some Zionists as the inevitable homecoming of African Jews to the ‘birthplace’ of Judaism, to others it was a cynical ploy by the Israeli government to alter the demographics of Palestine. The airlifts were, literally, a means of importing Jews to the contested land en masse, no matter where they were from, in an effort to ‘improve’ the ratio of immigrant Israelis to native Palestinians. But now, twenty years on, how well have Ethiopian Jews assimilated into Israeli society? Has their communal story been one of success and full integration or have they been used primarily to boost Israel’s policy of colonising more of Palestine; to provide a ready pool of conscripts for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF); to provide a workforce for low-status manual labour; and to be treated like relative outcasts in the principally white Jewish community of Israel? The latter seems to have been the predominant outcome, with the promises of brotherhood and unity failing to materialise.
Although there are undoubtedly some individual success stories, the picture is pretty grim for many, if not most, Falasha in Israel. According to a report in Newsweek:
Poverty is three times higher among Ethiopians than among other Jewish Israelis, and unemployment is twice as high. Ethiopian youngsters are much more likely to drop out of school and are vastly under-represented at the country’s universities. One place they are over-represented is in jail: juvenile delinquency runs four times higher in the community than among Israelis overall.1
In addition, of the more than 120,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel today (half of whom were born in Africa and all of whom account for less than 2 per cent of its 7.7 million population), many are consigned to live either in ghettos or illegal settlements. Hundreds of complaints of racism are made by the Ethiopian community to charities and organisations like Tebeka every year and there is clearly a huge imbalance in the treatment of black Jews and non-black Jews. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by American and Israeli donors specifically to help the Falasha to ‘integrate’ into Israeli society, a black underclass has essentially been created in Israel, in which 65 per cent of Ethiopian children in Israel live below the poverty line.
Given that the largest Ethiopian diaspora community in the world is to be found in Israel, its treatment should be a matter of great concern to all Ethiopians. It should also be a matter of concern and interest to anyone trying to understand the true nature of Israeli culture and society. There is irrefutable evidence of endemic racism within Israeli society. If Israeli Jews discriminate so badly against other Jews simply because they are black, it should be no surprise that their treatment of Palestinians – whether Christian or Muslim – is many times worse.
Arrival of Ethiopian Jews in Israel
Many Ethiopian Jews consider themselves to be direct descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and, as such, believe that they practise the purest form of Judaism. Ethiopian Jews have lived in Africa for millennia and have practised Judaism in their own language and according to their own customs for generations. However, when Israel was founded in 1948, they were prohibited from going to live there because they were not recognised as ‘true’ Jews by Israel’s rabbinical authorities. That changed in 1975, when the Israeli government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave official recognition to the Falasha as Jews. This was crucial for the community, as it finally gave its members the ‘right’ to make Aliyah (immigration) to the Holy Land with their families under the Israeli Law of Return.
This controversial rabbinical recognition led to a mass exodus of Jews from Ethiopia to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s, and their numbers have gone from just 100 Ethiopian Jews in Israel in 1977 to over 120,000 today. While some people will say that the Ethiopian impetus for this transfer was purely a religious desire to return to the ‘homeland’, in reality there are many other practical, non-religious reasons that can explain why Ethiopian Jews were so desperate to flee to Israel, such as the extreme droughts and famines that plagued Ethiopia, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
Another reason to leave was the huge political turmoil in Ethiopia during this period. Emperor Haile Selassie was toppled in 1974 and Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam took his place. Backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union, communism took hold with accompanying anti-religious sentiment and anti-Semitic tendencies. Mengistu agreed to the transfer of a small number of Jews to Israel as part of an arms deal under which Israel would supply him with weapons, but, for the most part, Jews were prohibited from going to Israel. It is no wonder, therefore, that the sudden recognition of Falasha as ‘real’ Jews was seen as a golden ticket by many Ethiopians and that they put their lives on the line to get their families to Israel. A move from war-torn, famine-ravaged Ethiopia, with the promise of a warm welcome in the land of milk and honey, must have been hugely tempting.
Operations Moses (1984), Joshua (1985) and Solomon (1991)
In order to escape the political turmoil in Ethiopia in the early 1980s, thousands of people fled on foot to the relative safety of refugee camps in Sudan. The journey was perilous and approximately 4,000 people died en route. It was from here that Operation Moses really began. Over a six-week period, as part of a covert operation co-ordinated by the Israeli Army and the CIA, 8,000 Ethiopian Jews were transported from Sudan to Israel. The airlift came to a sudden halt, however, when news of the mission was made public. Many families were subsequently divided, with some family members newly arrived in Israel, some stranded in Sudan and others left behind in Ethiopia.
In a follow-up operation in 1985, around 800 Jews were flown from Sudan to Israel as part of a CIA mission (Operation Joshua, arranged by the then vice-president George Bush). The last and largest of the mass transfer missions was Operation Solomon. A series of non-stop flights took place over a thirty-six-hour period, involving thirty-four El-Al jumbo jets, with an estimated 14,324 Ethiopian Jews being transferred to Israel.
An uneasy ‘homecoming’
The whole spate of ‘rescues’ was very controversial. Questions were asked about Israel’s motives. Was this ‘rescue’ mission really inspired by a religious desire to bring Judaism’s followers to the ‘promised land’ or was it a more nefarious scheme to import Jews in order to shift the demographics of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in favour of Jewish settlers over Palestinians? Whatever the primary motive – religious, pragmatic or political – once the Ethiopians were there, after an epic struggle to get to Israel, it was clear that there would be major difficulties in integrating into Israeli society.
As soon as they arrived, all Ethiopians were sent to ‘absorption centres’. These housing/training/educational facilities were, and still are, said to be a necessary stepping stone into Israeli society. It is here that immigrants are taught Hebrew and the Israeli ‘way of life’. As many of the Ethiopians came from drought-ravaged villages, where they had no running water or electricity, it was felt, by some, that this was necessary to introduce them gradually to life in Israel. However, there have been concerns about the living conditions in the centres and some people have observed that they look more like prisons than ‘welcome’ centres. Many protests have been staged by Ethiopian residents over the years, complaining about the ‘economic distress and harsh living conditions’2 within these facilities.
Furthermore, instead of these being the temporary halfway house that many envisaged, many people have spent years living there in poor conditions. It is common to hear statements such as:
When I was in Ethiopia, I thought I would be happy in Israel … but I’ve suffered in an absorption centre for six years. I asked for a house in Tel Aviv, but there is nothing to be done. I’m not happy in Israel. I think in Ethiopia I could find good work and in the future I think I will go to Canada or Ethiopia.3
It is not uncommon to read reports in the press with headlines such as, ‘Ethiopian Jews fail to integrate into Israeli life’.4 Sadly, over the years, the situation has become so dire for some that it has led to depression and suicide.
So what is life like for Falasha in Israel? To start with, the standard of living among the Falasha community is one of the lowest in the country, apart from that of Arabs. For example, according to the most up-to-date information from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, ‘two-thirds of all Ethiopian immigrants are in need of assistance and in some towns, close to 90 per cent require such care. Research has also shown that close to 75 per cent of Ethiopian families live below the poverty line.’5 Unemployment is around 70 per cent.
According to statistics by the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews: ’65% of Ethiopian Israeli children live in poverty and a third are at risk; only 21% of Ethiopian Israelis receive high school matriculations at a university entry level; and unemployment among Ethiopian Israelis is double the rate of the general Jewish population.’ In one Al-Jazeera report, a Falasha man described the Ethiopian-only neighbourhoods in Israel as ‘ghettos’.6
Racism in Israel towards non-white Jews is not subtle. There is abundant evidence of blatant institutionalised racism in schools, hospitals, housing associations and within the workforce. This racism and open discrimination also pervade Israeli society at a grassroots level. From a bus driver in 2009 refusing to let a black woman on the bus, saying: ‘I don’t allow Kushim [derogatory term for black people] on board. Were there buses in Ethiopia? In Ethiopia you didn’t even have shoes and here you do, so why don’t you walk?’;7 to reports of settlers becoming hostile if arrested by a black IDF soldier; Israeli children throwing stones at Ethiopian soldiers; and ethnic slurs being directed at Ethiopians, including frequent reports of jeers such as, ‘You are just niggers’.8
A spokesperson for the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ), Avi Maspin, 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.9
According to a report in Ynet News, ‘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.’10 The racism that has infected many in Israel can be seen in YouTube videos such as ‘South Tel Aviv Is on Fire‘.
Instead of embracing the ethnic diversity of Jews in Israel and allowing the Falasha to stay true to their African heritage, it seems that many are being forced to leave behind any traces of their Ethiopian legacy. According to one young woman, Yuvi Tashome, who came to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984:
As an Ethiopian immigrant in Israel, you have to erase everything Ethiopian in order to be Israeli. For example, when you first get here they erase your name and give you a new one. When we arrived they asked me my name and I replied ‘Yuvnot’. The girl didn’t understand what I said, so she said ‘Okay, from now on you’re going to be Rahel’. So I was Rahel until after my army service.11
But even this is not enough; try as they might to become fully-fledged Israeli citizens, the mere colour of their skin is enough to ensure that Ethiopians are always seen as outsiders and inferior to non-black Jews. According to one report, this discrimination even carries on after death; some ‘graves in a Jewish cemetery are separated according to the colour of the corpses; a fence has been built between the graves of Ethiopian Jews and the others in the graveyard’.12
The racism extends to such basic issues as where the Falasha can and cannot live. Some areas have a ‘policy’ of not selling apartments to non-white Jews. In 2009, one estate agent looking for accommodation for his newly arrived clients was shocked to be told by the owner of a building in Ashkelon:
There are no Ethiopians in this area at all, and there won’t be any. This is our policy. I have no problem with them living somewhere else … Anyone can come, but not Ethiopians. This is how it is in the entire building; at least I hope it is, in order to preserve the apartment’s value and the building’s value … We’ve kept this rule of not selling to Ethiopians for 16 years. I can’t speak for the entire house, but this is how I feel … It immediately drops the apartment’s value … their apartments drop 30% in value … I’m no expert in the details, but the price goes down if Ethiopians come. I don’t care who lives here, I’m not racist. But when I leave the building where I have lived for the past 16 years, the rest of the tenants will look at me as a traitor because I sold to Ethiopians. I don’t want to ruin my relations with my friends.’13
Health: the blood scandal and birth control
One of the most shocking scandals illustrating the treatment of Ethiopian Jews in Israel was the discovery, in 1996, that blood donated by them was being thrown out by the hospitals. When it was revealed that this had been going on secretly for years, apparently due to irrational fears that their blood would be contaminated with HIV, thousands of Ethiopian Jews demonstrated and clashed with police outside Prime Minister Shimon Peres’s office. This act of deception and racial profiling marked a new low point in the relationship between Ethiopian Jews and Israelis. As one protester said:
We fight and die in the army, go on to study, but that is not enough. It’s inconceivable that a person comes to donate blood and is tricked into thinking that he is saving another life … He sits, a needle enters his body, a considerable amount of blood is drawn from him, and yet the minute he turns his head they toss his blood in the garbage.14
What is even more surprising, however, is that, despite the outcry in the 1990s, this insult was repeated again ten years later. In November 2006, over 200 people took part in a protest outside government offices in Israel to protest against the ‘decision by the Health Ministry to discard donated Ethiopian blood. “We won’t allow our blood to be spilled like this. The Torah says that blood is the soul. How can this country treat us, fellow Jews, this way?” asked Gadi Yabarken, one of the protest’s organizers.’15
In another health-related controversy, it was reported by Jonathan Cook in 2010 that:
‘Health officials in Israel are subjecting many female Ethiopian immigrants to a controversial long-term birth control drug in what Israeli women’s groups allege is a racist policy to reduce the number of black babies.’16
Figures showed that 57 per cent of those prescribed Depo Provera in Israel were Ethiopian women, despite the fact that Falasha represent only around 2 per cent of the entire Israeli population.
‘This is about reducing the number of births in a community that is black and mostly poor,’ said Hedva Eyal, the author of the report by Woman to Woman, a feminist organization based in Haifa, in northern Israel. ‘The unspoken policy is that only children who are white and Ashkenazi are wanted in Israel,’ she said … The contraceptive’s reputation has also been tarnished by its association with South Africa, where the apartheid government had used it, often coercively, to limit the fertility of black women … ‘The answers we received from officials demonstrated overt racism’, Ms Eyal added. ‘They suggested that Ethiopian women should be treated not as individuals, but as a collective group whose reproduction needs controlling.’17
Segregation in education
Ethiopians suffer from discrimination at every stage of the education system. From nursery onwards, they are frequently faced with the blatant racism of teachers and Israeli educational institutions as a whole. Very few Ethiopian high school students go on to get places at university. For example, the parents of one supposedly disruptive student were told by his teacher that the appropriate punishment was his removal from the class, claiming that, ‘this Ethiopian boy is a nuisance not only to other Ethiopians but to the Israelis in the class as well’.18 In another case, ‘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.’19
In an elementary school in Petah Tikva in 2007, four Ethiopian students were put in a separate classroom and kept segregated from the other students. The father of one student said, ‘We are being discriminated against for being black and powerless.’ Ynet News reported that:
Ethiopian immigrants were consequently placed in a separate classroom at the very end of the school corridor. One teacher alone was allotted for teaching them all of the various academic subjects. Moreover, the girls were assigned different recess hours to their peers, and given cab fare home so that they would not ‘overly socialize’ with the rest of the girls.20
Racial slurs are also common within the education system. One student, 18-year-old Asher Balata, was expelled just a few months shy of his high school graduation after hitting his principal ‘because he called me a nigger’.21 While many schools try to justify discrimination against Ethiopian students on the grounds that they are behind educationally, many Falasha parents feel that racism is the true basis for their children’s mistreatment. As one father put it, unsure whether or not his son would be allowed to enrol in school for the new term, if ‘they won’t accept the boy … it’s because he’s black’.22
That so many Falasha children live in poverty also has an impact on their education. For instance, most Falasha children do not register for any sort of nursery or pre-school programmes before the age of 4, primarily because their parents cannot afford the places, the fees for which can be as much as $350 per child per month. This inevitably places them at an educational disadvantage compared to their white Israeli peers who can afford to pay. A disproportionately high number of Falasha children drop out of high school before graduation in order to try to enter the workforce as early as possible, in an attempt to subsidise their families’ already paltry incomes.
Discrimination in the workforce and the army
Discrimination against Ethiopian Jews in the workforce is also rampant. According to a report in the Telegraph, a recent study revealed that ’53 percent of employers preferred not to hire Ethiopians, who nevertheless still fared better than Arabs with an 83 percent rejection rate. The study also found that 70 percent of employers tended not to promote Ethiopians.’23 According to another study, out of 4,500 Falasha who graduated with degrees, only 15 per cent managed to find work in their field, with others finding primarily temporary, unrelated work.24 ‘It boils down to racism’, said Adam Baruch, a Falasha activist. ‘I have applied for jobs and when the employer hears my voice over the phone there is no problem. But when I turn up for the interview with my black skin, suddenly the job is no longer available.’25 There is also said to be an ‘unfair testing system used by the Civil Service, with culturally biased tests automatically disqualifying Ethiopian-born candidates from qualifying for certain government positions.’26
While Palestinians are on the receiving end of the bulk of the Israeli Army’s venom and blood lust, within the ranks of the army itself, it is Ethiopian Jews who are being subjected to degrading treatment and humiliation on a regular basis. Over the years, there have been many reports of Ethiopian army personnel who have committed suicide27 as a direct result of their treatment. Examples of racist treatment include one soldier being ‘thrown out of an army clinic by a major who told subordinates to post a sign saying “No Kushis [blacks] allowed”. “I went to my room and cried for an hour and a half”‘, the humiliated soldier said.28
According to Max Blumenthal, ‘by 1997, six years after an airlift brought the second wave of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, Ethiopian soldiers accounted for 10 percent of army suicides – but comprised only four tenths of a percent of the army. Racism was a key factor in the epidemic.’29 One 22-year-old soldier killed himself after telling his niece, ‘Every morning when I get to the base, six soldiers are waiting for me who clap their hands and yell: the Kushi is here!’30
Pawns in a political game
As Ethiopian immigration continued into the 1990s, another controversy that has received relatively little attention is the way that many new immigrants have been used to flesh out the number of settlers in the West Bank. Israeli settlements are illegal. The UK’s minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, reaffirmed this on 20 May 2011, when he said of settlement activity, ‘it is illegal under international law and should stop’. Thus, the practice of sending new immigrants to live in illegal settlements clearly puts them in an invidious position. Adisu Massala, the first Ethiopian-born Knesset member, said: ‘Netanyahu is exploiting the Ethiopians. He is using them to encourage settlers, to show that he wants settlements more than peace.’31 Many do not know anything about the settlement controversy and are just happy to be in ‘Israel’ and, for others, even if they wanted to object to living in a settlement, as Adisu says, ‘They are afraid to say anything … some are afraid they’ll be sent back’. Dedi Zucker, another legislator, said that he ‘would not object if the Ethiopians chose to live in the settlements of their own accord, but they had no choice in this. They were taken to Ofra, not knowing where they were going … from their first day in Israel, they are settlers. And they don’t even know what that is.’32
Another major area of sensitivity has been the way the Falasha have been made to feel that they are in some way lesser Jews in relation to their faith and practice. Upon their arrival, Beta Israel have been forced to undergo a renewed ‘conversion’. Among other things, this consisted of symbolic circumcision (now no longer required) and a ritual bath (immersion in a Mikveh) as a symbolic renewal of their Jewish identity. This was understandably taken as a clear insult, given that many Ethiopians consider themselves to be direct descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and, therefore, of a purer bloodline than many of the European Jews who were calling for their ‘conversion’. However, under the Law of Return, ‘the Ethiopian Jews must undergo a process of conversion to Judaism in order to receive all the financial benefits of new immigrants’33 and, thus, must concede, however degrading the process may be.
Even when the Falasha have fulfilled the initial requirements, they are still not left to practise freely in the way that they would if they were truly free and equal in Israel. In some areas, for example, there are no Ethiopian synagogues at all. In an interview, one Falasha, Kess Hadane, said:
I go to the Israeli synagogue and we pray in Hebrew, not Ge’ez. I was a respected religious leader and in charge of twenty-five synagogues in Ambover. Here I am only allowed to assist a rabbi in one synagogue. There is not even an Ethiopian synagogue in Bet Shemesh, where there are more than a hundred families.34
Even beyond that, some of Israel’s stronger orthodox groups, such as Habad, do not ‘recognize Ethiopians as Jews or allow their children into its kindergartens’.35 The Ashkenazi Jews of European descent regard themselves as being at the top, with Sephardic or Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews being at the bottom of the scale – if they are considered as being on it at all. There has never been a Mizrahi or Sephardic prime minister, for example, and the vast majority of Knesset members are Ashkenazi.
Increasingly, Israel is being seen as a racist and exclusionist state. Its subjugation and abuse of Palestinians living within Israel (20 per cent of the population), as well as those living under the Israeli military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, are well documented and have led to it being called an apartheid state. What is less well known, however, is just how ingrained and insidious racism in Israel actually is, in that it not only extends to Palestinian Christians and Muslims, but also to Jews who come from ethnic minority backgrounds. Jews who were once supposedly welcomed into Israel as brothers and sisters in faith now find themselves relegated to the underclass in Israel. While they may be placed far above Palestinians, they are nonetheless far below non-black Jews.
In Ethiopia, it is true that the Falasha had to contend with poverty, famine and drought, but, in Israel, people who once had strong familial and societal ties are finding their community plagued with high levels of unemployment, a shift in social hierarchies, an erosion of their traditions, an increased level of criminalisation of their youth and other social ills. They are finding themselves confined to ghettos, discriminated against in the workplace, insulted by scandals such as the blood donation fiasco and subjected to interracial attacks, which appear increasingly prevalent. It appears that elements of Israeli society are crumbling from within, and endemic and institutionalised racism is certainly a contributing factor.
1 Joanna Chen, Newsweek (20 March 2011).
2 Yael Branovsky, ‘Ethiopian immigrants protest dire absorption conditions’, Ynet News
(9 November 2008).
3 Linda Gradstein, ‘Ethiopian Jews fail to integrate into Israeli life’, Sun-Sentinel (24 September 1989).
5 Ruth Eglash, ‘Two Ethiopians enter Knesset, Israel’s parliament’, Jerusalem Post (20 May 2008).
6 See: ‘Israel’s Ethiopian migrants struggle to integrate’, available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdnLCfAddiA&NR=1&feature=fvwp (visited 5 November 2009).
7 Daniel Edelson, ‘Egged bus driver to Ethiopian: no blacks allowed’, Ynet News (11 August 2009).
8 See: http://www.blackpresence.co.uk/2009/03/ethiopians-discover-what-israelis-really-think/
9 Yael Branovsky, ‘Ethiopian community hit hard by discrimination’, Ynet News (7 December 2007).
11 James Horrox, ‘Beta Israel: orphans of circumstance’, Jewcy (30 June 2008).
12 ‘Even in death, Ethiopian Jews face racism from other Jews’, Middle East Monitor (28 December 2010).
13 Shmulik Hadad, ‘Ethiopian tenants? Out of the question’, Ynet News (13 February 2009).
14 Meital Yasur-Beit Or, ‘Ethiopians outraged over blood disposal’, Ynet News (1 November 2006).
15 Sheera Claire Frenkel, ‘Israeli Black-African Jews complain against racism’, Jerusalem Post (26 November 2006).
16 Jonathan Cook, ‘Israel’s treatment of Ethiopians “racist”‘, National (6 January 2010).
18 Branovsky, ‘Ethiopian community hit hard’, op. cit.
21 Allyn Fisher-Ilan, ‘Ethiopian Jews battle poverty, prejudice in Israel’ (15 March 2005).
22 Joshua Mitnick, ‘Why Jews see racism in Israel’, Christian Science Monitor (2 September 2009).
23 Michael Blum, ‘Ethiopian Jews in Israel still await the promised land’, Telegraph
(20 November 2009).
24 Dina Kraft, ‘Despite diplomas, Ethiopian Israelis can’t find jobs’, available at: http://www.jewishjournal.com (visited 25 December 2008).
25 Tim Butcher, ‘From Israeli slum to the pages of Vogue’, Telegraph (4 November 2005).
26 Eglash, op. cit.
27 John Daniszewski, ‘Ethiopian Jews see soldiers’ suicides as symptom of racism’, Los Angeles Times (5 April 1997).
29 Max Blumenthal, ‘On Israeli Memorial Day, suicide, fratricide and accidents remain top causes of soldier deaths’, available at: http://maxblumenthal.com (visited 5 September 2011).
31 Rebecca Trounson, ‘Ethiopians in W. Bank called pawns in tussle over land’, Los Angeles Times (9 July 1998).
33 Gemeda Humnasa, ‘Anti-Israel sentiment growing in Ethiopia’, American Chronicle
(16 February 2007).
34 For interview, see Len Lyons, The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: personal stories of life in the promised land (Woodstock, VT, Jewish Lights, 2007).
35 Ben Lynfield, ‘Ethiopian Jews find Israel to be a racist state’, Christian Science Monitor (22 May 2002).
- LOL!!! Netanyahu says “there is no room for racism in Israel’ at ceremony honoring Ethiopian Jews (theuglytruth.wordpress.com)
DCIPS | April 20, 2010
On 13 July 2009, Jameel (16) and two electricians were to his home when they heard the sound of weapons being cocked and an Israeli soldier saying stop, you mother***r. The four Israeli soldiers verbally abused Jameel, took his ID and broke his mobile phone. Family members soon arrived as they had heard the bews. After several minutes the soldiers marched Jameel toward Ramat Yeshai settlement and told his mother and cousin that it was a closed area and they would be shot at if they followed them, after telling them moments before “go back you whores.”
At a checkpoint near the settlement. Jameel was blindfolded and had his hands tied with plastic cords. He was forced to stand near the checkpoint as 40-50 settlers threw stones and brutally beat him, including punching him in the neck, causing the boy extreme pain and nausea. They also verbally abused him calling him a son of a whore and a motherf***er. Soldiers also brutally beat him. His head was smashed into the ground knocking him unconscious. Jameels family witnessed some of the abuse and his father captured part of the incident on a camera given to him by BTselem. A BTselem fieldworker was also present.
Eventually an officer cut the plastic ties and told Jameel that he could go. He walked away and then was ordered to stop. Grabbing Jameels chin, the officer said: “If you tell the Israeli police or the press or human rights organizations about what happened, I’ll kill you or shoot you from a distance if I can’t reach you.” Jameel went to Ahlia hospital for medical treatment. After leaving the hospital he and his father went to file a complaint at the police station in Kiryat Arba settlement. They were told to come back the next day which they did. They met with an interrogator and signed a paper in Hebrew that allegedly contained what they had said. Following the attack, Jameel suffered from insomnia and feels scared and unsafe around his neighbourhood.
The majority of Turks believe President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should adopt a more neutral approach to the crisis in Syria, a new poll has found.
The opinion poll, which was conducted before the downing of a Turkish plane by Syrian forces on Friday, found that more than two-thirds of Turks opposed any intervention by Turkey in Syria.
The Ankara Social Research Center poll also revealed that a majority believed Ankara should not take sides in the conflict.
Relations between former allies Turkey and Syria have deteriorated rapidly in the past year, with southern Turkey being used as a base for the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
(Al-Akhbar, Turkish Weekly)
New explosive revelations show British soldiers tortured Iraqi civilians who were hooded, stripped-naked and assaulted in secret black jails under direct authority of the Ministry of Defense and in blatant violation of Geneva Conventions on rights of victims of war.
The shocking abuse, sanctioned by the senior Ministry of Defense (MoD) lawyers, was carried out in a network of secret prisons in Iraq, including at a deserted phosphate mine site, after the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, in blatant breaches of international and human rights law.
The torture led to the death of at least one civilian who was beaten to death aboard an RAF helicopter while 63 others remain missing after being flown to a “black site” prison at an oil pipeline pumping station, The Daily Mail reported.
The chief British Army lawyer in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer, who should have been informed of the tortures, but was kept “totally in the dark” said the incidents in the secret prisons amount to “war crimes.”
“The allegations are blatant violations of the Geneva Conventions and UN Convention Against Torture. If indeed prisoners were rendered beyond Iraq’s borders, then this is potentially one of the most serious war crimes under the Rome Statute,” Mercer said.
Mercer added that the “prisoner facility operated entirely outside the normal chain of command” and warned the government can deny all charges related to the facility if it manages to get its controversial secret justice plans into the law.
The government is now pushing the Justice and Security Bill through the Commons that allows confidential documents offered by the security services in the courts in defense of itself to be withheld from other parties.
The coincidence of the revelations by a number of victims of the abuse in the secret prisons who are taking legal action with the government’s secret justice plans has raised fears that officials can bury their flagrant violations of human rights and the international law forever.
“I find it remarkable that I knew nothing about it at the time. What is clear now is that, if the Justice and Security Bill does become law, the truth may never come out,” Mercer said.
“These are alleged war crimes, but what Britain did may never be disclosed. Indeed, the Bill may be specifically designed to prevent such allegations ever coming to light,” he added.
- Guantanamo’s Goon Squads Still Torturing Under Obama (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Torture and the CIA (alethonews.wordpress.com)