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Vol. 79/No. 18      May 18, 2015

Protests erupt after police
beat Ethiopian Jew in Israel

Outraged at the police beating of Damas Pakada, an Ethiopian Jewish soldier in his Israeli army uniform, thousands took to the streets in Israel. Demonstrators carried signs in Hebrew that said “Black Lives Matter” and chanted, “Violent cops should be in jail.”

Both Haredimultraorthodox Jews — and Arab onlookers expressed sympathy with the Ethiopians during the first protest, which blocked roads and a light rail line in Jerusalem April 30, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“There is systematic, institutionalized racism in Israel,” Efrat Yerday told the Militant by phone from Beersheva May 4, “and we won’t take it anymore.” She is a graduate student at Ben-Gurion University and a spokesperson for the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews.

Some 120,000 black Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, just 1.5 percent of the population. Although they are citizens, they face widespread discrimination in housing and employment, and racist treatment by the cops.

After he was beaten, Pakada was arrested and accused of attacking the police. But a nearby apartment building security video posted online later that day showed the cops beating Pakada without any provocation.

“We don’t trust the authorities and especially the police because they are very easy with violence,” Yerday said.

Police attacked a protest of thousands in Tel Aviv May 3, firing water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas and arresting 26 protesters. Some 50 people were injured, including 23 cops, as protesters fought back.

“Many Israeli people came to give solidarity at the demonstration,” Yerday said. “At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jewish students showed up wearing black shirts,” in support.

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the mostly Arab Joint List, which is the third largest bloc in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, marched in the Tel Aviv protest May 3. “I promise to stand and struggle by their side until there is a more equal and just society here, in which there is no difference between black and white, man and woman, Jew and Arab,” he said.

As the outrage mounted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Pakada May 4, telling him he “was shocked by the image” in the video.

At the same meeting, Police Insp. Gen. Yohanan Danino said he had fired a cop who beat Pakada. “Usually this is a long process,” he said, apologizing to Pakada, “but in this case, we took action immediately.”

People in Israel have been closely following the fight against the police killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Yerday noted. “It’s the same fight, the same thing, the way they treat black people here.”
Related articles:
Baltimore: 1,000s march, celebrate as cops charged
Protesters press for vigorous prosecution
Join the fight against police brutality!
Join the fight against police brutality! (PDF)
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