Baltimore in Israel: Ethiopians Protest, 27 Police Hurt, Major Road Blocked

Ethiopian Protest in Israel (Reuters)

JERUSALEM, Israel — Thousands of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel continued their nationwide protest against police brutality on Sunday evening, shutting down a major highway for three hours and demonstrating in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. As in protests last Thursday in Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv protest turned violent, and 27 law enforcement officers were injured, according to Ynet. The protests were sparked by video of two policemen beating an Ethiopian soldier in uniform.

Beginning in the 1980s, Israel began bringing the Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel, rescuing thousands from famine and persecution. Many Ethiopians have enjoyed opportunities they could not have dreamed of having, and have succeeded in a variety of fields. Many, however, have also struggled to adjust to life in Israel, and have become part of Israel’s poor underclass. Many have also adopted pop culture cues from American hip-hop, with its anti-establishment postures.

That is partly what seems to be motivating the violent protests in Israel, which have continued even after earnest efforts by Israeli officials to reach an understanding with the community. Jerusalem’s major, Nir Barket, personally went to protests last week in Jerusalem to speak with demonstrators. One official quoted by Ynet said that left-wing activists had been “inciting members of the community to keep protesting after the police has already reached understandings with them.”

However, there have been previous grievances. In the 1990s, it was revealed that Israeli blood banks were dumping blood donated by Ethiopians over fears of HIV/Aids prevalence. That, too, sparked violent protests. Ethiopians have, however, continued to integrate into Israeli life. A recent Miss Israel was Ethiopian, and Ethiopian-infused music has found wide public appeal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet with community leaders, the Jerusalem Post reports.