By Jennifer Kelly
The settler-colonial state of Israel has been wracked by protests and riots following the police murder of a teenage Ethiopian Jew named Solomon Tekah. On Sunday June 30, he was killed after supposedly throwing stones at the officer who attempted to break up a fight between him and another teen – an account which witnesses dispute.
This kind of state violence is commonplace in Israel, which was established in 1948 in the interests of imperialism, mainly US imperialism, and has since escalated its oppression of the Palestinian people who continue to fight back and resist the occupation.
Following Tekah’s murder, Ethiopian Jews rioted in the thousands, burning cars and tires and overturning police vehicles, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and shutting down roads. Over a hundred officers have been injured in the riots, and nearly two hundred protesters have been arrested, many of whom were denied medical treatment and legal representation.
After a pause to recognize the traditional seven-day Jewish mourning period, protests resumed this Monday. They will likely intensify as the officer is predicted to not be indicted, as manslaughter charges have already been dropped. One protester told a crowd on Monday, “I’m prepared to bleed, I’m prepared to die.”
The brutalization of Ethiopian Jews has been going on since their migration to Israel, where they have faced police brutality, poverty, and discrimination. Ethopian Jews were first brought to Israel in a great migration orchestrated by the CIA, the IDF, and both US embassy and Sudanese state officials starting in 1984, during which 4,000 Ethopian Jews died. In Israel, they are treated as second-class citizens, with only non-Jews such as Palestinians and other African migrants treated worse.
For years, Ethiopian women have reported being forced to take a long-term contraceptive shot, Depo-Provera. In some cases they were given it without its purpose being explained to them, while other women were told that they could not enter Israel without taking it.
In Israel, more than three decades since they first arrived, the average Ethiopian Jew makes thirty five percent less than the general population, and they are incarcerated at a much higher rate, with Ethiopian Jews tried in court being three times more likely to be imprisoned. In the 1990s it came to light that the Israeli national blood bank simply dumped all Ethiopian blood donated out of supposed fear of HIV infection.
Tekah is not the first Ethiopian Jewish victim of police brutality, and these are not the first riots against police brutality in Israel. In January of this year, Yehuda Biada, a 24-year-old who reportedly suffered from mental health issues, was executed by a police officer who also “feared for his life.” That officer was cleared of all wrongdoing.
Protesters this last week are outraged that reforms to address racism, promised by the government years ago, have yet to be implemented and probably never will be. Such reforms cannot address the root of the problem facing Ethiopian Jews in Israel, which is that they are black in an apartheid state, which exists to establish an outpost of US imperialism in the Middle East, a region that the US constantly seeks to dominate and terrorize.
Many rightwing politicians and publications have blamed leftwing groups for “fanning the flames” and inciting violence at these protests. Other authorities have made an appeal to Zionism, arguing that the Ethopian Jews should stand together with other Israelis, because they all benefit from the oppression and occupation of Palestine. Israeli President, Reuvin Rivlin, made this appeal perfectly clear in a public statement “We are all partners, and we must all be partners in this process. We have no other choice, we have no other home.”
It is only by realizing that their own oppression stems from U.S. imperialism and its agent Zionism, and standing alongside Palestinians, Arabs, and African migrants in the struggle against it, that they can find liberation.