The day after returning from anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s memorial in South Africa, Israel’s first Ethiopian-born Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid), had her blood refused in a government donation drive because she is African. Volunteers at a Magen David Adom (Red Star of David—Israel’s Red Cross) booth set up inside of Knesset told Tamano Shata that she could not give blood because she is has “the special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood.”
Tamano-Shata explained that she is a member of Knesset, served in the Israeli army and asked to speak to a manager about her blood’s rejection. She was then told her credentials didn’t matter. The Heath Ministry has a policy against taking blood from people who live in Ethiopia, which they categorize as a high-HIV rate country. Tamano-Shata was born in Ethiopia and at the age of three, moved to Israel in 1984.
From Ynet News:
After pushing the matter further, Tamano-Shato was informed she could donate but that her blood would be frozen and not used.
In response, she told the MDA: ‘I’m good enough to serve the country in the Knesset, but for some reason, to donate blood, I’m not good enough… this is insulting.’
The supervisor responded by saying ‘sweetheart, don’t be insulted, your’re right but these are the Health Ministry’s directives.’ A man present at the scene, told Tamano-Shato as she was exiting, ‘what can you expect, this is a racist country.’ [sic]
Still in Israel there is an unfortunate history of medical institutions refusing blood donations from Africans, and Tamano-Shata has been at the helm of decades of protests to peel back these discriminatory regulations. When she was 16 she led demonstrations to integrate the blood bank’s donation policy, and again in 2006. That year Israeli Channel 2 aired a report exposing that Magen David Adom dumps blood donated by Ethiopians. From Ynet:
‘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,’ says Gadi Yevrakan, a member of the Ethiopian community from Rehovot.
‘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 to the garbage.’
A few of Tamano-Shata’s colleagues condemned the blood blank’s racist policy. She even got a call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. From the Jerusalem Post:
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke to Tamano-Shata and expressed shock and displeasure at the incident.
‘I thought this was behind us, but now it turns out I was wrong. This unacceptable phenomenon that has no place in the Knesset,’ Edelstein said.
Several ministers and MKs called the Yesh Atid MK to express solidarity. Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said that she hopes that something good will come out of the story and change the ‘racist and humiliating policy.’
In addition to trashing blood donated from Ethiopians, last year two Tel Aviv hospitals adopted policies to segregate and African asylum seekers from the general public, and refuse treatment until tests for tuberculosis are completed. The pilot project began after one hospital quarantined a refugee and his ill infant in a locked nurses’ changing room, refusing the sick child treatment until blood was drawn and tested.