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Baltimore is confronting police brutality, but the systemic racism of its Israeli sister city remains unchallenged

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In recent weeks, the world’s attention has been fixed on Baltimore, MD, after 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray died in police custody, sparking street protests and a popular uprising which is being credited with convincing the State’s Attorney to charge six Baltimore police officers in Gray’s death. In recent days, however, some observers of these events are turning their attention to the State of Israel, and pondering the possible associations between these two places.

On one hand, some critics have speculated about the tactical training that Baltimore police officers have received in Israel, wondering whether the force has adopted crowd control methods Israel has long practiced on Palestinians. On the other hand, some analysts are asking if the African-Israeli protests of recent days against state-sponsored racism and police brutality were in part inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter uprising in Baltimore.

While both of these Baltimore-Israel connections merit attention, there is another relationship between the two territories that also deserves to be explored. Since 2003, Baltimore has had a partnership with the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, and ties between the two towns have been cultivated at the highest levels. Last June, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made time to meet with a delegation visiting from the Israeli city.

Over the course of Israel’s 67-year-history, many of its municipalities have established strong bonds with their American counterparts, with some forging formal alliances to become twin towns and sister cities. Associations with Israeli cities are so popular in America that some are willing to double- and even triple-up for the privilege. Such is the case with Baltimore, whose link to Ashkelon is also shared by Portland, OR and Sacramento, CA.

Some of these ties result from efforts by local Jewish communities to drum up support for the State of Israel, and in particular, to “adopt” Israeli communities that they feel require extra assistance (in addition to the billions of dollars the U.S. government showers on Israel annually). Since Ashkelon is located within rocket range of the Gaza Strip, it qualifies under this category (the Israeli towns of Sderot and Netivot are both closer to Gaza, but have populations of only 25,000 each, while Ashkelon’s is five times that amount).

Ashkelon was a Canaanite coastal town of perhaps 15,000 people before the Biblical era, and an Arab village of approximately 11,000 inhabitants before 1948. In 1950, two years after the State of Israel was established, the government drove out nearly the entire Palestinian population – many to nearby Gaza – and resettled thousands of Jewish families in their homes. Though the number of Arabs living in the Ashkelon area remains low, it would seem that it is not nearly low enough for some top city officials.

In January 2011, Ashkelon city councilor Tomer Galam publicly warned of romantic relationships between local Jews and non-Jews, or in his words, “the problem of the phenomenon of Arabs that tempt young residents of Ashkelon”. Posters raising the specter of mixed-race-and-religion couples appeared throughout Ashkelon, cautioning “Be careful, Dad, wake up, before Yusuf (Arabic for Joseph) will be in your living room.” The city’s deputy mayor Shimon Cohen then organized an anti-miscegenation rally outside Ashkelon City Hall.

Anti-Arab incitement also extends to Ashkelon’s education system. Last summer, while the Israeli military was waging war on Gaza – making some of the descendants of the those former Ashkelonians refugees in their own country once again – a high school teacher in Ashkelon sent all of his students a text message: “These days it is important to remember that there are good Arabs, too! And they can be found here.” He attached to the message an image of an Arab cemetery.

To compound insult to injury, the teacher who sent the message was not punished for his actions, yet the student who brought it to the attention of school administrators was.

A couple of months later, following a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni fired all the Arab laborers who had been constructing bomb shelters for the municipality. This step was seen as so extreme, even by Israeli benchmarks, that it triggered condemnations from all across the political spectrum. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat openly scolded Shimoni, saying, “You can’t outlaw an entire public, as was done in Nazi Germany seventy years ago.”

While Ashkelon officials incite racism against Arabs, its effects are mitigated because the city’s Palestinian population is nearly non-existent. Jewish-African-Israelis, commonly called Ethiopian-Israelis, however, make up about 5% of the city’s residents, and they suffer from significant race-based discrimination.

In March 2012, as air raid sirens warned of an impending rocket attack from Gaza and residents rushed down to their apartment building’s communal bomb shelter for protection, only one woman was physically prevented from entering. She was a black woman who had immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia a few years earlier. An investigation revealed that the area bomb shelters had been operating according to strict segregation by race for over two decades.

Asked to explain why this was the case, a white Jewish neighbor said, “To tell you the truth, it’s difficult to deal with them, they are uncultured.” Ashkelon city councilor Yuri Zamushchik responded to the incident by stating: “It was a mistake to begin with to fill the building with immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia together… It may not be politically correct, but those are the facts on the ground.”

Zamushchik’s impressions are borne out by the observations of real estate agents in Ashkelon, who say that in certain neighborhoods of the city, residents refuse to sell apartments to Ethiopian-Israeli families. “I hear talk of, if Ethiopians move into the building, it will reduce the flat’s worth,” is how one real estate lawyer described the phenomenon. “Sometimes there is horrible talk of their smells, their foods, and so on.”

In May 2012, the owner of Ashkelon’s HaPoel Football Club, Prosper Azgi, was recorded calling one of the African men who played for his team the Hebrew equivalent of the N-word. Azgi could be heard clearly on tape saying, “Tell the player what happens to a [N-word] like him, he belongs in a psychiatric ward.” In spite of the evidence, a judge cleared Azgi of the charge of making racist epithets, claiming that since the African player’s first language is not Hebrew, he could not have understood the curse word.

In 1951, the year after Ashkelon was depopulated of Arabs, a new neighborhood was built for African immigrants – but they were white Jews from South Africa. In recent years, the city has seen another wave of Africans arrive – this time, non-white and non-Jewish. Of the 65,000 or so non-Jewish Africans that entered Israel between 2006 and 2012 requesting asylum – before the government built a fence on Israel’s African border to keep them out – approximately 1,500 took up residence in Ashkelon, according to city officials.

Before the government began forcing asylum-seekers to self-deport back to Africa – 15,000 have been kicked out, and only 50,000 now remain – they constituted about 0.7% of the population of Israel, and about 1.2% of the population in Ashkelon. And yet, even this minuscule number of newcomers is seen as a severe threat, precisely because the would-be refugees are non-white non-Jews.

In February 2012, upset that some African asylum-seekers and Israeli art school students were on speaking terms, the municipality set out to separate the two populations. City officials documented the African asylum-seekers and restricted their movements to only one area of Ashkelon, and encouraged them to leave the country.

In May, when residents of Ashkelon learned that a few dozen Africans were renting a shed adjacent to their apartments for community activities, including Christian prayers, they openly threatened to burn the building down.

Just days later, on May 23, top Israeli government lawmakers incited an anti-African race riot. After being told by a ruling party Member of Knesset that the asylum-seekers are the country’s “cancer”, a thousand Jews ran through the streets of Tel Aviv, smashing African shops and assaulting any dark-skinned person they came across, man or woman. The following day, Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin and other Israeli mayors called upon the government to round all the asylum-seekers into detention centers and deport them.

The government has since taken Vaknin and his cohorts up on their proposal, forcing 15,000 asylum-seekers to self-deport back to Africa. But for some residents of Ashkelon, this expulsion is not nearly occurring quick enough. A year after the Tel Aviv race riot, an Israeli man stabbed two African asylum-seekers in Ashkelon, without any provocation. The local press did not even deem the incident important enough to report on the back pages of any newspaper.

Shamefully, the anti-African sentiment in Ashkelon even extends to black people who immigrated to Israel from the United States of America. In 2010, a multi-generational family of African-American Jews from Kansas City was beaten without cause by Israeli immigration police. As the officers kicked the mother of the family in the stomach – while she was seven months pregnant at the time – they cursed her with the Hebrew equivalent of the N-word, saying, “Kushim, we don’t need you here.”

Without a doubt, discriminatory treatment towards people of color is a serious problem afflicting all of Israel, just as it plagues the U.S. and other parts of the world, as well. But even by Israeli standards, Ashkelon stands out as one of the most racist cities in the country. As it stands, Ashkelon may be an appropriate sister city for the Baltimore whose public servants took the life of Freddie Gray, but it is hardly a fitting twin town for a Baltimore that is now uprising against racism.

David Sheen

David Sheen is an independent journalist and film maker who lives in Dimona. His website is

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15 Responses

  1. just on May 6, 2015, 11:03 am

    Thank you, David.

    You’ve been pursuing this overarching racism and injustice for a long time now. As a matter of fact, you are the preeminent journalistic resource for this particular brand of Israeli racism/apartheid.

    I linked to this column earlier today:

    “Police brutality is just the zeitgeist – the real threat is Israeli xenophobia

    It’s nice to hear that the Ethiopians want to integrate into Israeli society, but into which society exactly do they want to integrate? The one that holds its nose in disgust?”

    Any “sister city” of any adopted Israeli city should be mortified~ especially Baltimore, MD right now. (These never- ending, zero accountability “Associations” are a really stupid idea, anyway. jmo.)

    Finally, though your entire article contains plenty of things to be completely outraged about, this one stole the show for me on my first read:

    “” In spite of the evidence, a judge cleared Azgi of the charge of making racist epithets, claiming that since the African player’s first language is not Hebrew, he could not have understood the curse word.”

    My, my, my.

  2. amigo on May 6, 2015, 11:07 am

    “On one hand, some critics have speculated about the tactical training that Baltimore police officers have received in Israel .”

    These training programs have dual purposes.First is to train US police to use the zionist methods of controlling crowds with any means necessary.Secondly , it is a golden opportunity to educate these officers and make Israel lovers of them.Imagine all those luverly meals and drinks and camaraderie during which war stories are shared .

    I wonder how the candidates are selected or if it is on a voluntary basis.I bet the latter is the case.

    • JLewisDickerson on May 6, 2015, 12:18 pm

      SEE: “Sheriff Ortiz goes to Israel”, by Eva Ruth Moravec,, 07/07/11

      [EXCERPTS] . . . For one week last month, Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz swapped his cowboy hat for a yarmulke as he visited Israel on an organized trip with other law enforcement leaders.
      “I’ve always had an interest in Israel,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “It was a great conference.”
      Ortiz joined 16 other sheriffs, police chiefs and organization heads, including Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, on a week-long trip, courtesy of the Jewish Institute for National Security’s Law Enforcement Exchange Program.
      The group toured a hospital’s trauma unit, Israeli Arab villages, sites of terrorist attacks, border crossings, police offices and the country’s security fence. Based on the itinerary, most of the sites and speeches focused on terrorism and security.
      Ortiz said he was impressed by Israel Defense Force soldiers, who he said are trained as soldiers and as police officers.
      “If we ever deploy troops along the Texas border, they should have training in being a soldier and in law enforcement,” he said…
      …The junket was Ortiz’s second organized trip to Israel: last year, Bexar County footed the bill to send him to an international conference on homeland security, he said…

      SOURCE –

      AND SEE: “Israel trip an eye-opening experience for Jefferson chief”, By Adina Solomon,, 07/18/11

      [EXCERPT] This summer, Jefferson Police Chief Joe Wirthman went on a two-week trip 6,000 miles away, traveling across Israel with a delegation of state law enforcement officers as part of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange.
      “It was an awesome trip,” he said. “A trip of a lifetime.”
      GILEE, which partners with Georgia State University, sends a different group of Georgia officers every summer to work with Israeli law enforcement and border control.
      Commerce Police Chief John Gaissert and University of Georgia Police Chief Jimmy Williamson also have gone in past years.

      The object of the program is to learn how Israeli police deal with terrorism every day…
      …After his trip, Wirthman is trying to think one step ahead with the Jefferson Police Department, preparing for the type of threatening situations Israel faces 24 hours a day, he said.
      “Hopefully it’ll never happen, but in this world, ‘never’ isn’t a word,” Wirthman said. “We’re not invincible here.”
      He’s also witnessed how people live their daily lives with the constant menace of terrorism, he said.
      Wirthman met one man who sends each of his children on a different bus to school. In case one of the buses is bombed, only one of his three children will be harmed.
      “I don’t know if I could raise my family under those conditions,” said Wirthman, who has three kids of his own.
      And nobody in Israel grumbles about it, he said. Instead, they have a strong national pride many Americans had only after 9/11, he said…”


      • eljay on May 6, 2015, 12:23 pm

        || JLewisDickerson: AND SEE: “Israel trip an eye-opening experience for Jefferson chief” ||

        Apparently the trip didn’t open his eyes enough for him to see that Israel is an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” that for almost 70 years and with impunity has been stealing, occupying and colonizing Palestinian land and oppressing, torturing and killing Palestinians.

        Or maybe he couldn’t see it because the Zio-supremacist donkey before which he had knelt was blocking the view…

      • amigo on May 6, 2015, 1:29 pm

        JLD, thanks for that and all the other most informative insight you so tirelessly provide us with.

        A question?.Do any other countries send their officers on these junkets—possibly Australia and Canada .Oh and Micronesia.

      • JLewisDickerson on May 6, 2015, 3:01 pm

        RE: “Do any other countries send their officers on these junkets…….” ~ amigo

        SEE: “Israel’s export of occupation police tactics”, by Jimmy Johnson , The Electronic Intifada, 9 October 2009

        [EXCERPT] . . . The training offered by Israeli police and security forces is exported all over the world. For example in India, Israel has drawn upon its experience in south Lebanon, rural West Bank and urban population centers in Gaza and the West Bank to help train Indian forces. According to a 9 September 2009 article in Defense News, the inspiration for these efforts came after New Delhi took “a keen interest in the homeland security operations, armaments and surveillance devices used by Israeli troops.”

        A 2008 declaration signed by then-Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day created a similar arrangement for Canada and Israel. According to the Israeli ministry’s website, it allowed the countries to “share knowledge, experience, expertise, information, research, and best practices” and “facilitate technical exchange cooperation, including education, training, and exercises.” In a 23 March 2008 press release, Minister Day stated that “The declaration seeks to establish a more structured framework for the continued cooperation on public safety issues between Canada and Israel.”

        Israeli police trained their Chinese counterparts for “possible scenarios involving terror and civil disturbances” prior to the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. According to a 28 September 2008 article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the commander of China’s People’s Armed Police Force “expressed an interest in continued cooperation between Israeli and Chinese police following the success of the course.” Five years earlier Israeli police performed a similar task in Greece prior to the Athens games. The French government brought the head of the Israeli police’s special forces to instruct their police in riot control.

        However, no country in the world has a closer cooperation with Israeli police forces than the US. Just a sampling of US cities and institutions that have trained or are training in Israeli methods are Alameda County; Atlanta; Boston; Cambridge, MA; Commerce, GA; Detroit; Duxbury, MA; Georgia Tech University; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles: the Maryland Department of Transportation; Miami; New York City; Pembroke Pines, FL; San Francisco; San Mateo; Santa Clara; Seattle; Stamford, CT; Sterling Heights, MI; and Suffolk County, NY. . .



      • JLewisDickerson on May 7, 2015, 2:27 am

        P.P.S. ALSO SEE: “America’s Police Will Fight the Next Riot With These Stink Bombs”, by Patrick Tucker,, 29 April 2015
        Future protestors in places like Baltimore could be met with a new and disgusting chemical weapon.

        [EXCERPT] As protestors and police officers clash on the streets of Baltimore and other divided cities, some police departments are stockpiling a highly controversial weapon to control civil unrest.

        It’s called Skunk, a type of “malodorant,” or in plainer language, a foul-smelling liquid. Technically nontoxic but incredibly disgusting, it has been described as a cross between “dead animal and human excrement.” Untreated, the smell lingers for weeks.

        The Israeli Defense Forces developed Skunk in 2008 as a crowd-control weapon for use against Palestinians. Now Mistral, a company out of Bethesda, Md., says they are providing it to police departments in the United States.

        Skunk is composed of a combination of baking soda and amino acids, Mistral general manager Stephen Rust said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Armament Systems Forum on April 20. “You can drink it, but you wouldn’t want to,” said Rust, a retired U.S. Army project manager.

        The Israelis first used it in 2008 to disperse Palestinians protesting in the West Bank. A BBC video shows its first use in action, sprayed by a hose, a system that has come to be known as the “crap cannon.”

        Mistral reps say Skunk, once deployed, can be “neutralized” with a special soap — and only with that soap. In another BBC video, an IDF spokesman describes how any attempt to wash it via regular means only exacerbates its effects. Six weeks after IDF forces used it against Palestinians at a security barrier, it still lingered in the air. . .

        CONTINUED AT –

  3. JLewisDickerson on May 6, 2015, 11:28 am

    RE: “Over the course of Israel’s 67-year-history, many of its municipalities have established strong bonds with their American counterparts, with some forging formal alliances to become twin towns and sister cities.” ~ David Sheen

    MY COMMENT: Some US cities are even twinning with illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank!*

    * FROM WIKIPEDIA [Ariel (city)]:

    [EXCERPT] Ariel (Hebrew: אֲרִיאֵל; Arabic: اريئيل‎) is an Israeli settlement organized as a city in the central West Bank, part of the Israeli-occupied territories, approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of the Green Line and 34 kilometres (21 mi) west of the Jordan border. Ariel was first established in 1978 and its population as of 2011 was about 18,000 . . .
    . . . Ariel was founded in 1978 on land that was seized for military needs and on land that was declared state land, including cultivated farmland of Palestinian villages in the district and on rocky land the villagers used for grazing their flocks.[7] At the beginning of 1978, a group of Israelis formed in order to create a settlement in the hills of the northern part of the West Bank made a formal request to the government to be given land to build a new community . . .
    . . . Ariel is twinned with:
    • Costa Rica Heredia, Costa Rica[27]
    United States Mobile, Alabama, United States[27][28]

    SOURCE –

  4. JLewisDickerson on May 6, 2015, 11:52 am

    RE: “Baltimore is confronting police brutality, but the systemic racism of its Israeli sister city remains unchallenged

    MY COMMENT: Given Baltimore’s history, it is no surprise that it has a twin city in Israel that is notoriously racist.*

    * SEE: “The Streets of Baltimore”, by Peter Linebaugh,, May 1-3, 2015

    [EXCERPT] . . . Edward E. Baptist whose book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, was published last year, shows that “the expansion of slavery … shaped the story of everything.” Furthermore, “enslaved African Americans built the modern United States and indeed the entire modern world.” The trans-Atlantic slave trade was terminated in 1807 by acts of Congress (USA) and Parliament (UK). Thenceforth, slavery became a self-reproducing system, coffle-chains rattling from east to west, the whip producing fantastic wealth for cotton patricians from the welts on the backs of cotton pickers.

    Here’s Baptist again: “Baltimore was the biggest center of the domestic slave trade on the East Coast. African Americans left behind there had much to say about the trade that had taken so many of their kinfolk. Their conversations with Lundy agitated him into confrontation with powerful pro-slavery interests. Soon, Lundy was charging in the pages of The Genius that all slaveholders were “disgraceful whoremongers” who bred human beings for the market. He saved his greatest fury for the Woolfolks, describing the family as a set of lawless ‘pirates’ whose ‘heart rending cruelty’ caused ‘fatal corruption in the body politic.’” The truth of his charge is conveyed by the fact that of the top ten American counties purchasing slaves for re-sale in the South between 1829 and 1831 four were in Maryland.

    Woolfolk was a Baltimore entrepreneur of slavery who created efficient market conditions between the old states and the slave frontier. His corporate organization controlled barges in the Chesapeake Bay and offices in New Orleans. A multi-state enterprise with vertical integration it rented vessels which might carry a hundred folks for sale. Its principles of economics are still lauded by business schools and passed on as neo-liberalism to devotees of selfishness and Atlas Shrugged.

    “On January 9, 1827, Austin Woolfolk approached Lundy as the editor was locking up his print shop for the day. Woolfolk threw the Quaker to the ground and beat him severely, then walked away. Lundy pressed assault charges against Woolfolk. But when the case came to trial, the judge declared that the editor deserved ‘chastisement.’ He fined the slave trader one whole dollar and then gave a speech praising the slave trade’s economic benefits to the state of Maryland. He added that Woolfolk also had removed a ‘great many rogues and vagabonds who were a nuisance to the state.’”

    Rogues and vagabonds!? This was old terminology for the unemployed – Shakespeare talk – going back to the origin of capitalism in the 16th century when the working class lost its commons of subsistence was criminalized. . .


  5. just on May 6, 2015, 4:23 pm

    New article up at The Guardian:

    “‘Living risk to risk’: the new wave of African migrants deported from Israel

    Refugee describes how promises of work contained in recent Israeli agreement with Rwanda failed to materialise – leaving him living in limbo in South Sudan”

  6. jayn0t on May 6, 2015, 6:31 pm

    “Baltimore is confronting police brutality, but the systemic racism of its Israeli sister city remains unchallenged”

    What a confused title. “Brutality” isn’t the same as “racism”. The US left mostly complains about the fact that the police brutality is racist, rather than that it’s brutality. And they might even succeed in making the brutality more even-handed. Israel is a completely different story. Their racism is indeed “systemic” – it’s the basis of the country’s existence, and cannot be reformed.

  7. just on May 7, 2015, 7:22 am

    Rania Khalek has a very good article up at EI titled “Israeli-trained police invade Baltimore in crackdown on Black Lives Matter”. It includes this bit:

    …”Echoes of Israeli tactics in Baltimore

    The similarities in suppression tactics employed by Baltimore and Israeli security forces are no coincidence.

    Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, including many of the agencies active in Baltimore last week.

    In 2002, Baltimore city police officers went to Israel on a junket organized by the neoconservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), where they studied Israeli occupation tactics used against Palestinians, including “crowd control, and coordination with the media,” according to a JINSA press release. “Participants resolved to begin the process of sharing ‘lessons learned’ in Israel with their law enforcement colleagues in the United States,” boasted JINSA.

    Baltimore city police returned to Israel for more occupation training in a 2009 trip arranged by the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.

    On a 2007 training session in Israel, Baltimore County police reportedly “received valued lessons from Israeli officials…about gathering human and electronic intelligence” that can “apply to investigations into organized crime and gangs.”

    The Montgomery County Police Department, which sent dozens of police officers to assist in the Baltimore crackdown, has attended several training sessions in Israel, including one in 2010 and another in 2012, both hosted by Project Interchange.

    New Jersey State Police, which donated around 150 of its officers to Baltimore’s police state, learned lessons in occupation enforcement on trips to Israel arranged by the Anti-Defamation League in 2011 and 2013, and JINSA in 2004.

    Pennsylvania State Police, which contributed 300 state troopers to Baltimore, studied counterterrorism in Israel in 2004.

    While there is a wealth of scholarship on police militarization in the US, there has been little to no examination of the ways Israel’s security apparatus facilitates it. Instead, the issue is virtually ignored or flat out denied, despite the troubling implications of emulating an apartheid regime actively engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

    Armed with cameras

    There is something eerily consistent about occupation, whether in the ghettos of Palestine or the United States, including one of the most widely used means of resistance to it.

    “A camera is the most trusted witness and the best protection tool,” Issa Amro, the founder and director of Youth Against Settlements, told me last year after his organization faced violent retaliation for recording Israeli soldiers pointing assault rifles at Palestinian teens in a video that went viral.”…

  8. eusebio on May 7, 2015, 9:04 am

    The Democratic government elected answers the needs of the people the end of racism and global injustice

  9. ritzl on May 8, 2015, 5:01 pm

    Contrast this rubber-stamp acceptance of a racist Israeli sister city with the complete, and completely unwarranted, sliming of Nablus by the Boulder Jewish community during the effort to make Nablus a Boulder sister city.

    Slimed simply because it was a Palestinian city.

  10. just on May 10, 2015, 8:23 am

    Rogel Alpher:

    “Israelis love Ethiopian music (and despise Ethiopians)

    How ludicrous is the gap between the overdose of affection the Israeli public has showered on home-grown Ethiopian pop hits – and the racism and revulsion it has shown toward the Ethiopians themselves.

    …The Idan Raichel Project in effect symbolized the Zionist project and its values: the absorption of immigrants, the ingathering of the exiles, the melting pot. And it made the Ethiopian community an anchor of the revitalized Zionist playlist. Israelis sang “Bo’ee” with their eyes closed, with total inward intentionality, with rapture and in identification with the Ethiopian story, emotionality and melancholy.

    As for the Ethiopians themselves, on the other hand, Israelis can’t stand them. Police officers who beat up Ethiopians walked down the aisle at their wedding to the sounds of “Bo’ee.” Choirs in schools that refused to admit Ethiopian students sang “Masa Le’Eretz Israel” at assemblies. In apartment blocks whose tenants don’t want Ethiopians as neighbors, “Bo’ee” and “Masa Le’Eretz Israel” are played on televisions that are set to local radio stations.

    The Ethiopians’ golden eggs were stolen from them: What a romantic image of persistence, of overcoming hardship, of good guys winning in an evil, dangerous world. The black skin that cast them as underdogs lent greater authenticity to this image. The flesh-and-blood Ethiopians, however, were tossed into the garbage like chickens that have outlived their usefulness. And of course part of the spiritual uplift felt by Israelis in light of the Ethiopians’ excitement lies in the fact that the latter owe their redemption to those same Israelis, for whom singing “Bo’ee” at singalongs is like slapping themselves on the back. The Ethiopians were our finest hour.”…

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