Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 6:55 AM

American-Style Racial Protests Erupt in Israel

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

White policemen beating (or even killing) minorities has become commonplace in the United States. But they would be loath to beat (and risk killing) a uniformed Black soldier here.

Part-NIC-Nic6448475-1-1-0White policemen beating (or even killing) minorities has become commonplace in Israel too. But they appear to have no compunctions about beating (and risk killing) even a uniformed Black soldier there.

A first protest in Jerusalem on Thursday was triggered by the emergence of a video showing two policemen beating a uniformed Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin named Damas Pakada.

Ethiopian Israelis claim their community has long suffered from police brutality and widespread discrimination.

(Agence France-Presse, May 4, 2015)

In fact, American-style racial protests have been erupting in Israel for days now – complete with rolling clashes between the police and destitute, disaffected, disenfranchised and disillusioned Israeli citizens of African descent.

Protesters, mainly whom are Israeli Jews of Ethiopian origin, shout slogans during a demonstration against what they say is police racism and brutalityBut I hasten to clarify that these protests are separate and apart from the “intifadas” (and interregnum uprisings), which aggrieved Palestinians have been waging, for decades, in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

No less a person than former U.S. President Jimmy Carter likened this more notorious Palestinian struggle to that which Blacks waged in South Africa during Apartheid. I commented on racial protests in this Palestinian context in “Instead of Peace, Israel Settling for Apartheid,” May 1, 2014.

That said, the simmering grievances among Blacks in Israel, which finally boiled over last week, are all too familiar.  After all, similar grievances have been simmering (and boiling over from time to time) among Blacks in America for decades – as embering protests in Ferguson and Baltimore throw into stark relief. What’s more, similar grievances have been simmering (and boiling over from time to time) among Blacks in Europe in recent years – as the following excerpts attest.

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  • From “World Beware: French Riots Affect Us All,” November 8, 2005:

Reports are that young people in France’s African (Muslim) communities erupted in this nightmarish violence because they are fed up with chronic unemployment and feelings of (religious and racial) discrimination and social alienation. Indeed, just as young Blacks in America fought against the virulent racism their parents tolerated, it seems young Muslims in France are fighting against the caste-like presumption that they too will supply the cheap labor for rich Frenchmen their parents provided…

[T]he riots in France should serve notice on other developed nations that have relegated the poor to ghettos, where crime and every order of vice pervade… These riots demonstrate what little spark it takes for the simmering grievances that define ghetto life to set cities ablaze and terrorize an entire country…

There but for the grace of God….

  • From “Now London Is Burning,” August 9, 2011:

[T]he police shot and killed a suspected Black ‘gangster’… This ignited a frenzy of rioting and looting the likes of which, alas, have become all too familiar.

Indeed, this seems an uncanny repeat of similar riots that broke out in this very neighborhood in 1985, after the police shot and killed a Black woman during a search of her home. And those riots occurred only one week after the more infamous Brixton riots, which broke out after the police shot and killed another Black woman under very similar circumstances.

Notwithstanding the alleged police brutality that triggers them, the reason riots continue to erupt in London is that political leaders fail to heed the categorical imperative to address the chronic unemployment, racial/religious discrimination, and social alienation that are the long-simmering sparks that give rise to these periodic combustions…

I fully recognize that these riots reflect a poverty of values as much as a poverty of needs. But this is what distinguishes middle-class anarchists and yobs, who riot for opportunistic fun, from poor kids, who do so to vent a lifetime of privation, victimization, alienation, and utter hopelessness…

This is why targeted and sustained socialization and assimilation programs in chronically poor neighborhoods (focusing on everything from mandatory extracurricular activities to mandatory job training) provide the only hope against these recurring riots. Or, in language UK political leaders will better understand, these amoral scavengers must be properly domesticated.

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All the same, these protests in Israel are unique in at least one respect.

For, unlike blacks in America, blacks in Israel are not descendants of slaves Israel’s forefathers imported; and, unlike blacks in Europe, they are not descendants of migrants from foreign countries Israel colonized.

6a00d83451b71f69e2017616191ef7970c-400wiInstead, they are the offspring of African Jews who Israel – the purported homeland of all Jews – airlifted from chronic privation and strife in Africa as an article of religious faith. In fact, Israel made such a Pharisaic show of airlifting them that it opened itself to ironic accusations of racism two years ago, when it began repatriating non-Jewish Africans.

Here, in part, is how I defended Israel back then:

Any insinuation of racism (or indeed unfair treatment) is belied by ‘Operation Moses’ – Israel’s covert evacuation of African Jews from Sudan for resettlement in Israel to escape famine in 1984; and ‘Operation Solomon’ – its equally covert evacuation of almost 15,000 African Jews from Ethiopia for resettlement in Israel to escape a looming civil war in 1991.

And let’s face it, the Israelis have enough of a challenge trying to prevent Palestinians (with their claim of a sacred ‘right of return’) from turning Israel into another Arab state, without having to worry about non-Jewish Africans creating demographic problems as well.

But frankly, given their tortured, itinerant history, who can blame these modern-day Israelites for doing everything humanly (and humanely) possible to ensure that nothing (think Iranian nukes) and nobody can threaten their ownership and control of their Promised Land.

(“Don’t Blame Israel for Repatriating Africans,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2013)

This is why it damns Israel’s soul that it is treating these “chosen” blacks (a.k.a. sons of the Cush) no differently than America  treated its legacy blacks, or Europe its colonial blacks.

A May 3 editorial in the Jerusalem Post put this treatment into particularly dismaying context. For it highlighted that black Jews demonstrate their gratitude and loyalty to Israel by enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at a level of 86 percent, compared to white Jews – who enlist at just 74 percent.

Incidentally, I am also dismayed that the American media dedicated more coverage over the past few days to the inevitable breakup of Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn’s relationship than to this story. To say nothing of the coverage they dedicated to the birth and naming of William and Kate’s daughter.

netanyahu_APMore importantly, though, White Israelis aping the racism of White Americans and white Europeans in this context smacks of a cardinal sin. I readily concede, however, that – if America’s founding fathers could codify their racism – Israel’s leaders might be forgiven their attempts to gentrify theirs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the beating of the black IDF soldier that triggered these protests, and assured black Jews that those responsible will be held to account.

Except that this is the same prime minister who, just two months ago, was:

  • Exhorting White Jews to rush to the polls to prevent Israeli citizens of Arab descent from playing a pivotal role in national elections.
  • Issuing a clarion call to European (White) Jews to come home – based on irrational fears of anti-Semitism in Europe and pursuant to his plan to offset the growth of citizens of Arab and African descent in Israel.

I duly condemned him on both accounts in “Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” February 23, 2015. More to the point, his exhortation and clarion call not only betray the institutional racism that gave rise to the beating of that uniformed black soldier, but also explain why black Jews are bound to regard his assurance in this case with existential skepticism.

To be fair, a May 4 editorial hinted at national redemption. Because it charged rather indignantly that Israel has a moral obligation to assimilate these black Jews::

We brought Ethiopian Jews home, but now we must make them feel at home, for their sake as well as ours.

Blacks in Israel should not hold their breath, however. After all, editorials have been charging for nearly 150 years that America has a moral obligation to fully and fairly assimilate its black citizens.

Therefore, until the next trigger sets off racial protests there … and over here….

Related commentaries:
Israel Apartheid
World beware: French riots
Now London
Repatriating Africans
Netanyahu’s call

* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 4:35 p.m.

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