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Richard Silverstein: Israeli-Ethiopian Citizens Treated Like Refugees

farsnews – In an exclusive interview with FNA, the American journalist explained the reason of the July protests by Israeli-Ethiopians, saying they are racially discriminated against even by the judiciary, “after an Israeli force, who was off duty, shot dead an Ethiopian, the regime got the judiciary to order that the police’s name should be kept withheld. Hence, no-one knows if justice will be served.”

Richard Silverstein is a Seattle-based journalist who writes extensively on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He studied Hebrew and comparative literature. He contributes regularly to Middle East papers, publications and TV channels.

Below is the full text of the interview:

Q: Is there a historical root for the discrimination against Israeli-Ethiopians?

A: They came on must in 1990s from Ethiopia. They had a very difficult time getting Israeli rabbis to agree they were Jewish. Even though they won that battle and they are considered Jewish, they really are the underclass in Israeli society. They are mistreated. They are treated as badly as the Palestinian-Israeli residents. This is part of the problem that goes far back in Israeli history all the way back to 1948: Israeli society is based on being a Jewish society in which Jews are privileged and the Jews have higher values than the non-Jews. The case for the Ethiopian Jews is that they are maybe considered Jews minus. They are not fully integrated into the Israeli society and the regime has done a little to integrate them in terms of language, jobs and education. There have been cases that public schools have refused to enroll Ethiopian children as early as the first or second grade; because Ashkenazi parents refuse to have Ethiopians in the school. Imagine when it is happening at the age of 5, what is happening to the adult Ethiopians. Whatever the Ethiopians had earned, they have earned themselves with the sweat of their own brows. They take the lower-paying and unskilled jobs. They cannot get specialized or professional education to become doctors or engineers. So, they are only working class people who are the poorest in the Israeli society.

Q: Is there another underclass community in Israel being treated worse than Ethiopians?

A: The blacks who are homeless in Israel are mostly of the some 60,000 African refugees from countries like Sudan, Eritrea or other countries in which there is war, revolution or famine. They fled their countries hoping to find a country with more hospitality. But these refugees are denied asylum or refugees’ status which are supposed to be granted under the UN protocols. Israel as a contract with Rwanda to pay $3000 for each refugee and dump them to Rwanda where they cannot have a refugees’ status or do anything. Ethiopians, even though are citizens and supposed to have more rights, are treated almost the same as the African refugees. The regime denies them their rights, just the same as the case for which the protest by Ethiopians took place: after an Israeli force, who was off duty, shot dead an Ethiopian, the regime got the judiciary to order that the police’s name should be kept withheld. Hence, no-one knows if justice will be served. There have been many times that Ethiopians were beaten or killed by the forces, and this is the last straw for the Ethiopians.

Q: If the Ashkenazi disapprove of the blacks, why are the Ethiopians allowed into Israel?

A: There is a hierarchy of racism in the Israeli society. The original Ashkenazi Jews were from the Eastern Europe. Later the Mizrahi Jews came from the Arab lands, and they were the blacks of Israel. They were mistreated as if they are inferior to the Ashkenazi. There were many scandals in terms of Mizrahi children being kidnapped and given way to the Ashkenazi families and some incidents in which medical experiments were done on Mizrahi children and they died from these experiments. So, the Mizrahi have always been the underclass in Israel. But now since they are about 50% of Israeli society, they are climbing up the hierarchy very slowly. But now, Israel needs a new underclass of people to discriminate against. So, they had Israeli-Palestinians who were minority, and now they have the Ethiopians, who are considered more inferior than the Mizrahi.

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