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African Hebrews organize after apparent army cover-up in death of Israeli soldier

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Over the last month, members of Israel’s African Hebrew community have begun to organize over an apparent cover-up in the death of Toveet Radcliffe, a nineteen-year-old soldier who was found shot in the head, on the night between February 21 and 22, 2015.

The African Hebrews are are a group of African-Americans based in Dimona who embraced Afro-Hebraic religious practices and immigrated to Israel from the United States beginning in the 1970s. Not recognized as Jewish by the Israeli government, they are heavily discriminated against though they serve in the military.

For nearly a year, the army would not tell Radcliffe’s family who was responsible for her death. They were told multiple versions of events, initially saying she was found in her bed on base with two gunshots to the head, and then that she was found at her post in her guard booth with a single shot to the brain.

Dimona resident David Sheen has been the only journalist to cover Radcliffe’s case. In addition to the contradictions in the army’s official version of events, signs of evidence tampering and that some evidence has been censored from the army’s official report.

Among the most egregious examples that Sheen found is the army’s allegation that she killed herself in a way that is virtually impossible for someone of her stature. Curiously, the army claimed no other person was involved in her death, but did not rule it a suicide.

These dubious claims of the army, among others, have led many to believe Toveet Radcliffe was murdered.

It appears that her story is beginning to catch the attention of soldiers too. One African Hebrew soldier who recently left the army told me Radcliffe’s death has become a topic of conversation on her base, a different one than the Palmachim Air Force base where Radcliffe was found dead.

In recent weeks, a small but growing group of locals has been posting flyers and engaging passersby at an information table in the town’s central square.

But authorities have been pushing back.

Last weekend, Dimona resident and African Hebrew Barkai Brinson was detained and fined by police when he posted a flier about Radcliffe’s death.

In a Brinson posted to social media, a security guard approaches him and commands him to stop.

Another video he filmed and uploaded shows Brinson in the back of a police vehicle.

Brinson was issued a 500 NIS ($131) fine and released.

In the town square, an information table set up by Shemohn and Khaya Osher along with a few other locals is beginning to cause a stir, and a petition to reopen investigate Radcliffe’s death has 5,000 signatures.

“Mainly I get two responses,” Shemohn Osher explained. “One group who is supportive because they’ve experienced similar situations with their own families and loved ones. On the other hand you have those who tell us to give up, and that we don’t stand a chance against the military, and that you’re wasting your time.”

Osher estimates that detractors account for 20% of responses.

Israeli media outlets are beginning to pick up on the story as well. Yediot Ahronoth, Israel’s most-widely read newspaper, recently published a story on the case.

Dan Cohen
About Dan Cohen

Dan Cohen is an independent journalist and filmmaker based in Palestine. He tweets at @dancohen3000.

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5 Responses

  1. Marnie
    April 9, 2016, 4:12 am

    The army haven’t bothered to come up with an elaborate tale to explain how Toveet, the diminutive 19-year-old woman with arms not long enough to hold the M-16 and fire it into her own head, still managed somehow to do just that, was found in the booth, seated in a chair, no blood or skull fragments on the wall (or anywhere in the booth either? Their contempt for this community , and all people of African descent, couldn’t be made any more clear. When her death was announced, it was posted that Toveet was also a man. Ain kavod, ain). Obviously she was murdered outside her guard booth and then posed in a position too ridiculous to believe, the army took a bit over a year to get their lie straight, and then wonder why these uppity black folks aren’t believing their lies? As if anyone should? Her body was tampered with before she was released to the police, should be enough to demonstrate this was MURDER and that the army is COMPLICIT.

    I’ve already signed the petition – thank you Dan and David.

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      April 9, 2016, 12:34 pm

      The army people told Sheen, just before they closed the case, that they had given Radcliffe’s mother a copy of the final report. But when Sheen asked her about this she said she hadn’t received anything from them, so that’s one lie right there. They originally told the family that she was found dead in her bed but this later got changed to “she was on guard duty.” How do you make such a mistake? The most “charitable” explanation is that someone did not verify where she had been found, or her sex, which indicates they just did not think her that important.

      • Marnie
        April 9, 2016, 1:33 pm

        “The most “charitable” explanation is that someone did not verify where she had been found, or her sex, which indicates they just did not think her that important”.

        The only lives that matter are white dripping in green.

    • Kay24
      April 10, 2016, 5:10 am

      Unfortunately, that statement made by that racist, arrogant man Donald Sterling, saying that blacks are treated worse than dogs in Israel, seems true. This is no “democratic” nation.
      One rule for the chosen ones, and another for others, even among their own.
      Did someone say apartheid policies?

  2. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    April 9, 2016, 7:00 am

    Silverstein also has some information on his blog and discusses some of the inconsistencies. One was the changing story of where she was actually found: was it in her billets or at her guard post? Also when her the army brass paid a call on her family to tell them of her death the base commander was there but not her company commander. Her mother reported that Radcliffe was upset in the weeks before her death about her transfer to this base. In fact she was thinking of going awol but was talked out of it. Sheen also has a picture of how Radcliffe would have had to hold her rifle to deliver the shot and cumbersome does not begin to describe it.

    I don’t know what happened to this young woman but something appears to be covered up. It’s either simple incompetence or something darker.

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