4 May 2015

Ethiopian Jews clash with Israeli police at racism protest

Several police and protesters hurt after a protest by Ethiopian Jews against police brutality turns violent as demonstrators try to storm city’s municipality building.

A week-old video showing two Israeli policemen punching, beating and trying to arrest an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian descent in what appears to be an unprovoked attack has led to violent clashes between thousands of Ethiopian Jews and police in the country’s capital, Tel Aviv.

Police on horseback charged hundreds of ethnic Ethiopian citizens in central Tel Aviv on Sunday as an anti-racism protest descended into one of the most violent demonstrations in Israel’s commercial capital in years.

At least 56 officers and 12 protesters were injured as demonstrators overturned a police car, smashed shop windows and destroyed property and threw bottles and stones at officers in riot gear at Rabin Square in the heart of the city.

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas as protesters threw bottles and bricks. Water cannons were also used. The demonstrators were charged several times by police on horseback.

“I’ve had enough of this behaviour by the police, I just don’t trust them any more … when I see the police I spit on the ground,” one female demonstrator who was not identified told Channel 2 before the mounted police charge.

“Our parents were humiliated for years. We are not prepared to wait any longer to be recognised as equal citizens. It may take a few months, but it will happen,” another demonstrator told Channel 10.

All claims will be looked into but there is no place for violence and such disturbances – Benjamin Netanyahu

After the incident, where a surveillance camera captured the scuffle between a policeman and an IDF soldier of Ethiopian descent, two policemen were suspended on suspicion of using excessive force.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in top-secret operations in the 1980s and 1990s after a rabbinical ruling that they were direct descendants of the biblical Jewish Dan tribe.

The community, which now numbers around 135,500 out of Israel’s population of over 8 million, has long complained of discrimination, racism and poverty. Ethiopian households earn 35 per cent less than the national average and only half of their children receive high school diplomas, compared with 63 per cent for the rest of the population.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, called for calm. As negotiations to form a coalition government continue, he said he would meet Ethiopian activists and the soldier in the video on Monday.

“All claims will be looked into but there is no place for violence and such disturbances,” he said in a statement.