Israel’s Ethiopian minority protests in Tel Aviv against racism

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JERUSALEM, (Xinhua) — Several thousand Israeli-Ethiopians and supporters protested on Sunday against police brutality and racism.

The protesters were rallying a major junction in front of government offices in Tel Aviv, Israel’s financial capital, and then moved to block also part of Ayalon Highway, the country’s main artery, causing huge traffic jams in central Israel during rush hour.

Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the rally was “mostly peaceful.” One protester was arrested later in the day.

“This is a peaceful demonstration,” Inbar Buggela, a leader of the rally, said over a megaphone, adding that “racism and police violence became routine, we are here to say that racism will not prevail.”

The Ethiopian community was enraged last week as a footage surfaced, showing two policemen in Holon, south of Tel Aviv, assaulting an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian descent without any apparent provocation.

A day later, a municipal inspector beat a young Ethiopian man who lives in southern Tel Aviv after apparently mistaken him to be an Eritrean illegal immigrant.

The protest followed a rally of some 1,000 people in central Jerusalem on Thursday, in which 15 people, including three policemen, were injured in clashes.

In an attempt to calm tensions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement during the rally, saying he will meet Monday with representatives of the community, as well as the beaten soldier.

On Thursday night, Netanyahu promised that the government will take steps to help Ethiopian Jews’ integrate into the Israeli society.

“I strongly condemn the beating of the Ethiopian Israel Defense Force soldier,” he said, adding that those responsible “will be held accountable.”

Jews from Ethiopia arrived in Israel in two waves of immigration in 1984 and 1991. The community, which includes some 125,500 people, has struggled to integrate into the Israeli society with little success. There have been complaints of discrimination in education and housing.

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