Israel hit by race riots


Two angry protests against police violence have brought the challenges facing Israel's Ethiopians to the fore.

Sixty-eight people were injured and 43 arrests were made at the second demonstration, which took place in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening. Thousands of Israeli-Ethiopians and members of other communities took part.

The Tel Aviv demonstration followed a smaller one on Thursday night in Jerusalem, in which 14 people were injured. On both occasions, police - unusually - used tear-gas and stun-grenades.

The event that sparked off the wave of protest was a video of two police officers attacking an Ethiopian soldier last week in Holon. The police investigated the incident and one of the officers involved will be dismissed, but that has done little to calm the anger within the Ethiopian community over what they claim is an underlying problem of racism among the police and repeated cover-ups of complaints over police violence.

Some politicians and radical-left groups tried to take credit for the protests and link them to other demonstrations against government policy. However, the great majority of protesters insisted that the target had been police violence and what they saw as the continued neglect of a community of nearly 150,000 which emigrated from Ethiopia in a number of waves since the early 1980s. At both demonstrations, the Hatikva national anthem was sung and Israeli flags flown.

President Reuven Rivlin called the situation of Ethiopian-Israelis an "open wound" and on Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Damas Fekade, the soldier who had been beaten, as well as Israeli-Ethiopian leaders. Mr Netanyahu said: "We must stand together against racism."

Thirty-two per cent of Ethiopian families live below the poverty line and only 53 per cent of Ethiopian school-leavers received a full matriculation certificate, against 75 per cent nationally.

Despite these figures, in recent years, the budgets for integrating the Ethiopian community have been slashed by more than 90 per cent.

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