After a video showed a Black man being beaten by White police in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack, there was protest and unrest.
According to news reports, the unrest is the result of the Black minority community being plagued by poverty, crime and unemployment and their frustrations over racism.
The reports are not out of Ferguson, Mo., New York or Baltimore. The reports are about Ethiopian Israeli protests in Israel.
On May 3, protesters in Tel Aviv hurled stones and bottles at police and overturned a squad car. More than 60 people were injured and 40 arrested, and demonstrations are expected to continue.
The unrest followed a recent video of an Ethiopian Israeli soldier being beaten by police in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said May 4 the outcry “exposed an open, bleeding wound in the heart of Israeli society.”
“We must look directly at this open wound. We have erred. We did not look, and we did not listen enough,” said Rivlin, whose largely ceremonial office is meant to serve as a moral compass.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met last Monday with community leaders and with the soldier who was attacked, telling him “we’ll have to change a few things.”
Closing the gaps in Israeli society, though, will be a difficult task.
Ethiopians in Israel complain of racism, lack of opportunity and routine police harassment.
Today, about 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, a small minority in a country of 8 million. They live in rundown city neighborhoods with high rates of crime.
A 2012 study by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute said 41 percent of Ethiopian Israelis lived below the poverty line, compared with 15 percent for the overall Jewish population. The average income of Ethiopian Israelis was about two-thirds of their Jewish counterparts. Just 5 percent had college degrees, compared with 28 percent for the broader Jewish population. According to Israel’s Prison Service, one-fifth of the inmates in juvenile facilities are Ethiopian Israelis.
In the late 1990s, it was discovered Israel’s health services were throwing out Ethiopian Israeli blood donations over fears of diseases contracted in Africa. Some landlords have also refused Ethiopian Israelis as tenants.
“Anyone who attended the protest yesterday experienced at one point in their life humiliation based on nothing but skin color,” said Mehereta Baruch-Ron, a Tel Aviv deputy mayor of Ethiopian descent, who added that police did not believe she was a city official and blocked her from joining the protest. “We have had enough. It is time to do something.”
In interviews, some Ethiopian Israeli leaders said they face racism and police harassment similar to Black Americans, others said the racism they face is not as deep-rooted.
The protest not only highlights the problems of Ethiopian Jews in Israel but shows that whenever there is brewing frustrations of poverty, unemployment, racism, police harassment and misconduct, there is the potential for violence and unrest.