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Where should Palestinians stand on the protests by Ethiopian Jews inside Israel?

Opinion
on 17 Comments

In theory, any nation that fights to dismantle a colonial system should stand for all other movements against oppression, racism and injustice around the globe. Otherwise, their call for freedom would be nonsense and arbitrary.

However, in Palestine/Israel political positions can sometimes be very tricky due to the accumulated layers of oppression and hierarchies caused mainly by the settler colonial system which dominates the country.

Palestinians realize that the recent wave of protests by Ethiopian Jews over the killing of a 19 year-old Ethiopian-Israeli man by an off-duty police officer is a natural consequence of racism committed against them by the Ashkenazi majority on the formal and societal level.

But the hard question here is: how should a colonized people think about the oppression of a segment of their colonizers?

Racism is racism, Palestinians agree. But racism should also be approached by considering the surrounding political, social, and economic context.  In the case of Palestine/Israel, the relationship between an Arab Palestinian and an Ethiopian Jew is a one of colonized and colonizer. Therefore, such a perspective prevents Palestinians from taking a position of solidarity on what they see as an internal issue inside the colonizer society itself. To do otherwise the would be to take a shameful post-colonial approach to a society where they are still living a colonized reality.

This endless complexity, and layers of oppression, started – at least – in 1948 and always pushes Palestinians to put more politics into politics.

Most of Ethiopian Jews, or Beta Israel, have emigrated since the late 20th century to be part of the Jewish state established in the Palestine region in 1948; which is perceived by Palestinians as “the Zionist colonial project”. Since then, they have been full Israeli citizens who are living on the land of Palestinian refugees. These refugees are based temporarily to this day in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other countries, are waiting to return through the UN-recognized right of return. Many Ethiopian Jews have been also taking a very active part in different Israeli forces: the army, border police, and others, carrying out tasks in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

I, the writer, was detained 60 days ago by an order from a black policeman (most likely Ethiopian) in the South Hebron Hills while taking photographs of an anti-occupation action in the southern West Bank (while reporting for this article). Black soldiers are always part of my photographs that I take of demolitions, arrest campaigns, night raids, and other military operations in the West Bank.

On social media, most Palestinians that I follow either didn’t care, or felt good about the chaos surrounding the protest and the oppression of the Ethiopean Jews inside what they perceive as the colonial entity of Israel. I don’t think this stems from racism but a natural reaction under the hierarchy caused by the setter-colonial system they live under.

During tensions in Egypt, Syria, Algeria or even in the Apartheid South Africa prior to decolonization, Palestinians used to watch television footage of the Palestinian flag being raised during struggles for basic rights, and understood that those movements were adopting the same concept of freedom that Palestinians are fighting for.

However, such a scene was never expected during the Ethiopian Jewish wave of protest. It was expected that after the protests the protesters would go back to their active roles as colonizers, and continue their military service in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

I personally always follow and feel sympathy with various struggles around the world for women’s rights, LGTBQI rights, animal rights, migrants and asylum-seekers, and other struggles for freedom and equality. But in the case of Palestine/Israel, I must be aware that some of the political agents taking part in these struggles within Israeli society also take an active part in the colonization of the Palestinian people.

This complexity creates and sustains endless divisions between different ethnic and religious groups on all levels of existence: political, social, economic, gender and so forth.

Palestinians will be able to stand in full solidarity with Ethiopian Jews only after the decolonization of the country, and only when full and equal rights for all human beings in the region between the river and the sea are fulfilled.

Ahmad Al-Bazz

Ahmad Al-Bazz, born in 1993, is a multi-award winning journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker based in the West Bank city of Nablus. Ahmad holds an MA degree in Television Studies from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, and a BA degree in Media and Mass Communication from An-Najah National University in Palestine. Since 2012, Ahmad has been a member of the Activestills documentary photography collective that operates in Palestine/Israel region.

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17 Responses

  1. Stephen Shenfield on July 19, 2019, 12:10 pm

    “Palestinians will be able to stand in full solidarity with Ethiopian Jews only after the decolonization of the country, and only when full and equal rights for all human beings in the region between the river and the sea are fulfilled.”

    What need will Ethiopian Jews have for solidarity once all human beings in the region enjoy full and equal rights?

  2. LiberatePalestine on July 19, 2019, 12:36 pm

    In occupied Palestine, Æthiopian Jews collectively are not allies but enemies. They are indeed oppressed and marginalised by the dominant Ashkenazim, but they are settler-colonial oppressors just the same.

  3. eljay on July 19, 2019, 3:54 pm

    Palestinians – with Ethopian Jews alongside them – should:
    – oppose and denounce all manner of injustice and immorality; and
    – advocate and uphold the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality.

    • Misterioso on July 20, 2019, 10:08 am

      @eljay

      Agreed!!

      Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but some rabbis have questioned their Jewishness. In May 2012, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignited controversy when he warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state.”

      https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-we-should-have-warned-the-ethiopians-about-israel-s-racism-1.7485931
      Haaretz, July 9, 2019
      “We Should Have Warned the Ethiopians About Israel’s Racism”

      “We should have told them that the homeland being offered to them is one of the most racist countries in the universe, overflowing with religious, nationalist, ethnic, genetic and gender racism.” By B. Michael

      “It was 1985. Journalist Amos Elon (a Haaretz colleague and a friend, until his death in 2009) whispered a big secret into my ear: A secret operation to rescue the Ethiopian Jews was in progress. And he, only he, had received a permit to go there and cover the story. ‘But not a word!’ he said. ‘Everything is top secret!’ The next day he took off for Addis Ababa.

      “That evening, and in total secrecy, of course, I asked my mother – who knew Elon – whether she knew where he was. She didn’t know. ‘In Ethiopia,’ I whispered to her, in total secrecy, of course. ‘Ethiopia?’ she asked. ‘What’s he doing in Ethiopia?’

      “‘Shhh,’ I answered. ‘It’s a secret! An operation is going on. They’re trying to bring the Ethiopian Jews to Israel.’

      “‘I understand,’ she said, totally serious. ‘And Amos went there to warn them?’

      “We laughed.

      “Last week I stopped laughing. My mother was right. We should have warned them. We should have told them that the homeland being offered to them is one of the most racist countries in the universe, overflowing with religious, nationalist, ethnic, genetic and gender racism.

      “Some people console themselves with the belief that this racism is one of the ravages of the occupation. Some aspect of colonialism has crept into us, along with several other despicable attributes of a criminal regime of oppression.

      “The truth, alas, is otherwise. Israeli racism wasn’t born on the other side of the Green Line. It was born on the day they established a state here whose definition is an oxymoron, a state that lacks a bill of rights as well as an iron wall separating religion and state. In such a country, racism is an inevitable by-product. It’s not the daughter of the occupation, but almost its mother.

      “On the other hand, the unbearable lightness of shooting human beings (excluding settlers, the ultra-Orthodox and pale-faced Jews) is something we definitely imported from the territories.. Slowly but surely, over the years of evil, a convenient and useful killing procedure has developed: You choose a non-Jew, close your eyes, pull the trigger and run to tell the guys. And if by chance an investigation is opened, you quickly mumble the mantras that will ensure your release: ‘He threw a stone’ and ‘I felt threatened.’ End of story.

      “The shooting of Solomon Teka is a precise illustration of this procedure: shooting, and then death. ‘He threw a stone and I felt threatened.’ And now the shooter is in a hotel. The victim is in a cemetery. Officer B. behaved in an entirely routine manner. In the West Bank nobody would have raised an eyebrow. On this side of the Green Line there’s still an undercurrent of anger.

      “But not for long. Slowly but surely we’ll progress. After all, that’s the nature of the corruption of the soul. It creeps in slowly but surely until the equanimity arrives on this side of the Green Line, too.

      “And yet we can’t ignore the anger of the Ethiopian community. They count 11 victims at the police’s hands. It’s not fair. All the other communities are far behind them in this respect. How will we calm them down? Educating the police and attempting to uproot the habits of 50 years of occupation are very difficult missions.

      “But it’s very easy to order the police to kill 11 young adults from each of Israel’s communities: 11 Russians, 11 Iraqis, 11 French, 11 leftists, then another 11 leftists, 11 Yemenites, 11 Poles and so on. Let all the tribes of Israel unite.

      “There’s no question that this noble gesture would alleviate the Ethiopians’ anger prove to them that no discrimination is going on here. On the contrary, when it comes to killing, there’s absolute equality.”

      Also:
      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32813056 “The plight of Ethiopian Jews in Israel” By Prof Yossi Mekelberg Chatham House – 25 May 2015

      http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/1890-even-in-death-ethiopian-jews-face-racism-from-other-jews “Even in death, Ethiopian Jews face racism from other Jews”
      Middle East Monitor, December 28, 2010.
      Excerpt: “An Israeli newspaper has claimed that the racism prevalent between Israeli Jews extends to Ethiopian Jews even after their death. According to Ma’ariv, graves in a Jewish cemetery are separated according to the colour of the corpses; a fence has been built between the graves of Ethiopian Jews and the others in the graveyard.”

      Israel’s Jewish citizens of Ethiopian origin/ancestry suffer from discrimination and human rights violations:
      Haaretz, January 27, 2013 – “Israel admits Ethiopian women were given birth control shots.”
      EXCERPTS: “A government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera.”
      “The women’s testimony could help explain the almost 50-percent decline over the past 10 years in the birth rate of Israel’s Ethiopian community.”

      Alistair Dawber, “Israel Gave Birth Control to Ethiopian Jews without Their Consent,” Independent, January 27, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-gave-birth-control-to-ethiopian-jews-without-their-consent-8468800.html

      Ali Abunimah, “Did Israel Violate the Genocide Convention by Forcing Contraceptives on Ethiopian Women?” Electronic Intifada, January 28, 2013,http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/did-israel-violate-genocide-convention-forcing-contraceptives-ethiopian-women.

      Beth Brogan, “Israel Admits Forced Birth Control For Ethiopian Immigrants,” Common Dreams, January 29, 2013, http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/29-0.

      • LiberatePalestine on July 20, 2019, 11:58 am

        In order to enter occupied Palestine, the Æthiopian Jews were forced to undergo «conversion» to Judaism because the rabbis in charge of deciding who is Jewish weren’t satisfied that the Æthiopian Jews passed racial muster.

        Does anyone know how a person wishing to enter occupied Palestine as a member of the Zionists’ master race proves that she belongs? By the traditional religious standards that are also endorsed by Zionism, Jewishness is equated with being either the child of a Jewish mother or a convert (and note that only approved Orthodox conversions are accepted by the Zionist entity). The first option, which overwhelmingly predominates, seems to require tracing the maternal line back to a convert, since only when one reaches a convert does the regression stop: proving that one’s mother was Jewish requires proving that her mother was Jewish, which requires proving that her mother was Jewish, and so on. Few people would be able to prove all that.

      • Mooser on July 20, 2019, 1:33 pm

        “Does anyone know how a person wishing to enter occupied Palestine as a member of the Zionists’ master race proves that she belongs?”

        The Rolling Stones wrote a song about it.

      • jon s on July 22, 2019, 4:14 pm

        LP,
        You’re wrong. Nobody is required to “trace the maternal line…”. And it’s too bad that you use terminology like “master race” which is Nazi terminology. Jews are not a race , Zionists are not a race and your use of the term implies that others are inferior.

      • Mooser on July 22, 2019, 8:41 pm

        . “Jews are not a race”

        Oh really? So there are no limits on the number of people Israel can decide are Jewish, and qualified to help them wipe out the Palestinians? There are no genetic standards for determining Jewishness? So how do we know those people in Israel calling themselves “Jews” are the real thing?
        So the definition of a Jew is: “A person willing to go to Israel and support the Zionist project” Who does that exclude? Nobody. You got the whole world in your arms.
        To Zionists, everybody on earth is Jewish, if they will help with the Zionist project.

        But there are no real Palestinians. What a set-up.

      • DaBakr on July 22, 2019, 11:47 pm

        @yes there is. It used to be 70% of the “real” Palestine mandate but it was artificially carved out, given to the Hashemite king as a booby prize and contains apprx 80% Palestinian Arabs. You know about Jordan, where no jews live any longer? Surely they weren’t ethnically ‘cleansed’?

      • RoHa on July 23, 2019, 3:03 am

        ” Jews are not a race …”

        Have you cleared this with Boris?

      • Talkback on July 23, 2019, 2:05 pm

        DaBakr: “It used to be 70% of the “real” Palestine mandate but it was artificially carved out, given to the Hashemite king as a booby prize.

        ROFL. Is that what they teach you in Hasbara kindergarden?

        1.) The “real” Palestine mandate encompassed only Palestine
        2.) The Emirate of Transjordan was not “artificially carved out” of anything, but added to this mandate by adding article 25 which excluded Jewish settler colonialism in Transjordan.
        3.) The creation of this Emirate was not a “booby prize”, but the result of Britain’s wartime promises to the Arabs.
        4.) Abdullah I was not the King of a kingdom, but obviously the Emir of an emirate.

        DaBakr: “You know about Jordan, where no jews live any longer? Surely they weren’t ethnically ‘cleansed’?”

        You tell us, DaBakr. If no foreign Jews were allowed to colonize Transjordan, how many native Jews lived there before mandate times, in what numbers and exactly where? And what do you exactly mean when you say Jews don’t live there “any longer”? A British estimation in 1924 didn’t mention any Jews.

      • Mooser on July 24, 2019, 1:34 pm

        ” Jews are not a race …”

        Not when it comes to Zionism, no sir. Any person or state of any religion or ideology is welcome to give help and/or money to Zionism. Zionism is real democratic that way, not racist at all.

  4. Elizabeth Block on July 20, 2019, 8:28 am

    I think solidarity ought to go both ways. If Ethiopian Jews are taking an active part in oppressing Palestinians – and it looks like they are – then you can’t expect Palestinians to get upset when they in turn are mistreated. In fact, they might well say that what you do to others, eventually you will do to your own.

    • Stephen Shenfield on July 20, 2019, 3:40 pm

      The Ethiopians are an impoverished community with high unemployment. Perhaps that has something to do with the willingness of many of them to join the army? In the US too the army recruits mainly from poor areas. Working people everywhere are not free agents. They have to earn a living. They can’t all go and take up positions on the faculty of Western universities. It’s the same with Palestinians. Who actually are the workers building and maintaining the settlements in the occupied territories? Palestinians. They do it to earn their bread. No doubt they would prefer not to do such work. Perhaps the Ethiopians in the IDF and border police would also prefer to do other work.

  5. Marnie on July 21, 2019, 2:44 am

    While I like in theory the idea of palestinians joining forces so to speak with ethiopian jews, I feel much more strongly that reps of the ethiopian community should extend the olive branch first and they need to show their hand. It’ll take more than having experienced abuse at the same hands that have murdered, raped and stolen the land from palestinians, a lot more. Ethiopian jews have fought for the side of the zionist state I believe since the yom kippur nonsense. They’ve allowed themselves to be used by the IOF to scare the hell out of palestinians (as told by african americans who witnessed white IOF soldiers threatening to sick a ‘cushi’ on them). I know they’ve been fucked over by the zionist state and have suffered countless abuses and racism, but I don’t think the palestinians should be expected to seek out some kind of reconciliation unless that is truly what THEY want to do.

  6. jon s on July 22, 2019, 4:21 pm

    A new feature film is about to come out: “The Red Sea Diving Resort”, on the Mossad operation to rescue Ethiopian Jews:

  7. Citizen on July 24, 2019, 8:31 am

    Israel’s Buffalo Soldiers?

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