Ethiopian Jews in Tel Aviv stepping up anti-racism protests aganist Israeli police brutality

May 03, 2015 (GMN) - Hundreds of Israeli Jews of Ethiopian origin have staged a protest in Tel Aviv, stepping up anti-racism protests triggered by a video clip that showed policemen shoving and punching a black soldier.

 

"There is no white. There is no black. There are just people," the demonstrators chanted on Sunday as they marched onto the Ayalon highway.

Scores of other Israelis also joined Sunday's rally, chanting and bearing signs reading: "A violent policeman must be put in prison" and "We demand full equal rights".

Police, who diverted vehicles away from one section of the road, did not immediately confront the protesters but said they would move in if their orders to disperse were ignored.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in dramatic, top-secret operations in the 1980s and 1990s after a rabbinical ruling that they were direct descendants of the biblical Jewish Dan tribe.

The community, which now numbers around 135,500 out of Israel's population of over 8 million, has long complained of discrimination, racism and poverty.

Tensions rose after an incident a week ago in a Tel Aviv suburb where a closed circuit video camera captured a scuffle between a policeman and a uniformed soldier of Ethiopian descent, Damas Pakada.

Two policemen were suspended on suspicion of using excessive force.

Israeli politicians, stung by community leaders' comparison of the incident to police violence against blacks in the United States, scrambled to defuse tensions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, taking time out from the final days of negotiations with political parties on forming a coalition government, said he would meet Ethiopian activists and the soldier on Monday.

At a protest by Ethiopian Jews on Thursday in Jerusalem, police used water cannon to keep angry crowds away from Netanyahu's residence, and at least 13 people were injured.

Source: Agencies